Add some crunch to your #friding this Friday (9 October) with a short ride down the Parade and a picnic by the bandstand in Shorland Park. 5:45 at the chip shop (to place your order) or 6:15 at the park.
Salt & Batter is at 67 The Parade, Island Bay. A few of us will ride out to Island Bay from the CBD – be at Volunteers Corner at 5:10 if that’s you.
Fish optional. Bring your lights for getting home, and we might ride round the coast afterwards if you’re keen.
Andy Foster updated us on cycling developments. Working through process to gain UCP funding for priority routes: Eastern from Miramar, CBD routes, and Northern route. Bikes in Schools programme will be expanded.
CAW website: has been moved and combined with Cycling in Wellington blog.
CAN branding: national organisation has tweaked name to “Cycling Action Network” and is adopting new branding, logos etc. May be time for CAW to look at its branding.
82% reduction in injury crashes within the shopping centres where the 30km/h speed restriction has been introduced, but:
24% reduction in the shopping areas where 30km/h restrictions have been approved but not introduced.
All of these places are currently busy and narrow with limited or no alternative routes for cyclists.
Our experience of riding in 30 km/h zones such as Aro valley and Miramar is that car drivers tend to treat other road including cyclists with more respect, and dangerous overtaking is much less common (bike riders tend to be going much closer to the speed of the cars, which is the main benefit).
None of these places have yet benefited from improvements to facilitate easier cycling, and we would still strongly encourage that even with a 30 km/h limit, cycle provision is considered in accordance with the WCC Cycling Framework 2015. Where these zones would already benefit from being a ‘Shared 30 km/h zone’ under the framework, we recommend that the zone is designed as such at the same time. Where other alternatives (quiet routes, protected lanes, alternative routes) are available we recommend that these are built expediently in addition to the 30 km/h zone.
The proposal relates to six Wellington communities – a portion of Happy Valley Road (reducing the limit from 70km/h to 50km/h) and the shopping areas in Berhampore, Khandallah, Ngaio, Northland and Wadestown (all from 50 km/h to 30 km/h).
When the Victoria Street Transformation was announced, the lack of provision for cycling raised concerns. Although the aim was to create “a vibrant inner city neighbourhood” and improve efficiency for all modes of transport including cyclists, there were no specific improvements for cycling. As a result of lobbying by Cycle Aware Wellington among others, the final result has included cycle lanes. What has the end result meant for cycling?
Victoria Street now has carside cycle lanes (between the traffic and the parked cars) for the two blocks between Dixon and Vivian, and a protected kerbside bicycle lane between Vivian and Abel Smith. Both of these are innovative for Wellington. The carside cycle lanes include a hatched “door zone” between the parked cars and the cycle lane to encourage cyclists to keep clear of the door zone – in contrast to many existing carside cycle lanes that actually demarcate the door zone, exactly where cyclists shouldn’t be riding. The kerbside cycle lane is the first in Wellington. There is also a separate cycle phase in the Abel Smith traffic light sequence.
Will these cycle lanes encourage the “interested but concerned” to take up cycle commuting? Probably not, since the carside cycle lanes don’t offer protection from traffic, and the kerbside cycle lane is too short. But making provision for cycling shows that cycling is a legitimate travel mode, and that can’t be bad.
The value of the Victoria St cycle lanes is that we’re learning how to design cycle facilities suitable for Wellington. One of the trickiest parts of the kerbside cycle lane is the bus stop, where the cycle lane runs between the bus stop waiting area and the stopped bus. All the cycle routes in the network proposed in the WCC Cycling Framework will need to get past bus stops – around 20 between Island Bay and the CBD for example. Ideally protected cycle lanes will have a proper bypass so that bus passengers don’t have to cross the cycle lane to board a bus. But there might not be room for this in some cases, so it’s useful to see how the Victoria St bus stop works in practice. So far it seems to work – it’s a relatively low use bus stop, and there don’t seem to have been problems. We also need to think about relative risk. A proportion of bus passengers are going to cross the road after alighting – is the risk of crossing the bike lane really that much more than crossing a busy multi lane road?
Because of concerns about passenger safety, the Victoria Street bus stop also has a lot of signage: give way signs, flashing lights, red surfacing. Maybe as we get used to kerbside bike lanes, this amount of signage won’t be necessary.
