The Billboards are up, the slogans are out. This year’s local election campaign is underway. But as I’ve said in previous blogs, the debate on shaping Wellington’s transport arteries (and Capillaries) has been timid. In the face of a slow down in road construction, what alternatives are there? I managed to track down a visionary for my latest podcast. He’s not standing for council, but he might influence others who are.
Oliver Bruce isn’t afraid of the future. Just as well, given he’s the right side of 30.
He’s not afraid of Micromobility either. Some of us may struggle with the e-scooters, the e-skates, even the e-bikes. Oliver’s embracing them all. You may already have heard his work as one of the voices behind a podcast of the same name. His enthusiasm for the future may be one of the reasons he’s prepared to put time and energy into a plan re-jigging Wellington’s street system to make room for the modes of the 21st century.
To explain, here’s a map of the proposed Wellington Cycleway system after 2028.
Much of the network; the orange, won’t be completed until 2028, the pale blue, after that.
Oliver and Brett want work to begin on the whole network now.
Wellington mayoral candidate Conor Hill comes closest to echoing the duo’s sentiments, but even he stops short of a push into the city’s northern and western suburbs – at least in the next three years.
Why is an e-scooter enthusiast (he’s got his own in his Oriental Bay apartment) so keen on cycleways?
You might have heard the phrase Rori Iti, the Little Road . It’s the street space we need for all the wheeled traffic too fast for the footpath, but too slow or fragile to mix it with the cars, trucks and buses. The arrival of share schemes for e-scooters is only the beginning. Oliver argues the real change will be in e-bikes, flattening hills and cutting through headwinds in a way which will revolutionise mode choice in Wellington.
E-scooters are fun – for some. They’re handy if you can find one (and when walking would take too long) but unlike e-bikes, your can’t carry much on them, apart from yourself and maybe a friend – probably a close friend.
Sales of new e-bikes are increasing at a greater rate than new electric cars, and until recently, e-bikes didn’t have the advantage of any government subsidy or support scheme.
For Oliver, it makes no sense to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on more big roads, when the demand for new space is coming from the little road users.
Given the conclusion of Let’s Get Welly Moving was big roads are going to have to wait, a lot of voters want to know what they’ll get instead.
Oliver Bruce and Brett Skinner are two of the few offering a bold alternative. They’re not even running for office. Elsewhere mayors are campaigning to get a few of the previous Government’s Rons back on the table. Ray Wallace is promising Hutt voters the council will start work on a new Melling Interchange. Mayors from Horowhenua to Whanganui want the Kapiti Expressway extended to Levin. Even Justin Lester is trying to bring forward the central Wellington road construction, LGWM put back a decade.
My suspicion is being told you’re just going to have to wait in traffic, won’t cut it with a lot of voters.
Perhaps I’m missing something. Perhaps there are candidates putting forward public transport alternatives; extending our electric suburban rail service to Levin and Masterton, a rail link from Plimmerton to Silverstream, or even a dedicated busway from Wellington to Mirimar (via the airport) in time for the opening of Transmission Gully, not at the end of the next decade.
I’d love to know.
Meantime, I agree with Oliver; demand for Rori Iti space looks likely to outstrip supply. The walker in me doesn’t want to see a “Hunger Games” situation developing on our footpaths. As more Wellingtonions get riding, we may need more than public service announcements telling us to be nice to each other.
Although it’s still important we try.