While Wellington’s Cycling Framework promises a network of protected cycleways through the city there are already a lot of cycle friendly routes that we can use to navigate the CBD. These are the laneways – small connecting streets between the busy arterial streets. Although they may not be as direct or as fast as the arterials, they can feel a lot more comfortable, particularly if you’re new to city cycling. This post reveals three of these “secret” routes – there are plenty of others to discover.
Note that some of the routes are on private property, or are primarily for pedestrians. Be considerate, and be prepared to get off your bike and walk. While the laneways are quiet, the routes may involve crossing busier roads – take care!
Waterfront to Marion St via Opera House Lane and Leeds St. From the waterfront, cross Jervois Quay at the traffic lights by St Johns Bar. Cross the Michael Fowler carpark to Wakefield St and cross to Opera House Lane, just by the pedestrian overbridge. At Manners St, cross Te Aro (Pigeon) Park to Dixon St, and pick up Eva St which leads through the Hannah Factory Laneway to Leeds St and Ghuznee. You can turn right to Cuba St, or left to Marion St (check out the coffee and bike bling at Bicycle Junction)
Vivian St to Karo Drive via Dunlop St and Wigan St. To the west of the VUW Architecture School, Dunlop St leads down to a parking area that exits onto Wigan St, handy to Lighthouse Cuba with its bicycle corral. Wigan St takes you to Abel Smith St. Turning left and then right takes you on to Kelvin Grove which has a ramp at the end leading on to the Karo Drive shared path by Third Eye Tuatara Brewery, leading east to Pukeahu park, or west (with a crossing to the south side at Cuba St lights) to the Aro Valley and Brooklyn.
Ghuznee to Aro Valley via Buller and Palmer. Although Victoria St has bike lanes, some people find the multiple lanes of traffic daunting for heading south from the CBD. A quieter alternative is to head up Ghuznee to Buller St, just west of the motorway. This leads to Oak Park Ave which has a shared path heading towards the Karo Drive shared path at Willis St, or if you’re heading for the Aro Valley, a short detour through a car park at Inverlochy Place, crossing Abel Smith St to a narrow lane to Palmer St and the Aro Valley Community Centre (If you want to know what really goes on in this innocent seeming complex, check out Danyl McLauchlan’s Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley!). Through the park, you can get on to Aro St at Garage Project Brewery. You can also access this route from the Karo Drive shared path.
That’s just three possibilities. Next time you’re planning a route, have a close look at the map for laneways that might go where you want, or just keep your eyes open for interesting alleyways that might lead to where you want to go.
The meeting on Tuesday 4 October was well attended, including some new faces. We discussed:
Updates on WCC cycling projects
Island Bay. A good compromise, particularly the support from 13 councillors.
Hutt Road. Good progress at both ends on reconfiguring the path as separate cycle and walk ways. Parking is being progressively eliminated, including the encroachment at the BMW dealership. It would be good if the footpath was more clearly demarcated from the cycleway. Off peak road parking is proposed to replace some of the parking “lost” from the cycleway. There are plans to improve the section from Aotea Overbridge to Tinakori Rd intersection. There is a need to improve the Ngauranga intersection. WCC are requesting feedback by 16 October.
Thorndon Quay. WCC is delaying making changes on the main section between the motorway overbridge and Davis St, due to business parking concerns. However there are plans for cycle lanes north and south of this area. Need to emphasise that parking availability is what matters, not number of parks. Even if parking spaces are reduced, parking availability can be controlled by e.g. time limits, charging or possibly booking systems (for example for medical centres on Terrace). This is still a high priority route for CAW.
Central City. New cycle lane proposed on Featherston between Bunny and Whitmore. Living Streets Aotearoa (LSA) prefer that bikes use Whitmore to get to waterfront, rather than Bunny, which should become a shared space. Crossing proposed for PO Square to help access the waterfront. Some improvements to Kent/Cambridge Tce at the Basin Reserve are being proposed, but involve using footpaths as shared paths, which LSA opposes. WCC are requesting feedback by 16 October. Maybe next time the Basin Reserve is closed to bikes because of a cricket match, there should be a temporary cycle lane using one of the road lanes around the basin, to see how serious an impact this has on traffic flow.
