Wellington to Hutt Valley Cycling Link – a commuting path?

NZTA have announced their latest round of cycleway consultations for the Wellington to Hutt Valley Cycling link. You can go to the NZTA W2HV webpage to download consultation documents and make submissions. I’m a former Petone to Wellington cycle commuter, and I absolutely love the idea that a decent cycleway could be built between the two cities.

BUT

A “decent” cycleway means that it’s separated from cars, free of obstacles and pedestrians and doesn’t just end abruptly. And it should be rideable all the time. Lets unpack this.

This is not a cycleway project. Instead, its a resilience project – not because of the low-carbon transport. Instead they’re talking about the sea-level rise type of resilience: it’s primarily a wall built to protect the rail and (more importantly) roadway – just that a sea wall is a good place to stick a cycleway. Then there is NZTA’s motorway fetish simmering away in the background: the existing footpath is probably stopping the road from getting the full glory of motorway status since vehicles slower than 70km/h have to use the shoulder of the road.

But the cycleway (or road protection wall) plans appear to be firm, so back to what a “decent” cycleway should have.

The Petone to Ngauranga cycleway will certainly be separated from cars, will probably have a few obstacles in the form of pedestrians. Plans are for a 5m wide path, which should be wide enough to share.

It is supposed to continue from each end to other cycleways to Wellington and Lower Hutt, so it passes the not-end-abruptly test.

So that leaves the rideable-at-all-times test. Have a look at the pictures below:

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The cycleway will be fantastic on a sunny weekend day once a year, but we all know Wellington’s weather can be nasty, and the proposal offers nothing to people serious about bicycle commuting. Stuff |Phil Reid

 

train-in-storm-wellington.jpg.hashed.25e47f05.desktop.story.share

Some Matangi commuter trains in a storm. Fancy riding home in that? | 1NEWS

Not cool. Not reassuring. Not rideable all the time. The pictures show the sea wall in southerly storms, but the weather doesn’t have to be this bad to deter would-be commuters.

The picture straight from NZTA’s consultation document is below. While there is a small  ‘crest’, there is nothing that protects cyclists from the wind or sea – the current footpath and road provide a good degree of protection from southerly and more obnoxious norwest winds.

Sea Wall - NZTA

A fence about 1.2 – 1.5m high really should be installed the entire 3km length, but NZTA only plan to install a few rest areas:

  •  rest areas with bike stands, seating, shade, shelter and artwork

Sounds like a great spot for weekend cyclists on a sunny Autumn Sunday. The cost of putting a fence in will be small compared with constructing the sea wall and will make the cycleway significantly more user friendly, particularly for the biggest user group: commuting cyclists. Sunny Sunday cyclists are already well-catered for across the region but I feel early consultation used that demographic to justify their preference for a  seaward cycleway.

Incidentally, Wellington City Council have used the exposed seawall as a reason to NOT consider a cycleway continuing to Aotea Qy from Ngauranga. Instead, they are focussing on Hutt Rd and Thorndon Qy:

  • A reclamation would be required along the coastline because there isn’t enough land on the seaward side of the railway line to build a path for people on foot and bikes. This would be expensive and require consents.
  • A harbour route would be very exposed to wind and weather. Hutt Road is less exposed so is more likely to be used in bad weather.

A closer look at the NZTA consultation document is below. While I feel this is part of a surreptitious motorway project, it will be great for fine weather cyclists and commuters, and with a few tweaks, could be good or even great for commuters too. A side benefit of the whole project is that KiwiRail trains will go a bit faster with straighter tracks (but I’m still super cynical about those sneaky motorway plans!):

Background
Since announcing our preferred option for a seaward side walking
and cycling path in 2015, we have undertaken additional work on
the Ngauranga to Petone section. This section provides a shared
path from the Ngauranga interchange to the Petone interchange
with a bridge over the railway lines and enough reclamation to allow
a seaward alignment.

We are following best practice urban design principles in designing
the Ngauranga to Petone section. The final design will reflect input
from our specialists, stakeholders and the community.
We aim to improve the quality of the waterfront and the facilities
for cyclists and pedestrians in the region. We are investigating how
to minimise effects on the environment, use best practice and cost
efficient construction methods and make the path safe and easy to
maintain. KiwiRail operational requirements and safety standards
are also being taken into account.
While this is primarily a walking and cycling project, both the NZ
Transport Agency and KiwiRail consider it worthwhile to improve
the rail alignment.
The key features we’re investigating include:
a walking and cycling shared path on the seaward side of
the railway line running between the Ngauranga and Petone
interchanges

  • a minimum path width of 5m, though possibly wider at some
    locations
  • a new walking and cycling bridge just north of the Ngauranga
    interchange would link the Wellington CBD section to the new
    seaward side shared path
  • a connection with the existing shared path between the Petone
    interchange and Hutt Road
  • a connection to the Petone railway station and the Hutt River
    via the Petone to Melling section

The seaward option
Our selection of a seaward option is based on technical analysis
and feedback from stakeholders, user groups, iwi representatives,
community groups and the general public from the 2014-15
consultation. We also assessed the wider benefits of this option such
as safety, look and feel and resilience for both the highway and the rail
corridor between Wellington and the Hutt Valley.

Reclamation and features of the seawall
In designing the seawall, we are considering the width, resilience and
what amenities we could include for users. We propose a 5m shared
path that will provide a generous area for both cyclists and pedestrians,
while limiting impacts of the coastal marine area.
We’re also considering resilience features that will provide protection
from storm damage and future-proofing for sea level rise. Our design will
incorporate a resilient rock seawall that slopes down to a sea level bench
that provides a base to build upon in the future. This will provide greater
resilience for the shared path and the rail and road links in the area. We
are also investigating:

  • widening the reclamation at three locations to allow the railway
    tracks to be straightened, enabling faster train journeys
  • a varied shape to the platform and seawall that will appear less
    uniform and fit in well with the surrounding landscape
  • rest areas with bike stands, seating, shade, shelter and artwork
  • how a wider reclamation could facilitate SH2 safety, resilience and
    efficiency improvements in the future.

 

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One Comment

  1. I just wish they would do some sort of temporary armadillo barriers or plastic bollards on the south bound shoulder lane to bridge the 800m gap. Then us less confident cyclists will be able to use the existing pathway.

    Lets face it, the reclamation option is probably years from completion.

    Reply

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