Newtown state of mind

We’ve been reading up on the Newtown Connections project. Feedback is open until 11 December; please take a moment to have your say today.

There’s heaps of information online, from technical and background info to good ideas in comments from people who have already made a submission. Here’s what we think.

Our preference: Package C+ (the Healthy Streets Option)

To succeed, the network must be:

  • Connected – go where people want to go
  • Convenient – easy to use (avoid hills and indirect routes)
  • Comfortable – for all ages and abilities.

We don’t have a preferred option out of the three packages proposed. BUT with a little change, we support a combination of Package C routes (best balance of ‘connection’ and ‘convenience’) with Package A ‘2x 1-way’ paths (best for ‘comfort’ and safety) where possible.

Rintoul Street’s a must-do route, as the least steep route south of Newtown. It serves SWIS directly. There’s less parking impact as it runs beside Village at the Park, and Wakefield Hospital. And it provides the best connection to Newtown shops. The steep section on Adelaide Road north of Luxford Street, and the steepness of the western off-road option through MacAlister Park, rule them both out as ‘all ages and abilities’ routes.

Our preference more or less matches ‘Package C+’ identified by Regan for Island Bay Healthy Streets (love the new name!), and we think of it as the Healthy Streets Option as it best fits the objectives of that approach.

We want to stress that at this stage in the design process, our preference for a specific package is less strong than our desire to see a good outcome overall. We recognise that the viability of some combinations of route and path type depends on more detailed design to be done later.

We’ve highlighted some particular preferences:

  • Prioritise protected bike lanes
  • Yes to off-road routes, but only in addition to more direct routes
  • Avoid two-way cycleways in most cases
  • Include the flattest option
  • Mitigate reductions in parking
  • Think of the scooters!

We also have some ideas for making the most of the detailed design stage, and an overall plea: be bold!

Prioritise protected bike lanes

Wellington will see the greatest health, economic and efficiency benefits if the network both keeps people safe and also makes them feel safe. You can do this best with protected lanes. Avoid ‘on road’ cycle lanes or areas where people on bikes mix with traffic on busy main roads — this type of treatment becomes the weak link in the chain that puts more vulnerable people off giving cycling a try. Even a few metres of danger (such as through an intersection, or through a shopping area) are enough to undermine the benefit of good bike paths either side. Despite best intentions, 30km shared zones don’t work well on main arterial roads with lots of trucks and buses, such as through Berhampore shops or Newtown shops.

Good protected lanes don’t depend on good driving behaviour as much as shared zones or paint-only bike lanes. Businesses need to load goods, and in practice delivery drivers will often stop wherever is easiest. To work with this, protect bike lanes from parking and provide loading zones that are more convenient to use.

Protected intersections can help maintain comfort for cyclists and other road users. Tight spots can make physically protected bike lanes difficult to fit in. At these pinch points, and at junctions, separate cyclists from conflict with other traffic using time instead of space, with dedicated stages in the traffic light sequence.

Yes to off-road routes, but only in addition to more direct routes

Off-road routes are great, but must be in addition to (not instead of) paths that follow the most direct routes. Off-road routes are typically not the most direct, flattest, or most connected to destinations. Providing a variety of routes is important because connectivity is important! The more connections the network provides, the better the uptake will be.

If you can pave and light the off-road routes, so they become viable options all year round, at any time of day, do it! Motion sensors could allow the lighting to respond to the presence of people, saving energy when the paths aren’t in use and adding a ‘wow’ factor when they are.

Avoid two-way cycleways in most cases

We absolutely understand the desire to use two-way cycle lanes to mitigate effects on parking, but we can’t endorse this approach if it results in greater risk for people riding bikes.

Two-way cycleways don’t work well on roads with lots of intersections or driveways — the risk of being sideswiped by a driver who didn’t look both ways before crossing the cycleway is high. Two-way cycleways are also risky on steep hills, because of the speed differential between uphill and downhill cyclists. Taking both of these things into consideration, we don’t think two-way cycleways are appropriate for many of the places you’ve proposed them, such as on Rintoul Street and Adelaide Road in Package C.

Let’s not end up with stories like this on Stuff:
City of Ottawa chooses less safe option for O’Connor bikeway to make room for cars 

That said, a two-way cycleway may be appropriate for Riddiford Street, in the low-speed shopping area, as long as intersections and transitions are handled very carefully. Drivers are already used to slowing and looking both ways for pedestrians when turning into most of the side roads through Newtown, which lowers the risk for people on bikes. Lowering the speed limit to 30km/h through there would also help.

Include the flattest option

Whichever route or mix of routes you choose, include a less steep route to attract the most people. Not everyone wants to climb the Adelaide Road hill.

Mitigate reductions in parking

  • Prioritise resident parking over commuter parking — consider introducing residents-only zones, with no fee for the first while to help residents see the value before they have to start paying?
  • Create more parking spaces on council land — for example, at the top of MacAlister Park?
  • Make the hospital own its parking problem, which currently has a major impact across Newtown and beyond. Unlike most workplaces, there really is a case for the hospital taking responsibility for providing parking for staff and visitors. Hospital support for carpooling, public transport and other behaviour change (for the staff who can) could reduce demand too. Direct bike lanes are part of the solution too.

