Keep Calm and Cycle On: only a minority opposed the Wheels to Wings cycleway

Is the Wheels to Wings – Papanui ki Waiwhetū major cycle route really ‘controversial’, or even ‘very controversial’, as some recent headlines* claimed, following the July decision of the council to approve the cycleway’s scheme design? The evidence suggests otherwise.

In early August I responded to a letter in the Press that claimed that an observed lack of cyclists along Harewood Road at present was proof that the project wasn’t needed. Nothing could be further from the truth. As my letter noted, “…the Wheels to Wings Papanui ki Waiwhetū cycleway, like all our major cycle routes, is designed to cater for the ‘Interested but Concerned’ – those who could make some trips by cycle if they felt safe enough, but who are not confident mixing with traffic. The current lack of cyclists spotted using Harewood Road to access the multiple schools, shops, and parks along the route is in fact proof that the project is needed. Assumptions are always made in planning infrastructure, and the long-term trend of increasing cycle usage across our developing cycleway network gives confidence to staff, elected members, and the public that a good decision has just been made. The major cycleway programme has never been about ‘meeting the market that exists’ but rather about the otherwise unmet need.” (Emphasis added.)

A subsequent response to me by another writer claimed that the Council’s decision was “going against the majority”. The actions by a vocal minority who oppose the project appear to have given some members of the public the impression that there is majority opposition. Not at all. Once again I pulled out my typewriter to bring clarity through a response. “…the Council’s decision to proceed with the Wheels to Wings Cycleway is not at all ‘going against the majority’, as she claims. In the first round of engagement, the Council received 565 submissions that clearly opposed the project out of a total of 1348, and in the second round of engagement 28 submitters out of 86 were clearly opposed. How terrible it would be for the community to be denied the cycleway on the basis of this minority opposition?

A summary of the overall public response in the first round of engagement on the Wheels to Wings scheme design. Source: Christchurch City Council agenda 28 July 2022.
A summary of the overall public response in the second round of engagement on the Wheels to Wings scheme design. Source: Christchurch City Council agenda 28 July 2022.

I do wonder if the number of ‘clearly oppose’ submissions would have been even more of a minority in the absence of a letter delivered to residents along the route that incorrectly claims that the scheme design removes “…the majority of parking spaces on Hardwood Rd” (in the initial scheme design the actual parking reduction in Harewood Ward was 35% and across the total design 41%). Interestingly, two of the authors of this letter went on to be members of the Hearings Panel that heard submissions on the project.

A letter delivered to residents in the Harewood Road area. Two of the authors (Cr Keown and Community Board Member Middlemiss) were subsequently appointed to the panel that heard submissions on the project.

As the 2022 Council election draws near and a mayoral candidate prioritises the repealing of the decision to proceed with the Wheels to Wings, please keep in mind that Ōtautahi Christchurch has the nation’s highest death rate from traffic fumes, as well as current & would-be Councillors who are opposed to our cycleway programme. Think about who and what you’re supporting with your vote this month.

Question for readers

I’m really interested to see an independent mayoral candidate prioritise opposition to a local cycleway project. What’s your take on this?

*I’m not dignifying these stories by linking to them. An internet search should find them pretty easily if you must.

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