Memorial Park: a cycling view

The Memorial Park between Taranaki Street and Basin Reserve is now complete. How does it work as a cycling space?

This is a reasonably important question, since the Park is potentially a nexus on the Wellington Cycling network. The Karo Drive cycle path carries on through the Park to connect with the Basin Reserve. A future Southern Cycleway, connecting Island Bay and Newtown to the CBD, is likely to either come through Basin Reserve, or through Tory Street. Either way, cyclists will be negotiating linkages with the Park.

Low kerb in Memorial Park - note that in the distance, the kerb disappears
Low kerb in Memorial Park – note that in the distance, the kerb disappears

One issue that has received some media coverage is the low kerbs. My impression is that the Park is trying to emulate the shared space concept, where cars, bikes and pedestrians are supposed to move freely in the same space. This became popular in Holland, where it was found to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents. However at the Park, cars are being constrained to particular spaces by bollards and kerbs. The kerbs are designed not to be too intrusive, and are about 5cm high. This low height makes them easy to miss in poor light or rain, but high enough that if you try and bike across them at a shallow angle, your front wheel catches and you come a cropper. The use of the kerbs isn’t consistent – sometimes there will be no kerb, and then a few metres on, a kerb will appear without any warning.

The Park constructors have highlighted some of the kerbs with white marking strips, which isn’t really useful – they don’t warn a cyclist that there is a kerb. A simple solution would be to champfer the kerb back to 45 degrees or less. This has been done at the entrance to the Defence Force establishment, presumably to prevent LAV’s from being flipped as they turn across the kerb.

A potential issue is whether motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are getting the same “shared space” message. A motorist heading down from Tasman Street through the Park towards Tory Street sees a road – admittedly with some cobbles to slow them down. However a cyclist or walker crossing this area sees a continuation of the Park – it’s not immediately obvious that they’re crossing a roadway and need to watch out for cars.

Motorists view from Tasman St
Motorists view from Tasman St
Cyclist and pedestrian view across Tasman/Tory Street
Cyclist and pedestrian view across Tasman/Tory Street

In fact cars do seem to be slowing down in this area, so it could be that it will be a safe area for cyclists and pedestrians. If not, there may be a need to narrow the road space, or install chicanes at each end, to slow vehicles down.

Wayfinding sign - only to destinations in the Park
Wayfinding sign – only to destinations in the Park

Another issue is wayfinding – there are posts around the area with directions, but just to locations within the Park. Since it’s part of the cycling network, I’d expect to see signs for destinations in other places. For example when you turn off Tasman Street to head west, you should see signage telling you that this is a cycle route to Cuba Street, University, the Aro Valley and Brooklyn (to be fair, there’s a lack of directional signage right along the Karo Drive cycle path). As you head downhill towards Taranaki Street, the only direction indication is a left turn arrow – which just applies to cars. Cyclists have the option of crossing Taranaki Street and heading west on the shared space through Arthur Street, but it’s not very obvious.  Hopefully this kind of wayfinding will be installed as the Wellington Cycling Framework is implemented.

Having got these issues out of the way, I do have to admit that the Park is a nice space to ride through. It feels open and safe, and I’ve noticed a few young cyclists practicing on scooter bikes, so it could become the place Wellingtonians come to learn to ride a bike, as well as a nexus on the cycling network.