Biking numbers booming

30 August 2019

The number of Wellingtonians biking is continuing to grow with count data showing more people than ever riding in to the central city from every direction during the busy morning peak.

Image of a cyclist on Oriental Bay

Wellington City Council’s City Design and Place Planning Manager, Anna Harley, says the upward trend was clearly evident from this year’s cordon count, which monitors how people travel into the city between 7am and 9am. The count has been done over a week in March every year since 2000.

The cordon counts show the numbers cycling into the city over the busiest two hours in the morning has continued to grow, tripling from under 800 per day 19 years ago to over 2300 people. The trend is backed up by data coming through from new electronic counters that have been gradually installed around the city over the last year.

Anna says one of the most encouraging things overall is that almost all the growth in commuter numbers is being matched by growth in environmentally-friendly modes of transport.

“We are seeing a positive shift. More than half of us are now opting to take a bus or train, or walk or ride – and both the proportion, and numbers coming by car during this two-hour period are declining.

“Switching to a lower-carbon commute is a practical way Wellingtonians can personally take action on climate change and help the city achieve its vision to be a zero carbon Capital by 2050. Over time, hopefully many more of us will make the switch.”

Anna says Thorndon Quay is an interesting example of changing travel patterns, and the even bigger shifts possible as more walking, cycling and public transport improvements happen.

“There are about 700 more commuters travelling along Thorndon Quay in the morning peak than 19 years ago, but now only 38 percent are in cars compared with 57 percent in the year 2000. Numbers travelling by bus through here have gone up from 37 to 50 percent, and we’ve seen a big jump in the proportion biking – up from 3 to 10 percent.

Anna says from local survey results, and international research and experience, it’s clear significantly more people will make more trips by bike when a safe, connected bike network is developed.

“About 80,000 Wellingtonians live within a 15-minute bike ride of the central city – so with further safety improvements, the potential for a lot more people of all ages and abilities to be making some trips by bike is huge.”

Looking beyond the morning peak at what’s happening 24/7, data from the electronic bike counters that have been in for over a year show a significant upward trend even during cooler months of the year.

The electronic counter located on Thorndon Quay near Bordeaux Bakery recorded 27,706 trips in May this year – a 19 percent increase on the number counted during May 2018.

Further north, 19,972 bike trips were counted on the Hutt Road shared path north of the Caltex Fuel Stop during May 2019, up 29 percent on the number counted in May 2018.

A counter on the shared path adjacent to the Evans Bay Marina recorded 6767 bikes during May, a 39 percent increase over the same month last year. 

A total of 12,106 bikes were counted passing through the Karori Tunnel during May 2019, a 25 percent increase on May last year.

In May this year 11,535 people on bikes used the tunnel under the airport subway – 30 percent more than in the same month last year.

Mid-winter count numbers show similar trends, with 180,260 bike trips recorded in July – an average of 5815 a day.

A number of safer biking connections have been developed in Kilbirnie over the past year, along with walking and biking improvements in Oriental Bay between Freyberg Pool and Herd Street.

Work is getting under way this week to widen the bridge over the Kaiwharawhara Stream, the final pinch-point on the new Hutt Road walking and biking paths. Work is also in full swing at Cobham Drive and Pt Jerningham to develop key sections of Tahitai, the planned new improved coastal walking and biking route from the east.

So far this year, 178,115 bike trips have been recorded on the new 300m section of bike path in Oriental Bay – an average of 932 trips every weekday and 616 a day at weekends.