Think of the scooters!

Innovations like Onzo bike-share and electric scooters show how rapidly transport can change. Build paths that work for a variety of users, with specifications that make them resilient to change — whether that’s the next new transport idea, or an increase in mobility scooters, or simply a large uptake in biking. For example, you could provide bike parking along the route that would be convenient for finding or leaving a dockless share bike without blocking the footpath.

 

So… to finish, two overall points:

Make the most of the detailed design stage

Pay particular attention to intersections, and to the transitions between protected lanes and other types of treatments. For example, use things like hook turns and dedicated traffic signals to avoid vulnerable people having to mix with buses, filter through lanes of traffic, or wait to turn on green spots in between lanes of moving traffic.

Be bold!

Removing parking is really hard, and we have sympathy for businesses and residents who will have parking removed near their properties. But Wellington cannot become a truly resilient 21st century city without making it possible for more people to cycle and leave the car at home. Our population will continue to grow, and we have finite space — we can’t endlessly accommodate more and more cars.  

Go and have your say — it matters!

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Wainuiomata hill bridge brings a safe connection one step closer

The bridge at the top of Wainui hill is up!  Watch this rather glorious time lapse video to see it swing into place.

The bridge, named Pukeatu (Summit of the Gods), was swung into place over the hill road overnight on 29 September. The bridge will be opened for walking and cycling some time in October.

As Hutt City Council say:

The construction of the bridge is phase one in the Wainuiomata cycleway project, which received $1.5m from the Government’s $100 million urban cycleway fund. The project will provide a shared cycling and pedestrian path connecting Wainuiomata with the wider Hutt Valley.

The bridge will provide safe access to walking and mountain biking trails, and remedy the long lack of a safe connection between Wainuiomata and the Hutt Valley for people travelling on foot or by bike.

We have the money – do we have the vision?

Wellington CBD Cycleways – an achievable vision?

Following hard on WCC’s approval of the Cycling Framework, and the Island Bay Cycleway, the Government announceed another $296 million to be spent across the country under the Urban Cycleways Programme, bringing the total expenditure, including contributions from the National Land Transport Fund and local government, to $333 million. $53.32 million is to be spent in the Wellington Region.

There are good reasons for this largess. By making cycling an attractive transport choice, we reduce fossil fuel emissions and urban congestion, and promote health lifestyles. This benefits people who need to drive cars, as well as people who bike. In Wellington we have a real chance of implementing a vision of a “cycling capital”.   As NZTA notes, “Since 2006, the number of people commuting by bike in the capital has almost doubled”. Wellington’s narrow streets and steep hills have traditionally been barriers to cycling. But narrow streets make for cycle friendly speeds. Mountain bike gearing and eBikes have made hills much less of a problem.

City Councilors bought into this vision when they unanimously approved the Cycling Framework. But as the vote on the Island Bay Cycleway showed, actually implementing this vision is not easy.

Constructing cycleways almost certainly means change for people and businesses along the routes. Parking is affected, and people may have to keep an eye out for cyclists as they cross a kerbside bike lane to get to their car. But no street environment is static. In my own street, we no longer have easy access to on street parking. This isn’t because of cycleways, but because our neighbors have acquired multiple cars per household,  and commuters take advantage of the free parking within walking distance of the CBD.

The challenge for our City Councillors is to see the bigger vision of Wellington as the Cycling Capital of the South Pacific, and spend the Urban Cycleways money on projects that ultimately will benefit all of us, even if this means short term change for some.

Council approves Cycling Framework, Island Bay Cycleway

islandbay_20130728b

Wednesday’s Council meeting saw three big wins for cycling – approval for the Cycling Framework, and the go-ahead for the Island Bay Cycleway, the first stage of the southern cycle route from Island Bay to the CBD. Also a cycling budget of $58 million over 10 years was approved in the Long Term Plan.

The Cycling Framework was approved unanimously  – as one comment on Twitter said “Councillors now clambering over each other in their enthusiasm to be on the cycling working party!”. so there’s no doubt that Councillors are keen to be seen as pro-cycling.

There was less agreement over the Island Bay Cycleway. Several Councillors felt that local residents views had been ignored, and were concerned that the connection to the CBD had not yet been finalised. However a majority of Councillors felt that it was important that this flagship project go ahead, to encourage more cycling within Island Bay, and the proposal passed 8-6

For: Wade-Brown, Foster, Free, Lee, Lester, Pannett, Peck, Sparrow

Against: Ahipene-Mercer, Coughlan, Eagle, Marsh, Woolf, Young.

Although Councillor Ritchie spoke in the debate, she was absent for the vote.

