Constructive conversation tips

We've been campaigning for better biking for a long time. Now that more bike lanes are being built, how do we have constructive conversations?

Community meeting of around 100 people.



👍 Listen, understand, respond.

👍 Lead with values. Focus on what we have in common e.g.:

  • we're a community that cares about each other
  • we care about safe streets
  • we want to see ambitious climate action
  • we care about the well-being of all in the community

👍 Replace, don't negate. Try "Yes and", not "no but".

👍 We make progress not by placating naysayers, but by making the case and building support from the community. It's simply not possible to keep everyone happy. Let's listen to those most disadvantaged by the status quo – who are often those who don't participate in Council engagement or residents' associations.

👍 Participate. Brent Toderian, planning expert, says:


"Good plans, policies or projects don’t fail because of the presence of negative voices (they are always there). They fail because of the absence of positive voices. If you support a good planning idea or plan, participate."


👍 Sell the cake, not the ingredients. Lifting people's gaze to broader objectives and collective aspirations means we can all work together better on the details.

👍 Be specific. Paint a picture of how our city will be better. Talk about:

  • how children can scoot and bike to school, and meet their friends at the park.
  • people of all ages can bike to local shops and businesses.
  • households can go from two to one car, freeing up space and saving fuel bills.
  • streets are quieter places where people can stop and chat.

👍 Data and facts talks to the head, while stories talk to the heart. Tell stories about how changing our streets improves people's lives.

👍 Be inclusive. Everyone in our community deserves to be able to get around easily and safely. Everyone in our community deserves safe streets. Everyone deserves a healthy planet. Everyone needs to be able to choose the best way to get around that doesn't harm others or the environment.

👍 Consultation is ongoing as things are happening. Just because there is change already happening on some streets does not mean there is no room for contributing your insights and views.

👍 Assume positive intent. The vast majority of people care for each other and want what is best for the community. When people are stressed it is natural to make mistakes and communicate poorly sometimes. Don't jump to conclusions or stereotype others. Assume people are trying to help.

Paneke Pōneke is a great opportunity

The Paneke Pōneke bike, scooter, and bus lane network will connect suburbs to the city centre and destinations like the hospital and waterfront. It will help people of all ages and abilities to get around. There will be:

  • 166km of connections for people riding bikes and scooters
  • extended bus lanes
  • 155,000 people living within a 5-minute ride of the network.

From Wellington City Council:


"We're working hard to make Wellington better for everyone in our community."


Wellington's population is projected to grow by 50–80,000 people by 2050. If everyone drives, no-one moves. Without better ways to get around, there will be endless congestion. Paneke Pōneke, along with better public transport and land use, are essential to sustaining our quality of life.

Paneke Pōneke will provide safe lanes for people on bikes and scooters. It will enable our children and families to get around easily. High fuel prices are a burden on household budgets, but we can address that. Wellington's commitment to a safe climate means we need to provide people with safe, low-carbon transport choices.

The Council will implement the whole network over ten years. There are two phases: transitional, and transformational. The initial, transitional process will be like the Brooklyn Road and Crawford Road projects, using inexpensive materials and less demanding engineering. Lanes will be built from the waterfront to Newtown, and the Botanic Gardens during 2022. The entire network will be installed to a transitional quality within five years. After testing the designs on the ground and incorporating community feedback, the transformational upgrades will follow, using more permanent engineering.

Person cycling through one of the new transitional bike lanes with some new separation features added.

What do Wellingtonians think?

The Council received feedback from more than a thousand people and organisations through public consultation so far. Most people strongly supported the plan, at 87 percent. 89 percent believed the long-term impact will be positive, and 90 percent agreed that a connected network will get more people riding bikes.

Concerns were mainly around how the plan could impact on other transport modes – pedestrians, public transport, and car parking.

What about parking?

Parking cars uses a large amount of precious public space. We could use much of that space for better things such as access to more nature, bus and bike lanes, nicer walking and places to enjoy together. The Council's parking policy was set in 2020. On arterial streets, the policy prioritises moving people over storing vehicles.

Paneke Pōneke, along with better public transport and land use, will mean many people will be less dependent on driving. Where appropriate, disability access should be prioritised and goods delivery thoughtfully accommodated.

How will this affect businesses?

More people living and working in Wellington is good news for businesses. By creating Paneke Pōneke, we'll all enjoy the benefits sooner, and disruption is minimised. Shared loading zones and distribution centres can provide better solutions for freight deliveries. There are great options for logistics that are more compatible with people friendly streets.

Auckland's Karangahape Road retailers were initially sceptical about new bike lanes, but most are now happy with the street upgrade. No-one wants it changed back. Although COVID has been very disruptive, it shows how adaptive and responsive the business community can be.

Street retail performs much better when it is a welcoming experience to people. A greater number of people can access and enjoy shopping and city space when arriving by public transport, walking or biking. The reason that shopping centres are popular is because they make people park a long way from shopfronts, and then walk past a lot of shops. Main streets fall down by encouraging (and permitting) close car parking and while that customer might only visit one or two shops. That same car parking makes the overall experience of the place less enjoyable for others.

Learn more

How to Talk About Urban Mobility and Transport Shift: A Short Guide by The Workshop (24 pages)
This New Zealand guide is designed for technical experts, communicators and advocates working to deliver urban mobility solutions that grow the share of travel by public transport, walking and cycling. Its purpose is to help us use more effective strategies to:

  • improve people’s understanding, based on best evidence, of why a shift in transport modalities away from cars and towards active and public transport is needed
  • help people designing and leading the shift to have better conversations with the public
  • motivate people to act in support of these shifts.

Streetfight, by Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow
An empowering road map for rethinking, reinvigorating, and redesigning our cities, from a pioneer in the movement for safer, more livable streets.

Don’t believe the backlash – the benefits of NZ investing more in cycling will far outweigh the costs, by Simon Kingham