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.
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
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!
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.
I recently spent three weeks in Japan, chasing cherry blossom (Sakura) on a Japan Rail Pass. But I also tried out cycling; renting and borrowing bikes in several towns and cities. What did I find out, and are there lessons for cycling in Wellington?
As in other parts of the world, electric assist bikes (eBikes) are ubiquitous in Japan. eBikes comprise 53% of Japan’s bicycle production, although there are indications that the growth is flattening. Most have a Panasonic motor system, that I haven’t seen in NZ: crank drive, with a relatively compact battery.
Standard family transport is an electric assist cargo bike, with child carriers front and rear. At a suburban rail station, I saw a family roll up: Dad pedaling, Mum perched behind, and child in a seat. Dad jumped off and ran for the train, while Mum took over pedaling to drop the kid off at daycare.
I’m still not sure how Japanese eBike users charge their bikes. Many bikes are left on the streets overnight, but they seem to be left with batteries on, and not connected to a charger. Maybe they have two batteries and rotate them around.
Whenever footpath cycling is mentioned, it’s stated “that’s what they do in Japan”. Well, yes and no. Footpath cycling is illegal in Japan unless signs specifically allow it. However in the 1970’s oil crisis, it seems that police made a policy decision not to prosecute footpath cycling. In 2011 the Police said they would encourage people between 13 and 70 to ride on the road rather than the footpath, but it still seems that people of all ages cycle on the footpath, including the police themselves.
According to a paper presented at VeloCity 2014, Japanese authorities are concerned about the risks of footpath cycling, particularly to the increasing numbers of elderly pedestrians. So they are creating more cycle paths and designated shared paths, and encouraging cyclists to use them. I saw signs of this investment. One example was Yamaguchi, a provincial capital about the same size as Wellington, where major intersections had underpasses for cyclists and pedestrians – just what Wellington needs on Cobham Drive.
Does the Japanese footpath cycling regime work? As an (elderly!) pedestrian I had a couple of times that a cyclist whooshed past in a way that startled me, but I didn’t see any crashes. When I did cycle, it was often very useful to use footpaths as an alternative the busy multilane city streets.
However, Japanese cycling style is very different from NZ. Very few footpath cyclists look like they’re training for the Tour de France – typically they’re Lycra-free leisurely commuters. Although Japanese will ignore laws, such as the one that prohibits riding with an umbrella, there’s a very strong ethos of obeying custom. Japanese pedestrians, cyclists and drivers will never go through a red light, even if there are no other vehicles around. And traffic light sequences are long – while you’ve got a lot of time to amble across a pedestrian crossing, you might have to wait several minutes for your phase to come up. Another reason footpath cycling works is that Japanese streets generally don’t have a lot of vehicle entrances, unlike NZ where every house has a driveway and the risk of a motor vehicle crossing the footpath.
We need to be careful about translating the Japanese experience of footpath cycling to the NZ environment.
Whenever we used bikes, we were warned to be careful where we parked them. Areas around businesses often have signs prohibiting bike parking. Bikes are frequently removed, and there’s a substantial cost to recover them. At the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto the only legal bike parking cost $3 and was half a kilometer from the temple.
Railway stations had huge bike parks – I suspect a hazard is failing to find your bike when you return!
Bikes on public transport
Given the ubiquity of both public transport and cycling, I was surprised that there doesn’t seem to be more use of bikes on public transport. At the weekend, we saw a number of recreational cyclists at Tokyo station with touring bikes packed in bags, heading off for a ride – an hours ride on a Shinkansen high speed train can put you hundreds of kilometers from the metropolis.
It seems you can take a bike on a train if it is “Rinko”ed – bagged with wheels removed. You can also get pedals that pop off, making the Rinko process easier. Mini Velos, bikes with small wheels but standard frames, are common in Japan, I think because they’re easier to store and transport.
Public bike hire
Many places have some sort of public bike hire, and they seemed to be well used. There’s generally some instructions in English.
We used one in Kanazawa that worked well (after a bit of geographic confusion that had us riding north from the railway station rather than south). After registering at the automatic machine we punched in a code to unlock our bikes, which we dropped at a rack close to the Castle. After walking around we picked up bikes from another rack, and rode back to the station.
Takamatsu had a slightly bureaucratic system where we needed our passports, and the requirement to give an address was a bit awkward as our accommodation that night was on Japan’s one remaining train sleeper service. But once we’d got our registration cards a helpful attendant set up our bikes and guided us to a natty bike escalator that took us up to street level.
It’s also fairly easy to rent bikes, generally near railway stations. There are outfits running bike tours – we did a half day with Tokyo Miracle Cycling Tour which took us around alleyways and gardens in central Tokyo, avoiding the worst of the multilane highways. Kyoto Cycle Touring Project rented us bikes and sold us a map that helped navigate the city, using the cycle path along the Kamogawa River, and the sakura lined Philosopher’s Path. Our hotel in Yamaguchi had a fleet of complimentary bikes in the foyer for guests.
What can we learn from Japan about cycling?
Japan shows us that you can have a very high mode share of cycling (20% in Tokyo), with everyday cycling dominating over lycra. It also shows that eBikes and public bike schemes have the capacity to be successful. But we also saw the results of the pressure – the need for large scale bike parking, and a bit less freedom to park where you want. Footpath cycling is a mixed blessing – even the well behaved Japanese cycling population includes the odd larrikin. However the sensible Japanese response seems to be to build more cycle paths, rather than force bikes onto the road. Perhaps that should be our priority rather than worrying too much about footpath cycling.