Cycling is an essential part of modern, successful cities. The government and councils are responding to strong public demand, and are investing in safe and attractive cycling all over New Zealand. The discussion has moved on from “why”, to “where and how”.
The Stuff film reviewer is entitled to his opinion on how best to provide for cycling, but that’s no basis to make decisions that affect the whole community. In our democratic system we elect councillors to weigh up expert advice, council policy, best-practice guidance and community views before making decisions.
For a decade Wellington people have been consistent in voting for mayors and councillors who are committed to improving cycling. It’s time to move forward.
Who is the council designing cycleways for? It has always been clear that it’s not only to cater better to existing cyclists, but to make cycling an easy and attractive option for the many people who would like to ride.
Cycling Action Network agrees that cities need to build streets for all ages and abilities. We call this AAA cycling. The evidence is clear that when cities build convenient, connected and comfortable cycleways, people love them.
A network effect multiplies the benefits once routes are connected up. Since protected cycleways were built in Auckland three years ago there’s been a 62 per cent increase in cycle trips in the city centre. Likewise, cycling grew by an impressive 600 percent in Toronto when a cycling network was completed.
Build it, and they will come.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about cycleways is that they are just for people who ride bikes. The benefits are much broader, however you choose to get around. Drivers and people on buses face less congestion. Parents can ditch the school run. Parking is easier. Pedestrians don’t have to compete for space on paths. Local businesses have more customers.
Regarding the Island Bay cycleway, there’s never been a project subject to such extensive community engagement. Everyone who wants to has had a say. The important thing is that valid concerns are addressed and we get on with it.
In Island Bay that means building kerbs to make parking easier, extending buffer zones to reduce risk from parked vehicles, and continuing the cycleway through the shopping area. The road surface would benefit from a reseal to erase ghost markings. The temporary construction period will result in a street we can all be proud of.
Connecting eastern suburbs
Much of Miramar, Strathmore, Rongotai and Kilbirnie are flat: perfect terrain for easy cycling. It makes sense to build high-quality cycleways to connect these suburbs. This reduces our reliance on cars, expands the reach of public transport, and enables people of all ages and abilities to get around.
Hills or wind? Not a problem, thanks to gears, muscle and e-bikes. Rain? Wear a coat. Groceries? Use a bag and carrier. No bike? Borrow or rent one.
Sooner or later the sceptics will run out of excuses, and embrace cycling.
Bike to the Future
With cycleway construction now underway on Cobham Drive, along Hutt Road and much more to come, I predict the future is bike.
An observational cycling experiment in Wellington.
In my experience – not very well. Just how bad is it out there? Am I imagining it’s as bad as often as it seems? Surely there’s only a few inconsiderate motorists making my ride in the city more dangerous than it needs to be…
It turns out my safety is at least partially compromised by motorists at a majority of stops involving advance stop boxes (ASBs) when riding my bicycle.
There are some ASBs at intersections throughout central Wellington. When I say ‘some’, I mean I joked once that I wondered if we had the highest number of ASBs per capita in the world, there are so many.
Maybe there aren’t actually all that great a number in reality, but when there is so few other forms of bicycle facility provided in a city, it’s hard to not notice them. Very few Wellington ASBs have any form of bike lane to feed people riding bikes to them safely for instance.
The dominance of ASBs throughout Wellington’s central business district (CBD) are only recently challenged for bicycle ‘paintfrastructure’ supremacy by the addition of numerous sharrows – another example of bicycle facility that means well, and wants to be seen to be achieving, but really isn’t.
I wanted to know how often things were good, challenging, or impossible.
I commute by bike. Every day. Every type of weather. I cycle roughly 6km into the CBD from Island Bay (Island Bay Cycleway RULZ!), through Berhampore, Newtown, around The Basin, Kent and Cambridge, and through the city to Boulcott Street.
There are plenty of times I stop at an intersection and have some difficulty with the ASB being blocked in some way. In my experience I am lucky if I don’t have some difficulty with several ASBs on a journey. So I decided to start counting what went wrong and what went right.
I wanted to know how often things were good, challenging, or impossible. I wanted to be able to show that, while there are some positive sides to ASBs, they are under-performing – usually because of consistent infringement by some motorists. This is probably no surprise to anybody, but I hope it helps to understand more about just how bad it is as a cyclist out there and if there are any patterns to these infringements. If there is anything that can be done to improve safety that would be great. This article does not provide any suggestions about how we might go about that.
For more about how Wellington cyclists view the effectiveness of our impressive ASB density check out this great post by Alastair.
