The Streets for People programme was launched yesterday at Newtown School in Wellington. This is a $30m boost from Waka Kotahi to help councils around the country make adaptable changes to streets and public spaces.

The event was covered by Stuff, RNZ,and Newshub, with some pretty cute footage of the Transport Minister and Mayor of Wellington riding bikes alongside locals of all sizes. (Updated to add: also a nice interview on Nine to Noon this morning, with Waka Kotahi urban mobility manager Kathryn King, and Ellen Young from Whanganui District Council.)

Minister Michael Wood showing his bike skills alongside children at Newtown School, at the Streets for People launch. Photo by Robert Kitchin, for Stuff.
The Minister riding on the interim cycleway through Newtown, with Wellingtonian cargo bike dad, Alex Dyer. Photo by Robert Kitchin for Stuff.

The new programme builds on the work of Innovating Streets, which coincided with Covid and installed 62 projects around the country. Many of those are still in place and were successful at their aims, despite what you might have read in some headlines. For example, Project WAVE in Auckland, the Ferry Road cycleway in Christchurch, neighbourhood treatments in Nelson and Napier, and some cool town centre treatments in Thames and Whanganui.

A side road was transformed into a town square in Thames, with the project winning “best street” in the 2021 Keep NZ Beautiful awards. (Image: Waka Kotahi)
Drews Ave Innovating Streets road art and parklets in Whanganui. Image: Waka Kotahi

Kathryn King of Waka Kotahi says:

Our new programme, Streets for People will help us move towards a healthier and safer future for us all, by putting people and place at the heart of our streets.”

“Streets for People enables councils to partner with their communities more easily, to create more welcoming spaces for people quickly. Letting towns and cities across Aotearoa see the difference, and enjoy the advantages of low-cost improvements now, while working towards more permanent solutions.

“It’s becoming clear that our communities across Aotearoa New Zealand want safer and healthier streets that cater for everyone, and Streets for People is a step in the right direction to help achieve that.”

The new Streets for People programme looks to have a tighter focus and a more ambitious scope than Innovating Streets. There are 13 participating councils, a smaller cohort than previously. Some of them will deliver more than one project, with work to be in place by mid-2024.

Community involvement is important, Minister Michael Wood said:

“We’re committed to making it safer, quicker and more attractive for people to use public transport, walk, scoot and ride bikes in urban centres right across Aotearoa New Zealand People want to be able to live and work in communities with modernised transport options.

The Streets for People programme aims to make it easier and faster for councils to partner with communities to upgrade their streets in this way.

Here’s the official media release, and you can see the councils and projects here. The participating councils are:

Auckland Transport, Central Hawkes Bay District Council, Christchurch City Council, Gisborne District Council, Hastings District Council, Hutt City Council, Napier City Council, Nelson City Council, Palmerston North City Council, Tasman District Council, Timaru District Council, Wellington City Council, and Whanganui District Council.

The proposals include things like safer town centres, walking and cycling links, linear parks, connections to schools, and community spaces. Lots of them take an area-wide approach, which is a broader scope than the one-offs and gap-fillers of the pilot phase.

Councils have been quick off the mark explaining their plans, which is great to see:

Community-led projects revamp two Tairāwhiti streets

Mr Ngata and his fellow volunteer trustees are all parents and caregivers, they all work with youth and their vision is to start transitioning our city, and people’s minds.

“There are massive issues with our community not feeling safe using the roads here. And that’s warranted right now.

“Let’s look at roads differently. How do we take our foot off the gas to look after all our road users?

Money injection to help make two Whanganui streets safer, better for pedestrians

Some of the money would go towards turning the bus stations next to Countdown in the lower St Hill St area into an “active transport hub” to help support a high-frequency bus trial being rolled out next year.

“The hub will allow us to create an attractive streetscape around all-weather bus shelters to bring some fresh energy to the experience of catching the bus, as well as improving the area for cyclists and pedestrians.”

Timaru’s Port Loop Rd improvement project receives $1.1m grant

“The project will take a non-pedestrian-friendly link and transform it into an attractive green way for those choosing to walk or cycle which will reconnect our city to its major coastal recreation and tourist sites,” Ratahi said.

Tasman to get multimillion-dollar injection to make walking, cycling safer

Over the next two years, the council would “create and improve spaces” for safer cycling on Salisbury Rd, Wensley Rd, Queen St, Hill St and Champion Rd in Richmond as well as Aranui Rd in Māpua, linking places where people lived with schools, commercial centres and the wider existing network of cycle trails.

One thing to note is that $30m over three years is a drop in the bucket for Waka Kotahi, which has an annual budget of around $6 billion. So, this is a good step but it’s the first of many if they want to seriously shift the transport landscape.

