The Eye of the Fish

Erentz
November 26, 2012

Where the #$%& are the bike lanes already?

We’ve had a bicycle-mad mayor for two years now and I don’t think I’ve seen one new bike lane, or any real indication that the council still even gives two hoots about cyclists and pedestrians. In fact our transport planning has just become, frankly, bizarre.

For example our city council, regional council, and NZTA apparatchiks seem to think it’s a suitable use of millions of dollars of public money to tack on a dubious pedestrian-walkway-cum-cycleway to the Basin Reserve flyover, so that we can walk and cycle from the tunnel to the bypass. You know, because there’s such a huge amount of people walking and cycling around the city rather than to the city. It’s a route that is barely used for obvious reasons and will remain that way, even if they do actually fix the cycleway so that it is a proper cycleway and not just some bike-shaped-stencils painted onto a sidewalk*. I can only assume this makes them feel like they’re pedestrian and cyclist friendly so they can pat each other on the back and say their flyover isn’t just about stacking cars more neatly during rush hour. Meanwhile all parties that showed support for spending millions on a sidewalk for the flyover have decided that it’s not worthwhile to EVER, at any point in the future, have dedicated bike lanes on the critical narrow link in the chain between the southern suburbs and the rest of the city that is Adelaide Road. The link where they plan to line the area with new medium density apartments, and mixed used buildings, and rah rah rah, aren’t we great we care about density and stuff, vote for us, pat on the back. The $3 million dollars it would cost to secure the five meter strip of land along Adelaide Road – so that one day, far into the future when we have a council that gives a $#!^, we can all enjoy a beautiful street complete with bike lanes, tree line pedestrian footpaths, and dedicated public transport ROW – is just too damned much for them to stomach. Better to build stupid statues for the world cup, and lobster shaped toilets and such. Buying land? Oh dear no, that’s just too damn interventionist. And now is the small window of opportunity to strike if we’re to make this happen. Because now almost all the land is empty and ready for the taking due to the work of previous councils to hold a designation for road widening (until the early 90s) so that one day, such a blatantly common sense and necessary thing could be achieved. And soon if the councils plan to intensify the area works, it won’t be. Instead, no, the Council and NZTA says, that’s too damned much money. But let’s build a stupid pedestrian bridge next to our stupid flyover though, that’s not too damned much money at all, that’s _different_, you’ve just got to look at it in _context_ and other nonsense. And if you think $3 million is expensive now, you don’t want to be knocking down 1 km of buildings to acquire land in future. So quite simply if we don’t do this now, we just won’t get this in the future. The council is badly dropping the ball on this one, but by the time anyone notices, they’ll all have moved on so what do they care.

Goddamnit. I demand some bike lanes already.

* I prefer using the American term sidewalk here as it more accurately describes the shitty act of walking alongside a traffic sewer that many Wellington “footpaths” suffer from.

Maximus
26 - 11 - 12

Couldnt agree more! It’s sad to say, but our “green” mayor hasn’t been as usefully green as one might think. There are good and bad things about every mayor, but one thing is for certain – or so I thought – when you elect a notoriously cycle-riding mayor, you’re pretty damn certain to get some decent new cycle lanes. After all, even mad Boris, the Mayor of London, got voted in and fulfilled the promise of a new Routemaster bus, and a whole flurry of new green painted bike routes through London.

Here, we’ve had the greenest mayor the city is ever likely to see, who got in on a campaign of friendly action and implicit bike routes through the city – two years on, and what have we got? Not a single extra skerrick of bike route. And. As Erentz says, a government department mad keen on pushing roads through every orifice they can find (what’s that then? He didn’t actually say that? Oh well, he should have.).

davidp
27 - 11 - 12

I’m generally a pedestrian and have noticed that Wellington has become less pedestrian friendly over the last couple of years. Pedestrian crossings are being replaced with lights so that buses have priority, and there are footpath barriers cropping up all over the city.

