I was very lucky to be supported by CAW and Frocks on Bikes to attend the 2WALKandCYCLE conference again this year. There were some great speakers and events. It was also great to see some of Auckland’s amazing infrastructure close up. They’re fast becoming a bike-friendly city and Wellington has much work to do to catch up.
Some key takeaway messages from the conference are noted below. For more quick snapshots, check out the twitter hashtag #2WALKandCYCLE
Keynote speaker Gil Penalosa was super inspiring. His presentations are worth a post on their own (or a visit to youtube) but some key points here –
Quality = safety & dignity
change is not unanimous (otherwise you end up watering it down to much)
When the stars are aligned, do as much as possible! As good as possible and as fast as possible.
“CAVE people – Citizens against virtually everything!”
When you say ‘no’ to something, you’re also saying ‘yes’ to something else, i.e. if you say no to bike infrastructure, you are saying yes to more congestion, poor health and environmental outcomes.
“The forbidden is fun” open streets, open minds
“NZ is unique…just like everyone else”
Other speakers discussed a range of topics, including:
Auckland has a policy which puts young people first, I am Auckland, which builds a better city for everyone. What does Wellington have?
NZTA: Tell the ‘why’ story – make links to what people are passionate about
Elizabeth Claridge from NZTA: Cycling makes more sense as part of an integrated transport approach.
Debbie Lang from AT: *infrastructure* is the key behaviour change tool.
Jodie Lawson from Rotorua Council: low social license is not insurmountable
Sharleen Hannon from GHD: Is it true that if you “build it, they’ll come”? No. Well, some might but you *need* to promote it. Lots of work to be done behind the scenes before infrastructure goes in.
Liz Beck from Let’s Go, New Plymouth: We consult and consult and consult; it takes far longer than you can imagine
Well done on a great process for investigating options for safer cycling in the Eastern Suburbs. We’re pleased that you’ve involved the community from the start, and got local business owners on board. We hope this approach will make implementing the project relatively easy when it comes to the construction stage.
Your process has revealed that there are many possible options for making cycling safer in the Eastern Suburbs, but no obvious winner. This project addresses a very wide area, and clearly cannot transform it all at once. Consequently, it’s hard for us to advocate strongly for one corridor or route over another. Instead, we’ve collected our most pressing thoughts and ideas about the project in general.
A link to Newtown is sorely missing
We understand that your process for deciding on possible routes eliminated the route to the CBD via the bays (too expensive) and the route to Newtown (too hilly). But we feel that creating meaningful links between other parts of the future network is an essential first step. Encouraging local trips (including school travel) is really important, but across-town links are essential to encourage work commuting and help reduce car congestion at peak times. Creating safe cycling in the Eastern Suburbs with no safe link to the rest of the future network seems shortsighted.
There’s already a sort-of cycle route around the bays to the CBD (by no means perfect, but something that can be upgraded in time), but no safe link between the Eastern Suburbs and Newtown. At the initial reference group meetings, the desired destinations included Newtown, the hospital, and the schools around the Basin Reserve.
We therefore feel that this project must create this link to Newtown — we recommend via Crawford Road, Coromandel Street, and Wilson Street. Crawford Road is not as steep as Grafton Gully in Auckland, which has seen a big uptake by cyclists.
Minor improvements can make a big difference
Something visible and iconic that we can be proud of (for example Auckland’s pink path or Wellington’s Great Harbour Way) would be great, but minor improvements are also really important. For example, on the Hataitai side of the Mount Victoria Tunnel, a tiny little bump to slow car traffic makes it feel a lot safer for cyclists.
A huge amount of small tweaks, as part of ordinary works, can cumulatively and cheaply make cycling safer. Yes, we want our cake and to eat it too. We’re burning enough calories, after all — we’re biking!
We’d rather see something new than an upgrade of what’s already working okay
For example, as part of the Cobham option, you suggest widening the existing Cobham Drive shared path or creating a two-way cycleway and a footpath. We support this in theory (and expect it to be essential in future once many more people are cycling). However, at this stage we’d prefer to see you spend the money on changes elsewhere to make cycling safer across a much wider area.
Please do not create more shared paths
We’re dismayed to see you suggest the possibility of more shared paths. While these can work in places, especially where the number of walkers or bikers (or both) is very low, in general they are not a good solution for either party.
In a few places (for example, along Cobham Drive, which has relatively few walkers) shared paths might be acceptable in the short term. But please do not start building more, unless you can very clearly and effectively separate the two types of user. People walking and people biking need to be separated. Just look at Wellington Waterfront to see the conflict that occurs when walkers and bikers are forced to share limited space.
Fix obvious gaps in existing infrastructure, no matter what
Some great biking and walking infrastructure already exists in the Eastern Suburbs, such as the Leonie Gill Pathway and the tunnel under the airport. No matter what route you decide to develop for this project, it makes sense to also fix the missing links between these pieces of infrastructure.
