Surprise: Bike-friendly Netherlands named best place in the world to be a driver
Daily Hive was reporting on the results from a new index created by wayfinding app Waze:
…a new report released last week by community-based traffic and navigation app Waze, proves a place pleasant for cycling and one pleasant for driving are not mutually exclusive.
For the second year in a row, Waze’s Driver Satisfaction Index – which analyzes the driving experiences of 65 million monthly users in 38 countries and 235 cities across the globe – named The Netherlands the most satisfying place in the world to drive, specifically referencing its “smooth traffic conditions” and “solid road quality.”
It may seem counter-intuitive, but a key ingredient in creating the world’s most enjoyable driving conditions is providing the freedom to leave the car at home. With the ability to walk or cycle for short trips, tram or bus for longer trips, and use a fast, frequent national rail system for inter-city trips, the automobile is viewed as a last resort for many Dutch families.
With fewer motorists moving both short and long distances on the country’s roadways, space is freed up for those who really need it, such freight companies and emergency services. In addition to reducing the amount of congestion, this also decreases the need for road maintenance due to “wear and tear.” Finally, the report mentions the unparalleled safety of Dutch streets, statistically the safest in the world, having virtually eliminated deaths and serious injuries by engineering user error out of the equation.
But is it really a surprise that prioritising cycling, walking, and public transport makes life easier for drivers as well?
Not if you’ve been paying close attention!
To illustrate, take a look at this picture of cycle lanes on New North Road, headed east to the Dominion Road flyover. If you’re on a bike, this intersection puts you into a very stressful situation: constantly wary of the risk that a car will clip you from behind. If you’re walking, it’s also pretty unpleasant.
But this design is also bad if you are in a car, as you have to deal with the psychological stress of not knowing what other road users are going to do. Someone ahead of you on a bike could turn left, continue on, or do anything, really. That kind of uncertainty is psychologically costly.
Here’s another example of an alleged cycling facility on Tamaki Drive, at the east end of the Mission Bay shops. Again, this creates a lot of uncertainty. What on earth are you supposed to do here if you’re on a bike? Do you ride into the hazardous “door zone” next to the lane of parked cars? Head up onto the footpath? Take the lane, and hope that the car behind you doesn’t run you down?
Or are you supposed to simply dematerialise and reassemble your molecules at the point where the bike lane reappears?
Once again, this is bad for drivers and bad for cyclists. Neither party knows what the other one will do, and so both must live in fear.
One way to reduce that uncertainty is to create “negotiated spaces” where all users of the street have to communicate informally about who will go and who will give way. That works pretty well in well-designed shared spaces, where people on foot and people in cars make eye contact quite a bit. But it’s virtually impossible at an intersection like this, as cyclists and drivers are all looking forward and trying to guess what each other will do.
On most streets, the best way to reduce this uncertainty – and make life easier for everyone using the street – is to build facilities that give everyone an intuitive and convenient path. Like they do in the Netherlands.
But here’s an example of an intersection that works for people on bikes and people in cars. Unlike the flawed examples above, it’s really easy to understand what everyone has to do. The cyclists ride on the separate cycle path, and the cars drive on the road. Give-way rules are fair and easy to understand: cyclists stop when crossing the road, and cars stop when crossing the cycle path. Everything is straightforward:
Here’s another, more in-depth explanation of the underlying philosophy between Dutch intersection design:
But, you ask, what about traffic speeds? Surely giving over space to better cycling facilities will worsen congestion and driver frustration?
Well, not necessarily. Since it started implementing protected cycle lanes and other traffic calming measures, New York City has been monitoring the end outcomes, including impacts on traffic speeds. Their findings, which Eric Jaffe (CityLab) reported in 2014, contradicted expectations:
A new report on protected bike lanes released by the New York City Department of Transportation offers a great example of how rider safety can be increased even while car speed is maintained.
To see what we mean, let’s take a look at the bike lanes installed on Columbus Avenue from 96th to 77th streets in 2010-2011. As the diagram below shows, the avenue originally had five lanes—three for traffic, one for parking, and one parking-morning rush hybrid. By narrowing the lane widths, the city was able to maintain all five lanes while still squeezing in a protected bike lane and a buffer area.
Rather than increase delay for cars, the protected bike lanes on Columbus actually improved travel times in the corridor. According to city figures, the average car took about four-and-a-half minutes to go from 96th to 77th before the bike lanes were installed, and three minutes afterward—a 35 percent decrease in travel time. This was true even as total vehicle volume on the road remained pretty consistent. In simpler terms, everybody wins.
Over on Eighth Avenue, where bike lanes were installed in 2008 and 2009, the street configuration was slightly different but the traffic outcome was the same. Originally, the avenue carried four travel lanes, one parking lane, one parking-rush hybrid, and an unprotected bike lane. Again, by narrowing the lanes, all five were preserved (though the hybrid became a parking lane) even as riders gained additional protection.
After the changes, traffic continued to flow. DOT figures show a 14 percent overall decline in daytime travel times in the corridor from 23rd to 34th streets once the protected bike lanes were installed. That quicker ride was consistent throughout the day: travel time decreased during morning peak (13 percent), midday (21 percent), and evening peak (13 percent) alike. To repeat: a street that became safer for bikes remained just as swift for cars.
