While Wellington’s Cycling Framework promises a network of protected cycleways through the city there are already a lot of cycle friendly routes that we can use to navigate the CBD. These are the laneways – small connecting streets between the busy arterial streets. Although they may not be as direct or as fast as the arterials, they can feel a lot more comfortable, particularly if you’re new to city cycling. This post reveals three of these “secret” routes – there are plenty of others to discover.
Note that some of the routes are on private property, or are primarily for pedestrians. Be considerate, and be prepared to get off your bike and walk. While the laneways are quiet, the routes may involve crossing busier roads – take care!
Waterfront to Marion St via Opera House Lane and Leeds St. From the waterfront, cross Jervois Quay at the traffic lights by St Johns Bar. Cross the Michael Fowler carpark to Wakefield St and cross to Opera House Lane, just by the pedestrian overbridge. At Manners St, cross Te Aro (Pigeon) Park to Dixon St, and pick up Eva St which leads through the Hannah Factory Laneway to Leeds St and Ghuznee. You can turn right to Cuba St, or left to Marion St (check out the coffee and bike bling at Bicycle Junction)
Vivian St to Karo Drive via Dunlop St and Wigan St. To the west of the VUW Architecture School, Dunlop St leads down to a parking area that exits onto Wigan St, handy to Lighthouse Cuba with its bicycle corral. Wigan St takes you to Abel Smith St. Turning left and then right takes you on to Kelvin Grove which has a ramp at the end leading on to the Karo Drive shared path by Third Eye Tuatara Brewery, leading east to Pukeahu park, or west (with a crossing to the south side at Cuba St lights) to the Aro Valley and Brooklyn.
Ghuznee to Aro Valley via Buller and Palmer. Although Victoria St has bike lanes, some people find the multiple lanes of traffic daunting for heading south from the CBD. A quieter alternative is to head up Ghuznee to Buller St, just west of the motorway. This leads to Oak Park Ave which has a shared path heading towards the Karo Drive shared path at Willis St, or if you’re heading for the Aro Valley, a short detour through a car park at Inverlochy Place, crossing Abel Smith St to a narrow lane to Palmer St and the Aro Valley Community Centre (If you want to know what really goes on in this innocent seeming complex, check out Danyl McLauchlan’s Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley!). Through the park, you can get on to Aro St at Garage Project Brewery. You can also access this route from the Karo Drive shared path.
That’s just three possibilities. Next time you’re planning a route, have a close look at the map for laneways that might go where you want, or just keep your eyes open for interesting alleyways that might lead to where you want to go.
The transition to the road opposite Tinakori Road needs to be safe for travel in both directions – bus conflict heading south and crossing difficulty heading North both need improving.
Here (and for the whole Hutt Rd project) take care to separate biking and walking areas well. A height difference of planted / tactile boundary would help – different colours may not be enough.
The on-road clearway/parking arrangement sounds a sensible way to give businesses parking off the path – but MUST leave enough clearance around business driveways for good visibility between drivers and people cycling on the path.
CBD minor improvements
These cover Featherston St (the block just south of the station), Post Office Square, and crossing Kent & Cambridge Tce near the Basin Reserve.
Some context first – these minor improvements obviously don’t make a big difference to interested-but-concerned potential cyclists, or a connected network across the CBD. That has to wait for the frustratingly slow Lets Get Wellington Moving project – UNLESS someone runs a nice temporary trial…more thoughts on that soon. In the meantime, these minor changes should make a slight improvement for people who already bike around the CBD.
Basically, this replicates the current layout on the previous block, and shares its pros and cons. It’s preferable to what’s there the moment. However, we see this as an interim solution only.
The narrower traffic lanes may help to slow traffic slightly. And the green cycle lane will help to endorse cyclists’ right to claim some space on the road. We’re pleased to see the painted buffer zone to protect cyclists from the ‘door zone’.
Cars entering and leaving the parallel parks on the left of the road are still a hazard.
The way the cycle lane leaves the left of the road to travel between two traffic lanes (at the approach to Whitmore Street) is a design that’s proven to be problematic, both further north on Featherston (at the approach to Bunny Street) and on Victoria Street (on the approach to Vivian Street). This is not a design that we want to see replicated around Wellington. It puts cyclists between two lanes of moving traffic, which can be more dangerous than ‘claiming’ the lane (where vehicles have to follow cyclists rather than pass). With moving traffic on both sides, a 1.6-meter lane seems narrow — there’s little room for error, especially considering the strong side winds that frequently gust around the streets adjacent to the waterfront.