Bikes Welcome. Jo Clendon updated us on this initiative, to make businesses aware of the benefits of catering for bikes. The website has an online directory of bike friendly businesses, and an interface to ask for bike parking.
Shared paths: we had a good discussion with Paula of Living Streets. There are differences between (a) footpaths – pedestrians only (b) shared paths where cyclists and pedestrians need to coexist (c) shared spaces – roadways with minimal demarcation and signage, where vehicles, bikes and pedestrians negotiate. On footpaths, pedestrians should be able to meander without having to look out for others. Shared paths pose a danger to cyclists: they are more vulnerable to cars at entrances, and send a message that bikes should not be on the road. Where there are separate cycle and walkways, such as Hutt Rd and the revised Island Bay Cycleway, it is important to demarcate cycling and walking, for example by grade difference or vegetation. Low or hard to see barriers can be a trip hazard. More scope for shared spaces in Wellington, e.g. lower Cuba St.
Roll on Cycling Awards – aiming for February 2018. Please contact Ron <email@example.com> if you’d like to help organise these annual(ish) awards.
Thumbs Up/ Thumbs Down
Ron: Hutt Rd cycleway, car behaviour better
Ben: what’s happening about Wakely Track? Appears to be delayed while WCC does more work on proposal.
Alex: Should we press for reverse angle parking? This also has disadvantages: best solution is to remove angle parking altogether.
Bike share is a key way to get more people on bikes. Starting in Lyon, France in 2005, there are now hundreds of schemes around the world. Bikes are left at locations around a city, and users can register to get a code to release a bike and drop it off at another location. In Aotearoa, NextBike has pioneered bike share in Auckland and Christchurch, and NZTA is getting involved.
What about Wellington? With a flat, compact CBD, Wellington seems ideal for bike share, but so far it hasn’t happened. That is until July, when a private startup Mtshare, inspired by bike share schemes in Shanghai, began leaving bikes around the CBD. A smartphone app (for android or iOS) lets you register and get a code for the combination lock on a bike.
Mtshare is a “dockless” bike share scheme – bikes can be left anywhere, not just at a purpose built docking station. This has the advantage that you don’t need to find a free space on a docking station to return a bike, but the disadvantage that bikes can end up in non public places, or in some cases create obstructive heaps of bikes at popular destinations.
How does it work in practice? I fired up the app outside the central library. The map showed the locations of available bikes – none at the central library, but three close by in Cuba St. However two of these were not on the street. A closer look at the map showed that the bikes appeared to be located in apartment buildings – Mtshare say they’re working with customers to persuade them not to appropriate bikes for personal use. The third bike was conveniently parked on a bike rack, but unfortunately the app gave me the wrong code to unlock the bike.
The app showed more bikes down at the railway station – a convenient location, so I headed there and this time the bikes were accessible, and I was able to get the correct code for a lock. The bikes have a small frame and 507mm (24″) wheels, and the seat height is fixed. Most adults would find them uncomfortable to ride for any distance, but at 1.7m I found it OK for a ride along the waterfront, and indeed it felt a bit like rediscovering BMX as a kid. Mtshare has plans for larger bikes, with adjustable seats.
The helmet attached to the bike was a bit small for me. Some people don’t like the idea of using a helmet that other people have used, but to me it seems no different from using the headrests of airplane seats.
The bikes have stands, which means that they can be left anywhere, even if there isn’t a fixed bike stand. There is a bell but no lights. The next batch of bikes will have baskets.
At the moment, there is no charge for using the bikes, and Mtshare would like to continue this, instead supporting the service through advertising. Similar schemes have also been mined for location data.
With more bikes, and better sizing, Mtshare could be a good way for bike-less people to experience the convenience of biking. And with good management we can hopefully avoid the downsides that have appeared in some other places.
WCC is consulting on a raft of proposed cycle routes in the eastern suburbs. There’s not much time left to give feedback about these. If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re pretty comfortable about biking. But the proposed routes are not about you: they’re about attracting new cyclists who may be intimidated by a stream of cars and buses behind them as they pedal up Crawford Road to get from Kilbirnie to Newtown, for example. If the new routes get people doing more trips by bike, we reduce congestion and carbon emissions, and improve our health, benefiting everyone.