So what happened here to overcome the traditional idea that bike lanes lead to car delay? No doubt many factors were involved, but a DOT spokesperson tells CityLab that the steady traffic flow was largely the result of adding left-turn pockets. In the old street configurations, cars turned left from a general traffic lane; in the new one, they merged into a left-turn slot beside the protected bike lane (below, an example from 8th and 23rd). This design has two key advantages: first, traffic doesn’t have to slow down until the left turn is complete, and second, drivers have an easier time seeing bike riders coming up beside them.
There are undoubtedly ways to design cycle facilities that do not result in such positive outcomes. But the data from New York shows that is not an inevitability, even on busy urban streets. Consequently, adding safe, separated cycleways can be a win-win scenario: people in cars aren’t any worse off, as traffic speeds aren’t significantly affected, while both people in cars and people on bikes benefit from increased safety and certainty while using the street.
What do you think about the relationship between cycle facilities and driver satisfaction?
Karangahape Rd has long been one of Auckland’s most iconic streets and also one of the most important from a transport perspective, with a history stretching back to pre-European times.
In the first half of the 20th century it was one of Auckland’s premier shopping districts but over the second half it declined, in part due to the central motorway junction that cut through the area. The area has been making a comeback though with a culture all of its own. And once the City Rail link has been completed it will be teeming with even more streaming out of the K Rd station – although it would be even better if Auckland Transport built it properly with the Beresford Square entrance constructed at the same time.
After what feels like a very long gestation period, Auckland Transport are finally formally consulting on the Karangahape Rd Enhancement Project which among other things, will see safe, separated bike lanes added to what is already a popular and important route into and through the city. It is of course also an important walking route and a key bus route, serving buses from the west. In the future it could also be served by light rail from Dominion Rd.
As is normal with making street changes, some of the most nervous about change tend to be the retailers. To date the business association have been supportive of making improvements. As part of the project, AT conducted some research looking how people travel to the area and the results matched similar surveys done elsewhere. Businesses on the street thought that about 41% of their customers drove to the area yet when customers were asked that number was just 17%
The project has been split into four sections, each with different proposed solutions
Ponsonby Rd to Pitt St
This will see the proposed protected cycle lanes on Gt North Rd carried on through a more permanent and attractive implantation that will include planting and rain gardens to manage stormwater. There are also bus lanes but they will revert to parking in the off peak (AT say hours could be extended in the future). It will require the existing pedestrian build-outs to be removed and the trees relocated though. There will also be less clutter on the footpaths as furniture like street poles will be moved to the cycle lane separator. On side streets there will be pedestrian build-outs to narrow them and reduce speed.
K Rd bridge
This is a tricky section being more constrained – although the bridge is quite wide. There are also bus stops on the bridge which were rebuilt a few years ago and take up a lot of the limited space dedicated to pedestrians. AT say they’re looking at a couple of options but at the least they are proposing to move the shelters closer to the road to create more space for people and bikes behind the shelters. They also say they are investigating whether they need to have offline bus stops because if they don’t it allows for even more space for pedestrians. This seems similar to the issue with bus stops on Albert St.
The options with and without offline bus stops are both shown in the image below
Pitt St to Queen St
AT are going for a temporary solution here with a more permanent one in about 10 years time. That will mean after the CRL is completed and closer to the time when Light Rail might be being constructed. They want to use planters to trial different road layouts, such as for special events. Some earlier suggestions we’ve seen have included narrowing the road down to just two lanes with very wide footpaths to allow for more people space. Like the Ponsonby to Pitt St section, this will require the removal of the pedestrian built outs and the relocation of the existing trees. The current proposed design includes retaining the on-street parking during the off peak.
Queen St to Symonds St
ATs proposed solution for this section is similar to the western end of Quay St and the cycle lane will be raised to be level with the footpath. On the southern side next to the cemetery this will mean the footpath will be slightly reduced.
Upper Queen St
People on Bikes coming from the NW Cycleway will be able to access the Karangahape Rd cycle lanes via some new separated cyclelanes being added to Upper Queen St on either side. These lanes replace the painted median that currently exists so doesn’t affect any traffic lanes or on-street parking.
Overall the proposals look great so make sure you submit supporting them so they can become a reality.
But the next steps for the city’s nascent cycling network are, in many senses, more important. In order to get the best use out of existing cycle routes, we need to connect them to things. This means making cycle improvements on local and arterial streets to make them safer and more comfortable for people on bikes.
Auckland Transport is currently running two consultations on cycle facility improvements in the inner west. Our friends at Bike Auckland have the details.
This changes everything, as you can see from the project page and the detailed plans! As well as the installation of protected bike lanes, there’s a big bus-stop shuffle, improvements for pedestrians, and safer intersections.
Of particular interest to the bike community:
1.5m-wide cycle lane, on-road for nearly the entire length of the route, on both sides of the road, inside the bus lane – separated from the bus lane by a 0.5m physical or painted buffer.
Due to lack of space on the road, a small section of raised off-road cycle path on the existing concrete berm (past the library) heading towards Grey Lynn shops, between Coleridge Street and Crummer Road.
Narrowing of the central median to 1.7-2.2m along the length of the route.
Please ensure the cycle lane is physically separated – with a solid, durable divider!
We like the bus stop cycle bypasses – please provide as many as you can, and as much space for them as possible.
At intersections, please provide hook turns for safe right turns – we want this everyday movement to be stress-free.
Down the road slightly, there’s a lower-profile but nonetheless important consultation going on for the redesign of the Great North Rd / Bullock Track intersection. Bike Auckland has the details and the contact form for submissions. Submissions are open until 17 October – so get them done this weekend if you want to be heard:
…at some point – like when an intersection is officially listed as one of the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections in New Zealand” and “Third worst in Auckland” – you have to hope that something will finally get done.
