Wellington City Council are currently consulting on their bus priority plan. They’re doing some good things over there in terms of improving transport and creating more bus lanes is another one for the list. Hooray for bus lanes!
Now, I hate to be that annoying person that follows positive statements with a ‘but’ -….but……
The bus lanes are sensibly planned for the key arterial roads into the CBD, where the busiest traffic exists. This network of roads is also known as the strategic cycling network, and has been recognised in the Regional Cycling Plan as the focus for making improvements to cycling as a mode of transport. These bus lanes are Wellington City Council’s plan for improving cycling on these routes, with no significant plans for alternative routes currently on the agenda.
I’m sure most cyclists would be very supportive of off-road or separated facilities for cyclists on these routes, and Cycle Aware Wellington will continue to advocate for these. However, if these bus lanes are what are proposed in lieu of separate facilities, we really need to give more thought to how they’ll affect all of the users in the shared user arrangement.
A survey Cycle Aware Wellington undertook earlier in 2011 indicated that most cyclists do not currently see bus lanes as a cycling solution – it just feels unsafe. For new cyclists on the road, riding in a bus lane is kind of reminiscent of that Tyrannosaurus Rex chasing the jeep in Jurassic Park (or, you know, something else big and scary).
Attitudes between bus drivers and cyclists are sometimes strained and while efforts to improve these are afoot, road design, rather than education campaigns, is best placed to ease this strain.
So here are a few ideas for getting the best bang for our cycling buck out of these bus lanes:
- Review of best practice for sharing. Cycle Aware Wellington hasn’t had time do a comprehensive review of best practice for sharing bike/bus lanes, but we really think WCC needs to do one.
- Signage. If the bus lanes are also going to be the bike lanes – we need them to say that! Signing bus/bike lanes as ‘Bus and Bike lanes’ both on the road and on signposts is common practice overseas and would be a great improvement on the current situation. See how they did it here?
This would give cyclists much more confidence sharing these lanes with buses and would make us slightly more comfortable with them being referred to as the cycle network. Yes, taxis and motorcycles are also allowed in these lanes but by signing the two most extreme users, the most vulnerable and the largest vehicle, everybody will win in terms of safety.
- Adequate lane width. A bus lane width of 4m is recommended as the minimum width for shared bus/bike lanes with 4.5 recommended in other places. Lane widths of between 3.1m and 4m are the worst for cyclists as it feels like its safe to pass, but its not. If these bus/bike lane widths cannot be provided, we need to think of something else for cyclists along that route. Where lanes are less than 3.1m (as most of them are planned), there’s even more reason to sign them as shared on the roadway.
- Let’s do something AWESOME for Kent/Cambridge Tce. “Wellington streets are too narrow for cycle lanes”. Really? Kent and Cambridge are amongst the widest streets in Wellington with parking on four sides, bus lanes, at least two lanes of traffic in each direction and significant space running down the middle. They are the perfect location for Wellington City Council to implement a showcase piece of roading, serving all transport modes using best practice techniques. The image used to illustrate WCC’s 2040 vision had it all figured out.
Imagining this street makes my knees shake with excitement.
So basically, bus lanes are a stellar idea and can provide benefits for cyclists by creating convenient routes with less traffic. BUT! Where bus lanes provide benefits for cyclists, careful consideration of their design and implementation to accommodate cyclists has taken place – so let’s make sure that happens.
Don’t forget to give your feedback on the bus priority plan by Tuesday Sept 6, 5pm at: www.wellington.govt.nz/haveyoursay/publicinput/buslanes/2011-08-traffic-buslanes.php
Chair, Cycle Aware Wellington