Go By Bike Day celebrates the Bike Bicentennial

15109631_1699962993650878_3307091250734953700_nWas your New Year’s resolution to bike to work? Go By Bike Day will be along to help you in February.

GO BY BIKE DAY 2017 celebrates 200 years of the bicycle invention AND everyone who bikes in Wellington – whether you’re the tried and true commuter, the sexy shaven lycra-clad, the steeze at Makara, the fair weather cruiser, or even if you’re just too cheap to take the bus! Come out to enjoy the scrumptious brekky and that amazing cup of Peoples Coffee that will vastly improve the quality of your life!

Meet us down under the sails at Queens Wharf, 7-9am 8 February.

What’s new this year? Cheer on your nimble cohorts in action for the fastest flat fix competition, watch the best on one wheel then learn how to conquer the Unicycle. Don’t forget the grade-A bike checks, our favourite stalls, prize draws AND pedal your juice! Yes, the smoothie bike is back in action- pedal to puree! Plus, our guest speakers! Find out if Justin Lester really is the new “Cycling Mayor”? And if that isn’t enough, our secret comedian MC radiates caliber and confidence!

Santa gets “on his bike” for Xmas deliveries

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A senior SpokesElf for Santa Claus has confirmed that this Xmas the traditional deliveries would be made using sustainable transport. Santa will be using a specially designed electric assist cargo bike to service Xmas stockings around the world.

“We had to move to a 21st century technology” said the SpokesElf “The reindeer methane emissions meant that the North Pole couldn’t meet its COP22 and Kyoto climate change targets”. In addition, Santa’s multiple manifestations were contributing to traffic congestion “Deliveries to South Auckland, for example, weren’t completed until after New Year, due to gridlock on the Southern Motorway.”

Another important factor was Santa’s health “Obesity is a real hazard in his profession. We’d had him on statins and beta blockers for some time, but there was a real risk of the delivery programme collapsing if he had a cardiac arrest”. Santa has been in training for the 24 December ride, and is seeing positive effects already “Mrs Claus in particular is appreciative of the new, slimmer Santa”.

Santa’s helpers expect the 2016 deliveries to go smoothly, “particularly in Auckland where the Northwest cycleway, and the award winning Lightpath/Te Ara i Whiti, facilitate bicycle transport” Deliveries to the North Shore will be facilitated in future years by SkyPath.

The situation is more mixed in Wellington. “It’s going to be pretty good for Island Bay and Tawa where there are protected cycle lanes, but outside of that Santa will have to take care”. Several elves have qualified as Pedal Ready instructors, and are giving Santa the confidence to ride efficiently in regular traffic.

There are concerns in the US, where the incoming Trump administration is believed to be insisting that Santa uses Detroit built sleighs powered by Nebraska tar sands. In Britain, Brexit may mean that Saint Nicolaus, an EU citizen, will not be able to undertake his share of the Yuletide deliveries.

An omnibus in the bike lane: new blocking rule

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was good news for people who bike when new bike lanes were added to Victoria St. However at busy times, the lanes approaching Ghuznee St and Vivian St are often blocked by vehicles attempting to reach the left turn lane, but not quite making it. The same situation also occurs at the Featherston St/Bunny St intersection.

Here’s where the Omnibus comes to the rescue – not a real people mover, but the Land Transport Rule: Omnibus Amendment 2016This put together a number of changes (the “omnibus”) to the Land Transport rules that govern our roads. The amendments include one relating to blocking cycle lanes: “a driver (other than a cyclist) approaching an intersection or an area controlled by traffic signals must not enter a cycle lane if the driver’s intended passage or exit from that cycle lane is blocked by stationary traffic.” (Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 4.5(3), to be technical)

Why is this rule important?  It’s not just because vehicles blocking the cycle lane hold bikes up, but because the bike lane gives people a space where they can feel safe on bikes. Having vehicles intrude into this space makes it feel less safe, and makes biking less attractive. Less biking means more congestion, to the detriment of people who need to drive cars.

