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.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving

There’s some incredible stuff coming out of LGWM at the moment, with the first two rounds of in-depth consultation focusing on changes to make the central city much more people-friendly. This consultation closes this Sunday, 15th December. Have your say to make sure that the LGWMers know that this is what Wellingtonians want.

NZTA have gone with their funky map-based feedback machine to get feedback on Let’s Get Wellington Moving, which is amazing if you have a while to spare poring over maps of Wellington. However, it’s Kirihimete/Christmas so if time is not on your side there’s a TL;DR version

Hit these links which jump you straight through to the easy form-based feedback sections:

https://lgwm.nz/goldenmile/#e55

http://lgwm.nz/saferspeeds/#e56

These are great for overall feedback. The simplest comment you could put here is “Yes, do it already!”, both for improving the Golden Mile and for bringing city centre speeds down to a safer 30km/h. Two minutes and you’re done.

Still reading and have time for an in-depth submission? Here are some pointers, please let us know in the comments if you spot anything we’ve missed:

Golden Mile

This consultation gathers your ideas but doesn’t set out any concrete plans.
They say:

We want to make it better for people walking and on bikes, and give buses more priority

We say:

  • Separated cycle lanes to keep less confident riders away from buses, with well signposted, comfortable alternative routes where space is limited
  • Intersections are too intimidating for vulnerable road users and these people need safer means to change lanes and turn into other roads with clear right of way to drivers behind them. A suggestion is to make protected intersections with dedicated space and priority lights for people on foot, bikes, and scooters.
  • Giving people riding e-scooters and bikes a safer road space helps to keep pedestrians out of harm’s way
  • Make the Golden Mile for buses, bikes, scooters and people on foot
  • Allow goods deliveries in time windows outside of peak hours
  • If the Golden Mile is made car-free then design and enforcement will need to work together to make this a reality
  • Continuous walking along the route wherever possible – by closing side-street ends like Bond and Grey streets, and where a street crosses with through traffic give green walk signals with minimum interruption (like some of Featherston side streets)
  • Changing flow around Boulcott/Willis/Mercer/Victoria somehow to make life better for everyone

Te Aro Park, Golden Mile – what would make you more likely to ride here?

Safer speeds

This consulation proposes a 30km/h limit for the city centre – effectively everything within Karo Dive/Cambridge Terrace/the Quays apart from Vivian Street, extending North as far as the station.

We say:

  • This should be implemented for non-arterial CBD roads, and is already or is becoming the norm for cities around the world
  • Lower speeds make it feel safer or will make it more feasible for people on bikes and e-scooters to share the road
  • This needs to go hand in hand with road design features that naturally slow down the speed and clearly tell drives to give priority to vulnerable road users
  • Clearly there is a push for priority bus lanes through the CBD and this is where we expect separated cycle lanes
  • No easy suggestions how to deal with this but consideration needs to be given to people on bikes (e.g. road and electric bikes) and e-scooters who can and typically will try to travel faster than 30km/hr. This will give frustration to other road users who are keeping to the speed restrictions
  • Some roads feel too fast for 30km/h today, but these streets also have plenty of people living on them, walking on them and biking on them. They deserve safety too, and road design changes will help the lower speeds feel more natural here. The LGWM programme needs to show that these streets will be used for living, working, shopping and playing in future, so lower speeds are appropriate.
  • For central streets that remain at 50km/h (eg Quays, Kent & Cambridge, Vivian) use protected bike lanes to achieve 2 things – safer biking, and more separation between footpaths and moving traffic
  • Enforce new speed limits with cameras at high traffic volume / high risk places – do the same on the 50km/h arterial roads too
  • Green-waves for traffic lights so that people travelling below 30km/h don’t need to stop as often – making speeding futile

Taranaki Street – lots of space for living, working, playing, eating, partying – 30km/h makes sense to pave the way for new uses

Stay positive!

It’s tempting to use a consultation exercise as an opportunity to vent. However, we think a good submission should be really positive and future focused, try to imagine the Wellington you’d happily take your mates for a ride around next summer!

From all of us at Paihikara ki Pōneke/Cycle Wellington, Meri Kirihimete, Merry Christmas and enjoy riding your bike over the holidays. Looking forward to an amazing 2020!