Although summer isn’t over, it’s time to meet and discuss what we can do to make Wellington a better place to cycle. As usual, first Tuesday of the month, 2 Feb, 6pm at Sustainability Trust, Forresters Lane off Tory St.
Although it’s won’t be complete until next year, the Island Bay Cycleway is shaping up to be an early Christmas present for the suburb, providing it with 21st century infrastructure that will provide a healthy, sustainable transport alternative for residents. By reducing congestion, the Cycleway will make life easier for those who need to use cars.
OK, I know that some residents are apprehensive about the changes. It’s hard to judge a roading project before it’s complete, but when I rode the route a couple of days ago it looked like the design will work well, and I suspect that in a few months people will wonder what all the fuss was about.
The parking protected cycle lanes feel surprisingly broad, allowing cyclists to overtake each other if necessary. With the buffer zones between the lane and parked cars, there should be little risk of cyclists colliding with passengers exiting cars. The traffic lanes are narrower than before, but this will have the benefit of encouraging lower, safer speeds.
Intersections are the hard part of designing cycle lanes, but the Cycleway lanes seem to flow through smoothly. Cross hatched no parking areas on the corners will provide good visibility for cars exiting from side streets.
A feature of the Cycleway is the bus bypasses. These are easy to ride, taking a sweeping curve around the back of the stop. The bypass is differentiated from the black tarmac footpath by a white concrete surface, but it might require extra marking to the bypass clearly separate it from the footpath.
Most people are figuring out the new parking arrangements, though it’s early days, and a few cars were inadvertently parked where they shouldn’t be. When the Cycleway is fully marked and signed, this shouldn’t be a problem. In the mean time we’ll have to be a bit cautious and patient when driving and riding.
So what does Santa have in store for Wellington cycling in 2016? Hopefully our City planners and Councillors will be making New Year resolutions to keep up the high standard set by the Island Bay Cycleway when they develop the new Urban Cycleway routes in the CBD, and to the East and North.
Community spirit and the promise of big things to come were the two main themes in this year’s Roll on Wellington Awards, presented at CAW’s 1 December meeting.
Cycle Aware Wellington spokesperson James Burgess says the awards showcase the best and brightest of cycling in Wellington.
“A lot’s been happening in cycling over the last year, and this was reflected in the wide range of nominations. While the council’s been hard at work creating a vision for the city’s future, people from the community have been busy with all sorts of inspiring projects.
“Together, these things all signal real change for Wellington. More people on bikes, more often, will make our city a better place to live, work and get around. Thanks to the efforts of tonight’s award winners, Wellington wins the best prize of all.”
Most bike-friendly shop or café: Bicycle Junction
Many people were impressed with the Bicycle Junction team’s focus on everyday cycling and their community service, such as assembling bikes for Holy Cross School, helping at Big Bike Fix Ups and organising the Tweed Ride. Runner up is Floyd’s Cafe in Island Bay.
It’s been a while coming, but the Island Bay Cycleway is a step up for council, and the Framework (with budget to back it up) promises a leap forward for cycling over the next few years. Watch out Christchurch, Nelson and Hastings — Wellington is on the way for a top spot in a more cycle-friendly New Zealand!
Most bike-friendly workplace: Aurecon
Engineering consultancy Aurecon has the right infrastructure at the Spark building AND some great supporting activities. Secure bike parking and showers are becoming increasingly common. Now some workplaces are going the extra mile by offering skills training and other support to staff who bike. Runner up is the Majestic Centre for a major upgrade in their bike facilities.
Favourite transport operator: Go Wellington
Go Wellington win again this year, for their patient bus drivers who wait until it’s safe to pass riders.
Wellington bike personality of the year: Regan Dooley and the Island Bay Cycle Way team
Regan and co win for the level-headed Island Bay Cycle Way website and Facebook page. They did a great job of debunking some myths and supplying the community with facts. While the debate got heated, Regan and co stayed cool and took a calm, rational, evidence-based approach.
There were 13 worthy nominees in this category, which is an indication of just how awesome the Wellington cycling community is. The runners up are Dan Mikkelsen from Bicycle Junction for his great work supporting everyday cycling, and Amanda Santos for leading accessible beginner mountain bike rides.