Car drivers frequently block this type of cycle lane while trying to change lanes.
This style of cycle lane will be a mild improvement for the cyclists who currently brave the traffic in Wellington – and who deal with having no cycle lane on the next blocks of Featherston St. But it won’t encourage many new riders.
Info and easy submission form at: http://transportprojects.org.nz/current/central/kent-cambridge-terrace/
As an interim solution, this looks like a good improvement on what exists at the moment. However, we expect to see much more comprehensive solutions for cycling around the Basin and on Kent and Cambridge Terraces as a result of Let’s Get Welly Moving. In particular, we want to see separation between cyclists and pedestrians, as forcing them to share the same space causes conflict.
We support Living Street Aotearoa in saying that shared paths are not a good solution for busy central city routes. We recommend separated paths for cyclists and walkers, which should be do-able with the space available in this area.
The meeting on Tuesday 4 October was well attended, including some new faces. We discussed:
Updates on WCC cycling projects
Island Bay. A good compromise, particularly the support from 13 councillors.
Hutt Road. Good progress at both ends on reconfiguring the path as separate cycle and walk ways. Parking is being progressively eliminated, including the encroachment at the BMW dealership. It would be good if the footpath was more clearly demarcated from the cycleway. Off peak road parking is proposed to replace some of the parking “lost” from the cycleway. There are plans to improve the section from Aotea Overbridge to Tinakori Rd intersection. There is a need to improve the Ngauranga intersection. WCC are requesting feedback by 16 October.
Thorndon Quay. WCC is delaying making changes on the main section between the motorway overbridge and Davis St, due to business parking concerns. However there are plans for cycle lanes north and south of this area. Need to emphasise that parking availability is what matters, not number of parks. Even if parking spaces are reduced, parking availability can be controlled by e.g. time limits, charging or possibly booking systems (for example for medical centres on Terrace). This is still a high priority route for CAW.
Central City. New cycle lane proposed on Featherston between Bunny and Whitmore. Living Streets Aotearoa (LSA) prefer that bikes use Whitmore to get to waterfront, rather than Bunny, which should become a shared space. Crossing proposed for PO Square to help access the waterfront. Some improvements to Kent/Cambridge Tce at the Basin Reserve are being proposed, but involve using footpaths as shared paths, which LSA opposes. WCC are requesting feedback by 16 October. Maybe next time the Basin Reserve is closed to bikes because of a cricket match, there should be a temporary cycle lane using one of the road lanes around the basin, to see how serious an impact this has on traffic flow.
Bikes Welcome. Jo Clendon updated us on this initiative, to make businesses aware of the benefits of catering for bikes. The website has an online directory of bike friendly businesses, and an interface to ask for bike parking.
Shared paths: we had a good discussion with Paula of Living Streets. There are differences between (a) footpaths – pedestrians only (b) shared paths where cyclists and pedestrians need to coexist (c) shared spaces – roadways with minimal demarcation and signage, where vehicles, bikes and pedestrians negotiate. On footpaths, pedestrians should be able to meander without having to look out for others. Shared paths pose a danger to cyclists: they are more vulnerable to cars at entrances, and send a message that bikes should not be on the road. Where there are separate cycle and walkways, such as Hutt Rd and the revised Island Bay Cycleway, it is important to demarcate cycling and walking, for example by grade difference or vegetation. Low or hard to see barriers can be a trip hazard. More scope for shared spaces in Wellington, e.g. lower Cuba St.
Roll on Cycling Awards – aiming for February 2018. Please contact Ron <firstname.lastname@example.org> if you’d like to help organise these annual(ish) awards.
Thumbs Up/ Thumbs Down
Ron: Hutt Rd cycleway, car behaviour better
Ben: what’s happening about Wakely Track? Appears to be delayed while WCC does more work on proposal.
Alex: Should we press for reverse angle parking? This also has disadvantages: best solution is to remove angle parking altogether.
You may have heard Wellington City Council this week approved a concept design for a revised cycleway along The Parade in Island Bay. The approved concept is based on the options presented for consultation. But it combines aspects of different options (as the council said it might), and also includes amendments introduced by the Mayor after discussions with Island Bay Residents Association.
To understand the concept that was approved, you need to combine two descriptions:
the recommended design council officers presented to the councillors ahead of the meeting, as a result of the Love the Bay and The Parade public engagement and consultation process [page 167 of the meeting agenda and report – warning, 40MB+ PDF to download]
Cycling is an essential part of modern, successful cities. The government and councils are responding to strong public demand, and are investing in safe and attractive cycling all over New Zealand. The discussion has moved on from “why”, to “where and how”.
