Let’s Get Wellington Biking

The Let’s Get Wellington Moving project has four scenarios out for consultation. The outcome of the project will shape Wellington’s transport network. Have your say before the 15 December deadline! Yes, that’s 15 December, pretty soon huh. Get to it!

Here’s our take on what needs to be in the mix for a city that moves people around effectively and supports comfortable and convenient biking to and through the CBD.

TL;DR version:

  • FIT’s ‘Scenario A+’ is a great start: LGWM’s scenario A plus light rail to link major destinations AND introduce congestion charging.
  • Add in a downtown biking network of protected cycleways.
  • Back it up with links on quieter traffic-calmed streets and safe, quick ways to cross SH1 and other arterial roads.
  • Make a bigger deal about how biking can contribute to transport and placemaking.

FIT’s ‘Scenario A+’ is a great start

We were disappointed to see the LGWM scenarios are ‘more or less change’ options instead of a range of different approaches and priorities. We want to see a higher priority for PT and active transport than for driving.

We shouldn’t have to suffer Moar Roadz to earn decent biking, and indeed any improvements to arterial roads will just feed more traffic into the CBD’s other streets, making biking worse and offsetting the ‘biking bonus’ of the expensive roading schemes. BUT! LGWM can mix and match aspects of the scenarios.

FIT and Congestion Free Wellington have proposed a ‘Scenario A+’: LGWM’s scenario A plus light rail to link major destinations AND introduce congestion charging. Good stuff: high-quality public transport through the CBD makes a good carrot. To build ridership, it must have full priority over other traffic. Congestion charging is the stick to match. Rather than loosening its belt, Wellington can give road priority to tradies and others who need to drive through the CBD at busy times. Just a few percent reduction in driving would make every day a ‘school holiday dream commute’.

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Add in a downtown biking network of protected cycleways

LGWM mentions improving biking, but doesn’t set out an inspiring plan. We want an obvious, all-new CBD biking network with a consistently high level of service. A grid of north-south and east-west connections that:

  • don’t mix with traffic (sharing with buses can be OK for access but doesn’t give a good level of comfort for key routes)
  • don’t rely on the waterfront (great for cruising but not a proper transport link)
  • feel more efficient than main motor traffic routes (less waiting) so you get the benefits of concentrating bike traffic where it’s best catered for.

Some CBD streets are narrow; others nice and wide. Narrow streets aren’t necessarily a problem for biking when you have a good plan of which streets are prioritised for which modes of transport. A proper network approach should decide which CBD streets to prioritise for biking.

We’ve set out some ideas for a primary and secondary biking network for the CBD.

Here are some obvious candidates for the primary network (key routes with protected bike lanes; could be 1-way, 2x 1-way, or 2-way):

  • Kent and Cambridge / Adelaide Road
  • The Quays
  • Taranaki St
  • Featherston & Victoria St
    (Featherston St could hold a 2-way protected bike lane, freeing up Lambton Quay for access, walking and public transport; Victoria and upper Willis Sts complement each other and a variety of configurations of the two streets could work)
  • Oriental Parade and Evans Bay
  • a connection from the Mt Vic Tunnel to Cobham Drive.

…and some candidates for the secondary network (supporting routes with protected bike lanes or traffic reduction and calming):

  • Willis St
  • Courtenay Place and Dixon Street
  • Tory Street
  • The Terrace
  • links to Massey and Victoria universities
  • connections to the primary network and the waterfront
  • links to suburbs:  Brooklyn, Aro Valley (inc access to Polhill mtb tracks).

The focus here is on the CBD – other links like Berhampore-Newtown-CBD will play an important role too. And other transport decisions could create their own opportunities, opening up new corridors or reducing the volume of traffic on busy roads to open up biking possibilities.

Make biking links using quieter traffic-calmed streets

Managing traffic speeds and volumes on specific other streets would provide quieter biking links to complement the main biking grid.

Scenario A mentions managing speeds, but traffic volumes needs to be low as well to share comfortably – probably too low for most CBD streets to work well as key routes. Unless… you remove through-traffic from some side roads while allowing access. For example, during the construction of Pukeahu war memorial, upper Tory Street was a quiet bike-friendly street. Now it’s back to a rat run. Do we really need through-traffic driving through the park?

Provide safe, quick ways to cross SH1 and other arterial roads.

Most walking or biking trips into or out of the CBD involve a long wait to cross SH1 or the quays’ arterial roads (remember how the urban motorway was supposed to free up traffic there?). For a short trip, a couple of peak time waits can double your journey time. Long waits sever communities, and encourage risky crossing by people who are in a hurry.

Walk/bike underpasses would speed up crossings and extend connections beyond the CBD to connect to the main suburban routes. Compared to road underpasses, walk/bike underpasses are smaller and much cheaper. And they are lower effort to use and less exposed than bridges.