There are 25 different routes proposed, each with a couple of options for implementing them, arrived at by community consultation. While this seems a lot to sift through, there are clear images of the different options, and it’s easy to give online feedback. If you’re time challenged, just give feedback on the routes that are important to you. I’m not going to tell you which options to choose (though in general option A will be a reasonable outcome), but here’s some things to think about as you give feedback.
Will the option encourage more trips by bike? There’s no point in implementing the route otherwise.
Is it an 8-80 route – in other words, will people from 8 years old to 80 years old be comfortable biking the route? Obviously some proposals (for example Crawford Rd) may not pass this test, but will still be worth doing because overall more people will be encouraged to bike.
Protected bike lanes are more likely to encourage new users than bike lanes next to traffic, or sharrows. However on “quiet routes” such as Wilson St in Newtown, and Yule St in Kilbirnie, a high level of protection may not be necessary.
In general, one way cycle lanes on each side of the road are preferable since bikes will always be travelling on the correct side of the road. However in some cases, such as Evans Bay, a two way cycle lane on one side of the road will work because the cycle lane crosses few entrances or intersections.
Where a bike lane runs by parked cars, is there an adequate buffer zone so people can alight from a car without intruding on the cycle lane? Hint: 0.3m (the length of a shoe) is not enough.
Are the driving lane widths safe? In general driving lanes should be about 3m, or over 4m. Lanes 3-4m wide tempt drivers to speed and overtake bikes even though there’s not enough space to do so safely.
Could the route be improved by blocking or discouraging through motor traffic? This might be a possibility for Wilson St for example. This could also benefit residents bothered by rat-running commuters.
Parking is naturally a concern. However the important thing is that people can find a place to park when they need it. Even if the number of car parks decreases, tools such as time limits, residents parking zones, etc can ensure that parks will always be available to those who need them.
It’s preferable that pedestrians aren’t disadvantaged by narrower footpaths.
Will the growing numbers of people using eBikes affect the uptake of the route? For example the Crawford Rd route is a bit steep but is a breeze on an eBike.
Should you “take the lane” – ride in the centre of the road lane – or ride on the left hand side of the lane? The Road Code says “you should keep left, but not to the extent that it compromises your safety” for example by riding in the door zone of parked cars. The Code says you should take the lane when approaching a roundabout or intersection, and that it’s acceptable to take the lane when the road is narrow, there are parked cars, or if you’re turning left at an intersection (to avoid being cut off by another vehicle turning left). But we’re sometimes reluctant to take the lane, because we feel we’re holding up following vehicles.
In fact, taking the lane often doesn’t make any difference. I recently came across a good diagram (from the UK, which is why there’s the odd mixture of metric distances and imperial speeds) that explains why.
To pass safely, the Road Code says a car needs to be 1.5m to the right of a bike, which is about 0.7m wide. Most cars are about 1.8m wide. So overtaking requires at least 0.7+1.5+1.8=4m of road space. But most urban lanes are less than 4m, so a passing vehicle almost always needs to go into the next lane over, meaning that it doesn’t matter if the bike is at the edge of the road, or taking the lane.
The diagram also makes the point that riding single file doesn’t necessarily make it easier for vehicles to pass a group. But if you are riding in a group, it is polite to be considerate of following drivers.
Taking the lane is a powerful way of ensuring your visibility and safety. As a rule of thumb, if you’re being passed too close, you should take the lane next time you’re on that piece of road.
Does taking the lane hold up cars? Yes, but generally no more than if you rode on the left hand edge, and the delay is usually less than that caused by the queue at the next intersection. And if bikes taking the lane is causing problems for traffic, there’s often a simple solution – put in a cycle lane.
When WCC unveiled plans for bike lanes going the opposite way on one-way streets (“contraflow lanes“), there was a collective intake of breath. The first one way street was designated in 1617, but so shocked the London citizenry that it wasn’t until 1800 that the next one was established. However now we’re so used to one way streets that going the wrong way on a one way street seems unnatural, even for the nimble velocipede.
One way streets are a hassle for bikes. In a car there’s a reasonable payoff for having to go around three sides of a square, but on a bike one way streets add significantly to travel time and reduce safety by increasing the number of intersections to be negotiated. Many cities have used contraflow lanes to increase the permeability of the city for bikes, and encourage bike use. Auckland and Christchurch have introduced contraflow, and I’ve ridden contraflow in cities as different as Cape Town and Tokyo. In France and Belgium, one way streets are by default contraflow for bikes.