The Stuff film reviewer is entitled to his opinion on how best to provide for cycling, but that’s no basis to make decisions that affect the whole community. In our democratic system we elect councillors to weigh up expert advice, council policy, best-practice guidance and community views before making decisions.
For a decade Wellington people have been consistent in voting for mayors and councillors who are committed to improving cycling. It’s time to move forward.
Who is the council designing cycleways for? It has always been clear that it’s not only to cater better to existing cyclists, but to make cycling an easy and attractive option for the many people who would like to ride.
Cycling Action Network agrees that cities need to build streets for all ages and abilities. We call this AAA cycling. The evidence is clear that when cities build convenient, connected and comfortable cycleways, people love them.
A network effect multiplies the benefits once routes are connected up. Since protected cycleways were built in Auckland three years ago there’s been a 62 per cent increase in cycle trips in the city centre. Likewise, cycling grew by an impressive 600 percent in Toronto when a cycling network was completed.
Build it, and they will come.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about cycleways is that they are just for people who ride bikes. The benefits are much broader, however you choose to get around. Drivers and people on buses face less congestion. Parents can ditch the school run. Parking is easier. Pedestrians don’t have to compete for space on paths. Local businesses have more customers.
Regarding the Island Bay cycleway, there’s never been a project subject to such extensive community engagement. Everyone who wants to has had a say. The important thing is that valid concerns are addressed and we get on with it.
In Island Bay that means building kerbs to make parking easier, extending buffer zones to reduce risk from parked vehicles, and continuing the cycleway through the shopping area. The road surface would benefit from a reseal to erase ghost markings. The temporary construction period will result in a street we can all be proud of.
Connecting eastern suburbs
Much of Miramar, Strathmore, Rongotai and Kilbirnie are flat: perfect terrain for easy cycling. It makes sense to build high-quality cycleways to connect these suburbs. This reduces our reliance on cars, expands the reach of public transport, and enables people of all ages and abilities to get around.
Hills or wind? Not a problem, thanks to gears, muscle and e-bikes. Rain? Wear a coat. Groceries? Use a bag and carrier. No bike? Borrow or rent one.
Sooner or later the sceptics will run out of excuses, and embrace cycling.
Bike to the Future
With cycleway construction now underway on Cobham Drive, along Hutt Road and much more to come, I predict the future is bike.
An observational cycling experiment in Wellington.
In my experience – not very well. Just how bad is it out there? Am I imagining it’s as bad as often as it seems? Surely there’s only a few inconsiderate motorists making my ride in the city more dangerous than it needs to be…
It turns out my safety is at least partially compromised by motorists at a majority of stops involving advance stop boxes (ASBs) when riding my bicycle.
There are some ASBs at intersections throughout central Wellington. When I say ‘some’, I mean I joked once that I wondered if we had the highest number of ASBs per capita in the world, there are so many.
Maybe there aren’t actually all that great a number in reality, but when there is so few other forms of bicycle facility provided in a city, it’s hard to not notice them. Very few Wellington ASBs have any form of bike lane to feed people riding bikes to them safely for instance.
The dominance of ASBs throughout Wellington’s central business district (CBD) are only recently challenged for bicycle ‘paintfrastructure’ supremacy by the addition of numerous sharrows – another example of bicycle facility that means well, and wants to be seen to be achieving, but really isn’t.
I wanted to know how often things were good, challenging, or impossible.
I commute by bike. Every day. Every type of weather. I cycle roughly 6km into the CBD from Island Bay (Island Bay Cycleway RULZ!), through Berhampore, Newtown, around The Basin, Kent and Cambridge, and through the city to Boulcott Street.
There are plenty of times I stop at an intersection and have some difficulty with the ASB being blocked in some way. In my experience I am lucky if I don’t have some difficulty with several ASBs on a journey. So I decided to start counting what went wrong and what went right.
I wanted to know how often things were good, challenging, or impossible. I wanted to be able to show that, while there are some positive sides to ASBs, they are under-performing – usually because of consistent infringement by some motorists. This is probably no surprise to anybody, but I hope it helps to understand more about just how bad it is as a cyclist out there and if there are any patterns to these infringements. If there is anything that can be done to improve safety that would be great. This article does not provide any suggestions about how we might go about that.
For more about how Wellington cyclists view the effectiveness of our impressive ASB density check out this great post by Alastair.