Candidate spots: Cobham Drive, Wellington Road, Vivian Street, and Karo Drive at Taranaki, Victoria and Willis. In other places, crossing-signal timing changes beyond today’s motor-prioritising guidelines could reduce the worst-case waiting times.

Make a bigger deal about how walking and biking can contribute to transport and placemaking

To recognise and measure the benefits of mode shift to biking and walking, they should be quantified in scenario comparisons – not just how many people are biking as a ‘nice thing’, but the transport and health contributions that makes too. We’d also love to see more in the scenarios about how different the CBD will feel and how much nicer a place it could be to, well, be in.

More commitment and detail on the biking and walking, and models that better recognise induced demand, would help make the case for a thriving Wellington that isn’t choked in traffic.

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Cycleways “support local”

MelbourneSpendParkSpace
Lee, A. 2008. What is the economic contribution of cyclists compared to car drivers in inner suburban Melbourne’s shopping strips?

A recent news story features business owners concerned about the impact of the proposed southern cycleway – particularly the loss of parking.

Should they be worried? As it happens, a lot of research has been done into the effects of cycleways on business. The conclusion is that cycleways have little or no impact on local business, and may have a positive impact.

A Los Angeles study found no difference in retail spending between an area with bike lanes, and an identical area without. Salt Lake City found that a street with cycle lanes had an almost 9% increase in retail activity, compared with a 7% increase city wide. In Seattle, sales increased dramatically after a hotly contested bike lane was put in.

SeattleBikeLaneSales
Jump in sales after a bike lane was constructed and parking removed, compared with unchanged areas (Rowe, K. 2013 Measuring the Economic Impact of Bicycle Facilities on Neighborhood Business Districts)

People shop differently by bike. On a bike you may buy less than if you’re in a car, but you’ll shop more often, partly because it’s so easy to stop on a bike.

A Portland study found that “bicyclists, transit users, and pedestrians …for all businesses except supermarkets, spend more, on average than those who drive”. A Toronto study showed that most cyclists spent over $100 a month, while most car drivers spent under $100 a month. In Melbourne, the hourly spend from a car park was $27; if the same space was allocated to bike parking, it would generate $97 an hour.

But, you cry, these are Overseas Studies, not applicable to Aotearoa! Well, despite the little known clause in the Tiriti requiring waka space outside every marae, there are NZ studies that support the view that cycleways are good for business. An NZTA study concluded that “cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas” and “that retailers generally overestimate the importance of on-street parking outside shop”. A study of our very own Tory Street showed that removal of car parks would have little impact on business: the on street parks constituted only 2.5% of the available parks in the area, and only 6% of shoppers used the on street parks.

ToryNewtown
Where would you want to shop by bike? Where would you want to shop by car?

It makes sense that cycleways encourage people to shop locally. If you’re in a car, you’ll head across town to a big box retailer, with a couple of hectares of parking. If you’re on a bike, you’ll shop nearby, particularly if there’s a comfortable cycling route and convenient bike parking. Certainly, some businesses are dependent on car parking. If I’m going to Placemakers to pick up a load of timber for a construction project, I’ll take the station wagon. But Placemakers provide parking for their customers, rather than relying on ratepayer subsidised parking on the street.

The motto of Natty Art Studio, one of the Adelaide Road businesses featured in the story about the cycleway, is “Shop small, support local”. The good news is that the southern cycleway will achieve both of those objectives.

[Note: Natty Art Studio state on Facebook that the Dominion Post article misrepresents their views: “would love to see more cycleway improvements but they need to slow down the traffic so that bikes and pedestrians can be safe”]

We need to talk about parking…

taxi parked in Hutt Rd Cycle Path
Parking on the Hutt Road Shared Path

Roads and streets evolved for walkers and horses, then bicycles, then cars. But cars changed how we use road space. Walkers, horses and bicycles generally leave the road at the end of the journey.  Cars needed to be parked. See how Cuba Street changed between 1910 and 1930

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Cuba Street, 1910  (Alexander Turnbull Library)
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Cuba Street, 1930 (Alexander Turnbull Library)

In 1910, one new fangled car is parked on the street, and the rest of the road space is available for traffic. By 1930, up to 20% of the roadspace is taken up by parked cars.

How does this relate to cycling? Virtually all cycling projects affect parking. To improve the Hutt Road shared path it will be necessary to reduce the (technically illegal) parking. In constructing the Island Bay Cycleway, some parking had to be removed to allow good visibility for residents entering driveways.

On street parking is expensive. A US report calculates that land, construction and maintenance can cost US$1000-3000 per year for a parking space. In addition, there are environmental costs – parked cars don’t enhance the feel of a city – and opportunity costs – if car parking prevents us from building a bike lane, the parking has cost us the health, social, and sustainability benefits the bike lane would have engendered.