The new rule came into force on 1 December. How should people driving motor vehicles and riding bikes adapt to the new rule?

If you’re driving a motor vehicle, and need to turn left across a bike lane to get to the left turning lane:

  • Indicate that you wish to turn
  • Check there is space for your vehicle in the left turning lane
  • Check that there isn’t a bike approaching in the bike lane
  • If there is a bike approaching, wait till it is safe to cross the bike lane. Don’t worry that other vehicles may be held up behind you. Straight ahead vehicles have the option of using one of the other lanes, and in any case it’s better to hold up other vehicles for a few seconds than to endanger yourself or people on bikes. Bikes need the bike lane to access the advance stop boxes at the intersection, which helps them to move off safely without holding up other traffic.
  • When it’s safe to move into the left turn lane without blocking the bike lane, do so.
  • When you make the left turn, avoid swinging into the bike lane.
  • If you are caught blocking the cycle lane, you could pay $150 towards improving road safety (aka a “fine”).

If you’re riding a bike on the bike lane  between a left turning lane and a straight through lane:

  • Be tolerant – a vehicle may be blocking the lane because of an unexpected change in traffic flow
  • Give a cheery wave to drivers who wait for you to come through on the bike lane.
  • Avoid remonstrating with drivers, or banging bodywork, even though this is tempting. This reinforces the image of the “aggressive cyclist”, and could put you in danger if the driver reacts badly. Worse still, the driver could be your next door neighbor 🙂
  • If the bike lane is blocked, signal right and move cautiously to filter around the blockage. If the lights change and the traffic starts moving, hold your lane and move with the traffic until it’s safe to return to the bike lane.

Incidentally there are other rule changes that affect biking: making it clearer how bikes and cycle lanes should pass through intersections, allowing vehicles to pass bikes using a flush median (the hashed painted areas in the centre of some roads, e.g. Greta Point), formally recognising sharrows, allowing (actual) buses to use cycle lanes when dropping off and picking up passengers, and extending the time during which bike lights should be used. These relatively small changes will make it safer and more attractive to travel by bike. Other changes are in the pipeline.

Does Santa have Cobham Drive in her sack for active commuters?

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Cobham Drive cycling and walking route (illustrative example)

Two Christmases have passed since the Urban Cycleways Programme (UCP) was launched, promising generous funding of urban cycling projects. In Auckland this resulted in the award winning Light Path/ Te Ara I Whiti, and the Quay Street cycleway that has already overloaded its installed cycle counter. But Wellington is a different story. So far there has been little progress, although we’re due to see pole removal and improved entrance crossings on the Hutt Road Cycleway.

However we do have an opportunity to catch up with Auckland. Cobham Drive is one of the main ways in which people from the eastern suburbs bike, walk and run to the CBD. This is a key section of the Great Harbour Way/ Te Ara o Pōneke, the cycling and walking route around the great harbour of Tara. But the shared path on the northern side of SH1 is unattractive, despite the best efforts of the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Cycling or walking along the route, you’re dodging other people on bikes coming at you on the narrow path. You’re conscious of the stream of polluting vehicles heading for the airport, rather than the nearby beach with the occasional pod of dolphins rounding up a feed of harbour fish.

Wind sculptures, Cobham drive
Cobham Drive – not just about the bikes

One of the UCP proposals is upgrade this shared path to separated cycling and walking paths. $4 million has been allocated to this. Making it more attractive will encourage more active commuting from Miramar and Seatoun.  With good design, it could create a positive vibe about cycling, and could be a destination in itself, in the way that Te Ara I Whiti has become in Auckland, or the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge in Taranaki. There are no politically awkward conflicts with businesses and parking.