The experiment I ran is just me, my rides, routes, and riding ability. I tried to use a little scientific method to gather observational data to provide a little insight into how effective, or not, ASBs are. It would be interesting to source data from more riders, at different times of day, different bike types, and more routes than I take. Obviously more data would enable more reliable conclusions to be made.
I recorded observations on my bike journeys (mostly commuting) over 26 days during March and April 2017.
Along each journey I evaluated the conditions at each intersection or pedestrian crossing I stopped at. I did not include any times I stopped on fully separated areas like footpaths, shared paths, or cycleways etc.
I evaluated only times that I stopped in the road and in traffic, where I would have made use of an ASB if I could reasonably expect to get to it. I did not count the rare occasions I was held up in particularly dense congestion mid-block. For each evaluation, I counted a number against one of four criteria, which were:
No obstruction by any motorists.
Able to comfortably access and wait in the ASB
Able to access and wait in the ASB
Motorist/s encroaching into or over the ASB – even a bonnet overhanging
Motorist/s may have encroached into the ASB in any of multiple lanes
Motorcycles / motor scooters included but not eBikes
Completely obstructed by motorist/s
Unable to access the ASB
Forced to stop before or past the ASB
The particular lane I needed to use was completely obstructed
There was no ASB marked at the stop
I made evaluations of ASB used on 56 journeys over two calendar months – March and April this year.
During those 56 trips there were:
a total of 484 stop evaluations made, an average of 8.64 per journey
136 stops with comfortable and safe access to an ASB
182 stops had no ASB facility
120 times I was partially blocked
166 instances where I was partially or completely blocked
46 times I was completely blocked, an average of 0.82 per journey.
Or in other words: I experience an ASB as completely inaccessible, on average, once every 4 out of 5 journeys.
Stop evaluations with ASBs
When not including stops where there was no ASB marked, over half (55%) of evaluated ASB stops were partially or fully blocked by motorists.
Including stop evaluations with no ASBs
There are fewer intersections with ASBs outside of the Wellington CBD but it is still worthwhile to show as having nothing is generally worse than anything when it comes to space for cycling. So showing the proportion of stops with no ASB shows that even with the overdose in the CBD, there are large parts of Wellington without even this low hanging fruit.
Morning vs evening
Let’s have a look at the breakdown of the stops of morning vs the evening rides. I’m going to exclude the no ASB numbers to better focus on how stops with them were performing.
ASBs were completely blocked by motorists nearly twice as often on my evening journeys.
This could be the result of the particular design of the ASBs used by the routes I take, or the mental state of motorists in the morning vs the evening, or the degraded marking of many of them (they’re not being maintained to an acceptable standard in general). Who knows?! Whatever the cause, it is bound to be a combination of factors.
Curiously, the increase in fully blocked ASBs seems to be at a roughly even expense of both good and partially blocked stops. It is interesting that partial blocks has not shown a similar rise like fully blocked.
I interpret (at least part of) this as a greater proportion of motorists completely disregarding ASBs in the evening, whereas a majority are keeping to their usual habits – whether good or inconsiderate. What do you think it might be?
Encouragingly, there are new ASBs being installed in Newtown which is welcome. I intend to run this experiment again around the same time next year to see if the data changes.
I think it is fair to say that there is some habitual abuse by some drivers consistently ignoring or encroachment on the ASBs. I have also observed a growing number of drivers distracted by digital devices. This problem is especially problematic at city intersections as these are the most dangerous places on our roads and demand a driver’s undivided attention. I did not gather any data on distraction. Maybe that will warrant separate experiment.
Regardless of the cause, I think the higher rate of infraction by motorists in the evening is of great concern as it points to potentially greater dangers to vulnerable road users at that time. If my observations through this limited experiment on one form of bicycle paintfrastructure are suggesting this, I wonder what other heightened dangers cyclists and pedestrians face from generally reduced compliance of motorists on our roads at various times of the day?
I also wonder how often enforcement of encroaching on ASBs by the New Zealand Police is encouraging Wellington motorists to adhere to the law. Apparently you may be fined $60 for encroaching into the cycling paintfrastructure. Who knew?
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.
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).
Option C is our favourite (with some design detail to ensure it doesn’t feel like a shared path)
Options B and D are OK (but both compromise cycling or walking)
Option A is rubbish.
We’ll be ranking C, B, D as our favourites in order. You should pick the option you like best, and give a few clear reasons with your feedback. Say why you like your favourite, and why you don’t like any options that you particularly dislike.