That’s the case for the intersection of Great North Road / Bullock Track, west of Grey Lynn, which has a very long rap sheet: over fifty known crashes (including one fatality) over the last 10 years, among them one of our own close associates, who had a potentially very bad (but ultimately “lucky”) crash with an inattentive driver last year.
[…] Now, at last, Auckland Transport is proposing to provide traffic signals at this intersection to increase safety for all road users, which will also help cyclists.
Bike Auckland reviews the details of the project, and offers a verdict:
What’s good about it…
The intersection is signalised, making it less likely for that Bullock Track driver focussed entirely on getting to the other side to suddenly shoot out and ram you as you pass through on your bike, as in the case of our friend who got hit here.
A new pedestrian crossing over Great North Road replaces an old pedestrian refuge that obliged you to dash over multiple lanes. Better crossing options are good for a multi-modal city.
A longer section of bus lane into town for those taking public transport (which also functions as a small improvement for very confident on-road riders).
New zebra crossings around the motorway interchange to make those drivers pay more attention to pedestrians.
And what’s not so good…
No cycle facilities. A brand new traffic signal, just a wee ride away from the growing western cycleway network that is coming for Surrey Crescent and GNR (east of Grey Lynn into town). But no facilities for those riders, no protected lanes. And no connections westward, either – even though AT was going to look into this section after the Pohutukawa 6 were saved, and the design of GNR through the St Lukes Interchange was ‘to be rethought’, including improvements for people on bikes.
Those shared paths don’t count. Sorry, but they’re really just signs on a wide footpath (which is crowded with pedestrians when events are on). And the paths don’t lead anywhere, because directly west and east of these sections, it isn’t even legal to ride on the footpath. Sure, some people currently do – for example to get to MOTAT, Western Springs Park, or the Stadium, and the Northwestern Cycleway (and there’s a fair amount of school-age bike traffic to be spotted on the footpath morning and afternoon, an expression of how unfriendly the road space is for anyone other than very confident cyclists). But the fact that some 150m of this informal ‘heavy traffic avoidance route’ will now be legal doesn’t really change much.
Riding in the new eastbound bus lane may be better than having to claim a general lane, or riding in a narrower painted cycle lane between two lines of cars. But you’ll still have traffic to the left of you (turning into Bullock Track) and to the right of you (heading eastward on GNR) and of course, buses fore and aft. Rider beware. Would it be a better idea to allow cyclists to continue straight from the left turn lane, instead of making them use the bus lane? (NB this would only work if the footpath wasn’t built out on the northeast corner, so that riders could merge more gradually back into the bus lane once past the Bullock Track).
Some aspects of the new signal worry us a bit. Will we have motorists doing (illegal) right turns here? For example, will everyone who currently turns right out of Tuarangi obediently take the back way up the hill instead, to join GNR at the town centre? Or will some continue to risk turning right here, as is their habit? And consider the right turn into Tuarangi – it will still be allowed, but there is no dedicated right turn lane. Will people driving towards town suddenly swerve into the bus lane (where on-road cyclists will be) instead of waiting behind right turners? To be fair, we are bringing up some likely quite rare possibilities here – whereas right now, every single driver coming out of Bullock Track at peak hour is a potential hazard. But at minimum, AT will have to closely check whether such risky behaviour will happen.
Two of the three new zebra crossings around the interchange have no raised tables. How can people be sure that drivers off and onto a fast motorway will slow down and give way? Sadly, NZTA is very, very resistant to having raised tables on such lanes at their interchanges.
If you’re a regular (or aspiring) user of the cycle network in the inner west, I’d strongly encourage you to read up on the proposals and put in a submission!
This is one of a series of posts I intend to do about about the city streetscape we ought to be able to expect as a result of the CRL rebuild.
This one will describe the Council’s plans for inner western Victoria St, around the CRL portals, because it seems they are not well understood, especially by some at Auckland Transport, based on the recent release of a proposed design from the CRL team that appears to completely ignore the agreed streets level outcomes. In further posts I will:
Consider this problem; transport professionals dismissing place quality outcomes as frivolous or unnecessary, or as a threat to their authority, as a professional culture issue.
Have a close look at some of the bus routes through the City Centre, as these are often highly contested by multiple parties, and have a huge bearing on road space requirements
Last week Councillor Darby sent me a whole stack of work done by the Council on the Linear Park, I will reproduce some of this here, but I urge everyone interested to follow the links below; there’s a huge amount of multilayered work showing how the proposal was arrived at and just how important it is:
The first point I would like to make is that I am talking here about the finished outcomes not the interim ones that need to accommodate work-rounds of the street disruption caused by the construction of the CRL. This is about the early 2020s; what is best for when the CRL is open and running, when the new buildings going up, and about to go up, in the city are occupied, and the pedestrian demands are many times greater than currently. It may seem a long way off, but contracts are being agreed now, and if we aren’t careful we will find ourselves locked into poor outcomes that will prove expense to fix. And, remember, this is dividend time; when the city starts to reap the reward of all the expense and disruption of building the CRL itself. This is an important part of why we are doing it: to substantially upgrade and improve every aspect and performance of the whole city as possible, including its heart. Transport infrastructure is a means to an end; not an end in it self.