Cobham drive wind sculptures
Lots of potential for improvement

So what’s stopping Cobham Drive from being an early Christmas present to people who bike and walk in Wellington? There are some issues. The council’s concept diagram appears to have removed the on road shoulder, which won’t please roadies or fast commuters. There may be resource issues in developing the walking path close to the shore. The cycling path should be visually different from the walking path, looking like a road so that walkers aren’t tempted to stray. But these are standard cycleway design issues, and have been solved in countless locations around the world. What matters is that we get on with it, before the Government decides that the UCP funding is better utilised north of the Bombay Hills.

If you’d like well designed cycling and walking paths along Cobham Drive, send a message to Santa, in this case Sarah Free (Councillor and Portfolio leader for Public Transport, Cycling and Walking, sarah.free@wcc.govt.nz) and the WCC Cycling Team (transport@wcc.govt.nz). And offer them the season’s greetings too – they deserve it!

Cycle paths: quake proofing our transport network

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Ara Tawa between Kenepuru and Porirua

With all the fuss about Island Bay, you may not be aware of Wellington and Porirua Councils’ success in creating a 20km cycle route leading north out of the City, which, as well as providing for commuting and recreation, could be a vital part of our post earthquake transport network.

What is this lifesaving route? It starts at Takapu Rd Station as Ara Tawa (which surprisingly doesn’t rate a description on WCC’s website), heading north beside the railway line, past Tawa College and on to join Porirua’s Ara Harakeke past the city centre to Pukerua Bay.

When the “big one” arrives, this cycle route could be vital for people making their way home from Wellington CBD. Although there have been practices for people to find out whether they can walk home, biking will be a lot more efficient and quicker. In fact it’s an argument for biking to work, or at least having a bike at work; and it’s likely that central city bike shops will sell out quickly, as London bike shops did after the 2005 Tube bombings. A Kaikoura university student used a bike down shattered SH1 to catch a plane back to Canterbury Uni – interestingly beating the rest of his family who waited for a helicopter.

Why did Ara Tawa go ahead relatively painlessly, while Island Bay floundered? It’s complicated, but some key points might be:

  • Ara Tawa arose out of a community initiative to provide a cycling and walking track through the valley
  • There was adequate stream and rail reserve to put the trail on without encroaching on roads and parking
  • From the start, it connected logical destinations, particularly providing a “safe schools” route for students

Of course there is still the problem of getting to Ara Tawa’s southern end – Hutt Road, Ngauranga Gorge, the Johnsonville Triangle, and Middleton Rd are not yet bike friendly, and there is a need to build on the success of Ara Tawa by improving these linkages, and securing a resilient route for bikes from the Wellington CBD to the northern suburbs.

Even if you don’t live in the northern suburbs (and there isn’t an earthquake), it’s worth a ride on Ara Tawa/Ara Harakeke to see what has been achieved. You can use “bike the train” to get to and from the route, for example getting the train to Pukerua Bay, then riding “mainly downhill” to Takapu Rd, or reversing the direction if a southerly will give you wind assistance.

CAW December meeting

15134800_10210261650313100_2871298643292876810_nCelebrate your favourite cycling moments / events of 2016 at our final monthly CAW meeting on Tuesday 6 December. Email 3-5 photos to info@caw.org.nz together with a caption or let us know if you want to say a few words about the photos.

Also, bring along your ideas on quick fixes that would make the Wellington CBD better to bike.

Tuesday 6 December, 6-7:30pm, Sustainability Trust, 2 Forresters Lane (off Tory Street)

A round-up of recent Wellington bike news: not just headwinds and political arguments

I wrote this for a round-robin of updates among the various CAN local groups, and Ron pointed out it’s been a while since we posted a general update on this blog. So, here you go! Let me know anything I missed out and I can add it in.

-James

We have some good-ish news in Wellington, though not much fresh kermit quite yet.