Option A would be worse for cycling than today. It takes away the protection from moving vehicles – with narrow traffic lanes, trucks and buses would be right at your shoulder and unable to give you extra space. It doesn’t pass the ‘8-80’ test of being suitable for all ages and abilities. The engineering report says the whole Parade would need a lower speed limit for this option to meet NZTA guidelines, and that would likely cause motorists to ‘rat-run’ through quiet back streets.
Option B is most similar to today’s cycleway. As with all the options, Option B improves intersection safety and continues the cycleway through the shopping area. Riding between kerbs could feel like you are trapped in a narrow channel though, and will make it difficult for people to pass each other. If someone steps into the cycleway right in front of a cyclist without looking, there’ll be nowhere for the cyclist to go.
Option C raises cyclists slightly above road level, good for seeing and being seen. And you won’t feel trapped in a channel – there’ll be more room to pass, or to avoid any obstacles. It needs a tweak to keep walkers and cyclists separate though. A slight height difference with ‘friendly’ mountable angled kerbs, or a smooth drainage channel, would do this well.
Option D trades off footpath space to make room for a median (in the residential area) and more parking in the shopping area. Footpaths will be narrow. Counterintuitively, retaining angle parking could hurt some businesses – for example, there’ll be no space for outside tables outside Bluebell café. And reversing out of the angle parks into the 3m-wide traffic lane won’t be much fun.
Still here? Go and make your submission. Add in any thoughts you have – the Council are looking for useful comments as well as your preference.
People like biking and walking around the Miramar Peninsula – it’s part of the Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Pōneke, and when part of the road has been closed to motor traffic for a Ciclovia, thousands of Wellingtonians of all ages have cycled, walked, and skateboarded around the peninsula.
WCC is planning changes for the Peninsula. In conjunction with Shelly Bay Ltd, the Council intends to create a residential and business development at Shelly Bay, with a hotel and 350 homes. What are the implications for cycling?
There’ll be public space such as a “village green”, with a walkway/cycleway through Shelly Bay. However this doesn’t appear to be continuous. At the bend by Shed 8, there is a pinch point where it looks like cyclists and walkers will have to join the road.
Between Shelly Bay and Miramar cutting, there’ll be relatively little change. A “collector road” like this should be 14m wide with an 8m berm. But it’s hard to widen the road, so there’ll be two 3m vehicle lanes, with a 1.5m footpath. People biking will share the vehicle lanes. The traffic is expected to go from 1200 vehicles/day to 4700 vehicles/day. This would make the road similar to SH58 on the south side of Pauatahanui Inlet (9200 vehicles/day). Most people no longer find this a pleasant cycling route. For the 13 years of development at Shelly Bay, there will be significant construction traffic.
WCC is committed to reducing the climate change impact of transport, so a new development like this should minimise the use of private cars, emphasising public transport. However there are no plans for public transport, other than the possibility of a ferry service (which GWRC is not proposing to fund). The wharves are likely to be demolished, and there are no specific provisions for replacement. The development encourages residents to use cars, contributing to fossil fuel emissions, and congestion on the route from the eastern suburbs to the CBD.
What are the alternatives? One is to develop the Miramar Peninsula as a recreational area, which aligns with WCC’s intention when it bought Shelly Bay land from the Defence Department in 2000 (before then, access was restricted, and picnicking families were ordered off the beach by Air Force staff). This is the vision of the Miramar Business Improvement District (BID) group, who have produced a video [small, medium, large].
Another option is to create a car free suburb, with limited parking and car access, but a frequent shuttle to Miramar to connect with public transport, or to pick up a car from a parking building. The road could be reconfigured to prioritise pedestrians and walkers, perhaps by using the “two minus one” layout common in Europe, where motor vehicles negotiate the use of a single central lane, with bike lanes on either side.
Over the time of the development, it’s likely that autonomous vehicle technology will have developed for shuttles, and a new generation will prefer shared use vehicles rather than car ownership. Parents will be glad to live in a suburb where children can roam without fear of cars, and active transport will be a real possibility.
Read the material on the WCC website, go to the open day (Sunday 30 July, 11am–3pm, Shelly Bay), and above all get your views in by 14 August.
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.
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.
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”]
While some of us are staying up late watching the Tour de France, the Southern Suburbs are getting ready for a Grand Départ in the race to provide better biking options. Newtown Resident Patrick Morgan writes:
“The City Council has plans for connecting Berhampore and Newtown to the CBD. We need to work together to get a great result. Let’s get together on Saturday 15 July 2-3:30pm at Baobab Wellington 152 Riddiford St for an informal meet up.
