Safer Speeds – 30km/h is the stepping stone to a central city for people

As a partner in the Let’s Get Wellington Moving programme, Wellington City Council is committed to making the city safer and more attractive. Introducing a 30 kmh speed limit across the central city is a key element. A few arterial streets are excepted, the Quays, Kent and Cambridge Tces, and SH1 on Vivian St.

The Council will consult on the plan early this year, and plans to introduce changes in mid-2020.

There’s more detail at https://lgwm.nz/our-plan/our-projects/central-city-safer-speeds/

30km/h on Featherston?

Safer speeds on central city streets could be a stepping stone towards a city that works for people travelling on all modes. By restricting most streets to 30km/h it is possible that more drivers will choose those streets that are still at 50km/h, reducing the traffic volumes on those streets at 30km/h. The LGWM programme will be assessing the impacts of changes, which will allow recommendations to be made on redesigning streets like Featherston and Taranaki, reducing the number of car lanes and allowing more space for people on foot and on bikes, buses and rapid transit. An even bolder approach would be to move one step further, closing off more streets to through-traffic. Birmingham has announced plans based on earlier tactics employed by Groningen in the Netherlands and Ghent, Belgium to make their city centre slightly more difficult to drive around, reallocating space to public and active transport in the process:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2020/01/13/birmingham-reveals-radical-ghent-style-plan-to-cut-car-addiction/#214e9a69760f

The idea here is to create quadrants, or zones, dividing up areas of the central city. Private vehicles are not permitted to cross between these zones, but people on foot, buses or bikes can. The result is that places in Ghent that are 1km apart on foot or bike become 3km apart by car, making the bicycle the fastest way to get around, meaning more people opt to use a bicycle. Driving isn’t a particularly slow option, it just takes a bit longer and you need to drive further. People who need to drive still can, and the way the city is laid out pushes them onto outer roads that are more capable of handling cars, leaving those central streets free for people.

Wellington could apply similar thinking. It already has a ‘ring’ road of sorts. Imagine a car journey from the Michael Fowler Centre to Pukeahu Park didn’t involve going up Taranaki Street because it was now a no-through road. Your alternative route would be via Cable St, Kent Terrace and the Basin. Perhaps you’d decide to cycle there instead because now, Taranaki St is a residential area with fewer car lanes, a 30km/h speed limit, more seating, street trees and a cycle lane and you’d be there just as fast, (raging southerly wind notwithstanding!)

Taranaki St – unrecognisable

These ideas are almost incomprehensible at the moment because Wellington’s central city has so many lanes for cars that it can be very difficult to imagine where they would all go. However 30km/h streets will start to push us towards a Wellington where walking, shopping and living in our central city becomes much more pleasant. Driving will become just one of the ways you can get around easily, comfortably and conveniently, but not quite as quickly as by bike.

Quieter, slower streets become much more attractive to people on bikes and escooters where fewer cars pass and at slower relative speeds. Of course, crashes can still occur at 30km/h, but the outcomes are vastly improved for people of all ages. Cycling on slower streets will also ‘feel’ more comfortable and natural, which will attract more people to give bikes a go where currently the road conditions can feel more risky and scary.

Cycle Wellington fully supports the plans for 30km/h streets and looks forward to safer riding throughout our central city.

Eastern Suburbs Consultation

Leonie Gill pathway. Part of a bigger Eastern Suburbs network?
Leonie Gill pathway. Part of a bigger Eastern Suburbs network?

The official consultation period for the Eastern suburbs cycleways begins today, closing on the 23rd of May. Some details on the consultation from the council:

Between now and then, our team will be busy populating the Cycleways website [http://cycleways.wellington.govt.nz/where/eastern/] with all the information, ready to ‘go live’ on 26 April. Alternatively, you can  go to the ‘Have Your Say’ section of Wellington City Council’s main website [http://wellington.govt.nz/].

The two Council-run community drop-in sessions (held at the ASB Sports Centre) have been rescheduled to:

  • Wednesday 4 May (4:30pm – 7:30pm)
  • Saturday 7 May (9am – 3pm)

In addition to this, we are liaising with the Miramar and Kilbirnie BIDs in regard to them hosting additional community drop-in sessions. I will advise when these have been scheduled.

There’s been talk about one of the options involving four sets of traffic lights along Miramar Ave. Obviously, no one would like to see that happen, so it’s important the public check out the options, and any alternatives, and talk to the Council and their community about what they want.