But as far as the flyover goes… It must be a pre-requisite for trams to the hospital, which both the Mayor and Erentz support (but I don’t, just BTW). It’s an extremely complex and congested roundabout already and there is no way you could force a couple of tram lines around the basin at grade. Especially given issues around cars crossing the tram line while they move towards roundabout exits. So I’m counting the flyover as stage 1 in the Mayor’s Green transport policies.

jp@gmail.com
27 - 11 - 12

100% agree with this. No one metre of new bike lane, nothing for pedestrians, and crucially a voice and vision of Wellington that is absent from the media and the conversation. Compare her to Len Brown for instance, who even manages to make the case for the basketcase that is Auckland in a compelling manner.

diessoli
27 - 11 - 12

Well said, Erentz.
After living here for more than 15 years, a friend of mine just left Wellington (and NZ) for good. He just could not stomach life as a pedestrian here any more.
I’ve only been here for 8 years but are at a point that I am considering to leave as well and maybe try living in Copenhagen. I stopped cycling in Wellington years ago because it was just too stressful.

Wellington does not even seem to be able to do the really simple things like programming their traffic lights pedestrian friendly. Why do I have to wait a whole cycle if I happen to press some stupid button a second too late? Why aren’t the lights that separate lower from upper Cuba St. generally green for foot (and cycle) traffic and only change if they sense traffic on the streets?
Why are some sidewalks so narrow that I have to step on the road when meeting another pedestrian?

D.

Guy
27 - 11 - 12

Hmmm. Perhaps it isn’t her fault? The Mayor is not the only person at the Council…. there are another few hundred other people, whose job this might actually be. Is it possible that Ms Wade-Brown is actually trying to get that done, but is being stymied by others?

jp@mail.com
28 - 11 - 12

Well let’s have a list then. Who are these other councillors who are blocking the mayor and her plans to improve cycling facilities in Wellington? To be quite honest I don’t know whether they exist. Obviously you’ve got people such as John Morrison and Simon Marsh who can be relied upon to oppose any initiatives that don’t put cars first, but I don’t think they have much to do with the transport portfolio. The person in charge is actually Andy Foster, who judging by his comments on this blog and elsewhere is a decent chap with a good understanding of urban design and transport issues. And yet still nothing seems to be getting done. It’s all very frustrating, especially as someone who cycles down Adelaide Road & Kent Terrace daily.

Seamonkey Madness
28 - 11 - 12

To all those complaining about traffic/pedestrian crossing lights, please see here, which sums it up nicely: http://xkcd.com/277/

I’m not saying that things couldn’t be better, just that it isn’t just that particular set of lights that will need adjusting. It’s called a road network for a reason.

erentz
28 - 11 - 12

I’m with you davidp, about the need for some separation at the Basin, I just think it needs to be a tunnel as you know :)

@Guy, its a general lament about the whole council, that even when Wellington goes as far as electing a green mayor it’s still not enough to get any pedestrian/cyclist love. Tho she is mayor, she did ask for the job, and she does need to deliver some tangible results. And this particular case of securing that land along Adelaide Rd is one that should interest all councillors regardless of their position on the pedestrian-driver spectrum.

Celia WB
30 - 11 - 12

Hi there,
An update on cycling and walking transport achievements – and where we still need action. After significant under-investment in cycling it takes a while!
Still cycling myself too – London Mayor has huge executive power compared to our model. Nevertheless we have achieved some modest steps forward you may not have noticed…

DONE since I became Mayor….

We succeeded in keeping the strategic cycling route funding in for next ten years – it has got most of the Tawa shared path and a good railway crossing there – that was the first strategic route agreed (started in previous triennium defeating previous mayor and needing reinstatement after draft LTP from officers recommended removing the $1 million per annum) and will take another year or so to finish. If you don’t live/work in Tawa you won’t know about it. It links through to Porirua network too.

Morning clearway along Thorndon Quay bike lane for improved cycling safety.

We got rid of the car parking at Balaena Bay that interrupted the route to the airport.

We reduced speed around Miramar peninsula from Miramar cutting to Scorching Bay to 40kph.

We have new bus lanes that allow cycling in Courtenay Place, Cambridge and Kent Terraces.

Many more cycle-friendly drain grates and bike racks.

More WCC pool bikes for staff to use – and lights and new helmets – plus 99 Beijing bikes loaned to WCC departments and Wellington not-for-profits.

