Upping the game – Carlton Gore Road

By , April 24, 2014
Carlton Wide 300x180 Upping the game   Carlton Gore Road

Wide streets are wide.

TL:DR: Carlton-Gore Road getting buffered cycle lanes all the way, instead of a half-sided, half-hearted design.

Carlton Gore Road is a very Auckland-typical road. Meaning it has HEAPS of space for cars, but not much for all the other modes of traffic. In fact, about the only thing not typical for such a road in Auckland is that it has escaped being four-laned!

Now the good news is that in a few months, (once the current road surface / stormwater works are done), Carlton Gore Road will be the newest addition to Auckland’s Cycle Network!

But the story could have been different, because in early February, CAA received a plan set for comment that had us shaking our heads in despair. Despite cycle lanes on Carlton-Gore having been talked about at least since 2011, the initial design we got from Auckland Transport’s consultants had a number of serious issues:

  • There was no downhill cycle lane. Yes, you heard that right – this road reserve is over 20m wide (!), but the design seriously proposed that all downhill cyclists would get was a wide kerbside lane. Because a new flush median was considered more important.
  • The uphill cycle lane stopped 30m before the intersection with Park Road. Where car lanes multiply, the going gets tough… and cyclists would be left to fend for themselves again.
  • The uphill cycle lane had nothing to prevent cars queuing in it. If you know this road, you will be aware that often in the afternoon, cars queue back all the way from Park Road to George Street in two lanes. Would Auckland drivers have obeyed the cycle lane and stayed out of it? Sadly, we know the answer – and had noted this in our 2011 comments.

So our response to AT was rather critical. It felt like a 2000s design, not one proposed in 2014.

But here’s where the story changed from what we feared would happen.

Buffered 300x134 Upping the game   Carlton Gore Road

Example of proposed layout.

After meetings between AT and CAA and some discussion within AT (who have become a lot more positive about cycling in recent months), a new design was proposed, and has now been found to be workable. Now, instead of what was initially proposed, AT is planning to:

  • Provide cycle lanes all the way, and both ways, 1.5m-1.8m wide (depending on whether there remains parking beside the lane)
  • The cycle lanes will have an additional painted buffer (at least 0.5m wide) separating them from the traffic lane. Without a flush median, there’s suddenly lots of space.
  • Some sections of the painted buffer may also receive some added physical protection (feel free to mention to AT where you think this is most important!)
  • The cycle lanes now go all the way uphill to Park Road, rather than stopping short some distance before the intersection
  • We managed to convince AT to include a kerbed island near where the uphill parking currently stops – that should prevent two-lane queuing (because drivers would have to merge like a zip back into one lane before the island if they queued in the cycle lane)
  • Pedestrians will also profit, because crossing the road now can be done in multiple steps, using the painted buffer zones each side, and with the car traffic lanes reduced to the minimum widths

So all in all, this has turned around from a frustrating half-measure to what is likely to be one of our better cycle lanes around town, one step below fully protected lanes. And AT was even willing to remove a good bit of car parking to enable this new design. Winds of change are blowing – many thanks to AT for upping the game.

Full disclosure! The writer of this blog post works in, and cycles on, Carlton-Gore Road – he has a personal stake in it getting better!

Also, formally speaking, the design is not approved yet – and is currently out for consultation (consultation letter here, simplified map/design here). We are keen to encourage feedback to ensure AT hears from you cyclists too. Deadline is 9th of May – Please send your support or other comments to Aaron at Auckland Transport here, or via the postal address noted in the letter.

Cycling Safety Summit – Hastings and New Plymouth lead the way

By , April 22, 2014
Hastings off road link trail to Havelock North 300x198 Cycling Safety Summit   Hastings and New Plymouth lead the way

Hastings off road link trail to Havelock North

I returned from Tuesday’s NZTA’s Cycle Safety Summit in Wellington buoyed up by spending the day with extremely motivated and informed people from across the transport sector  – AA, Road Transport Forum, IPENZ, etc plus all the expected groups who, like Cycle Action, work on a daily basis to improve cycling in NZ.

It was a very productive day. I can honestly report that the hard work from all of you who posted comments on our blog and sent me more detailed emails was not wasted. Your ideas were put up for discussion, and will be considered by the Expert Panel, whose work is now underway. Thank you all again for making the time.

The NZTA team who ran the day did a superb job preparing for the Summit, and it paid dividends. Crucially, they ensured we had all the right people in the room. Equally vital – the summit format ensured we all had time make strong contributions. Thanks, NZTA, for your commitment to do everything possible to make this a ground breaking project.

Hasting’s Owen Mata (who leads the Model Community programme for walking and cycling) was a highlight of the day.

Hastings dashed cycle lane riding 300x200 Cycling Safety Summit   Hastings and New Plymouth lead the way

Hastings “dashed cycle lane” riding.