Local elections

New Mayor Justin Lester was the most bike-friendly of the leading mayoral candidates and has backed us in past consultation on good projects. He has a reputation for pragmatic compromise – so good for getting things over the line, but as you will no doubt know this can sometimes erode the most ambitious or controversial aspects of projects…
The body of councillors has also overall shifted towards pro-cycling, and there should be more of a consensus around the table rather than the fine balance of opposing views, and electioneering, that hampered progress over the last 3 years.
Sarah Free and new councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman have the transport portfolio between them. Sarah Free supports cycling (you may have met her at the last CAN Do) and Chris has a transport planning background and appreciates the role of urban cycling. They both came to our first post-election CAW meeting, with a council officer who explained the planned programme of cycling works. So a good election outcome overall.

Short term

Picture credit: Ron Beernink

NZTA are currently putting in a short (600m) stretch of upgraded path including a wider shared path through this underpass where SH1 and 2 meet: https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-41.24759,174.8135734,3a,75y,163.89h,83.56t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sY2rmw29H9BlU_0NBnhUULA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

This is the first element of the Wellington-Hutt improvements. The city council will begin moving light poles from the shared path south of this point this month, as the start of improvement works on the Hutt Road and (finally) the first construction work spending UCP money. Resurfacing, moving of carparks, and (fingers crossed) conversion from a shared to a divided path are to follow shortly, as well as some junction and driveway improvements.
Also in the Hutt Valley, the biggest construction thing at the moment! – bike provision at the new SH2/SH58 interchage – a big new road interchange, and SH2 has lots of road cyclist use. Construction is well under way, and we’re getting excellently designed bike provision as part of the project – no more crossing motorway-like slip lanes, rather dedicated bike-only (plus walking) paths, with a design speed of 30k plus so roadies can zip on through.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLOz0a7O_JE

Medium term

The council has a set of projects to sign off, that should get consulted in the next few months. Losts of consultation feedback to encourage! These are arrayed around the edges of the CBD and beyond because…

Longer term

…of the the Let’s Get Wellington Moving project. The project’s good because it does take active transport seriously and an integrated plan for the city will make it easier to get cycling into places where it will be a trade off against other things like parking. But it holds up the construction of any CBD cycling infra because of its longer timeline. We’re trying to get some CBD trials of traffic or parking lane conversions to cycleways, a la Quay St in AKL, as initial or temporary improvements.

I****d B*y, or, The Cycleway That Must Not Be Named

This is still being re-litigated, but at least in a more positive way. The council has set up a participatory design project Love the Bay that looks at various aspects of the suburb, including the cycleway. Any changes will hopefully be at least neutral for cycling, rather than of the ‘tear it out’ nature some opposers had been campaigning for. And the route to join that section to the CBD is back on the table, which should help with the network effect aspect.

Social stuff

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photo credit: @bicyclejunctionnz on Instagram

 We’ve recently had some great events like community bike fix-ups and the third annual Need for Tweed ride (run by our friends Bicycle Junction – their pic above – apparently penny farthing selfies are a bit sketchy). CAW committee member Hilleke has set up a charitable trust and scored some grant funding for our project ReBicycle, rescuing old bikes and donating or loaning them to refugees and others in need. Looking forward to meeting the Dutch this Friday! Must get out my giant can of pink paint and decorate something before they get here 🙂

Other stuff

Pedal Ready is a regional bike skills programme which upskills thousands of kids and a few adults http://pedalready.org.nz/

Bikes in Schools continues to expand, with WCC fully funding three new projects each year http://wellington.govt.nz/ services/parking-and-roads/ cycling/we-support-cycling/ bikes-in-schools

Off-road, Wellington has awesome trails and ambitious goals. The Wellington Trails Trust is focused on developing a world-class multi-user trail network in the Wellington city and region http://www. wellingtontrailstrust.co.nz/

Join us at CAN Do in Wellington in March 2017 https://can.org.nz/cando2017

Keep the rubber side down!

