Is there a project that could definitively say that cycling has arrived in Wellington? Wellington City Council has opened consultation on the Cobham Drive project, and this could be a chance for a cycling and walking facility that creates a positive image for active transport, in the same way that Auckland’s Lightpath/Te Ara-i-Whiti and Taranaki’s Te Rewarewa Bridge have done.
Why is Cobham Drive an important cycling project? First, it’s a key link between the eastern suburbs and the city. Secondly, it’s a project that requires few compromises with parking and businesses. But it’s also an opportunity to do more than just create cycling and walking paths. It’s in a stunning geographic location, with a view up Evans Bay to Mount Victoria and the northern ranges. It’s what many people travel along from the Airport on their first visit to Wellington. It’ll be visible from Mt Victoria, where most first time visitors to the city are taken. We’ve got the opportunity here to create a statement: Wellington is an active place.
Wellington Sculpture trust have already enhanced this stretch with the Meridian Energy Wind Sculpture Walk, so many people associate Wellington with the iconic Zephyrometer that they see bending low over SH1 after their charmingly energetic airport landing into a slight northerly breeze (known outside Wellington as a “gale”).
The big gap in the current plan is the lack of a safe crossing of Cobham Drive, for example to the Sports Centre. We should be challenging WCC to include this in the project.
Apart from that the proposals are good but not perfect, and some of the detail needs to be clarified.
The cycling and walking paths need to be physically and visually different, to discourage people from using the wrong path for their mode. Auckland learned this lesson on Beach Rd, where a section that looked like a footpath was used by pedestrians despite “no cycling” signs. The sections that look like roadway don’t have this problem.
The connections at the ends need work – it’s not clear how people biking the Mount Victoria Tunnel will connect to the cycleway, and the path comes to an abrupt halt at Miramar Cutting (although the connections to Miramar are the subject of a separate project). There’s no detail on the proposed signalised crossing of Evans Bay Parade for people biking north to the CBD.
The proposed 3m width for the cycle path should be a minimum. Where possible it should be 4m or more, to provide for comfortable passing without conflict with oncoming cyclists.
It would be good to have some features that break the wind, which (very occasionally) crosses the path.
The current plans include some parking east of the Troy St roundabout. This is unnecessary: people can watch planes from a parking place on Calibar Rd, and Evans Bay Marina is better for launching boats. If this parking is retained, the cycle path should be on the seaward side of it, to avoid conflict with vehicles entering the park.
There should be parking provision at Evans Bay Marina for, for example, wheelchair users, and families that want to bike the route but aren’t able to bike to it.
The shoreline is currently made up of concrete debris from a power station that was demolished in 1941. It’s time to clean this up, and make the shoreline attractive. Indeed the design of the path should draw users attention to the seascape, rather than to the busy SH1 that runs on the southern side.
It needs a good name. It’s part of Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Pōneke of course, but it should have a specific name. The name “seaway” has been proposed, but there are a lot of paths beside the sea. Perhaps a name like “Te Ara Ūnga”, the path of the landing place, would (with permission of the relevant iwi) reference the idea of a gateway, and the proximity to Wellington airport.
Above all it needs a “wow” factor – that will attract the attention of people coming from Weta Workshops and the Airport, or looking across from Mt Victoria, and have people saying “I want to bike that”.
First step was to find it. We got the train to Paekakariki, and rode north on the rolling Te Ara Whareroa through QE 2 Park. I didn’t see any signage directing us to the next stage north, but fortunately we’d had local advice, and knew to go east on Poplar Ave to the start of the Kapiti Cycle Route, the cycling (and walking and horse riding) route alongside the expressway. This seems an odd name – there’s already a well established Kapiti Coastal Cycling Route, so why not go for something easily distinguishable? For the rest of this post I’ll refer to the route beside the expressway as “Te Ara Kapiti”.