He calmly reported on the stunning result his city and New Plymouth have achieved in just 3 years in reversing public attitudes to cycling safety. Opinion polls at the outset showed 70% of Hastings residents considered (lack of) safety on the city’s roads to be a barrier to cycling.

3 years later Owen reports that 70% of  residents now consider cycling to be safe. 

Imagine if we could do that in Auckland!

AT’s March 2013 survey on cycling attitudes found that 59% cite safety concerns about Auckland’s roads as a barrier to cycling. There is no reason to expect this has changed in the past year.

 Auckland is a far larger urban area, with major traffic densities and more complex in geography and topography. However, these results from Hastings and New Plymouth show that with money, infrastructure delivery, major cycling promotions and political commitment, public confidence to cycle more is able to be won in a relatively short time.

 Here’s more inspiration from Hastings and New Plymouth. Model Communities Graphic from GDance April 2014 Cycling Safety Summit   Hastings and New Plymouth lead the way

 

Onehunga Foreshore cycle route – overnight closure.

By , April 22, 2014

Fulton Hogan’s Project Manager on the Onehunga Foreshore Restoration project has advised us of an overnight closure of the Onehunga Cycling route. Thanks, Chris!

I bring this to your attention because we unavoidably have to close the cycleway / pedestrian access along Orpheus Drive, from Cruising Club to our site gate at the bottom of Seacliffe Road, on the evening of Wednesday 23rd April, from 7pm to 5am the next morning.South Pier construction ready for lift on 23 April 2 1024x768 Onehunga Foreshore cycle route   overnight closure.

 Hopefully there won’t be too many people wanting to use it at this time of day, but I apologise for any inconvenience it may cause.

 Please let your members and other interested parties know of the disruption

 We will erect a sign at each end of the cycleway later today warning of the closure, so users will have direct advanced warning.”

 

A cycle path adjacent to the Northern motorway?

By , April 21, 2014

One of our members, Chris, asked our opinion of cycling on the emergency shoulder of the Northern Busway.  We had safety concerns re this proposition, but it was just the incentive we needed to ask NZTA about their long term plans for the corridor.  Here’s our reply.

Hi Chris

Cyclists have looked enviously at the gentle grades of the Northern motorway corridor for many years, and through Cycle Action we’ve been applying steady pressure for a cycleway adjacent to the motorway, not dissimilar to the hugely popular cycleway adjacent to the Northwestern motorway.

Northwestern Cycleway Rosebank A cycle path adjacent to the Northern motorway?

An overbridge on the Northwestern cycle path

Two factors to consider regarding your busway idea:

  • Safety while using the busway corridor
  • NZTA plans for a separated cycleway.

I’ll go through each of these in turn.

Cyclist and passenger safety
The busway and its bus stations have been designed for buses, with pedestrian interaction at the stations.  While the corridor is owned by the NZTA, AT (Auckland Transport) assume operational responsibility for the busway.

The emergency stopping shoulder is exactly that – a place where buses can pull over quickly in the event of a breakdown or emergency.  I know that both AT and NZTA would take a dim view of cyclists impeding this important function, as it would compromise the safety of both passengers on the buses, and cyclists should there be conflict when a bus is forced into a sudden action.  This is exacerbated by the relatively high speeds of the buses and slow speeds of the cyclists, particularly uphill.

There is also the issue of how cyclists would navigate through the bus stations.  With buses pulling in and out, coupled with pedestrians crossing the roadways, there is a heightened chance of conflict should cyclists be added to the mix.

We’ve also seen in the past that AT has been very protective of the busway, and is unwilling to share it with any other potentially worthy transport modes, citing prioritisation and safety for bus operations.

Another factor to consider is that Cycle Action has been lobbying hard for AT to separate buses and cyclists as much as possible.  We reject AT’s assertion that a bus lane can be a de-facto cycle lane, and always argue for separated infrastructure as much as possible on the basis that buses and cyclists just don’t mix well, particularly where the facility is not designed for separation and coexistence.

NZTA plans
So let’s turn our attention to what Cycle Action and Shore commuter cyclists would really like – a dedicated cycle path the length of the Northern motorway, from the Harbour Bridge to at least Oteha Valley Rd. Here we do have some hope.