Where to now? It’s important to complete the Island Bay to CBD cycle route, but another high priority route is the Thorndon to Ngauranga Cyclepath – this has high usage and a poor safety record. An indication of the issues on this route came in the public participation for Wednesday’s Council meeting. A business owner on Thorndon Quay was keen to see the Thorndon to Ngauranga Cyclepath routed along Aotea Quay – so that she didn’t lose parking outside her business.

Cycling makes you smarter!

If you cycle enough you might even be able to understand this article that found cycling increased “brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)”, one of “a family of neurotrophic factors that participates in neuronal transmission, modulation and plasticity”.

So ride your bike to increased neurological function!!

And feel happier too.

Now I finally understand what I suspected all along, my bike must be why I am so clever and happy!

librarian-cyclist

[Originally posted by Nicole]

We did it!

Towards a cycle-friendly Wellington

Wellington took a big step forward today to becoming a cycle-friendly city, says James Burgess, Chair of Cycle Aware Wellington.

“I am stoked that our city council unanimously approved the cycling budget of $4.3m,” he says.  For context, roading gets $69m.

“This is a win for all of us – whether you ride a bike or not. It means less congestion, less pressure on parking. More fun. More choices. Safer streets. More smiles.”

James says huge thanks are due to everyone who worked over the past decade to get us here.

“Now we are focused on making sure high-quality cycling projects are delivered. We have plenty to do, but I’m sure we’ll get there.”

islandbay_20130728b

Sad news from Auckland

While I don’t like posting about cycling deaths, I feel that it is worth sharing some of the comments made after the recent death of a cyclist in Parnell. It isn’t clear what happened yet, but having cycled through this intersection a few times last year, I can say it is pretty darn scary – I opted for riding on the footpath – and it is clear something needs to be done about it.

It’s good to hear some assertive language being used with regards to the need and demand for proper cycle infrastructure. It’s sad that another persons life has been lost, because councils and roading authorities have been mucking about, prioritising anything else (trucks getting from the port to the motorway in this case) over peoples safety.

It’s worth reading the Cycle Action Auckland post and also the blog post by entrepreneur Lance Wiggs, who arrived at the scene soon after the incident. I’ve quickly pulled some salient quotes from these posts, in case you don’t have the time to read these articles in full (below).

From Cycle Action Auckland:

We keep hearing that cycle facilities will be built “soon”, or “this summer” (the latest undefined date) but things get pushed back and nothing happens. Will the same thing happen again?

This is an impossible state. We used to say “somebody has to be killed for something to happen” – do we have to change that to “somebody has to be killed for people to notice that nothing happens“?

…As we said, it is not clear yet what caused Tuesday’s cycle death. However, whoever or whatever cause is to blame, our cycle injury and fatality levels are way too high, SEVERAL TIMES above the best-practice rates from Europe.

And from Lance Wiggs:

Today’s accident was, like all accidents, preventable. Like all accidents the root and contributing causes of the accident will be varied and troublesome, but are also able to be eliminated. However like all cycle accidents in NZ they likely won’t be, and we should all be very angry and upset about this…

It’s an election year, and this is a great time for all parties and candidates to take a tough stand. Cycling and work safety are not Green, Red, Blue or other party-affiliated issues, but ones that offer benefits across the board. Improving cycling safety and work safety generates more retail and manufacturing revenue, saves on medical expenses, prolongs lives, saves money for individuals and families and delivers better environmental outcomes. It’s cheaper than building roads and rail, and will make it far safer for our children to walk and cycle to school. It seems obvious, and will attract a decent number of voters looking for a better life.

It’s a great time for us voters to ask the candidates and existing MPs what they are doing about safety on the streets and work, but we also need to ask and apply pressure to the recently elected mayors and councillors to follow through on their promises. I am particularly concerned with Auckland and Wellington mayors and councils, who have delivered little for cyclists on a mandate of change. Too many people are dead and I think we would all like to see a genuine sense of urgency before more people die.

 

2014 – a great year to get on your bike!

Happy New Year from Cycling in Wellington!
Start off the year right by getting on your bike.

Greater Wellington Region Council’s awesome “Active a2B” programme has just kicked off and will help you achieve your active commuting goals for the year.
Register for Active a2b today!

 

 activea2b

Register for Active a2b today!

Back at work or soon to be back at school but dreaming about getting away again? Sign up to Active a2b and you can get away on a daily basis!

Incorporating walking or cycling into your commute is one way to have a little holiday each day. Take the scenic route, breathe a little faster and get the endorphins pumping.

As part of the Active a2b programme you’ll have access to:
• Tools to support your efforts: a desktop calendar to record your progress, a goal magnet to keep you on track, a bike buddy scheme to get you started, an online journey planner, cycle workshops and more!
• Discounts: at participating stores; on local event entries and on quality pedometers.
• a2b Go: the four week active transport challenge with great prizes.
• Motivation to keep it up: a regular newsletter sharing inspiring stories from fellow participants, individualised phone support, a Facebook community and great prizes.

You don’t need an app for this – a bike or some shoes will do.  Just click here to start the journey!