Once you’re on Te Ara Kapiti, there’s generally good signage. The southern part to Waikanae is sealed, although there is some loose chip to watch out for, and bits which need touching up. North of Waikanae, the surface is reasonably smooth gravel. The path is generally 2.5-3m wide.
The Rongomau overbridge crosses the expressway to the old SH1 and the Paraparaumu shopping centre, but we headed north. You pass through nicely landscaped wetlands, almost expecting to see some rice paddies and Vietnamese farmers. There are concrete and wooden seats every so often, some with the concrete surroundings only just drying.
Although the cycle route is nice for cruising, I expect dedicated roadies will want to keep to the expressway, which is of course legal. At the overbridge across Kapiti Road, cyclists are advised to exit on the off ramp, presumably on the reasoning that it’s safer to do this cross the off ramp exit. However this involves crossing Kapiti Road at the lights, conflicting with left turning traffic, then climbing back onto the expressway on the on ramp. Personally, I’d stick to the expressway.
There’s a bit of a climb up to the turnoff to the Makarini St footbridge in Paraparaumu, I gather because there wasn’t enough room for a level bypass route.
North of the Waikanae River there’s a short deviation to avoid Wahi Tapu, then the route rejoins the expressway at an imposing concrete bluff.
Although the route signs are to Otaki, the cycle route comes to an abrupt end at Pekapeka, fortunately within easy reach of the cafe at Harrison’s garden centre. However there’s still work going on here, and it’s not yet clear how a cyclist heading north would get back onto SH1, and there doesn’t seem to be any signage directing a southbound cyclist onto the Te Ara Kapiti.
Similarly, at the southern end the work to connect cyclists heading south on SH1 onto Poplar ave and Te Ara Whareroa doesn’t seem to have been completed.
Interestingly, the expressway project has created two cycle routes, Te Ara Kapiti, and also a high quality road with minimal traffic: the old SH1, which will be a good cycling option between Pekapeka and Raumati. There’s still significant traffic on it, but I suspect that will decrease as drivers adopt new habits, and have their GPS’s updated (at the time of writing, Google Maps did not show the expressway).
Overall, it’s great that NZTA have included a cycling and walking route in a major roading project. However the real question for Wellingtonians is: why is it so difficult to get an equivalent route from, for example, the Hutt Valley to the Wellington CBD? Watch this space…
Stop Press: Cycle Action Kapiti are holding a ride on Saturday 18 March to press for action on the Pekapeka-Otaki cycle route. It’ll be a good chance to sample the northern bit of Te Ara Kapiti, and the weather forecast is good!
At CAW’s regular March monthly meeting we discussed:
Cycle projects in the rail corridor. Leah Murphy is project managing a Kiwirail/NZTA investigation into cycle projects in the rail corridor. 4 corridors are being looked at in Wellington: Silverstream – Upper Hutt, Ngauranga – Petone, Petone – Melling, Lower Hutt beltway to Seaview. Busy train lines means construction problems. Nationally, incidents at rail crossings are going up. Design Guidelines are about to be released. More risk assessment based. Do mazes work? At busy crossings, automatic gates (eg at Tawa) are favoured. National feedback needed. Cycle tracks need to be 3-5m from rail line. Kiwirail sees space as property and is required to make a profit from it. Perth WA an example of successful use of rail corridor.
Update on Island Bay community re-engagement.
Community engagement processes like this can be expected to encounter issues.
It is not straight forward and therefore good to keep getting positive support from the CAW team
This includes giving the message that the syndicate is very much focused on the process, and that the process has worked well so far if you look at the workshops
Challenge is to get the wider community engaged so looking for opportunities to get more people involved in the workshops
Other channels are also being used, e.g. Love the Bay website
Thorndon Quay. Useful workshop held 6 Mar. Raises lots of questions: bus lane in middle? Two way vs one way? Etc. Is there potential to make Thorndon Quay a pleasant tree lined boulevard? Opportunity for CAW, as opposed to individuals, comment?
