Slowing it down…

This Thursday, May 12, the Wellington City Council’s Policy and Strategy Committee will meet to discuss a proposal to decrease the speed limit in Oriental Bay and various areas of the Miramar Peninsula, including the northern coastal route.  Following a request for public comment, a report was completed and has been released.  Review it here.

If the Committee can reach an agreement on Thursday, it will recommend to Council to proceed with the changes.  So, there’s still more to be done, but I’m posting here now for the little whoop I got while reading the report.

That whoop came on page 37, in the summary of comments by Alastair Smith of Cycle Aware Wellington.  When discussing the possibility of reducing the speed limit around the northern coastal route of Miramar Peninsula, Alastair casually raised the idea of closing the route to motorised traffic on one Sunday per month so that folks on bikes and pedestrians could share the beautiful route together in peace.  As in, we could totally get our own Ciclovia!  Just like other cool cities around the world! Oh man. Now you get the whoop, right? Wellington could give its fun-loving residents a sweet spot to share a day of non-motorised recreation. Imagine a perfect day of picnics, bike-riding, rollerskating, jump-roping, music-playing, dancing, canoodling and maybe a game of tag. Yay Alastair! There’s nothing like planting a seed. I can’t wait for the Sunday when I cruise over to the coastal route and see a ton of families wandering the route without their cars. Maybe it’ll be something like this:

Ciclovia: Bogotá, Colombia from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Also of note– though much less fun– in the report is an apparent reluctance to properly consider reverse angle parking along Oriental Bay.  The officers’ response to a number of public submissions that called out the danger to cyclists presented by angled parking, especially around Oriental Bay, is as follows:

A recent review of parking practices here and overseas shows that some cities are converting to or considering converting to reverse angle parking as there is evidence that it is safer for cyclists, however there also appears to be a backlash where reverse angle parking has been introduced as drivers have greater difficulty using reverse angle parking and choose to park elsewhere.

Changes to the parking arrangement on Oriental Parade would be costly as the kerbline would need to be adjusted and careful consideration would have to be made before making such change. At this stage it is not proposed to alter the layout of parking on Oriental Parade.

I suppose it’s decent news that parking modification is at least on their radar.  For all of us who ride the route around Oriental Bay on the road, we should feel no pressure to hug the left as we pass the angled parking.  I’d rather have a car behind me than a car pulling out in my path.  If the new speed limits come to pass, the cars behind me will be cruising a bit slower anyway.

Patience, remember, is a virtue for all of us.  If I can be patient as I wait for a Wellington Ciclovia and safer parking composition, drivers can be patient with me. Or something.

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9 thoughts on “Slowing it down…

  1. Thanks for reminding us about the date of decision day. I might even swing by WCC and clap at the right moment.

    Lower speeds on O Bay and eastern suburbs is a significant win. Let’s ‘like’ WCC when it makes good decisions.

    On reverse-in parking: seems to me that if people have trouble backing vehicles into a park, maybe they shouldn’t be driving.

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  2. Alastair

    Actually credit for the idea of closing the Miramar Peninsula should go to a number of people who have mooted the idea; particularly Russell Tregonning and Mary Varnham of the GHW coalition.

    But your “whoop” indicates the idea has some traction, Megan. Let’s keep agitating with the aim of getting at least one car free day next summer…

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  3. russell tregonning

    A car-free day Sunday, once a month, on the Miramar Peninsula between Shelly and Scorching Bays
    ( as a trial) is a no-brainer. Nobody has to drive there as there is no housing. Those who have to drive
    ( eg those who can’t walk or ride their bikes) would have the other 3 ( or 4) sundays to do so on this scenic coastal route right on the doorstep of our Capital City.
    Bring it on !

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  4. Gilbert Sanseau

    From the council report: “[…] a backlash where reverse angle parking has been introduced as drivers have greater difficulty using reverse angle parking and choose to park elsewhere”.

    So, to summarise: drivers have no idea how to handle their car as they can’t do a manoeuvre as simple as reverse into a parking space. The penalty for such incompetence? Reward them with easy parking where they can park really quickly, cutting off cyclists, and pull out at the same speed, backing off into cyclists again. This is sick. It makes me sick.

    And when a tsunami hits Wellington, it will be really funny to see all those drivers backing off into each other when trying to get out of their parking spaces to get to higher grounds. Real funny. In lots of buildings in Europe, it is mandatory to reverse park so that evacuation is easier if need be.

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  5. Bullitt

    Can someone please explain to me why so many cyclists seem to be as against cars as cars are against cyclists?

    I ride around 100ks a week including regularly on oriental parade and miramar peninsula and not once have I ever came close to being hit by a car on those pieces of road due to that car going too fast. I have had cars cut too close on left hand corners but theyve done that at 40ks as easily as 50+. I dont consider it will make it any safer to reduce the speed limit and will inconvenience any number of drivers including a large number of toursists who use that route.

    I agree angle parking is dangerous on oriental parade to cyclists but I think reverse parking would make this worse. At least with the current parking you can see the reverse lights come on and people tend to reverse out of the park slower than they would if facing forwards. I guess reverse parking would make it marginally safer for cars entering parks but Ive never found this a big danger compared to cars leaving anyway.