The press release also mentioned the Transport Choices package, funded via the Climate Emergency Response Fund (CERF). At a reported $350m, this is another good step, but still only a small fraction of the leverage Waka Kotahi has power over:

Through our Transport Choices package in Budget 22, we are helping to improve transport options by funding the rapid roll-out of at least 100 km of safe urban cycleways to build more connected networks at pace; create significant safety improvements in around 25 pedestrian areas, and support safer, greener, and healthier travel to 75-100 schools. The package is also investing in improvements to public transport infrastructure.

Interestingly the Auckland projects aren’t specified yet, while the other council projects sound quite detailed. Presumably AT along with many councils will also be applying for support for transport projects through the Transport Packages fund.

One other thing that struck me in the reporting was RNZ’s line that this will “inevitably” mean less space on the road for cars. Climate change will do that too, as we can see with all the slips and flooding recently.

Hopefully rolling out a whole bunch of this work at once helps people understand that more positive changes are also inevitable, and can be inspiring.

As Waka Kotahi chief executive Nicole Rosie says in the video about the programme,

“The transport sector has ambitious targets for Aotearoa New Zealand’s emergency reduction plan. So we’re working on a number of initiatives to support better transport choices. Streets for People is one of them: an incredible opportunity to think about our streets differently, so we can speed up our response to the climate emergency.

By opening our streets to everyone, we can reduce our emissions, make it safer and easier for people to move around, and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of our communities.

It’s the smart thing to do, and the right thing to do.”

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  1. I wonder what schools in Auckland are leading the way with good numbers of bikers.
    What schools are encouraging more biking and if they are asking AT for more connections.

    1. I looked into this for a transport assessment for a new PRIMARY school a few years back (2019) and had AT give me the 12 schools with the highest non-car mode shares. While those 12 were reasonably impressive, the 12th-best primary school was already down to only 45% non-car mode share, and none of 12 schools reported a bike mode share of 5% (Devonport School and Chaucer School). So there’s a LOT to do both in terms of getting walking and especially cycling higher.

      Of course primary school cycling is a bit harder to encourage than riding to school for older kids.

      1. Sorry, none reported a bike mode share of MORE than 5%. Waikowhai for example had 4%.

        Some – despite being among the Top 12 non-car schools in Auckland! – reported 0% bike mode share 🙁

        1. There are definitely some impressive double-digit biking/scooting school areas in Auckland.

          Bayswater/ Rangitoto and the Pt Chev area spring to mind as standouts, even with very little bike infrastructure to begin with. My theory is it’s connected to a healthy level of parental confidence in cycling for everyday transport. Anyway, heaps of potential to build on 🙂

        2. “There are definitely some impressive double-digit biking/scooting school areas in Auckland.”

          Sorry – I don’t disagree. Just that as of 2019, none of them seemed to be primary schools based on the data I’m aware of. Which is a shame.

  2. The earlier “Innovating Streets” program has been invaluable in this process of changing how our roading network is accessed. You learn just as much from your failures as your successes. The successes under “Innovating Streets ” all seemed to have early community buy in, and the examples quoted above ,seem to have the same. The one that interests me most is Grey St in Gisborne,looks like it is a road sharing project,with the emphasis on sharing with “kids on bikes”.
    If AT are struggling for a ” non controversial ” project,once the extra bit of Northern motorway is opened,the pedestrianization of the waterfront of Orewa,would be a great place to start.

    1. If you think that is non-contraversial, I’ll introduce you to my in laws and their coffee group. They have coffee on that strip and still complain that the recent changes and 30kmh should have never happened.

  3. If this is going to deliver “project wave”style infrastructure, it is a waste of time.

    30 million would be better spent on paint, building tim tams and bolting them to arterials (where car parking used to be).

    1. Project WAVE was the missing link in a full circle around the city centre, and turned a two-way car centric network into into a one way system with dedicated loading and servicing, bi- directional cycleways and proved the case to go permanent 5 years sooner than planned.
      I agree that we need change everywhere, particularly on arterials, and we also need to recognise the value that seemingly small projects can deliver to a wider network.

      1. Project wave is like 100 meters and has involved multiple rounds of consultation. It’s scale is wrong.

        A lack of project wave is not holding back biking in Auckland, Sandringham, Dominion, MT Eden, Manuka and Great South Road not having a protected bike lanes along their length on the other hand, is.

        1. Yeah brother we need to keep agitating for cycleways on ANY of the main arterials on the isthmus.

          The CBD is positively overwhelmed with cycle lanes in comparison.

        2. Yes the focus needs to be increasingly out of the city centre and on the urban and suburban arterial and other streets (not more off road paths). At pace and at scale.

        3. Yep. The CBD is also a low speed, highly controlled environment. It’s heavenly biking compared to GNR out west.

          TERP has the bike network being mostly built by 2030, that’s at least 2000 km. We need to have about a Km being build every day to reach that. Right now Auckland does a bout 5 km a year if we are generous. Building shared paths at $20 million per km is a waste of money.

        4. Don’t forget Mt Albert Rd & St Lukes/BML/Greenlane, also Church St, Mt Smart Rd—those east-west routes are sorely missing too.