The experiment I ran is just me, my rides, routes, and riding ability. I tried to use a little scientific method to gather observational data to provide a little insight into how effective, or not, ASBs are. It would be interesting to source data from more riders, at different times of day, different bike types, and more routes than I take. Obviously more data would enable more reliable conclusions to be made.
I recorded observations on my bike journeys (mostly commuting) over 26 days during March and April 2017.
Along each journey I evaluated the conditions at each intersection or pedestrian crossing I stopped at. I did not include any times I stopped on fully separated areas like footpaths, shared paths, or cycleways etc.
I evaluated only times that I stopped in the road and in traffic, where I would have made use of an ASB if I could reasonably expect to get to it. I did not count the rare occasions I was held up in particularly dense congestion mid-block. For each evaluation, I counted a number against one of four criteria, which were:
No obstruction by any motorists.
Able to comfortably access and wait in the ASB
Able to access and wait in the ASB
Motorist/s encroaching into or over the ASB – even a bonnet overhanging
Motorist/s may have encroached into the ASB in any of multiple lanes
Motorcycles / motor scooters included but not eBikes
Completely obstructed by motorist/s
Unable to access the ASB
Forced to stop before or past the ASB
The particular lane I needed to use was completely obstructed
There was no ASB marked at the stop
I made evaluations of ASB used on 56 journeys over two calendar months – March and April this year.
During those 56 trips there were:
a total of 484 stop evaluations made, an average of 8.64 per journey
136 stops with comfortable and safe access to an ASB
182 stops had no ASB facility
120 times I was partially blocked
166 instances where I was partially or completely blocked
46 times I was completely blocked, an average of 0.82 per journey.
Or in other words: I experience an ASB as completely inaccessible, on average, once every 4 out of 5 journeys.
Stop evaluations with ASBs
When not including stops where there was no ASB marked, over half (55%) of evaluated ASB stops were partially or fully blocked by motorists.
Including stop evaluations with no ASBs
There are fewer intersections with ASBs outside of the Wellington CBD but it is still worthwhile to show as having nothing is generally worse than anything when it comes to space for cycling. So showing the proportion of stops with no ASB shows that even with the overdose in the CBD, there are large parts of Wellington without even this low hanging fruit.
Morning vs evening
Let’s have a look at the breakdown of the stops of morning vs the evening rides. I’m going to exclude the no ASB numbers to better focus on how stops with them were performing.
ASBs were completely blocked by motorists nearly twice as often on my evening journeys.
This could be the result of the particular design of the ASBs used by the routes I take, or the mental state of motorists in the morning vs the evening, or the degraded marking of many of them (they’re not being maintained to an acceptable standard in general). Who knows?! Whatever the cause, it is bound to be a combination of factors.
Curiously, the increase in fully blocked ASBs seems to be at a roughly even expense of both good and partially blocked stops. It is interesting that partial blocks has not shown a similar rise like fully blocked.
I interpret (at least part of) this as a greater proportion of motorists completely disregarding ASBs in the evening, whereas a majority are keeping to their usual habits – whether good or inconsiderate. What do you think it might be?
Encouragingly, there are new ASBs being installed in Newtown which is welcome. I intend to run this experiment again around the same time next year to see if the data changes.
I think it is fair to say that there is some habitual abuse by some drivers consistently ignoring or encroachment on the ASBs. I have also observed a growing number of drivers distracted by digital devices. This problem is especially problematic at city intersections as these are the most dangerous places on our roads and demand a driver’s undivided attention. I did not gather any data on distraction. Maybe that will warrant separate experiment.
Regardless of the cause, I think the higher rate of infraction by motorists in the evening is of great concern as it points to potentially greater dangers to vulnerable road users at that time. If my observations through this limited experiment on one form of bicycle paintfrastructure are suggesting this, I wonder what other heightened dangers cyclists and pedestrians face from generally reduced compliance of motorists on our roads at various times of the day?
I also wonder how often enforcement of encroaching on ASBs by the New Zealand Police is encouraging Wellington motorists to adhere to the law. Apparently you may be fined $60 for encroaching into the cycling paintfrastructure. Who knew?
Bike share is a key way to get more people on bikes. Starting in Lyon, France in 2005, there are now hundreds of schemes around the world. Bikes are left at locations around a city, and users can register to get a code to release a bike and drop it off at another location. In Aotearoa, NextBike has pioneered bike share in Auckland and Christchurch, and NZTA is getting involved.