Cobham Drive. Drop in Workshops scheduled for 7,15 March. Concept drawings look good. Shoulder retained. People want overbridge to Aotea Centre, although currently out of scope. Should aim for Three Cs: Comfort, connect, convenient.
Consulations overall: Restart of cycleway planning will need a lot of input from CAW. Have a checklist for what we want from projects? Recruit from FB. Survey ?
CAN Do 2017 25/26 March – on track – why not register to become part of cycling history?
Plans for Go By Bike Day – which attracted a record 1350 people on bikes. Imagine the traffic chaos if those people had chosen to commute by car!
CAW structure. Maybe a committee and paid membership are no longer the way to go in an age of social media and crowdfunding campaigns. Lots of active people on our FaceBook group; need to recruit them for projects, such as representing CAW at consultation workshops.
Ron Beernink reported back on WCC progress.
Poles due to be removed from Hutt Rd Cycle path in February, and entrance crossings to be improved in March. Since this is the first actual Urban Cycleways project to be implemented in Wellington, there’ll be a ministerial “sod turning”.
Open day consultation on Thorndon Quay planned for March.
Workshop on Eastern Suburbs routes also in March.
Ron and Hutt cycle people also met with NZTA. The “Melly to Welly” cycle route from Melling to Wellington CBD is planned for completion 2019/2020. The 600m prototype cycle path from Ngauranga north looks good. There are also plans for accommodating bikes on the Petone to Grenada link.
Electric assist bikes (eBikes) are a great way to get into biking if you’re not confident about your physical abilities, or if, like me, riding a standard bike up Wellington’s hills has become frustrating. But some people are worried about how fast eBikes go, and feel that they will pose a danger to riders of standard bikes. So how much faster are eBikes than standard bikes? The answer seems to be “not much”.
First, what does the published research say? The German Naturalistic Cycling Study (2017) found that eBike riders averaged only 2km/hr faster than people on standard bikes. Langford, Chen and Cherry (2015) found that eBikes averaged faster on roads (21km/hr vs 17km/hr) but slower on shared paths (18km/hr vs 20km/hr). Note that this was in the US, where eBikes are allowed to have more powerful motors. This study demonstrates that while eBike riders potentially have more speed, in places like shared paths they may choose not to use it. They also found that people had similar safety behaviours, whether they were riding eBikes or standard bikes.
Next, I decided to see what happens in NZ. I spent a few hours on Wellington commuter routes, timing eBikes and standard bikes over about 100m, generally using lighting poles as markers. I found that eBikes averaged 26km/hr, standard bikes 23.4 km/hr, a difference of 2.6km/hr. This was a small study (9 eBikes, 55 standard bikes) with a crude method for measuring speed, but seemed to indicate that eBikes fell in the same range of speeds that standard bikes do. The fastest bike was a standard bike, and the slowest an eBike.
It would be good to get a bigger sample, but I was getting tired waiting for the occasional eBike – although they’re becoming more common, I still had to wait a while between eBikes, and sometimes I’d fail to recognise them in time.
So I turned to Strava, where keen people with GPS smartphones can record their activity when biking, running, and even hand cycling. Strava has an Activity Search which although a bit erratic in its searching, allowed me to compare ordinary bike rides (“rides”) with “E-Bike rides” that had been recorded in NZ. Strava gives a lot of data about each ride (I was tempted to compare the total calorie intake of eBike and standard riders!), but I used the average speed and the maximum speed, and searched for rides recorded in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. I used 132 eBike rides, and 145 standard bike rides.
On average, eBikes had an average speed 2km/hr slower than standard bikes (20.7km/hr vs 22.7km/hr). The average maximum speed for a ride was pretty similar: 49.3km/hr for eBikes, 49.6km/hr for standard bikes. This makes sense: if you’re going fast downhill, it doesn’t matter if you’re on an eBike or a standard bike – gravity is doing the work.