Kerbside bike lanes need to have a buffer zone between the parked cars and the cycle lane, so that passengers don’t exit parked cars into the cycle lane. In the Victoria St kerbside lane, the buffer zone is very minimal, about 0.5m. And the buffer zone doesn’t continue through the bus stop, where it would be useful for passengers alighting from the bus. There also seems to be an issue with car drivers thinking that parked cars are part of the traffic queue, but of course this is unrelated to the kerbside bike lane.
We’re also learning that getting bikes past left turning traffic is tricky.
The carside bike lanes continue right up to the intersection advance stop boxes at Ghuznee and Vivian, which is good. Many bike lanes stop before intersections, which is crazy since intersections are where collisions happen. The downside of the Victoria Street carside lanes is that left turning motor vehicles are prone to block the cycle lane, either because they turn into the left turning lane when there isn’t enough room to complete the manoeuvre, or because the fact that they’re turning through more than 90 degrees (Vivian and Ghuznee streets aren’t exactly at right angles to Victoria Street) means that drivers swing wide into the cycle lane. Providing longer left turn lanes by removing parking, and widening the left turn lane, along with education of motorists, could solve this problem.
At Abel Smith Street, there’s a separate phase for bikes in the traffic light sequence. This means bikes can get a head start on the general traffic, particularly useful for Aro Valley bound cyclists who have change lanes. However at this intersection left turning cars cross the cycle lane at an oblique angle and need to be alert to cyclists going straight through. While taking photos for this blog, I saw a (fortunately low speed) collision between a left turning taxi and a straight ahead cyclist. Ideally the cycle lane would turn in to Abel Smith Street a bit, so that the left turning traffic would cross at right angles, with better visibility, as is done in Holland. In any case, this could be less of a problem if more protected bike lanes are built, and drivers become used to crossing them.
The big lesson from Victoria Street is the value of agile bike facility design – the Memorial Park team listened to cyclists, and went ahead with innovative solutions. OK, they may not be perfect, and other projects will do it differently. But that’s the point – by going ahead and doing it, we’ve learnt lessons that can be applied to other projects, rather than getting bogged down in paralysis by analysis and not achieving anything.
The bridge at the top of Wainui hill is up! Watch this rather glorious time lapse video to see it swing into place.
The bridge, named Pukeatu (Summit of the Gods), was swung into place over the hill road overnight on 29 September. The bridge will be opened for walking and cycling some time in October.
As Hutt City Council say:
The construction of the bridge is phase one in the Wainuiomata cycleway project, which received $1.5m from the Government’s $100 million urban cycleway fund. The project will provide a shared cycling and pedestrian path connecting Wainuiomata with the wider Hutt Valley.
The bridge will provide safe access to walking and mountain biking trails, and remedy the long lack of a safe connection between Wainuiomata and the Hutt Valley for people travelling on foot or by bike.
A couple of years ago, green paint and bicycle symbols started appearing at intersections all over Wellington. These were Advance Stop Boxes (ASBs). The purpose of ASB’s is to give cyclists a place to wait ahead of the main traffic queue, making them more visible, and giving them a head start on other traffic. A 1998 OECD study into vulnerable road users showed that ASB’s significantly reduced accident risks to cyclists – in one Swedish study by 35%. On the other hand cycling experts Axel Wilke and Glen Koorey “regard ASBs as useful in some circumstances, but don’t see them as solving all problems that cyclists may experience at signalised intersections”.
I had to admit to some skepticism when I first saw the profusion of green paint. I felt this was a example of the dangers of outsourcing. Rather than using in-house expertise to identify intersections that would benefit from ASB’s, and doing them properly, it was easier to simply let a contract for laying down green paint everywhere, often in places where the ASB wasn’t particularly useful.
So, two years on, how are ASB’s performing? I decided to ask Wellington cyclists with a brief online survey. To my surprise, ASB’s are clearly both important (145 people responded to the survey) and generally popular – 85% of respondents used ASB’s most times they encountered them.
Why people saw ASB’s as useful was a bit more complicated. Although 35% said that it helped them to cross the intersection more safely, and 10% said that it enabled them to travel faster, the most common (42%) attraction of the ASB’s was simply that they recognized cycling as a legitimate transport mode . There was also a hard core of unbelievers (4%) that didn’t find ASB’s useful at all. “Usually I find it better to claim the lane and stay in line with cars”. There were also a couple of comments to the effect that the ASBs provided a good opportunity to socialise with other cyclists!