Second is to suggest that it has been perhaps a little unhelpful that Council called this reclamation of city street a ‘Park’. I can see why they have, this is a repurposing of space from vehicle use to people use, and it does offer the opportunity for new high quality design elements, which is similar to what happens in a park. But I think this undersells the full complexity of what is happening here. There is a great deal of functionality and hard rationality in this scheme, as well as the promise of beauty and the city uplifted.
The place to start is the CEWT study [City East West Transport Study]. This set a very rational and ordered taxonomy of the Centre City east west streets, concluding that Victoria St’s priority will need to shift to a strong pedestrian bias, be the only crosstown cycle route between K Rd and Quay St, and enable a reduced but still efficient general traffic load:
Note that east west bus movements are kept to Wellesley and Customs Sts. This greatly helps Victoria St’s space location as shown below. It is becoming clear that AT now want to return buses here. I believe this is a very poor idea, and will unpack why in a following post. So many poor place and pedestrian outcomes follow directly from trying to get both buses and general traffic trough inner Victoria St, and it is still a very hard street to try to shove buses through in terms of their own functionality, and that of the other general traffic. As well as leading to the total deletion of the only Centre City east/west cycle route. Here is how it was shown in CEWT:
Now turning to the newer iteration from the docs linked to above. The key issue is that the sections of the ‘Park’ around the station entrances on Victoria are focussed on pedestrian capacity rather than place amenity:
Not a park as in a verdant garden, but largely hard paving for efficient and high capacity pedestrian movement under an elevated tree canopy. Very much an urban condition tailored to met the massively increased pedestrian numbers that we know will be here. Particularly from the CRL itself, but also from the rapid growth and intensification of the whole city centre as it builds up around them, and of course the considerable bus volumes on Albert and Bus or LRT on Queen St. At the core this is simply classical ‘predict and provide’ that surely even most unreconstructed and obdurate of engineers can understand. Meeting projected pedestrian demand; not just an aesthetic upgrade, though why we wouldn’t do that while we’re at it, I can’t imagine.
Because this station sits directly below the greatest concentration of employment in the whole country, as well the biggest educational centre, retail precinct, hotel location, and the nation’s fastest growing residential population, we can expect these entrances to immediately be very busy. The plan on opening is for there to be 18 trains an hour each way through this station all with up 750 people [or even 1000 when really packed] alighting and another load boarding, all milling a round; waiting or rushing. And mixing on the streets with all the other people not even using the system. This will make for a very busy place. Their will be thousands of people walking around here at the peaks. Many more than those that use the entire Hobson/Nelson couplet in their cars over the same period. This will need space. Furthermore urban rail systems are very long term investments, what may be adequate for the first few years of the CRL is unlikely to sufficient for the years ahead, let alone decades. There is a clear need for the space for this human traffic to be generous to begin with, to err on the side of spare capacity. This really is no moment to design for the short term, once built that tunnel isn’t moving.
So has any work been done to picture this demand? Yes. Though to my inexpert eyes this looks a little light:
In particular the pedestrian traffic heading north, ie crossing Victoria St looks underrepresented. There will be no entrance to the station on the north side of Victoria street. Everyone heading that way has to come out of one of the east/west exists and crossover at street level. The document above does at least point out the pinch points between the exits and buildings on Victoria. And it is these that AT must be planning on squeezing further to get four traffic lanes back into Victoria St. One lane comes from deleting the cyclists, and the other must be from squeezing pedestrians passing the stations entrances. Just don’t AT; therein lies madness, very expensive to move a station entrance once built. And frankly a 5m width here between hard building edges is already tight and mean. Somewhere in AT the old habits of not really expecting people to turn up and low use of the very thing the agency is building seem to have crept back up to dominate thinking, and all for what? Vehicle traffic priority. The most spatially inefficient use of valuable street space in the very heart of our transforming city.
The extra wide pedestrian space that the Linear Park provides doesn’t just have value immediately around the station portals. Stretching up to Albert Park and the University beyond to the east and up on the flat plateau of western Victoria St offering a good pedestrian route to the new offices and dwellings on Victoria St West and Wynyard Quarter beyond. But as the distance increases from the big sources of pedestrians then the condition of the amenity can become more place focussed and more planting and ‘lingering’ amenity can be added, yet it will still need to primarily serve these Active Mode movement functions well:
And it is important to acknowledge this is a ‘substantial change’ from present condition. The Council recognise, and it is impossible to disagree, that there is nothing to be gained by trying sustain the status quo here. The CRL is brings huge change to the city and how it is used and this needs to be reflected in very nature of our streets as well as in our travel habits:
The Centre City Cycle Network is hopelessly incomplete without some way to access both the Queen St valley and Victoria Park from the Nelson St Cycleway. And if not on Victoria then where? Not with all the buses and bus stops on Wellesley St.
And lastly, other than the never fully successful Aotea Square there has been no new public realm in the City Centre since the Victorians set out Albert, Victoria, and Myers parks. There are now many more people living, working, and playing in the city than ever before, and other than repurposing, or burying, motorways, or demolishing buildings, the streets are the only chance to provide quality space for everyone. This is so much more valuable than slavishly following last century’s subjugation to motor vehicle domination. We know better than this now. Vehicles will fit into whatever space we provide and people will flood the rest. And the later is the more valuable street-use for a thriving, more inclusive, and competitive, and sustainable urban centre to lead the nation this century.
This is a guest post by our most august regular reader Warren Sanderson.