Best anything you like bike: Miramar Ciclovia
Ciclovia has been an awesome addition to the local bike events scene, encouraging families and riders of all ages and types to give cycling a go. This category was also a close race. Honourable mention goes to the remarkable 2015 Go By Bike Day event, attracting more than a thousand riders. Also worth a mention is Frocks on Bikes for continuing to change the way people view those who ride bikes to get from A to B.
Should people walking be expected to share space with people on bikes? This question made the front page of the Dominion Post last week, reporting on WCC’s hearing on the Waterloo Quay shared path.
Shared paths (i.e. paths that are legal to use for people biking as well as walking) can be contentious. Actual collisions between cyclists and walkers are rare. A London study showed that only 2% of pedestrian collision injuries on footpaths were due to bikes. But walkers can be unnerved by the “whoosh factor” of being passed too close and too fast by someone on a bike – similar to the feeling you have on a bike if you’re passed too close by a fast motor vehicle. Shared paths are different from footpaths: you can only legally ride a bike on a footpath if your bike has small wheels, or if you’re delivering newspapers.
It’s tempting for Councils to create a cycle path by simply declaring a footpath to be a shared path. However often this isn’t satisfactory. An example is where the Karo shared path crosses Cuba St. People on bikes cross the pedestrian route on a narrow footpath with poor visibility, right next to a busy State Highway.
Which brings us to Waterloo Quay. There’s a wide boulevard on the eastern side of the Quay from the Bluebridge Terminal up to the Cruise ship terminal. For some years, people on bikes had been riding it as a shared path, using it to access the buildings in the Centreport complex (including Statistics NZ and the Regional Council), and as a way of getting to Thorndon Quay via the Fran Wilde walkway. However it hadn’t been officially designated as a shared path, so the seemingly innocuous traffic resolution TR70-15 was drafted to formalise this.
Living Streets Aotearoa (which includes some cyclists as members) have rightly been concerned about the proliferation of inappropriate shared paths, and decided that TR70-15 was a place to make a stand. They kindly forwarded their submission to CAW so we could make an opposing submission, leading to the “Walkers vs Cyclists” high noon standoff reported by the Dominion Post.
Although CAW submitted in favour of the shared path designation, we actually agreed with much of LSA’s submission. In particular the southern end of the path at the Bluebridge terminal needs a serious redesign. To get to the continuation of the shared path to the waterfront on the eastern side of Shed 21, you have to cross a high speed slip lane. The crossing doesn’t follow the “desire line” to get to the waterfront, and there isn’t a drop kerb to make it easy for bikes to cross.
Another hazard is the very wide BNZ carpark entrance, with a traffic light sequence that is biased against people on the shared path. Apparently this is to become the main motor vehicle entrance for the Centreport complex, but it’s still hard to see why it has to be three lanes wide. The Centreport complex is right next to Wellington’s main public transport hub, so you’d think a City committed to taking action on climate change would be making it easier for people in the complex to get to the public transport hub, rather than encouraging them to use fossil fueled vehicles.
In the end, the Council agreed to the shared path designation. But TR70-15 has some valuable lessons for us. Shared paths aren’t necessarily the best solution – long term we should have protected cycle paths, for example along the quays. Shared paths need to be done properly, with good signage and transitions to other parts of the network. Cycling and walking advocates need to work together for a city that encourages as many people as possible to cycle and walk. And in the mean time, if you’re biking on a shared path, obey the courtesy code: keep your speed down, politely alert walkers as you approach, and pass with plenty of space.
Our ‘Most improved’ category is new this year. What’s the biggest improvement you’ve seen this year: a new bike path, a great new initiative, or a change of heart?
This category replaces both our best and worst bike-infrastructure categories. We’re seeing great stuff starting to happen around the city, but it isn’t quite there yet. If we stuck to bike facilities we’d be celebrating the small improvements we’ve seen completed, or maybe calling out crap infrastructure that’s about to be replaced…
So instead we’ve opened things out — as well as bike infrastructure like parking and paths/trails, you can nominate new initiatives or people/organisations that have changed their approach to become much more bike-friendly.