Cycle Aware Wellington will have a presentation from Council officers after our AGM on the 3rd of May. Keep an eye on our facebook group for details about that. The meeting generally starts at 6pm and is held at the Sustainability Trust on Forresters Lane.

Some thoughts on the options for the Eastern suburbs (as a mother, fair weather cyclist/currently frequent driver and sometimes commuter):

Note, these are my personal thoughts not the views of CAW!

  • there is no one obvious stand out option or route or type of infrastructure
  • there are certain criteria which the approved designs need to meet. Hopefully there will be more information about this shortly, but my understanding is that the cycleway needs to be part of a network and increase commuter cycling primarily (it isn’t necessarily to improve safety, although it should do that and if it also increases recreational cycling that would be a bonus, but again isn’t the aim).
  • the airport tunnel route works well on paper, and links both Seatoun and Miramar to Kilbirnie, but in practice, it’s unlikely many Miramar people would take such an indirect route.
  • the three routes that have most need i.e. go to the CBD, (as agreed by the stakeholder working group) have been ruled out for one reason or another but perhaps this needs reviewing?
    • Round the bays is too expensive ($10m)
    • Hataitai has a bottle neck at the Mt Vic tunnel which won’t be resolved until the tunnel is duplicated
    • A route from Kilbirnie to Newtown works until you get to Newtown, but getting from Newtown to the CBD will be delayed by decisions on BRT and the Basin Reserve, so it doesn’t get Eastern residents to the CBD.
  • some “easy win” options* include;
    • building a tunnel (or the more expensive bridge) over Cobham Drive to connect the shared path to the ASB centre and Kilbirnie. WCC is hoping for additional NZTA funding for this.
    • Widening the shared path along Cobham Drive and Evans Bay Parade (part of the ‘Great Harbour Way‘)
    • Traffic calming and 3okm/h zones around schools, shops and community/sports centres – schools improvements could come out of a different budget
    • Linking the Leonie Gill shared path to the airport tunnel and to the Kilbirnie shops
    • Providing a completely off-road (shared path or separated) cycle lane from the airport tunnel to the airport, including safe crossings.
    • Providing wider shared (for ‘slow’ cyclists or children only) footpaths along busy recreational areas, such as Lyall Parade.
    • Improving safety at roundabouts and intersections. Roundabouts can have tighter ‘European’ designs to slow traffic down (and more education for cyclists and drivers to guide them on correct lane positioning), and intersections may be improved by better visibility, ‘Stop’ signs replacing ‘Give ways’ or traffic calming (speed bumps or textures, narrowing lanes, pedestrian crossings, etc)
  • Other options I’d like to see thrown in the mix, but not necessarily as part of the main cycleway works, are:
    • Removing on street parking on the uphill side of Crawford Road, and possibly Moxham Ave and using ‘sharrows’ on the downhill lanes (if separated lanes aren’t yet possible here).
    • Changing the parking around Kilbirnie Park (Kilbirnie Crescent and Evans Bay Parade) to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Evans Bay Parade already has a shared path but it’s not well marked or well used with plenty of driveway hazards. Kilbirnie Crescent is the main access way for community facilities such as the pool, the library, recreation centre, Plunket, the playground and the sports fields. It has high numbers of families visiting, often crossing the road in heavy traffic. Many of these families are likely coming from out of the area, so not within walking or cycling distance, but many are also choosing to drive because of safety concerns. Parking is in high demand, but this could be reduced if other modes were more accessible.
  • Miramar Ave is seen as a difficult bit to get through and the Miramar cutting is a blackspot for cyclists, so this area needs careful thought. One option brought up by members of the working group was using Tahi St rather than Miramar Ave. This solves some problems for commuters but not for those wanting to go to the shops. Here’s my idea (NB. not CAW’s!) based on not too frequent peak driving around Miramar. I’d be interested to know what issues I’ve missed and/or if this is a workable idea. ES UCP IDEAIt adds a necessary set of lights at the cutting and one set on Tauhinu. Also a few crossings (either zebra or pedestrian refuge islands) and an enhanced slow zone for the shops and Tahi St.

(* By “easy win” I mean that it will be safer or more convenient for cyclists, hopefully also so for pedestrians, and have negligible effects on other modes of transport or parking.)

 

What other options are there? Or have the Council got it right with one of their draft designs? Are there other problem spots that need addressing urgently? Head on over to the CAW facebook group to discuss, or better yet, get along to a Council open day or make a submission to the council.