Over many years I have developed a dislike for what the concentration of motorway/roading only expenditure is doing to our cities and particularly Auckland. This heavy concentration on roading expenditure with ever widening multi-lane roads is promoting unsustainable car dominance and frequent severance of neighbourhoods from parts previously closely aligned. In other words, it is not doing much for “quality of place”.
I have been reading Transport Blog regularly for some years now because of my interest in architecture and city design and why some cities have so much more appeal as places to visit and live in than other cities.
And over the years Portland is frequently mentioned and photographed in Transport Blog as one of those desirable urban places for living.
So seeing that Portland was the only North American west coast city of any significance that I hadn’t visited, it was time for my wife and me to go.
But first I have to confess to recently attaining 80 years of age. I didn’t aspire to reach this age – it just crept up on me. And going forward there can’t be many advantages in reaching 80 but the reason I mention it is twofold:
When entering the U.S. this time they did not want to fingerprint me or make me take off my belt and shoes when going through security. The terrorist potential of 80 plus’ers must be considered low. My ‘young’ wife however, who in any event would cause far less trouble than me, got the full treatment.
The second advantage, although one only needed to be 65 for this, was one of nomenclature. We were not merely ‘pensioners’, not even ‘senior citizens’ but were ‘Honoured Citizens’ (Generation Zero take note!) and as such were entitled to half cost of the already modest cost of public transit on the TRI-MET System.
Upon arrival the volunteer information staff at Portland Airport quickly provided us with a ‘Journey Plan’ to the Benson Hotel in Downtown Portland. Other volunteer staff watched over our ticket machine purchase and another directed us to a substitute bus – all so friendly. Because the light rail line was undergoing maintenance a free shuttle bus took us to Kenton N Denver where we transferred to light rail for the remainder of the journey.
And wow! The cost for each of us was $ US 1.25. Unhonoured citizens pay double. If you choose to go by taxi I am told the cost is $ US 39 – 40.
On this basis, Auckland Airport, New Zealand Government policy, NZTA and AT together, have enormous scope/margin for improvement and it is fair to say that the travelling consumer with the lack of alternatives in Auckland, is being totally ripped–off, both financially and by insipid policy.
Our hotel was the Benson Hotel. It was well located on the corner of SW Oak and Broadway. I am not sure when it was built but it is impressively Edwardian in character and especially in the lobby area.
From the picture you can see that a considerable portion of the façade is red brick and visually set on a solid base. It was designed to impress which is nothing less than you would expect from Simon Benson, the original owner.
The Benson name crops up frequently in Portland. Benson made a fortune in the timber trade and then moved on to other ventures, activities and also to philanthropy. He gifted land including impressive waterfalls for state parks along the Colombia River Gorge. In Portland itself, he donated the ‘Benson Bubblers’ (a complete water system) that you can see on so many street corners. See picture below –
Portland’s street pattern is mainly organised on a grid system. Because each block is of fairly small dimension the city is reasonably pedestrian friendly. Most crossings do not have a beg button but don’t let your attention stray as there is no pedestrian buzzer. As a pedestrian you need to keep watch or you will miss your turn.
With some notable exceptions the buildings are not usually more than 5 or 6 storeys in height. Many are pared back Louis Sullivan Chicago Style which I find aesthetically pleasing – c.f. our General Building on the corner of Shortland and O’Connell Streets.
And yes, in Portland there are many buildings both older and more recent that are faced in brick. Portland has a high winter rainfall just like Auckland and brick certainly evokes the feeling of shelter and warmth far better than ever grey concrete can do. See pictures below –
On my return to Auckland I am pleased to note that Ockham’s new Bernoulli Gardens apartment development at Hobsonville Point will offer a European brick façade with some white relief and contemporary detailing. I hope this is a trend and that architects and builders stop trying to con us all, that we are part of the Mediterranean.
Let us return to the reason for visiting Portland – that is to use and explore their light train transit system.
Well wow! It is so easy to use – even for strangers. We walked three short blocks up to Pioneer Courthouse Square and purchased a number of HR (remember Honoured Citizen) Day Pass tickets at $ US 2.50 each. They need to be validated before use, at the little machine at the train stop. In the centre of Portland itself the trains run each way a street apart but with the aid of the TRI-MET System Map you soon get used to it.
For our first trip we took the Beaverton train westwards which soon enters a long rail only tunnel under the Washington Park hills before arriving at the Beaverton Transit Centre. We then took the Hillsboro train which comes on the same route but continues much further out to Hillsboro where Saturday Market was in full swing.
The light rail train goes fairly slowly on its tram style rails in the city but goes much faster on its railway style rails once it is on its own dedicated way a little further out.
On our final day we returned to the airport, initially part way by bus because of the maintenance and the rest of the way by light train from the Gateway Transit Centre – again the cost was $ US 1.25 each.
TRI-MET advertise that 45% of commuters and 45% of students use Transit every day and I understand that in Portland 6% of commuters bike to work each day compared with .5% of commuters in the U.S. nationally.
Not everything in Portland is perfect however. On the eastern side of the Willamette River there is a plethora of freeways flanking the river. You only have to go to the 30th floor of the U.S. Bankcorp Building to obtain a great view of the city and of these motorways including entries and exits snaking and weaving on the far river bank. Many are elevated like our motorways in the sky at Auckland’s Waterview and frankly all are rather ugly.