Notes from CAW November 2016 meeting

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A possible Cobham Drive upgrade

At the 1 November meeting we were lucky to have Paul Barker, Safe and Sustainable Transport Manager at Wellington City Council, along with Councillor portfolio leaders Sarah Free (Public Transport, Cycling and Walking) and Chris Calvi-Freeman (Transport strategy and operations)

Paul gave us an overview of Wellington’s Urban Cycling Programme.

  • Cycling has a significant budget, $37.5 million annually. The challenge is getting projects through the planning and consultation processes. A new engagement process is being used.
  • Staffing: now have around 15 positions connected to active transport, with vacancies being filled.
  • Decisions on routes in the CBD depend on the outcome of the Let’s Get Wellington Moving  process. Funding has been moved from CBD projects to the Eastern Suburbs.
  • Northern route:
    • Ngauranga to Thorndon: lighting poles are being moved, bus stops relocated, and general upgrade to cycle path, including raising path at business entrances.
    • Thorndon to CBD. Decision to be made about whether cycle route will be along Thorndon Quay or Aotea Quay.
    • An upgrade of the Wakely Rd “Goat Track” between Newlands and Ngauranga is possible.
  • Eastern suburbs: working on proposals for:
    • Upgrading cycle/walk path on Cobham Drive. This could be a “quick win” with approval possible in early 2017.
    • Improved cycling routes from the Coutts St airport underpass to Seatoun and Miramar.
    • General cycling and walking improvements in Miramar Town Centre.
    • Evans Bay Parade shared path.
    • Leonie Gill Pathway to Newtown.
  • Southern routes. Basin Reserve to Shoreland Park: ongoing engagement in Island Bay, with eventual extension to Basin Reserve.

We also discussed:

  • Elections: results do not indicate a backlash against cycling, with David Lee and Sarah Free being re-elected with good majorities.
  • Island Bay workshops are proceeding well.
  • Roll on Wellington Awards. We’ll postpone these to February.
  • CAN DO 2017. Wellington will be hosting the national cycling advocacy meeting in March 2017. Alastair, James, David, Hilleke and Peter will be planning this.
  • Go By Bike Day is go! Mark 8 February 2017 in your diary.

CAW November Meeting

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Time to dash off to the monthly meeting again!

  • Introductions
  • Paul Barker from WCC will update us on the Wellington Urban Cycling Programme
  • Elections – where to from here?
  • Island Bay update
  • CAN DO 2017 – Wellington’s turn to host
  • Roll on Wellington Awards
  • Rants and Raves

Tuesday 1 November, 6-7:30pm, Sustainability Trust, 2 Forresters Lane (off Tory Street)

Dear Sarah (and Chris)…An open letter from a person who bikes

Get on with it Rally
Back in 2015 people who bike demanded that WCC “lift its act” – will the new Council up its game?

An open letter to Sarah Free (WCC councillor, Public Transport, Cycling and Walking) and (Chris Calvi-Freeman (WCC councillor, Transport strategy and operations) from a person who bikes.


Dear Sarah and Chris

Congratulations on your new roles. Here’s three things to think about as we work to make Wellington a livable city: transport strategy criteria, parking, and trial projects.

Three criteria for Transport strategy

We need to recognise the elephant on the roadway: the imminent threat of climate change. 56% of Wellington’s carbon emissions are from transport. While Wellington has a policy of becoming a “low carbon capital” we seem to have trouble in translating this into transport strategy. The UN is appealing for countries to “invest at least 20 per cent of their transport budgets in walking and cycling infrastructure to save lives, reverse pollution and reduce carbon emissions”

Other important pachyderms on the transport network include congestion (we’ve reached the limit of cars that can comfortably accommodated in the CBD), and healthy lifestyles (the obesity epidemic is partly due to reduced use of active and public transport).

