News | 7 November 2023
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License to ride, with Wellington High

“What’s the most important thing? Is it parking, or the environment?”

The question is raised by one of the teens from Wellington High School, Fern, after a class trip along Wellington’s newest stretch of bike lane from the Basin Reserve to the waterfront.

Students riding down a bike lane.

Fern’s concern echoes those of many young Wellingtonians. Decisions made now will affect these young people for longer than most other Wellington residents, and their outlook is often longer-term as well.  

But it takes a different approach to get young people to speak up on the shape of their city, which is why we’re here.  

Group rides along the city’s growing bike network is one of the ways Wellington City Council supports Wellingtonians to try out some of the transport changes going on around the city.  

The experience lets people who may not have a bike or might otherwise not have tried the routes to see what they’re like and tell city planners what they think.  

Students in the basin reserve.

As far as Fern’s question goes, how we get around is an important environmental issue. Road transport makes up the largest share – 34 percent – of Wellington’s carbon emissions. But climate goals aren’t the only issue Wellington's growing bike network aims to address.  

Over 4000 students travel daily to three secondary schools near the Basin Reserve. When the whole city-wide bike network is complete, 155,000 people will live within a five-minute ride of it – including many of these students.  

But at the moment, in this class of 20 students only two regularly ride a bike. This is despite almost the whole class having their own bike when they were at primary school just a few years ago. 

Student smiling on a bike with a purple helmet on.

It’s easy to understand why this might be. The city and high school are further away than the local playground and primary school, and Wellington’s streets weren’t designed with bikes in mind. With parking often on both sides of the road, traffic is squeezed, and biking on the road can be daunting for new riders. But could things be about to change?  

Riding purple app-enabled Beam ebikes, the width and physical separation of the Cambridge/Kent Terrace route lets the class chat while riding next to each other, and generally mess around at 15km/h without worrying about the cars, trucks, and buses in the lane next to them. A different world from riding down Cambridge Terrace just a few months ago.  

Students walking on the side of the road with people cycling in the lane next to them.

Tom Lancashire, their teacher, was buzzing as he talked about future possibilities. 

 “One day I’ll move closer to work, and these bike routes will be part of that decision – they’re really adding value to the city.” 

And what did the class think? The teens were asked to describe their ride in just one word each. Overwhelmingly, the word they used was “safe”. Several thought the route was “fun’, and ‘cool”, but Phoebe was uncompromising – for her the experience was ‘”legendary”. 

If you’d like to join in a guided ride along Wellington’s new cycle ways, keep an eye out for opportunities through our website.