There some caveats to the Strava data. People who record their rides on Strava are interested in performance, and probably go faster than “ordinary” riders. Some people mis-labelled their rides (in one case, an “eBike ride” was actually using a BloKart), though I think I was able to weed these out. My sense was that the eBike rides tended to be more utility oriented than the standard bike rides, which tended to be recreational sport rides. This could explain why this study shows eBikes averaging slower speeds than standard bikes. There was probably a broader range of individual riders among the standard riders than the eBike riders.
So what can we conclude about eBike speeds, and whether they are a threat to people riding standard bikes, or walking on shared paths? eBikes are “designed to be primarily propelled by the muscular energy of the rider” so in theory people using them should behave similarly to people on standard bikes, and the research seems to show this. In fact we have a range of types of bikes and riders, that tend to travel at different speeds. A lycra clad rider on a dropped handlebar bike training for the Taupo Cycling challenge will travel at a different speed than someone heading down to the dairy on their upright city bike. It looks like eBikes are just another kind of bike, and their speeds fall into the same general range as other bikes.
One of the issues with getting bike facilities is the reaction of businesses. When parking spaces get replaced by bike lanes, business owners ask where their customers are going to park. Of course, this isn’t really an issue – people patronise businesses, not cars, and there’s plenty of evidence that building bike lanes helps businesses on the route.
A new group, Bikes Welcome, is working on this issue. By providing a range of education and publicity initiatives, Bikes Welcome aims to change the perception of biking, and promote a bike friendly business culture.
If you’d like to help (and who wouldn’t?) Bikes Welcome is running a Pledge Me campaign. You’ve got until 28 February to pledge your support, but why wait till then, when you can do it now?
Electric assist bikes (eBikes) are a great innovation in Wellington, but until recently WCC has ruled that they are motorised vehicles, and not allowed on the Open Space reserve tracks. However WCC is now trialing eBike access to a selection of tracks for one year.
The tracks include:
Hataitai to City Walkway (commuter link track)
Newtown to Hataitai Walkway (commuter link track)
Te Ahumairangi Hill (commuter link track)
Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park – downhill tracks north of Snake Charmer, and restricted to uphill on the 4WD tracks. (Not open to e-bikes: Koru, Sally Alley, Nikau, Leaping Lizard and Possum Bait Line, as these cannot be accessed from the 4WD tracks)
Skyline Walkway from Makara Peak to Old Coach Road, including 4WD tracks at Chartwell and Sirsi Terrace
Old Coach Road
South coast (Te Kopahou) along coast line and the Tip Track and Red Rocks Track
Spicer Forest Road and through to Tawa (Chastudon Place) and Broken Hill Road, Porirua
Sanctuary Fence Line, through to Wrights Hills via 4WD tracks only
As part of the one year trial, WCC is surveying track users about how they have been affected by eBikes. Please fill out the survey whenever you use one of these tracks – as a walker, bike rider, or eBike rider.
For the trial, an eBike is defined as a bicycle that is mainly powered by human energy but assisted by a maximum continuous rated electric motor of up to 300 watts. The power assistance is limited to 25 km/h. eBikes complying with the EU Pedelec specification, e.g. have the Bosch motor system, will already have this limit built in. If you don’t have the power cutoff set on your eBike, you can probably set it on the controller of your eBike. It’s best to consult your user manual. As guide, here’s how you do it on the common King-Meter controller:
Hold both + and – buttons down for 2 seconds to enter user settings
Hold both – and M buttons and enter password 0512 (this step may not be necessary, or the password for your controller may be different)
Select “Limit Speed” and set this to 25
Hold M for 2 Seconds to confirm
It’s great that eBike users, who are often older mountain bikers like me who no longer have the fitness to tackle the big hills, will be able to enjoy the Open Space reserves. The trial will also open up some useful commuting routes.
It’s important that we respect other users so all get to enjoy the trails.