When evaluating transport projects, three key criteria should be

  • will this reduce carbon emissions?
  • will this reduce overall congestion in the city?
  • will this promote healthy lifestyles?
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Basin reserve congestion, 1910

In the past, we’ve tended to think about “transport” as moving cars, not people. An example is that the Basin Reserve “problem”, which seems to affect any transport planning in central Wellington, is often framed in terms of getting cars through, when the issue is really “How do we get people from the eastern and southern suburbs to and from the CBD, while reducing carbon emissions, congestion, and encouraging healthy lifestyles”. Framed like that, the answer is clearly frequent and efficient public transport, and making active transport, particularly biking, attractive. We don’t need tunnels and flyovers. We just need good bus lanes (eventually light rail) and cycle lanes through the Basin Reserve. Certainly there will continue to be a need for trips through the Basin Reserve to be made by motor vehicle, but what passes for “congestion” there would easily be solved by replacing even 30% of car trips by public and active transport.

Recognise the high cost of free parking

We need to recognise that provision of on-street parking comes at a high cost. Donald Shoup’s influential book The High Cost of Free Parking points out that like free lunches, there is no such thing as free parking. Apart from the cost of maintaining the road space used by on-street parking, from a cycling point of view free or cheap on-street parking uses space that could be used for bike lanes – there’s a high opportunity cost in providing on-street parking.

Retailers worry that removal of parking will hurt business, but in practice this doesn’t happen. A study of shoppers on Tory St found that only 6% used parking on the street.

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People on bikes “holding up traffic”, Aro Street

Many Wellington streets are on hills, where people in cars perceive “cyclists holding up traffic” as they go slowly uphill. However in this picture:

  • The bike riders are reducing overall congestion by choosing to leave their cars at home.
  • If the uphill side of the road wasn’t occupied by parked cars, there would be room for a bike lane, making biking more attractive, and reducing the frustration of car drivers.
  • While residents may object to removal of parking, 70% of households on this stretch of road have off-street parking, meaning that resident parking could be accommodated by allowing parking on the downhill side where bikes can “take the lane” without impeding traffic.

In many cases, provision of free on-street parking encourages the purchase of second or third cars, or the use of garages for storage of possessions other than cars (a survey of one Wellington area showed that 80% of garages did not have cars in them).

Provision of free on-street parking on arterial routes fails our transport strategy criteria, encouraging the use of fossil fueled cars, congestion, and reducing exercise.

Wellington should phase out on-street parking on the uphill side of arterial routes, replacing it with bike lanes. To help people decide whether they really require this parking, we could introduce “arterial parking permits”, which if priced correctly would reduce parking demand to a level where parking would only be required on the downhill side.

Trial bicycle projects on a temporary basis

New York city has achieved a major shift in converting car dominated road space into a pedestrian and bike friendly environment. Janette Sadik-Khan, the responsible Transport Commissioner, describes how this was achieved in Street Fight: handbook for an urban revolution. One of the key tools was to put in facilities such as bike lanes on a temporary basis, using relatively cheap materials, and removing or modifying them if they didn’t work. The advantages are:

  • People can see what is proposed, rather than having to find out about and visualise from consultation documents.
  • A concept can be tested before attitudes have hardened, as has happened with the Island Bay cycleway (which incidentally was favoured by 60% of residents submissions in the initial consultation).

An example of a trial project might be a cycle lane on Jervois and Waterloo Quays to provide an alternative to the waterfront for fast bike commuters. Waterloo Quay has lost a lane temporarily as part of the construction of the PWC building at Kumutoto, without major disruption. So a trial cycle lane between Whitmore and Taranaki streets should be practical.

Quay Street cycleway
Auckland’s Quay St Cycleway – implemented quickly with relatively cheap planter boxes etc. A few hours after opening the counter read 336, 3 months later it had passed 50 000.

I look forward to your responses. Proposals that Wellington could be the Copenhagen of the South Pacific tend to be met with skepticism, but maybe we could emulate Almetyevsk, a city of a similar size to Wellington, which has built 50km of protected cycle routes in the first year of their bike programme.

Regards

Alastair Smith


Cycling in Wellington posts reflect the views of the author, unless otherwise stated.