Why am I writing about driving on a cycling blog? Like most adults who ride a bike, I also drive a car. The Island Bay Cycleway has changed the environment for driving as well as cycling, so I decided to see how the Island Bay Parade felt as a driver. I drove north and south along the Parade, and tried some maneuvers that are said to cause problems.
- The vehicle lanes are narrower – yes, the Parade is no longer like the deck of an aircraft carrier, it’s more like a typical Wellington street. The Parade is still more comfortable to drive than Adelaide Rd through Berhampore. Although I have no way of measuring, I suspect the narrower lanes have lowered vehicle speeds.
- Parking is tricky. Certainly there seem to be people who have trouble without a kerb to run into, and park over the buffer zone that separates the car park from the cycleway. I think this is becoming less of a problem as people get used to the new layout. I found parking easy if I used my side mirror to check that the car was lined up on the parking space.
- Unloading from the passenger side is dangerous. There are two widths of buffer zone on the Cycleway: 1m and 0.6m. Even with the 0.6m buffer zone, I was able to open the passenger door without it intruding into the bike lane. I’ve also observed building gear being loaded into the passenger side of a car without problems.
- Turning into driveways is difficult, because you can’t see cyclists on the cycleway. Certainly bikes were easier to see under the old layout (though that didn’t prevent cars occasionally turning across bikes). But unless there’s a continuous row of high sided vehicles (a campervan convention maybe), cyclists on the cycleway are quite visible between the gaps in the parked cars, and I could check for them before making my turn. Obviously crossing the cycleway should be done with care, but since my car was off the roadway in line with the parking zone, I could take my time checking for oncoming bikes. If people are a bit more careful turning into driveways, that’s good for people using the footpath as well.
- Backing out of driveways is difficult. This is true – but backing out of driveways into a busy street is always difficult, and you have to trust that oncoming drivers aren’t going to risk their insurance excess by deliberately slamming into you. I found backing into the Parade no worse than backing out of my own driveway. I could see enough to tell whether there was oncoming traffic (which was travelling more slowly due to the narrower road). A big difference compared to the old layout was that I could clearly see oncoming bikes. Under the old layout bikes would have been in the cycle lane close in against the parked cars, and much more difficult to see.
- Turning into side roads. The cycleway moves closer to the vehicle lane at intersections, so bikes are clearly visible. On some intersections safe hit posts have been put up to discourage turning across the cycleway too early. This seems a sensible precaution.
- Coming out of side roads. This felt fine – from the stop line I had good visibility of both the cycleway and the vehicle lane.
Some of the issues such as the visibility getting in and out of driveways have been exacerbated by maximizing the number of parking spaces, rather than following the policy in the Cycling Framework (unanimously agreed by Councillors) “The movement of traffic will take priority over on-street parking”.
Of course the cycleway involves changes, and it’s understandable that some Island Bay residents are uncomfortable with this. The question is whether the way we drive cars should have to change a bit in order to make riding bikes more attractive. I believe the answer is yes: if more trips are done by bike, there’s less congestion, and it’s easier when we need to make trips by car. And there’s no doubt that we urgently need to reduce fossil fuel emissions, the cause of climate instability which has contributed to another major change which has concerned Island Bay residents, the collapse of the seawall.