There’ll need to be a bit of adjustment – pedestrians stepping out into the street will need to be reminded to look both ways, but the green “bike lane” treatment and arrows should do this. The contraflow lane in Cuba is next to parked cars, but bike riders and car drivers will be facing each other so the risk will be low.
Ideally contraflow will be introduced on a number of streets at once, so people get used to the concept. As well as Cuba St between Ghuznee and Vivian, contraflow is being planned for Lower Cuba Street between Manners and Wakefield, Bunny Street West, and Willeston Street between Willis and Victoria. It would be good to see contraflow on more one way streets, for example Jessie St, Dixon St, Waring Taylor St and Stout St.
Contraflow isn’t a silver bullet by any means – it will help confident cyclists rather than attract novices, and the proposed contraflow lanes are “quick wins” rather than part of a city wide network. But the changes will help people on bikes to traverse the CBD more efficiently and make biking more attractive. If you’d like to see this happen (along with some other quick wins) give WCC your feedback by 11 August. Contraflow is enabled by TR77, TR78, TR80 and TR82; other bike friendly measures are in TR79 (Grey St bike parking), TR81 (Rugby St bike lane) and TR106 (Wakely Rd shared path).
One way to avoid the biker’s blight of SMIDSY (Sorry mate, I didn’t see you) is to wear high visibility or reflective clothing. However some people don’t like to look like road workers when they pedal around town. Project Glow Wear provides stylish options for being visible on a bike.
The Project Glow Wear design competition shows how creative you can be with reflective gear and really stand out from the crowd. Get your tickets to the Runway Show in Wellington (Sat 12 August) as this is the place to be seen!
It’s in the underground area beneath Frank Kitts Park, and kicks off at 7:30pm.
Lots in the pipeline, and if you want to make it happen, there are plenty of things you can give feedback to Council on.
Ron reported back on the regular meeting he and Linda had with WCC Cycling Team. There will be quite a few projects to submit on, as the UCP projects gather pace. Eleanor doing a register of submissions. There are proposals for a shared footpath route to connect Kent Terrace to the Waterfront. This would have to be done without inconveniencing pedestrians. Hutt Rd shared path issues were discussed, including the illegal car parks (Sarah Free and Chris Calvi-Freeman are following up on this), lack of safety measures at business exits, and the narrow gap between posts on the shared path. Options for access to Bunny St West are being investigated. Traffic lights at Brooklyn Rd/Ohiro Rd may improve safety for cyclists at this intersection. Western routes, e.g. to Karori, may be in the next tranche of cycling projects.
Newtown cycling projects: engagement has started on possible cycling connections through Newtown/Berhampore. The Bike Newtown group has been promoting to cycle commuters with Pit Stops at Basin Reserve and John/Adelaide intersection. At this stage it may be better for CAW to promote awareness, rather specific solutions.
Bike Sydney has been in touch – their advice is to talk about space, not design. Relevant to Thorndon Quay, where it’s important to create a space that will be attractive to traffic and people patronising businesses.
We discussed theIsland Bay consultation. Councillor Diane Calvert (responsible for Community Planning and Engagement) and WCC staff helped explain the four options, which all include making the cycleway more direct, and extending it through the business area. The decision is about quality of feedback, not quantity, and shouldn’t be construed as a “vote”. Other options are not being considered, since the four options are the result of a thorough engagement process which all stakeholders could participate in. The aim should be an “8-80” cycleway, that can be used confidently by people between 8 and 80 years of age. Please read the Council’s material, including the FAQ. James has provided the 30 second summary on the CAW website. Please submit by 13 August.
CBD “quick win” improvements. We discussed these small projects, which will make it easier to get around the CBD by bike. The proposals include contraflow lanes, which are common in other cities, and have been used in Christchurch and Auckland. Risk analysis may show that contraflow lanes improve safety – for example in Cuba St, drivers of parking cars will be facing towards people on bikes. Submit feedback by 11 August.
Shelly Bay development. We discussed the cycling implications of this development, which over a 13 year period will see a four fold increase in motor traffic on one of Wellington’s best recreational cycling routes. The Miramar Ciclovia has attracted thousands to the peninsula. Have your say by 14 August.