We’ll need to speak up for cycling routes that are convenient, comfortable and connected, or we risk getting pushed onto indirect or hilly routes.
A Council citizens’ panel had a look at route options in 2014 and made some recommendations. Can we do even better? From the WCC website:
‘Routes will connect the southern suburbs with local centres, schools and the central city. The current route runs through the southern suburbs from Shorland Park in Island Bay. The second section of the cycleway will run from Wakefield Park in Berhampore to John Street in Newtown.’ Have a look at WCC’s initial options.
The long drawn out Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) process has produced a draft long list of scenarios aimed at reducing Wellington congestion. Which ones offer the best chance of “more people on bikes, more often”? There are 12 scenarios, with varying mixes of walking, cycling, public transport and “commuter and through traffic” (i.e. motor vehicles), and I’ll just discuss three that caught my eye.
Scenario G maximises walking, cycling and public transport including “separated facilities and active mode priority for a pedestrian and cyclist focused city”. It offers “a central city [cycling] network connected to the surrounding suburbs where routes include separation from high levels/fast traffic; increased supply of cycle parking/facilities [and] Bike sharing schemes”
At the other end of the spectrum is Scenario D which aims for “a high level of motorised mobility and good public transport”. This would involve “Removal of some pedestrian and cycling facilities” – which might be a challenge, given how few cycling facilities we have currently!
Somewhere in the middle is Scenario B with “A pedestrian and cyclist focused city centre, with separated facilities and active mode priority” as well as a “high quality integrated public transport network”. Rather than the full cycling network of Scenario G, it offers “Reallocation of space to dedicated bike routes connecting the commuter corridors”.
I have a concern about how the scenarios are evaluated, particularly against the objective to achieve “A transport system that provides more efficient and reliable access to support growth”. There’s an underlying assumption that more roading capacity is good for the economy. So Option D with its “high level of motorised mobility” is evaluated highly against this objective, while Scenario G, which emphases public and active transport, is evaluated negatively.
However what helps the economy is moving goods and people efficiently. We don’t achieve this by encouraging trips by private car, resulting in more congestion on the limited road space of the CBD. We help the economy by providing for high quality public transport and active transport (walking and cycling) to move people, reducing congestion for freight transport and other users who need to use motorised transport.
Cycle Aware Wellington is part of the Congestion Free Wellington coalition, which wants the LGWM process to result in a liveable, sustainable city. No doubt we’ll hear more of this debate.
Scenario G or Scenario B would certainly get “more people on bikes more often”. In the mean time, people using bikes are probably least affected by congestion. The more people that realise that, the better it will be for all road users.
A risk that people on bikes encounter every day is SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You). SMIDSY is particularly prevalent on the Hutt Road shared path, usually in the form of a tradie charging out of Placemakers, concentrating their next job rather than the oncoming bike.
Fulton Hogan are keen to address the SMIDSY problem. What’s that, you say? Aren’t Fulton Hogan the people who drive large scale machinery around the countryside with little regard for anything smaller than a 4WD ute? Well, as it happens, they’re quite keen on people on bikes. Managing Director Nick Miller rolled up to CAN Do 2017 (which Fulton Hogan helped to sponsor) and told us about some of the cycling projects they’re involved in, such as the Onehunga Foreshore Bridge, which includes a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. They’re experimenting with fitting a 360 degree camera and side rails to their trucks to help prevent the risk of cyclists going under the vehicle.
To address the SMIDSY problem, Fulton Hogan have teamed up with a Dutch company, Heijmans, who have developed Bikescout, a radar system that detects bicycles and vehicles, and activates LED indicators in the road surface to alert drivers. It’s being trialled on one of the exits from the Caltex station on Hutt Road, so I went along to have a look. At first sight, there isn’t a lot to see.
There’s a tall pole with a couple of small radar detectors on top, and across the entrance, a row of LED lights in solid metal housings, looking like crabs with glowing eyes. But the lights seem to flash brightly and consistently whenever a bike (or a pedestrian) came along the path. In the short time available, I wasn’t sure how far driver behaviour was affected, but I presume that’s part of the evaluation of the trial. The lights would be even more effective in low light conditions, which is when they’re needed. I did wonder whether SMIDSY might become “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You because I was looking at the flashing lights”, but if the lights are arranged properly, the message should be clear.
If the trial is successful, the system might be used in many SMIDSY-prone locations. A possible application might be in Wellington’s notoriously narrow Seatoun and Karori tunnels, where Bike Scout could activate lights to indicate the presence of bikes and the fact that they will be occupying the lane.