And then there is the question of stigma – the belief among some that only lower status people use transit. For example, when checking in for our departure at the airport, I commented that we had used Portland’s excellent public transit system to reach the airport and the attractive airline girl replied “Yes, it is very cheap but you get some funny fellow travellers”.
I thought about this comment afterwards and to a very limited extent had to agree with it on that particular route. In the other direction to Beaverton and Hillsboro all passengers had seemed ‘very normal’ so I guess in large measure, passengers are reflective of areas transit serves. Furthermore the latter route goes through a long tunnel because of the natural barrier of the Washington Park hills which may make driving at peak over more winding roads a less attractive alternative, thereby upping the patronage.
Maybe too, the overcoming of the significant natural barrier of the Washington Park hills, would in turn, appear to be an indicator of success for light rail from the new Aotea Station under Auckland Harbour to the populous North Shore.
From the significant disruption of building the City Rail Link we get two huge benefits. First and foremost, we get a tunnel that transforms our rail network and allow significantly more people to travel around the region free of congestion. But for many of our city streets, it also delivers us blank slate from which we can deliver on the visions that have already been created for the future of the city. It is an opportunity too important to waste. And yet as we highlighted last week, Auckland Transport seem determined to waste that opportunity with their awful plans Albert St and the roads that cross it.
At their heart, AT’s plans once again show that many transport engineers and institutions seem to desperately cling to the belief that their role is to find ways of accommodating a set (and growing) level of traffic demand. In doing so they often fail to recognise that drivers respond to road network provided to them.
Adding traffic lanes and supersizing intersections is almost always a vain attempt to ‘solve congestion’. But any relief is normally only short lived because traffic tends to act like a gas, expanding to fill any space made available to it. Conversely it has now been seen time and time again that removing capacity from the road network results in traffic melting away as drivers respond to the changes.
Some of the most famous examples worldwide have been the removal of an elevated highway and restoration of the stream under it in Cheonggyecheon, Seoul, the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco after it collapsed in the Loma Preita earthquake and recently Paris has permanently closed off a section of road along a bank of the Seine. These have actually resulted in net reductions in vehicle numbers as drivers find alternative routes or change how and when they travel.
Back here in Auckland we now have our own real life experiment underway right now thanks to the works to construct the CRL. Parts of Albert, Customs, Victoria, Wellesley and Wyndham Streets are currently shadows of their former selves having been narrowed down for works, in some cases significantly. An example of this is highlighted well by the image from my post the other day on the construction progress of the City Rail Link looking at the Albert/Customs/Fanshawe intersection. As you can see:
Albert St south of the intersection has been narrowed down to just one lane southbound with the other five lanes closed off for construction works.
Albert St north of the intersection only allows for vehicles to travel northbound. The southbound lanes are closed due to the proximity to the under demolition Downtown site.
Customs St has also been narrowed down to just one lane each way through the intersection. Previously there were three lanes westbound and two eastbound.
While the works are the scale they are for a reason, in many locations AT also appear to have adopted a policy of trying to minimise disruption for motorists resulting in footpaths that have been cut back and pedestrian phases changed to provide as much capacity for cars as they can. Yet for months now Auckland Transport have pushed the message that people need to change how they travel to avoid carmegeddon including through the use of Jerome Kaino to help push the message.
Based on results so far, I think we can say that Auckland Transport’s message has got through and/or that we’re seeing the same result as those examples mentioned earlier. This is because one of the most notable outcomes from the works so far has been a lack of major traffic issues. Peak time congestion doesn’t appear to be any worse than it was before the works started and during the day these roads can still be eerily empty, as this picture from looking South of Wellesley shows.
These works and previous city centre improvements show that the drivers will adapt to changes, that the city doesn’t grind to a halt. It confirms we can shape or city to promote more of the things we want and less of the things we don’t.
Therefore we believe we need to start looking differently at how we approach roads in the city centre. In some cases, plans that even a few years ago were considered visionary or even just “the best we could hope for” are now starting to look tame. We need to completely rethink how we approach space in the city centre and we can start but looking overseas.
Most great cities that we look to have come to realise that right priority for transport in cities is something like below.
We need to start thinking the same way too. And not just on those streets most directly affected by the CRL works. Take Customs St as an example. In places it is currently up to seven lanes wide. The City East-West Transport Study (CEWT) suggested the pedestrian space increase a little bit but that there would still be at least three lanes each way.
Yet the image above shows that at one location at least, Customs St has been reduced to just one lane each way and last time I looked the sky was still well above my head. Perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board and rethink what we want for the city. Let’s be bolder and perhaps start by answering questions like:
Do we really need four general traffic lanes on Customs St?
Do we need traffic on Quay St at all?
How soon can we pull down the awful Hobson St flyover?
Can we be bolder in how we redesign Hobson and Nelson Streets, including returning them to two way streets?
Why do we still even have cars in Queen St?
Can we make Fanshawe St less like a motorway sewer?
We obviously can’t do everything at once what the CRL works perfectly show is that drivers will adapt, that the sky won’t fall so we might as well be bold and design a world-class city. And of course until we can deliver that bold design, we can always start by trialling it New York style with some planters and temporary solutions.
Some good news yesterday that the Quay St cycleway counter has now passed 50,000 and it has done so in less than 3 months.
What’s more it was reader and friend of the blog, Lance Wiggs who saw it click over the 50k mark.
The waterfront cycle counter clicked over to 50,000 today less than three months after it was opened by Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Prime Minister John Key and Mayor Len Brown.
Lance Wiggs took the 50,000th cycle trip on the Quay St Cycleway at 9 this morning.