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  6. atom

    @Bullitt – i’m not against cars but i do i have a problem with bad drivers. contrary to popular belief, acquisition of a drivers license does NOT mean that someone knows how to drive, it just indicates that at some point they could basically operate a vehicle; those are two very different things and if they can’t back into a parking space, then it can be said that they don’t even know how to operate a vehicle. cars that pass to closely are driven by people who don’t know how to SAFELY operate a vehicle; doubly so for people who pass too closely at speed.

    seeing reverse lights on oriental parade won’t do you any good if you’re travelling at speed and can’t move right because of traffic.

    if you cover 100k/week, and based on your comments, chances are that you’re a confident cyclist and probably stay out of the door zone, probably take the lane. there are a lot of less experienced and even aspiring cyclists that see conditions like this and either don’t know how to safely navigate it, or just stay off the bike because of it.

    http://cyclingwellington.co.nz/2011/05/friday-fundays-movie-about-cool-make-that-chic/

    check out that video. wellington is a city with a bunch of cyclists – not a city full of people who ride bikes. we’d all benefit from a transition to the latter, and slower speed limits, safer parking, etc are ways to get there.

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  7. Megan

    @ Patrick: You’re completely right about acknowledging the good stuff when it goes down. As much as I love my bike, I remind myself that WCC has many constituents to please. I will always applaud them when they take steps toward improving the quality of life in this beautiful city. Go team!

    @ Alastair: Big tip of the hat to anyone and everyone who is floating the idea for a car-free Sunday around the northern Miramar Peninsula. Anything that can be done here on the site to support/promote the idea, please let us know.

    @ Bullitt: you make an interesting observation that I’ve been thinking about since last night. At first, I thought that some riders may dislike cars simply because the power balance is so skewed. Not only do cars have engines and take up the majority of the road, they have loads of parking and they are accepted as the most convenient form of transport. They also take people very fast from point A to B within a very protective metal frame. And when they hit bikes, the bikes lose. Bikes can’t really compete with cars. But then I thought, it’s not really a competition, is it?

    I think Atom makes great points especially about driver competence which I think includes awareness of other vehicles, including bicycles that share the road. I also think that many riders turn the fear they may have experienced in a close call or accident into a distaste that they ascribe to all the cars. I might consider it somewhat of a survival or defensive mechanism. Riders may become averse to cars in the same way that I’m averse to snakes– they don’t want to get bit.

    Finally, I’m of the mind that some frustration with cars is valid precisely for some of the reasons I stated above in my bike v. car rundown. The fact is that bikes do offer a very convenient and sustainable form of transport to people pursuing many different lifestyles. Bikes are friendly to our environment and our bodies. Bikes are also an inexpensive and accessible form of transport. All of which makes me occasionally want to stomp my feet, fold my arms and huff. Because despite all those good things, cars still get to be the big man on campus. But, you know, I acknowledge that my little hissy fits are not going to make the change I want to see out on the roads. That’s going to come with time, effort and whole lot of riding around. (Note: I appreciate the great work of CAW, CAN and all those in government who are working to encourage increased cycling around Wellington and beyond.)

    Thanks for the comments.

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  8. Bullitt

    @atom I’m the first to acknowledge theres plenty of awful drivers out there I’m just not sure how slowing them all down 10ks improves that. Sure id rather be hit at 40ks than 50 but Id rather not be hit in the first place. Forcing people to slow down is likely to make them feel even more bulletproof and pay less attention which is the biggest problem more so than speeding. 70ks is a different story (I refuse to ride on the road on Calabar Road because of that) but 50ks has never made me feel uncomfortable.

    To me the biggest danger to me is buses due to them being so much wider than everything else yet noone seems to be advocating getting rid of them.

    I agree reverse lights wont help if your travelling fast hence why I always have both hands on the brakes along that section and never go above about 20 if not less. When I’m heading home that still lets me keep up with cars, anything above that doesnt feel safe. I can always make up the time Ive lost once I get to Evans Bay Parade.

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  9. atom

    @Bullitt – until we can legislate intelligence, competence, aptitude, skill etc, the only tool we have is to legislate behaviour. that applies to nearly everything that happens in civilized and lawful societies: in this case, that means slower speed limits. statistics bear out that slower speed limits make ALL motor vehicle accidents less likely, less deadly and less injurious.

    for me it’s not about speed, as much as how much room there is, among other road conditions. if i’ve got my own lane (segregated or not) i don’t mind being on a road with fast cars (or near a road with very fast cars). “sharing the road” when the road is narrow (constable st, newtown, with cars parked on both sides) then any uphill speed limit higher than 5k/h will encourage me to find an alternate route (unless i’m going downhill, in which case i take the lane, stay out of the door-zone and move with motorised traffic). until we have *proper* cycle lanes (and related cycle infrastructure), slower speed limits seem like a very reasonable compromise.

    if it doesn’t endanger motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, small children, cute furry animals, etc then i’ve got no problem with cars going 100k/h. but on local roads there’s more than just cyclists that would reasonably justify slower speed limits anyway. i’m also not swayed by the tourist argument – i’ve seen plenty of cities in NJ that are 100% dependant on tourism with four lane roads, straight and flat for miles, with VERY strictly enforced speed limits of 25m/h (40k/h).

    i certainly won’t advocate getting rid of buses: that would just encourage more people to drive cars (certainly some would take to cycling). my only problem with wellington buses is that most of them seem to be driven by people with little or no training related to safe driving or dealing with people: the two things that should be at the top of a bus drivers’ job description. this is a driver training problem (which is not the fault of the drivers, but it is convenient to blame them), but also comes back to narrow roads that are often at 50% capacity from parked cars and lack of proper cycle facilities so it’s also an infrastructure problem.

    good point about about keeping it reasonably slow, especially if you’re passing cars on the left. so you’ve gone from doubting the benefits of slower speed limits to advocating a voluntarily reduced speed when conditions warrant. excellent. if everyone drove as safely and considerately as you cycle, maybe we wouldn’t need speed limits; people would just drive safely and considerately. in the meantime, slower speed limits are a good idea.

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