A safe way to cross Cobham Drive should not swallow the whole budget
We agree that a bridge or tunnel to cross Cobham Drive is needed to link Miramar to Kilbirnie more directly. But please don’t let this swallow the whole budget. This alone will not create the desired uptake in cycling. Cobham Drive is managed by NZTA, so perhaps NZTA could pay for the bridge or tunnel across it.
Slow zones and quiet streets could make cycling safer without affecting parking
Arterial routes with heavy traffic need separation between cycling, driving, and walking. But on more minor roads, other treatments can create a similar sensation of safety without affecting parking.
Slow zones (30km or less)
Put slow zones where they make sense. Outside schools and shops. At destinations, like Kilbirnie Park, playgrounds, Lyall Bay Beach. Make them organic and effective. Make them desirable places for people to be. Add plants, seating, and artworks. Have ‘gated’ entrances which signal ‘this bit of road is different’. Look to Lambton Quay, Allen, Blair, and Lower Cuba Streets for places where you’ve done this well already.
Creating a ‘quiet street’ means allowing access from either end by all traffic, but only allowing through-traffic for people walking and biking. Residents can still easily access and park their cars outside their houses, but the street is no longer used as a thoroughfare to other places, thereby reducing overall traffic.
In the Eastern Suburbs, this treatment could work really well on streets like:
Hobart or Chelsea
Miro and Kauri
Te Whiti, Yule, and Ross
Freyberg, Endeavour, and Cockburn
Ludlam and Burnham.
Improving intersections can make things feel safer
Make roundabouts safer
Roundabouts are awful for people on bikes, since motor vehicles are not encouraged to slow down. While experienced cyclists can ‘take the lane’ through a roundabout, this is daunting for the ‘interested but concerned’ cyclists that the cycleways project hopes to attract.
Let’s make roundabouts safer. This could be a gradual transition — every time work needs doing, you redesign the roundabout to lower speeds. Evidence shows that when you increase the angles at roundabouts, you lower speeds and make them safer. Make it a mission to redesign all Wellington roundabouts to the ‘European’ style.
Make priority clear
Side streets should be used only by people who need to use them, rather than through-routes. Make it less desirable to take ‘shortcuts’ through them by installing ramps on the entrance of side streets. This slows down turning traffic, adds height to give better visibility, and changes the feel of the street into quiet neighbourhood streets / cul-de-sacs where pedestrians and cyclists have priority over motorists. Good (but old) examples of where you’ve already done this are Cockburn and Cruickshank Streets. Even better is Vivaldistraat, Den Bosch, Holland.
Caution and a slow speed are clearly needed when leaving Vivaldistraat.
Add more pedestrian crossings
Pedestrian crossings increase safety for pedestrians, of course, but for cyclists as well. They slow traffic and make people driving more aware of having to look out for others. Pedestrian crossings should be moved away from intersections, for a start (for example, at Wha St and Childers Terrace).
Use space creatively rather than using the same approach everywhere
There are many ways to design safe cycling routes. Build safer communities and the cycling will follow.
Use ‘access’ roads parallel to arterial roads
In this scenario, the arterial road carries two-way motor traffic and buses. The ‘service’ road has parking, very slow motor traffic, and bike priority. Places where this might work are Rongotai Road and Kilbirnie Crescent. Examples where this is already working are Arthur Street (the service lane off Karo Drive), or Pettelaarseweg, Netherlands (see below).
Potential for this exists along Kilbirnie Park and Miramar Golf Course/Scots College. And also along the coastal routes. But make them safe (busy/visible and well lit).
Put in lights only where needed
Really only at the Miramar cutting (Shelley Bay Road/Miramar Ave intersection).
Where there are lights, make the lanes work better for cyclists. A perfect example of what not to do is the John Street lights (see below), where the left lane should be left turn only. Instead, cyclists are forced to play a guessing game with motorists who aren’t sure if they should signal or not. Simplify things. One lane = one direction.
Right turning traffic should use the right lane only at the John Street intersection.
We recommend doing some trials to see what works
New York trialled roading changes with great success. Try something new and see if it works. Promise to put it back if it doesn’t. Don’t spend huge amounts on it — use cones or water drums to temporarily change the road layout. Leave it for a month, or six, get feedback, then adapt and make some permanent changes.
A final note about what Cycle Aware Wellington wants
Cycle Aware Wellington isn’t fixated on kerbside bike lanes. We believe that each area and road needs to be carefully thought through, with a design that suits it without inconveniencing too many people. We’ll sometimes (possibly often) advocate removing some parking to ensure cyclists’ safety. But we also understand the need for compromise to reduce the impact of roading changes on other road users.
We’re also not about ‘bikes before all else’. We’re about transport choice. An argument bound to come up is that some Eastern Suburbs roads are already reasonably safe, but that’s not the point. The point is that they don’t feel safe, so people choose not to bike. If more people choose to bike, it’ll reduce congestion and have awesome health and environmental impacts, meaning benefits for everyone.