    2. Don’t miss the real point. Connecting up the network between Wynyard Quarter, Nelson Street and Quay Street went through a long planning and consultation process, with nothing much happening. Project Wave was the opportunity to put something in and use that to say, if this works, we’ll keep it, if not we’ll change until it works, then we can all accept what can be made permanent. It’s not an easy area to join up, but Project Wave made it possible. Not just what you do, but how you do it with the community.

      1. The real point is, 99% of Auckland is miserable to use a bike. This because there are far too many cars going far too fast.

        Market road (all 100 meters of it) is about the most bikeable street in Auckland even without lanes. That connection is pretty meaningless big picture.

        Project wave (and every project measured in meters not Kms) will do next to nothing change this. A lot of protected arterials will.

      1. It’s not a real arterial (even if it was it is like 200 meters) and it’s had multiple rounds of consultation. It’s a waste of resources. Even the ridiculous bloody shared paths will facilitate new trips, wave won’t.

        Meaningless central city projects like this on low speed, low use roads are last thing we should be funding while every arterial is like a scene from max max.

        1. While I agree with you on the frustration of nothing much happening outside of the City Centre and a bit in the Inner Isthmus and the greenfields, Project Wave was nearly 500m (not 100m) for a contentious but crucial missing link, including Custom St West and Lower Hobson. Don’t do divide and conquer by putting other projects down – fighting over crumbs is not the way we change this city.

        2. It being contentious is meaningless. This is low traffic 30kph road that doesn’t lead anywhere. Wave not being there is not preventing people from riding bikes.

          Meanwhile there is zero safe way to bike from city centre to Onehunga. Or a sane way to bike from Onehunga to Manukau. There are more hubs/nuclei that don’t have good connection than do. These are actually fundamentally meaningful connections that not getting built.

        3. Yeah the surprising thing about project WAVE is that we apparently need separated lanes for cars going through Market Place. If you look at the map from the project page, you will immediately see that apart from some local traffic there should be almost no car traffic on these streets.

    1. Yes that would be amazing. It would be great if though traffic was discouraged from the waterfront with some modal permeablity also. And Orewa center seriously needs some parking enforcement. People keep driving over planter beds to park on the footpath so often that the council gave up and concrete over them.

    1. Stephen D – in answer to your question – probably a fraction of what it costs to support car-dependency, and its associated congestion and danger, when it comes to transporting children to school.

    2. Depends on what else you assume. If you go for a substantial street rebuilds, you are literally looking at millions per kilometre. Much of this not spent on “cycling” except in Orsman’s “journalism”, most of it is for walking, cycling, safety, services and utilities, stormwater and urban design upgrades, as well as the extra costs in contorting yourself into pretzels to keep vehicular conditions the same as before, and shave the cycle space off the berms and footpaths instead.

      If you are looking at removing car parking or (gasp) traffic lanes, the costs of doing adequate protected bike lane drop to the couple hundred K per kilometre, super-affordable considering how big the budgets of Auckland Transport and NZTA are for everything else. But for that we need to have politicians and decisionmakers who don’t run for cover at the first critical news article or resident’s meeting.

      If yo

  4. There are clearly some good people in Waka Kotahi. Streets for People. “By opening our streets to everyone, we can reduce our emissions, make it safer and easier for people to move around, and improve the physical and mental well-being of our communities. It’s the smart thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do”.

    So, you good people at Waka Kotahi, how about liberating a lane (for walkers and cyclists) over the Harbour Bridge?

  5. The Henderson Ratanui Project came in at $1.3 Million. It was designed around a shared pathway. $192,000 paid to a traffic engineer. Disabled people couldn’t use it due to poor access. In 2021? Astounding. A deck , no foundation. $1000 a m2. The contractors charged a fortune. The community hated it. The township is still crippled. AT need to be audited and held accountable for wasting money.

    1. Grahame, we need a rapid transition to a safe and low carbon transport system. This trial was part of understanding the options. The response to the resistance was not ideal, but the context at the time was that Council had recently responded very poorly to another project. They had turned a blind eye to illegal vandalism, violence and bullying. In the process, Council had empowered the change-averse and subdued the people trying to achieve a better world. It’s no wonder this was the result here. All the organisations are going to have to learn how to push through against the people who don’t care about children’s safety, and deliver it anyway.

      The project provided safe cycling, including for people with disabilities. Any issues with access to the path could have been improved; that’s what trials are for. They allow improvements to be made incrementally. What doesn’t work is stopping the trials on the basis of ideology and aversion to change.

      No deliberative democracy process was undertaken so it’s impossible to say what “the community” wanted. Could you please:

      – provide evidence that the township is “still crippled”?
      – describe the “poor access” that you mentioned?

      Replies need to abide by the comment guidelines.

      Also, $1.3m is a cheap project compared to the ones that really waste money. Penlink, for example, is going to worsen our transport system in many different ways. At $830 million, it could be funding more than 600 small trials of street improvements and town centre regeneration. Why don’t you put your effort into rallying against that egregious waste?

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