Mr Wiggs, who lives in the city centre, says the Quay St Cycleway has really improved safety for people cycling. “I used to cycle here mingling with pedestrians or you could choose to cycle on the road and share with the trucks. Now you get to cycle without any trucks or people around you.”
The two way, protected cycleway which is on the waterfront side of Quay St from Lower Hobson to Plumer St, has proved hugely popular. The 1km route is attracting a large number of commuters from the east and west as well as people cycling for recreation.
The popularity of this and other new cycleways like the pink Lightpath has a lot to do with people new to cycling says AT Cycling and Walking manager Kathryn King. “We know that people want cycleways that keep people on bikes protected from general traffic like this one on Quay St. What is really encouraging for us is to see all the people new to cycling who are choosing to travel into the city centre by bike.
“As the network becomes more connected we expect to see sharp increases in the number of people cycling into and around the city centre. With all the works going on in the city centre, cycling really is proving to be a great travel option.”
The new infrastructure is endorsed by Barbara Cuthbert, from Bike Auckland “We’re delighting in the new counting post on Quay St. Every person biking past is boosted with the knowledge they’re doing their bit to reduce congestion.”
The Quay St Cycleway, which has funding from the Government through the Urban Cycleways Programme, has averaged 570 cycle trips a day since it opened in early July.
With summer fast approaching I suspect it will take even less time to see another 50,000 trips clocked up on the cycleway.
And while on the topic, I can highly recommend the post on the same topic from our friends at Bike Auckland.
We’re always on the lookout for interesting new pieces of transport data. Smartphone apps and automated trip counters provide an increasing amount of usable, timely data that can tell us how, where, and (at times) why we’re travelling.
But transport agencies aren’t the only people with data. I recently ran across two interesting sources of data on cycling that are being collected and published by private companies.
First, Strava, a social network that allows cyclists and runners to track their routes and publish them online, recently published a global map of user-submitted cycling routes. While Strava is targeted more towards athletes (or at least weekend warriors) than everyday cycle commuters, it still provides an interesting glimpse into where some people are cycling. (But not all!)
Here’s Auckland. This map pretty clearly shows the impact of recreation/sports cycling – although major commuter routes like Lake Road, Tamaki Drive, and the Northwestern Cycleway show up strongly, so does Scenic Drive in the Waitakeres, which is definitely not a common commuting route:
Here’s Christchurch – again, some of the same patterns, with hilly rides to the south of the city showing up stronger than cycling within the city:
And here’s Wellington. Perhaps not surprisingly, the busiest Strava corridors are on the flat areas around the edge of the harbour, and the ride up to the Hutt Valley:
Second, I happened to find out that the data from the automated cycle counter that AT installed on the Quay St cycleway is published online by Eco-Counter, alongside data from a whole bunch of similar counters around the world. (The only similar counter in NZ is in Hastings.)
The data shows daily trips on the Quay St cycleway. We’ve just ticked over 41,000 trips, or an average of 574 per day since it opened:
That’s pretty good for Auckland, but Eco-Counter’s data also shows how much better we could be. For instance, here’s a cycle counter in Freiburg, Germany, which I wrote about after a visit last December. They get an average of 9,134 cycle trips per day passing by their city centre counting point:
Closer to home, here’s a cycle counter in Darebin, a middle-suburban part of Melbourne, that gets more trips a day than Quay St – 1,340 cyclists a day on average. If the Australians can manage that in the ‘burbs, why can’t we?
As always, discussion is encouraged! Also, if you have any additional sources of interesting data, leave them in the comments.
Earlier this year Auckland Transport consulted on walking and cycling routes for the Inner West of Auckland with improving connections in the area included as part of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Programme. In August they released the results of the consultation which saw 865 submissions. The consultation also included an online map where people could identify issues and in addition to the submissions mentioned, there were 484 pins dropped on the map from 75 people.
In total from the submissions AT say 5,332 routes were suggested which when grouped together resulted in 381 individual routes. There were also 2681 issues or concerns identified which when grouped by location boiled down to 303 in the area. These are shown below where you can see some fairly strong trends emerge.
As a result of this, AT revised their cycle network for the area to the one below.
When completed, and of course depending on the quality of the infrastructure, this part of the city will end up with a well-connected cycle network. Unfortunately, not everything is able to be built within the current funding window to mid-2018 and so following on from the initial consultation, Auckland Transport are now consulting on four specific cycleway proposals for the area. There are a combination of protected cycleways, on-road cycle lanes and traffic calming measures. They’ll also improve things for pedestrians and in some cases buses too. The four routes are shown below.
AT are looking at two different options for this 2km section, and both will see at least parts of the route have parking protected bike lanes installed. Where the two options differ is to amount of the route that is on the street with option A including some sections placed on the grass verge to retain more on street carparking and a painted median. As a result of the differences over the 2km, Option A would see the removal of around 40 carparks (10-15%) while option B would remove about 120 carparks (35-40%). AT say based on parking surveys there will still be enough parking on these routes and side roads to accommodate demand. Below shows the cross section of one part of the route where the two options are different.
AT are looking at options for how to deal with the bus stops along this route and options include using floating bus stops, where the bus stop is effectively on an island with cycle lane going behind it. In addition to the cycle lanes, AT are planning on improving pedestrian crossings.
