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Court told of council ‘breaches’ over Island Bay cycleway

Opponents of Wellington’s Island Bay cycleway have asked the High Court to review the City Council’s processes in establishing it.

The court was told that Wellington City Council’s handling of the cycleway development breached the Local Government Act, the common law and the Bill of Rights. Photo: Supplied / Google

The contentious cycleway runs along the kerbside through the suburb, with car parking outside it, rather than the traditional road configuration with kerbside parking.

The Residents Association’s lawyer, Con Anastasiou, told the Court that Wellington City Council’s handling of the cycleway development breached the Local Government Act, the common law and the Bill of Rights.

He said there was evidence that before the current cycleway was installed between parked cars and the kerb, the incidence of traffic accidents in the area had been relatively low.

“You had a wide boulevard with motor cars which were able to park alongside the hard kerb and then there was a demarcation in the carriageway of a cycle lane”.

“According to Ms Greco [president of the Island Bay Residents Association] one of the roles that median strip provided was a refuge for vehicles wanting to turn into driveways along there or to come out of one without impeding the movement of traffic.

“They could wait in the media area and make their move at the appropriate time.”

Mr Anastasiou said the wide median strip also provided a buffer between opposing vehicles, and the Tramways Union and a bus company executive had also raised concerns about its removal when the cycleway was constructed.

“They say the absence of any median in the middle of the road leaves no margin for error and there have been numerous close calls between vehicles, vehicles losing wing mirrors for example, simply because there is no gap.

“Mr O’Sullivan [from the Tramways Union] says the only other comparable situation creating as much of a squeeze between vehicles travelling in other directions is the Mount Victoria tunnel.”

Mr Anastasiou said the City Council’s traffic engineer suggested there were safety issues with roadside cycleways, but there were plenty of them around the capital.

He said that demonstrated that there was no inherent safety issue with them, because if there were, the Council would be exposing itself to some criticism in permitting and installing so many of them elsewhere in Wellington.

Mr Anastasiou said the new cycleway configuration was also hazardous for pedestrians who had to move from the pavement, cross the cycleway and move through parked cars before negotiating the carriageway.

He said a consultation process in September 2017 produced about 3700 submissions, over 2000 of which came from Island Bay residents who wanted the road to revert to a kerbside parking option.

In response to a question from Justice Churchman about the Council’s consultation with the lobby group Cycling Aware, Mr Anastasiou said there was no evidence about what that entailed.

He said before formal consultation began an entity called “the Syndicate” was set up, which was unusual in itself, to be the ‘custodian’ of the process.

“The Syndicate was set up as a response to the disquiet and discord between the Island Bay community and the council.”

Mr Anastasiou referred to a report commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, which identified 16 safety issues with the kerbside cycleway.

He said a peer review of that found that the process the Council had gone through leading up to establishment of the kerbside cycleway had led to a loss of confidence by the community, the NZTA and the government.

Mr Anastasiou said the consultation in 2017 only gave people two weeks to make submissions when at least a month was required.

He said four options were presented to people to rank in order of preference, but despite the original road layout not being one of the options, many of those who voted said that was what they wanted.

He said one of the options, dubbed “the Mayor’s option” was not designed by traffic engineer, but by the Mayor, Justin Lester and initially traffic engineers expressed considerable reservations about it.

Mr Anastasiou referred to an email from the consultants Tonking and Taylor raising reservations about that option, including 10 concerns.

“The footpath space was not wide enough, the shared path would fail to achieve a number of the community-desired objectives … And the community drop-in sessions clearly shoed that option was not favoured.

“In summary a shared path option will be a low-quality compromise for cyclist and pedestrian… And will perpetuate some of the problems the Island Bay cycleway has suffered from to date”.

Mr Anastasiou said that email never given to other councillors apart from the Mayor, raising questions about whether other councillor voting for it were fully informed about what they were voting on.

He said the Island Bay Residents Association wanted the Court to make a declaration that the Council’s decision was unlawful and an order quashing it.

RNZ