What about Wellington? With a flat, compact CBD, Wellington seems ideal for bike share, but so far it hasn’t happened. That is until July, when a private startup Mtshare, inspired by bike share schemes in Shanghai, began leaving bikes around the CBD. A smartphone app (for android or iOS) lets you register and get a code for the combination lock on a bike.
Mtshare is a “dockless” bike share scheme – bikes can be left anywhere, not just at a purpose built docking station. This has the advantage that you don’t need to find a free space on a docking station to return a bike, but the disadvantage that bikes can end up in non public places, or in some cases create obstructive heaps of bikes at popular destinations.
How does it work in practice? I fired up the app outside the central library. The map showed the locations of available bikes – none at the central library, but three close by in Cuba St. However two of these were not on the street. A closer look at the map showed that the bikes appeared to be located in apartment buildings – Mtshare say they’re working with customers to persuade them not to appropriate bikes for personal use. The third bike was conveniently parked on a bike rack, but unfortunately the app gave me the wrong code to unlock the bike.
The app showed more bikes down at the railway station – a convenient location, so I headed there and this time the bikes were accessible, and I was able to get the correct code for a lock. The bikes have a small frame and 507mm (24″) wheels, and the seat height is fixed. Most adults would find them uncomfortable to ride for any distance, but at 1.7m I found it OK for a ride along the waterfront, and indeed it felt a bit like rediscovering BMX as a kid. Mtshare has plans for larger bikes, with adjustable seats.
The helmet attached to the bike was a bit small for me. Some people don’t like the idea of using a helmet that other people have used, but to me it seems no different from using the headrests of airplane seats.
The bikes have stands, which means that they can be left anywhere, even if there isn’t a fixed bike stand. There is a bell but no lights. The next batch of bikes will have baskets.
At the moment, there is no charge for using the bikes, and Mtshare would like to continue this, instead supporting the service through advertising. Similar schemes have also been mined for location data.
With more bikes, and better sizing, Mtshare could be a good way for bike-less people to experience the convenience of biking. And with good management we can hopefully avoid the downsides that have appeared in some other places.
WCC is consulting on a raft of proposed cycle routes in the eastern suburbs. There’s not much time left to give feedback about these. If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re pretty comfortable about biking. But the proposed routes are not about you: they’re about attracting new cyclists who may be intimidated by a stream of cars and buses behind them as they pedal up Crawford Road to get from Kilbirnie to Newtown, for example. If the new routes get people doing more trips by bike, we reduce congestion and carbon emissions, and improve our health, benefiting everyone.
There are 25 different routes proposed, each with a couple of options for implementing them, arrived at by community consultation. While this seems a lot to sift through, there are clear images of the different options, and it’s easy to give online feedback. If you’re time challenged, just give feedback on the routes that are important to you. I’m not going to tell you which options to choose (though in general option A will be a reasonable outcome), but here’s some things to think about as you give feedback.
Will the option encourage more trips by bike? There’s no point in implementing the route otherwise.
Is it an 8-80 route – in other words, will people from 8 years old to 80 years old be comfortable biking the route? Obviously some proposals (for example Crawford Rd) may not pass this test, but will still be worth doing because overall more people will be encouraged to bike.
Protected bike lanes are more likely to encourage new users than bike lanes next to traffic, or sharrows. However on “quiet routes” such as Wilson St in Newtown, and Yule St in Kilbirnie, a high level of protection may not be necessary.
In general, one way cycle lanes on each side of the road are preferable since bikes will always be travelling on the correct side of the road. However in some cases, such as Evans Bay, a two way cycle lane on one side of the road will work because the cycle lane crosses few entrances or intersections.
Where a bike lane runs by parked cars, is there an adequate buffer zone so people can alight from a car without intruding on the cycle lane? Hint: 0.3m (the length of a shoe) is not enough.
Are the driving lane widths safe? In general driving lanes should be about 3m, or over 4m. Lanes 3-4m wide tempt drivers to speed and overtake bikes even though there’s not enough space to do so safely.
Could the route be improved by blocking or discouraging through motor traffic? This might be a possibility for Wilson St for example. This could also benefit residents bothered by rat-running commuters.
Parking is naturally a concern. However the important thing is that people can find a place to park when they need it. Even if the number of car parks decreases, tools such as time limits, residents parking zones, etc can ensure that parks will always be available to those who need them.
It’s preferable that pedestrians aren’t disadvantaged by narrower footpaths.
Will the growing numbers of people using eBikes affect the uptake of the route? For example the Crawford Rd route is a bit steep but is a breeze on an eBike.