Oh OK I know, you wanted to see what the previous best/worst winners were. In 2014, the waterfront won ‘best’, edging out Polhill MTB tracks and minor improvements around the Basin Reserve. The essence of ‘can’t beat Wellington on a good day’.
And the gong for worst went to the Hutt Road shared path through Kaiwharawhara. It’s still there, and still injuring cyclists on a regular basis, but the improvement-vultures are circling and we should see changes in 2016. Not a moment too soon!
Here’s a closer look at our ‘Most bike-friendly shop or café’ category. It’s a new category this year, bringing together our categories for bike shops, other shops and cafés that go out of their way to make people feel welcome when they arrive by bike, sell your favourite bikes or accessories, or do other great stuff to support Wellington’s biking community.
The competition’s tough — from restaurants and cafés that provide great bike parking, to bike shops that fund and support trailbuilding and kids’ biking initiatives, to cafs that are also bike shops (or should that be the other way round).
Last year’s winners were:
Moore Wilson, for ‘A large lobby in the grocery waiting for bikes, and a bike veranda in the main entrance’
Floyd’s, for ‘Friendly service, bike art and lots of help with community trails projects’
Bicycle Junction, for ‘Friendly staff. Lots of help for the cycling community and a focus on utility cycling’
Past winners also include iRide (and their café Pura Vida), La Boca Loca, and Commonsense Organics.
Who do you fancy for the crown this year? An old favourite? A new kid on the block? Get your vote in, and watch out for Awards night and the announcement of this year’s winner.
I’ve never been a fan of wearing special clothes to go bike riding; so I’ve avoided both branded Lycra and Frocks on Bikes events. However I decided to make an exception for the Need for Tweed Ride as a chance to get in touch with my inner Victorian. In the back of the wardrobe I found a tweedish jacket (bought well off Saville Row in an attempt to keep to the dress code of a UK university) and arranged to borrow an offspring’s bow tie.
But how to photograph the event? Digital didn’t seem quite dignified. After some cupboard delving I retrieved my Rolleicord twin lens reflex, last used at least three decades previously. But could I get film for it? Photo Warehouse sold me a 120 roll film, though the assistant apologised for not being able to help me load it – he’d never actually loaded a film camera. “There’s probably a video on YouTube“.
On Saturday I hopped on my eBike (there are limits to this retro thing after all) and headed out to Shelly Bay to join the crowd of Tweeders milling around admiring pre loved clothing and even more pre loved bikes. Our mayor arrived, desperate to be recharged – her eBike that is. A skilled Penny Farthing rider did graceful circuits towing her stuffed penguin in a trailer (my attempt to photograph this Penny Pair resulted in an aethereal double exposure)
I wandered around capturing interesting folk, and discovering how a real camera changes the experience of photography. With only 12 shots to last the day, I had to get people to pose rather than aspiring to the “decisive moment” approach. But with a “serious” camera around my neck, people were happy to pose. On the other hand, it wasn’t all that obvious that I was taking a photograph, peering down into a leather enshrouded box at waist level.
Soon we were summoned for the send off, and reminded that it was our mechanical steeds that liberated humanity from the horse. With a tinkling of bells over a hundred of us circumnavigated Evans Bay to Cog Park, where the Bicycle Junction team attempted to emulate the Loaves and fishes with cucumber sandwiches and cream scones. Thus recharged, we battled (at least the electrically unassisted of us) the traditional Wellington northerly gale to the city, and the Rogue and Vagabond watering hole.
So what had the Tweed ride achieved? We’d certainly shown that you don’t need 21st century clothing for 21st century riding. We’d also shown that the future of transport isn’t about hoverboards, DeLoreans, or even driverless cars. Bikes are a great transport technology, and they’ll be with us for at least another century.
A day or so later, returning from having dropped off my Rollei film to be developed, I stopped at our local bakery. Having a coffee was Ans Westra, the Dutch immigrant famous for her documenting of Kiwi life with her Rollei. Coincidence? I think not.