Temporary cycle lanes in Wellington come to an end with alert level 1

The move to Covid-19 alert level 1 has put an end to a plan for pop-up bike lanes in Wellington that would have given cyclists more space.

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File image. Photo: cyclist, road bike, cycle lane,

The city council says there’s no longer a reason to push on with the $2 million project now that life is back to normal and social distancing requirements have been loosened.

But while the pandemic threat might have reduced for cyclists, the risk from cars is as real as ever.

At 5pm on a winter’s afternoon cyclists about to begin their typical commuter tango with city traffic were disappointed that almost 6 kilometres of bike lanes wouldn’t stay but 400 car parks would be saved.

“It’s kind of weird because they are not really about social distancing.

“It’s about keeping us safe from cars, so I don’t think that’s changed under level 1.

“My route is kind of mixed, there is a couple of pinch points like near the hospital where there’s no room and you’re worried that people open their doors or big buses swiping you,” one cyclist said.

Another thought the move was “short-sighted”.

And others were sad to find out the plan to make their journey home safer had been parked.

The Wellington City Council’s deputy mayor, Sarah Free, shared that disappointment but said it was a matter of timing.

“The problem we actually had is that was the basis on which we consulted was that they would provide greater social separation.

“But having moved to level 1, we really felt that it was quite hard to go forward on that basis and we had had quite a mixed reaction to some of the projects.

“So it seemed to us actually that we’d probably be on shaky grounds proceeding when we had had quite a bit of support, but we also had some people that were really opposed,” Free said.

That opposition was evident at a public meeting on Tuesday night run by councillor Sean Rush.

The Evans Bay scouts hall full of residents and local business owners applauded when Rush announced the cycleways were not going to happen and more than 100 car parks had been saved.

The former owner of the Greta Point Cafe Andrew Economous stood in front of the audience and said the parks were vital and losing them would mean fewer customers and less money.

“We’re getting to the point where the government’s been spending thousands of dollars trying to keep the little businesses afloat and we get the council coming along trying to close it down.

“That is not acceptable.”

What a cyclist says

Peter Barlow was just one of two cyclists at the meeting defending themselves.

He said the overall health of New Zealand was more important than car parks.

But the possibility the cycleways might reappear sometime in the future had not been ruled out.

“While it is disappointing to not proceed with these projects under the Covid-19 response package, some of the proposed changes can still be progressed under either Let’s Get Wellington Moving, or through our cycleways programme,” Free said.

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