This 1.2km section appears to be more of the traditional painted cycle lane approach we’ve seen in the past. AT say “people on bikes will be separated from pedestrians and vehicles to create a safer, more enjoyable journey for all” but the plans show carparks being retained against the kerb protected by the meat barrier offered by passing cyclists. Of course is almost certainly not going to encourage less confident cyclists or children to use the route. Here’s one example from the drawings.
As a positive though it is good to see items like pedestrian build outs on entrances to side streets – but why divert the footpath away from the desire line, will almost certainly be ignored by people.
Many parts of this route already exist and for the most part, the plans for this route involve traffic calming roads to improve safety on them for people on bikes. At the Gt North Rd end of the route on Grosvener this even includes using back in angle parking which I’m not sure I’ve seen in Auckland before.
This is will be the most visible of all of the routes and easily the most used too, especially with all of the apartment development currently underway along here. All up 1.5km of Gt North Rd will have protected cycleways added – with one small exception – while the bus lanes will still be retained and even enhanced. The cross section of the road will look like the Streetmix layout below. The one exception is on the corner outside the Grey Lynn Library where there isn’t enough space to keep protected lanes on the road – in this location a shared path will be provided for less confident cyclists.
In addition to the bike lane changes, things will also improve for buses. The bus lanes will have their ours of operation extended by an hour in the morning and afternoon (City-bound 7-10am, West-bound 4-7pm) and they will be continuous along this stretch of road rather than disappearing frequently. There will also be a rationalisation of bus stops along the route with it dropping from 14 stops in 10 stops across both directions. The bus stops will likely be a mix of floating bus stops and likely some other solutions too. Both of these improvements should help in speeding up buses. The changed bus stop locations are shown below.
Overall there are some good wins here across a number of areas which is great to see. If you look at the details, you’ll see a couple of key sections missing with the two big ones being the Karangahape/Gt North/Ponsonby Rd intersection and through the Grey Lynn shops. The first of those two is being investigated as part of the K Rd project underway while the Grey Lynn shops will be looked at separately. Given the anger from some locals about the bus stop there, I’m guessing some retailers will really fight changes very hard.
We’re launching a campaign for a truly bikeable Auckland – and calling on the incoming council and local boards to commit to the vision, with a vital network, more local links, and safer streets.
We’d love you to sign on. Here’s why…
Six weeks ago, Auckland Council voted unanimously to greenlight SkyPath, the missing link for our bikeable future. What gave them the courage to do that? You did! You spoke up ten thousand strong in favour of SkyPath. Our city leaders heard your enthusiasm, loud and clear. And they saw what it looks like on a map when everyone who’s keen to bike in this city puts up their hands.
It was the same when you showed up en masse for the opening of the iconic pink Lightpath. And when you came along on the Sunday Best Ride. And when we flooded into K Rd for a day of Open Streets, where every other overheard comment was ‘Can’t we do this every weekend?’.
The sheer joy of people of all ages, walking and biking happily in a beautiful city, is a powerful thing to witness. It’s a powerful thing to be part of. And a powerful impulse for change.
Now, with the local election just around the corner (voting starts 16 September!), we’re counting on you to help make bikes count again.
Why now? Because our city’s at a tipping point for everyday cycling, thanks to a recent burst of ‘kickstarter’ investment from central government and the transport levy. The network effect is kicking in, as more and more cycleways are built and connected. The CBD and isthmus are the current focus, with links to other transport hubs – but our vision has always been to get that bike-friendly energy happening all over the city. Ultimately, we want every neighbourhood to be bikeable by every person who wants to bike.
What’s a ‘bikeable’ city? It’s a humble notion. A bikeable distance is not too far. A bikeable route is not too hilly. A bikeable expedition is not too onerous. A bikeable neighbourhood is one where it makes sense – and feels safe and normal– to use a bike instead of a car for short trips.
It’s also a big vision. A bikeable city is a city that’s fully enabled for bikes. A bikeable city allows people of all ages to get around on bikes whenever they feel like it. A bikeable city is accessible without a car (especially when combined with public transport). A bikeable city takes safe streets as read. A bikeable city is all sorts of other things too, as anyone who’s travelled (or remembers the good old days) can attest. Quieter. Friendlier. Fitter. Healthier. More efficient. And fun.
Who’s a bikeable city for? Everyone who says they’d bike more if it felt safer (60% of Aucklanders, according to a 2015 Auckland Transport survey; 92% of people who answered a 2013 poll by the AA!). All of us who go somewhere safe to ride for fun on the weekend, and wish we could do it from home, too. Everyone who’d like to travel further and faster than you can on foot, while enjoying fresh air and the buzz of getting around under your own steam.
Abetter city for bikes is a better city for everyone. All around the world, cities are realising they can’t squeeze more cars in and still feel like a place you want to live. Bikes offer a cheap-as-chips solution to a growing city’s needs:
a fast track to a sustainable future
expanding access to growing public transport networks
regular activity for over-scheduled folk
transport options for kids and teenagers and the elderly
handy transport for local trips
one less car on the road and one more healthy citizen on the go
magical short-cuts around peak-hour congestion
A truly bikeable Auckland is within reach… as long as we keep up the momentum at every level. The budget and the know-how are out there. It just takes political will. That means us wanting it enough to ask our city leaders to make it happen.
PS Over the coming weeks we’ll dig deeper into each element of our three-part vision. We’ll also track where the candidates stand. Some of the ‘bike burb’ groups are interviewing local board candidates; we’re inviting candidates to commit to the vision so you can see who’s bike-friendly. Watch this space.