The NZTA IS planning a cycleway adjacent to the Northern motorway, and has initial budget provision for it.  It is broken down into three sections:

  • SkyPath over the Harbour Bridge is now endorsed (if not financially backed) by the NZTA, and SeaPath from Northcote Point to Esmonde Rd, Takapuna is being actively planned.  Cycle Action is a key stakeholder with both the SkyPath Trust and NZTA to ensure this link is provisioned as effectively as possible, and provides linkages further north in due course.
  • The Akoranga to Constellation section is in NZTA’s 5-10 year program.  It is proposed to run along the western side of the motorway, however this is only at the early feasibility stage so further work will need to be done to confirm this.
  • The Constellation to Oteha Valley Road section is being looked at as part of the Northern Corridor Improvements project currently out to tender for the Investigation stage, where new and improved cycle options form part of the scope.  NZTA will have a consultant on board in June to begin the investigation.At this stage NZTA hasn’t done any work on where a cycle link would go – their consultant will be doing that over the next 18 months – however there may actually be more room on the eastern side of the motorway than the western, given that they will have to acquire land for the busway.

    The timing for the corridor upgrade is a 2017 start subject to funding, planning and consent approval.

And no, NZTA do not have any plans to extend the busway for cyclists.

So planning is in progress, albeit slowly.  Cycle Action will continue to lobby for the early completion of this link, and we are certainly regarded as key stakeholders.  However NZTA’s motivation and financing comes from the Government, and for as long as cycling infrastructure comes a distant second to Roads of National Significance (RONS), it will be a struggle.  A change of Government later this year would certainly change the focus though.

And while a north-south link would be brilliant, equally important are the east-west feeders, where we would need to engage with AT.

Summary

So in summary Chris, I can see where you’re coming from and in concept I like the idea of using an existing corridor.  However the potential hazards are such that from a safety perspective it’s not going to fly unless there’s some sort of physical separation between buses and cyclists.

I believe we should continue to lobby NZTA for early completion of a cycle path adjacent to the Northern motorway, and see SeaPath and the Constellation/Oteha links as good places to start.

Meanwhile, check out AT’s Northern cycling map - we’re seeing incremental improvements along some of the Shore’s arterials with marked cycle lanes and share with care paths being created.  Not nearly fast enough, and not along the preferred corridor, but at least it’s a nod in the right direction until NZTA deliver what we’d really like for commuter cyclists.

Feedback

We’re always keen to hear what our blog readers think of our opinions, and welcome your feedback.  Like us, are you looking forward to the day when you can ride from the upper North Shore all the way to Westhaven without having to run the gauntlet of heavy traffic or wait for a ferry?

Top 10 on the cycling wish list

By , April 21, 2014
Mayor Boris Johnson with 010 300x180 Top 10 on the cycling wish list

Chris Boardman cycling with Boris (in a very snazzy hat)

Recently Chris Boardman (British Cycling policy advisor and Olympic gold medallist in cycling) has come out swinging by saying that the conversation on cycling is heading in the wrong direction in the UK. Many of his comments are just as applicable to the cycling debate in New Zealand. In another interview, Chris Boardman stated:

There is a huge untapped demand,” he said. “About 60% of people would travel regularly by bike IF the environment looked safe and attractive. That is a massive potential when you have 35,000 deaths a year from obesity related illness and a large chunk of the 5 billion pounds a year it takes to treat that could be used preventing it.

and similar per capita numbers would apply to NZ.

amsterdam cyclists 300x171 Top 10 on the cycling wish list

This is what subjective safety looks like

Now please let’s not get distracted by the whole helmet part of the article – which after all is exactly what Chris Boardman is saying is the problem. As Chris Boardman said above, what we should talking about is what we can do to make cycling FEEL safer (the concept of subjective safety) so that it is considered a viable option by all sectors of the population – women, children, the elderly – not just young, fit males. This is how other cities have achieved their high cycling rates.

My opinion on this is unambiguous and based on the only country in the world that has made day to day cycling a real option, the Netherlands. The answer is a combination of dedicated cycle infrastructure and taking away priority on non-arterial streets from motor vehicles. Separated cycle paths aren’t always required but where they aren’t included in the streetscape, the street needs to be designed so that cars are discouraged from driving at more than 30km/h.

Some people also point to cultural issues and differences in legal liability. However, if culture and legal liability are such important factors, it becomes hard to see why cycling rates are so much lower (though much higher than NZ) in culturally and linguistically similar Belgium and Germany. Both countries have some bright spots (Munster in Germany, Ghent/Kortrijk in Belgium) but overall have much lower cycling rates than the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden or Hungary. The same can be seen in Scandinavia, where Norway and Finland have much lower cycling rates than their neighbours in Sweden and Denmark (and this despite Finland having a 20% minority of Swedes).

Dutch immigrant cycling 264x300 Top 10 on the cycling wish list

Even non-Dutch immigrants have high cycling rates (credit: View from the Cycle Path)

Even among non-Dutch immigrants, cycling rates are much higher than in their home countries.

Helmets certainly have their place in the debate. Just as helmets for motorists and pedestrians would help prevent a lot of head injuries every year. And like Chris Boardman, CAA would like to see the debate become a more sophicticated and look at the real benefits of cycling and what is holding it back.

The more of us are out there, the safer we are.

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