When asked what the main problem was that people had with ASBs, the overwhelming issue was “I can’t get through the traffic to reach them” (46%) followed by “Other vehicles are in the box” (30%). This shows that we need more lead in lanes (bike lanes that lead up to the ASB), and better education/enforcement of the need for motor vehicles to keep clear of the ASBs.
I also asked which ASB people found most useful. This got a wide variety of responses, including “All of them” and “I don’t find any particularly useful.” On numbers, the ASB at the junction of Riddiford and Adelaide is most popular (20 mentions) followed by Featherston/Bunny (15 mentions). Both of these are on important commuting routes, but they’re very different. Riddiford/Adelaide lacks lead in lanes, and it’s on a major public transport route, so to get to the ASB you often have to filter past buses. However if you can reach the ASB, you’ve got a head start at a complex intersection, avoiding conflict with traffic turning left into John St, for example. Featherston/Bunny is better designed – there’s an approach lane that keeps cyclists clear of vehicles turning left (although there is sometimes conflict with vehicles turning left across the lead in lane).
In both of these cases the advantage of the ASB is that it avoids conflict with left turning vehicles, and that should be a flag for installing ASBs. For example at Willis/Ghuznee cyclists heading north have to create their own “virtual” lead in lane to avoid conflict with the traffic in the left turn only lane. A lead in lane here would improve the ride for the many cyclists who commute along Willis St, and encourage less confident cyclists.
Finally, I asked how ASB’s could be improved.
Lead in lanes were most demanded (73%), followed by separate bike phases in the traffic light sequence, which would enable cyclists to clear the intersection before other traffic moves (66%). We’ve just seen the introduction of a separate bike light phase at Abel Smith St, as part of the Victoria Street upgrade, so perhaps this be rolled out at other intersections.
Better education (54%) and policing (45%) were also seen as important. WCC and the Police carried out a campaign in 2014, and a poster has been distributed.
To sum up:
ASB’s are popular with Wellington cyclists, if only because they recognise cycling as a legitimate transport mode.
Other road users need to keep clear of ASBs.
ASBs would be more effective if there were more lead in lanes, and bicycle phases in the traffic light sequence.
As winter closes in, we all check our bike lights and reflectors to make sure we’re visible on the commute home, and following the Road Code guidelines for lighting, right?
Well, maybe not, according to some research carried out by Rongotai College year 9 student, Leo Griffiths,. For a Science Fair project, he investigated whether people on bikes complied with the Road Code guidelines, and whether cyclists were aware of the requirements. His results are a wake-up call.
Leo’s research was in two parts: first, observing bike riders at night to see if they complied with the Road Code guidelines, and secondly, an online survey of cyclists to find out if they were aware of the guidelines.
In the first part, he observed bikes passing at several points exiting the CBD, and visually checked whether the bikes complied with the guidelines. For the record these are:
red or yellow rear reflector
steady or flashing rear-facing red light
white or yellow headlight
Pedal reflectors or reflective clothing.
Leo observed 321 cyclists heading home in the dark. Only 52% complied with the guidelines. The most significant omission was reflectors. Relatively few people had no lights or reflectors (it appears that Kent Terrace is the prime place for invisible cyclists!)
The online survey of 136 people on CAW’s Facebook group asked what people used when they biked at night, what they thought the requirements were, and what they thought would most improve cyclist visibility.
Only 33% of people said that they used a set of lights and reflectors that complied with the guidelines. Like the roadside survey, the main issue was lack of reflectors. Only 29% correctly identified the Road Code requirements, again mainly because they didn’t list the reflector requirements.
The most popular suggested improvements were more reflective clothing, particularly on the legs (more visible because they move up and down), and better lights.
What are we to make of this? In some ways it’s not surprising that many bikes lack reflectors. Most bikes leave the bike shop with reflectors (although some high end bikes don’t) but they often fall off and aren’t replaced. Pedals with reflectors are replaced by clip in pedals without reflectors (I have to plead guilty here!). Mudguards, the traditional place to place reflectors, are less common now. My informal observation is that a lot of us rely on reflective clothing and packs rather than reflectors on our bikes. This can be very effective, so long as we actually wear the gear, and don’t, for example, put on a non-reflective parka on a wet evening. It could be that the guidelines should be updated to put more emphasis on reflective gear.
We seem to be reasonably conscious of the need for lights, and GWRC have been giving us good information about our choices here. Indeed there are concerns that some bike lights may be too bright, interfering with other people’s vision.
