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WellingtonJanuary 10, 2024

Plucky Foodstuffs takes bold stand against children on bikes

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Summer reissue: The new route would allow thousands of Wellingtonians to safely cycle to their store, and the retailer simply will not stand for it.

First published on September 7, 2023.

It’s a hard life being a small independent food retailer. Climate change, cost of living, and supply chain failures have wreaked havoc on the industry. 

And worst of all: sometimes people ride past your shop on bicycles. 

Widely beloved local grocers Foodstuffs are facing an existential threat: A new cycleway outside their Thorndon New World store could improve safety and encourage more low-emissions transport options in their neighbourhood. 

The consequences would be devastating. The new bike route would mean the 6,000 people who live in Wadestown and Wilton would be able to ride directly to the supermarket’s north and south entrances on a protected and connected route. 

To make things worse, the 3,000 students at nearby schools might ride to class without being side-swiped even once. It’s an outcome Foodstuffs simply cannot and will not stand for. 

This week, the supermarket giant told Wellington City Council it would be launching a legal fight, lodging a judicial review against the new cycleway. Judicial reviews are really hard to win – Foodstuffs would have to prove the council did not follow the law when making the decision. 

Despite that, big businesses in Wellington have launched a number of judicial reviews in recent years in desperate attempts to avoid having to look at bicycles. Wellington Airport eventually dropped its case last year to prevent the Cobham Drive pedestrian crossing being built, and four car dealerships attempted to halt the Newtown cycleway. 

A diagram of the Thorndon Connection cycleway

The Newtown cycleway has already doubled bike traffic in the area and won the praise of Wellington Menace bike group founder Ashley Bloomfield. But some businesses in the area are still unhappy. 

A spokesperson from Resene Colourshop told RNZ they had seen “significant drop in turnover” within just three weeks of the cycleway opening, a result that is definitely because of bikes and not because there was 275mm of rainfall that month and it is a paint shop. 

The new Thorndon cycleway would replace 79 on-street car parks, plunging the area into almost certain recession. It would be a brutal knock for a struggling working class community which has already seen the price of an average three-bedroom house plummet to $1.35 million. 

A whopping 8% of residents in Thorndon drive to work each day and only 60% walk or bike, according to Census 2018. Without on-street parking the only way for customers to access Thorndon New World would be in the massive two-storey parking building the company owns. 

Thorndon New World teamed up with the Thorndon Residents’ Association to promote a community meeting to oppose the project, and helped collect public submissions calling for it to be scrapped or changed. 

Wellington City Council still insisted on ramming the cycleway through, simply because it was supported by 70% of submitters, completely ignoring the community by only making several changes to the layout and design based on feedback. 

Foodstuffs pushed for a number of changes, including moving the cycle lane to the left side of Murphy St, further away from their store. It’s a two-lane, one-way road where the left lane is a motorway offramp. 

The council cruelly rejected their proposal simply because transport planners consider putting a cycleway diagonally across the road in front of motorway traffic to be a bad idea and also very stupid and dangerous. 

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