But most on street parking is free, meaning that ratepayers subsidise people who store their cars on the street. This encourages decisions that are not good for the city as a whole.  People buy a second or third car for their household, without having to factor in the cost of storage. The more cars you have access to, the more you drive, the greater the carbon emissions you produce, and the more congestion you create.  People buy cars even though they are living in a house without off street parking, since ratepayers will subsidise their car storage.

There are people who say “I NEED to park my car on the street”. This may be true. However subsidised parking means that many people park their car on the street because their off street parking is being used for other purposes. A survey of a Mount Cook street found that 80% of garages were being used to store things other than cars. Some people park on the street simply to avoid the hassle of backing out of a driveway!

GarageStorage
Wellington garage (Daryl Cockburn)

WCC’s Cycling Framework states that “The movement of traffic will take priority over on-street parking” and the Parking Policy says that “Street space is a scarce resource and priority for use for parking needs to be considered against other uses”.

Dealing with parking when planning roading projects should be simple. We decide how much space is required for traffic: buses, pedestrians, bikes, and cars. If there’s space left over, we can consider using this for parking.

A new approach to parking is not necessarily a bad thing for people who need to drive cars. Removing car parks enables traffic to move more efficiently, as an Australian motoring organisation acknowledges.  Removing parking doesn’t have to mean that drivers can’t park. Donald Shoup, an expert on parking policy, points out that pricing can be used to ensure that at least 15% of parking spaces on a block are available. If the free space is less than that, we increase the price, allowing people to decide if they really need to park their car, or whether they’d be better to use another travel mode. CBD carparks now have sensors that detect whether a car is present. We could allow free or cheap parking until the 15% limit is reached, then increase the charge to free up parking spaces again. This technique of “demand responsive parking” has been successfully trialed in San Francisco.

Changing subsidised parking is politically difficult. But we need to talk about parking, and change the conversation from “how can we save the parking spaces” to “is subsidised parking a good use of this road space?” That will help us achieve a livable city and sustainable transport.

Want better cycling? Have your say today.

 

Good news: the city council is planning to invest $4.3 million in cycling next year, up from $1.8m.
But without strong community support, we could lose that funding, and be stuck with a few green bike boxes and crappy bike lanes.
Our Council needs to limit any increase in rates, and also has to fund libraries, pools, events, earthquake strengthening etc.
We need to let our Councillors know that  safer and better cycling is a top priority.

Please go to  Draft Annual Plan 2014/15 and fill in the online submission form. Only takes a couple of minutes.
Here’s some ideas from CAW: http://can.org.nz/caw-2014/have-your-say

If you prefer, send your thoughts to annual.plan@wcc.govt.nz
Do it today.
Feedback closes on 11 March.

Roger Geller – How and why American Cities are succeeding at bicycle transportation

And here it is: Roger Geller’s presentation from the conference (with a little bit of the Wellington conference used as a filler when I had to switch cards).

Again, please feel free to leave comments regarding key points (and time-codes) so we can use these to persuade the powers-that-be to give us some of those ‘pennies’!

“How and why American Cities are embracing and benefiting from bicycling”
Roger Geller (Oregon’s Bicycle Coordinator)

Thursday 23rd February 2012

2 Walk and Cycle – Creating Smarter Connections
Hastings, New Zealand

Wellington City bus review

GWRC is “proposing” new bus routes across the city. At first, I was thinking this really doesn’t affect me, since I ride a bike. A few times a year now I’ll take a bus. Then something caught my eye in the summary of proposed changes:

75% of people would be within a ten minute walk of the expanded network of core services compared to 58% at present

Does that potentially remove 15% of cars from the road? This does affect bicycling. Ugh… Now I have to read and understand it. Here’s the PDF, which is also available in hard-copy at most libraries. The same information is also available online, and there are some  community sessions coming up.

So far, the only detailed analyses I’ve seen of the proposed changes are on Bus News:

There’s some Q&A on Stuff.

Although somewhat off topic, this is probably a good opportunity to remind GWRC about some elements of the public transport system that affect us:

  • Bikes on buses
  • [Better] Bicycle parking at bus-stops (especially if you live more than 5-10 minutes walk from the nearest bus stop! Or the nearest off-peak bus stop. Or the nearest bus stop with service more than once every 30-60 minutes.)
  • “Bus only” lanes should allow bicycles, at least off-peak (excluding the rail station bus terminal)
  • The “improvements” to Manners St still seem like a disaster

I’d also like to see a free loop around CBD, with [most] outlying services terminating at the loop. Transfers could be done from one end of the loop to the other. This would encourage people to not drive in CBD, and be a great local experiment (and foot in the door) for getting rid of the fare-box and moving towards 100% subsidized bus service. Don’t laugh, free buses have been proven PROFITABLE for cities around the world.

Submissions are due by Friday 16 March. Before I make my submission, I’d like to hear what y’all have to say. Thanks for sharing!