The two Council-run community drop-in sessions (held at the ASB Sports Centre) have been rescheduled to:
Wednesday 4 May (4:30pm – 7:30pm)
Saturday 7 May (9am – 3pm)
In addition to this, we are liaising with the Miramar and Kilbirnie BIDs in regard to them hosting additional community drop-in sessions. I will advise when these have been scheduled.
There’s been talk about one of the options involving four sets of traffic lights along Miramar Ave. Obviously, no one would like to see that happen, so it’s important the public check out the options, and any alternatives, and talk to the Council and their community about what they want.
Cycle Aware Wellington will have a presentation from Council officers after our AGM on the 3rd of May. Keep an eye on our facebook group for details about that. The meeting generally starts at 6pm and is held at the Sustainability Trust on Forresters Lane.
Some thoughts on the options for the Eastern suburbs (as a mother, fair weather cyclist/currently frequent driver and sometimes commuter):
Note, these are my personal thoughts not the views of CAW!
there is no one obvious stand out option or route or type of infrastructure
there are certain criteria which the approved designs need to meet. Hopefully there will be more information about this shortly, but my understanding is that the cycleway needs to be part of a network and increase commuter cycling primarily (it isn’t necessarily to improve safety, although it should do that and if it also increases recreational cycling that would be a bonus, but again isn’t the aim).
the airport tunnel route works well on paper, and links both Seatoun and Miramar to Kilbirnie, but in practice, it’s unlikely many Miramar people would take such an indirect route.
the three routes that have most need i.e. go to the CBD, (as agreed by the stakeholder working group) have been ruled out for one reason or another but perhaps this needs reviewing?
Round the bays is too expensive ($10m)
Hataitai has a bottle neck at the Mt Vic tunnel which won’t be resolved until the tunnel is duplicated
A route from Kilbirnie to Newtown works until you get to Newtown, but getting from Newtown to the CBD will be delayed by decisions on BRT and the Basin Reserve, so it doesn’t get Eastern residents to the CBD.
some “easy win” options* include;
building a tunnel (or the more expensive bridge) over Cobham Drive to connect the shared path to the ASB centre and Kilbirnie. WCC is hoping for additional NZTA funding for this.
Widening the shared path along Cobham Drive and Evans Bay Parade (part of the ‘Great Harbour Way‘)
Traffic calming and 3okm/h zones around schools, shops and community/sports centres – schools improvements could come out of a different budget
Providing a completely off-road (shared path or separated) cycle lane from the airport tunnel to the airport, including safe crossings.
Providing wider shared (for ‘slow’ cyclists or children only) footpaths along busy recreational areas, such as Lyall Parade.
Improving safety at roundabouts and intersections. Roundabouts can have tighter ‘European’ designs to slow traffic down (and more education for cyclists and drivers to guide them on correct lane positioning), and intersections may be improved by better visibility, ‘Stop’ signs replacing ‘Give ways’ or traffic calming (speed bumps or textures, narrowing lanes, pedestrian crossings, etc)
Other options I’d like to see thrown in the mix, but not necessarily as part of the main cycleway works, are:
Removing on street parking on the uphill side of Crawford Road, and possibly Moxham Ave and using ‘sharrows’ on the downhill lanes (if separated lanes aren’t yet possible here).
Changing the parking around Kilbirnie Park (Kilbirnie Crescent and Evans Bay Parade) to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Evans Bay Parade already has a shared path but it’s not well marked or well used with plenty of driveway hazards. Kilbirnie Crescent is the main access way for community facilities such as the pool, the library, recreation centre, Plunket, the playground and the sports fields. It has high numbers of families visiting, often crossing the road in heavy traffic. Many of these families are likely coming from out of the area, so not within walking or cycling distance, but many are also choosing to drive because of safety concerns. Parking is in high demand, but this could be reduced if other modes were more accessible.
Miramar Ave is seen as a difficult bit to get through and the Miramar cutting is a blackspot for cyclists, so this area needs careful thought. One option brought up by members of the working group was using Tahi St rather than Miramar Ave. This solves some problems for commuters but not for those wanting to go to the shops. Here’s my idea (NB. not CAW’s!) based on not too frequent peak driving around Miramar. I’d be interested to know what issues I’ve missed and/or if this is a workable idea. It adds a necessary set of lights at the cutting and one set on Tauhinu. Also a few crossings (either zebra or pedestrian refuge islands) and an enhanced slow zone for the shops and Tahi St.
(* By “easy win” I mean that it will be safer or more convenient for cyclists, hopefully also so for pedestrians, and have negligible effects on other modes of transport or parking.)
What other options are there? Or have the Council got it right with one of their draft designs? Are there other problem spots that need addressing urgently? Head on over to the CAW facebook group to discuss, or better yet, get along to a Council open day or make a submission to the council.