COMING

Pukeahu Memorial Park and separation of Tory Street from Buckle will provide good cycling access. We pushed hard to underground Buckle.

Great Harbour Way has moved up regional transport priority and NZTA is actually researching how to make the link happen at Petone to Ngauranga. Have got great support from Ray Wallace and other regional Mayors bt it requires NZTA to take key actions.

Improved cycle routes from South Coast to City is next after Tawa – consultation next year.

We will be consulting in next annual plan about reducing central city speed to 30 or 40kph. Given road width, a “share the road” at slower speeds may be more effective in downtown Wellington, with feeder routes that are more separated.

STILL TO DO

A proper network in central city – including laneways, some bus lanes, some contra flow perhaps, that is logical north/south and east/west.

I have not persuaded staff to install bike feeder lanes at traffic lights leading to the advanced stop boxes.

Bicycle markings to show where we’re welcome in bus lanes – on signage but not on the road itself.

We have made pedestrian improvements too – the crossings at Wakefield/Taranaki were desperately needed. Timings beginning to improve from MFC to St Johns and along Featherston and Jervois Quay.

Northland commuter route improved and signed.

Support for CAW and Frocks on Bikes.

LOTS MORE TO DO!

Comment on the Basin and different solutions for PT another time..

Maximus
30 - 11 - 12

Thank you Celia – fabulous that that the Mayor takes the time to respond. We’ve also had a response from Andy Foster as well, which is going to go up as a separate blog post, along the same lines as what you have written here. Much appreciated…

Simon Kennett
30 - 11 - 12

Once a second Mt Vic tunnel is built (with a 3m-wide shared path) the number of people riding between the Eastern suburbs and Willis/Taranaki Street, etc is going to increase dramatically. Then the elevated shared path next to the flyover is going to be very handy indeed. It’ll take about 60 secs to get from the tunnel entrance to Tory Street, compared with about 4 mins at present.

As far as cycle lanes go, it’s not so much about the money – more about on-street parking. You don’t have to look beyond the relatively new angle parking in Wakefield St to see which is considered more important.

60 MPa
2 - 12 - 12

If the helmet law was repealed I’d cycle again and I say that as the possesor of a full motorcycle license who regularly rides offroad and who wouldn’t dream of riding without a helmet in both circumstances.

Am I the only one? So be it – there’s another steel cage on the roads.

erentz
3 - 12 - 12

60MPa, you’d cycle without a helmet in Wellington?! Heavens. Having lived and ridden now in more bike friendly cities, I just don’t feel safe riding in Wellington anymore, helmet or no helmet. There are two big problems, and I think they’re related. First our streets are terrible for cyclists. Second our drivers have no consideration for cyclists. Most of them treat cyclists are annoying obstacles to get past no matter what (assuming they even see them). What makes a difference in the cities where I’ve enjoyed cycling a lot more is that there are clear road markings visible to both cyclists and drivers that reinforce cyclists right to be there. For example we all know cyclists should claim the lane when on narrow streets to avoid any ambiguity to drivers about whether they should try to squeeze past, but the difference in other parts of the world is they indicate this with some simple painted sharrows on the road. This both tells the cyclist “It’s okay to take the lane, don’t feel guilty about it” and tells the motorist “The cyclist is obeying the established rules, they’re not trying to be a dick to you, so don’t get aggressive with them”. Additionally the shear amount of painted obvious well designed bike lanes and bike boxes tells drivers constantly that cyclists are considered equal users of the road. Here we can’t seem to do this properly. Taking Riddiford St as an example you just need to look at the pathetic excuse for a bike box that was laid down without any lead in cycle lanes, on a seriously narrow stretch where it’s hard to filter through queues cars. Not to mention the bike boxes are too short to comfortably maneuver your bike in. And then look at what they’re planning on doing which is to continue this bad bike box design on the current “improvements” to adelaide rd. See here: http://www.wellington.govt.nz/projects/new/pdfs/adelaide/adelaide-roadmap.pdf Which also clearly demonstrates that despite what Andy says, you are not going to see bike lanes on Adelaide Rd, it’s a mathematical impossibility to fit quality bike lanes on that road whithout widening when you also need to fit a traffic lane and public transport lane.