To sum up, Leo offers an ultimate visibility list:
A white/yellow steady light on front of bike
A white/yellow steady or flashing on helmet
A reflective vest (no back pack)
Light coloured clothing (white, orange or yellow)
A rear facing steady red light on helmet
A rear facing red light on cyclists back or seat post
Reflective bands on ankles
Flashing lights in spokes facing sidewards.
To this, I’d add a reflective band on the wrist, to make hand signals visible, a spacemaker flag to remind cars to keep a reasonable distance from me. If wearing a pack, I’d either use a reflective pack cover, or a “bum flap” below the pack. (Spacemaker flags and reflective pack covers are available from the CAN shop)
You can read Leo’s full report (which earned him second prize in the Rongotai Science Fair) here: ScienceFairTextv1.docx.
Thanks to Leo for a useful piece of research that should get us thinking about how we make ourselves visible at night, and that we are familiar with the guidelines.
NZTA has recently released its 2015-2019 Statement of Intent, setting out the Agency’s priorities for the next four years. In the previous Statement of Intent (2014-2018) cycling wasn’t a specific priority despite the obligatory cyclist images scattered through the document.
The good news is that in the latest document, priority #6 is “Make urban cycling a safer and more attractive transport choice”. The emphasis is on the main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, aiming to progress the cycleway networks in these centres, with help from the Urban Cycleways Programme funding.
NZTA’s aim is to increase urban cycling trips in those centres from 32 million to 42 million by 2019, an increase of about 8% per year. The aim is to achieve this with a lower rate of crashes involving cyclists.
Another priority is to make urban journey times predictable. Although it’s not mentioned, cycling is one of the most predictable form of transport – you are less likely to be held up by congestion and you can park at your destination. Let’s hope NZTA joins the dots here. There’s also a commitment to safer speeds which is one of the most effective ways of making travel by bike safe and enjoyable.
Of concern is the priority to increase freight productivity by the use of larger “high productivity vehicles”. I recently stood at the intersection of SH1 and SH3 in Bulls, as convoys of HPV’s negotiated the corner. HPV configurations limit the vision of drivers,and cyclists in their vicinity need to take care, particularly during turning maneuvers. Cycling Advocates Network has done some good work on educating truck drivers and cyclists about the problems here. Although in theory HPVs reduce the number of vehicles on the road, it would be better for our environment if more of this freight went by rail. Better for cycle touring as well.
So are we seeing a new cycle friendly NZTA? The Agency is still enthusiastically pushing for a 1960’s style flyover (admittedly with a cycleway clipon) at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, and is capable of designing the SH2/ SH58 intersection without provision for cycling (though responding to cyclists concerns once these were raised). But making urban cycling an explicit priority certainly gives us grounds for hope.
Following hard on WCC’s approval of the Cycling Framework, and the Island Bay Cycleway, the Government announceed another $296 million to be spent across the country under the Urban Cycleways Programme, bringing the total expenditure, including contributions from the National Land Transport Fund and local government, to $333 million. $53.32 million is to be spent in the Wellington Region.
There are good reasons for this largess. By making cycling an attractive transport choice, we reduce fossil fuel emissions and urban congestion, and promote health lifestyles. This benefits people who need to drive cars, as well as people who bike. In Wellington we have a real chance of implementing a vision of a “cycling capital”. As NZTA notes, “Since 2006, the number of people commuting by bike in the capital has almost doubled”. Wellington’s narrow streets and steep hills have traditionally been barriers to cycling. But narrow streets make for cycle friendly speeds. Mountain bike gearing and eBikes have made hills much less of a problem.
City Councilors bought into this vision when they unanimously approved the Cycling Framework. But as the vote on the Island Bay Cycleway showed, actually implementing this vision is not easy.
Constructing cycleways almost certainly means change for people and businesses along the routes. Parking is affected, and people may have to keep an eye out for cyclists as they cross a kerbside bike lane to get to their car. But no street environment is static. In my own street, we no longer have easy access to on street parking. This isn’t because of cycleways, but because our neighbors have acquired multiple cars per household, and commuters take advantage of the free parking within walking distance of the CBD.
The challenge for our City Councillors is to see the bigger vision of Wellington as the Cycling Capital of the South Pacific, and spend the Urban Cycleways money on projects that ultimately will benefit all of us, even if this means short term change for some.