Apartments, tower cranes, and the coming new cycling/walking amenity right in the heart of the city’s motorway singularity.
I attended their launch party yesterday along with a number of readers, politicians from both sides of the political fence as well as staff from various organisations including the The Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and NZTA which was great to see.
Well done on the change and the logo looks great.
In just over a week on December 3rd what will be one of Auckland’s most iconic cycleways will be officially opened. The old Nelson St offramp and the cycleway down Nelson St as far as Victoria St are both nearing completion and for the offramp that means they’re laying down the pink surface that will make it so distinctive. Patrick and I took a quick look at it on Sunday when workers were busy adding some colour to the city. Since then a lot more has been done with pictures today showing some parts pink across the full width.
It’s certainly both bright and very distinctive. It’ll be interesting to see it from satellite images.
Here’s a pick that our friends at Bike Auckland tweeted today showing one section that has now been fully pinked
The good folks at Bike Auckland are already an evening ride planned for the night of the third to celebrate the opening the cycleway.
I didn’t take any photos of Victoria St but one thing I can say is I was suprised by how easy the grade was, much better than I had been expecting.
I’m looking forward to this being open.
Auckland Transport are really picking up the pace on their cycleway projects – which they have to do if they want to have any chance of making the most of the governments Urban Cycleway Fund – and are today starting consultation a cycleway on Quay St. The stretch from Queen St to Lower Hobson St is possibly the busiest place in all of Auckland for bikes a dedicated cycleway will make things much better for both those on bikes and those on foot.
The project will see a 3m protected two way cycleway built along most of the northern side of Quay St from the Lower Hobson St intersection through to Plumber St – I’ll talk about the exception to this in more detail later in the post. This cycleway is actually an interim solution for around a decade until a more permanent solution is created when Quay St is made more people friendly (after the CRL is finished). As such it will be a bit of a mix with the cycleway separated by a rubber kerbs, some sections where the path is raised to the same height as footpath and one section of shared path. Due to how busy the area is with bikes and how key it is for many bike movements it was felt the project couldn’t afford wait till the larger Quay St project to happen hence why they’re pushing it now.
AT say the reason for the cycleway being on the Northern side is:
To make space for the cycleway AT will be removing the planted median islands to the west of Queen St and combining some of the dedicated right turn lanes with the lanes going straight.
The benefits AT list are:
Below are the diagrams of what is proposed (click to enlarge)
Section 1 starts off from the Lower Hobson St intersection. As the Nelson St Stage 2 section is still under review I guess it’s possible that the crossings could change. The cycleway is raised to be level with the footpath however hopefully with it being on the south of the trees it will mean that pedestrians stay out of it.
Section 2 shifts to a cycleway at road level but protected by kerbs.. You can also see the accessway with a blue line where low level mountable kerbs – like was used on the first stage of Beach Rd.
Section 3 is where things get odd. It appears that the cycleway narrows outside the ferry building before eventually moving back to a shared path in front of Queens Wharf. This is for a number of reasons which I’ll explain later.
Section 6 will see the removal of some oddly placed carparks and again it looks like the cycleway narrows just before the end.
Section 7 has the cycleway moves to being alongside the footpath and like section just to the east of the lower Hobson St intersection. It’s unclear what AT will do to prevent or restrict people from walking in the cycle lane.
Overall I think this cycleway will be very popular and it’s good that AT are progressing it however I have a serious concern for the section around Queens Wharf where it goes back to a shared path. This probably wouldn’t be so much of an issue if it was in some of the eastern sections but it is here as that’s where a lot of people are. AT have said there are four reasons for doing this.
These have to be some of the four weakest excuses I’ve heard for not doing something properly (even though it’s only an interim solution. Lets step through them.
Sometimes it really feels like we are constantly taking two steps forward and one step back with some of this stuff.
Consultation is open till 11 December at www.AT.govt.nz/haveyoursay
There will also be an information day on Thursday 26 November from 6pm to 8pm in the Cloud.
There have been a couple of pieces of news out of Wellington in the last few days.
The first is that the NZTA have decided to build the pedestrian and cycle path between Petone and Ngauranga on the seaward side of the rail tracks – the other option was between the tracks and the road.
The path will be 3m wide with a 1m shoulder on each side which is to allow space should there need to be maintenance on the rail network. It certainly looks better and will be a more pleasant experience than being squeezed between the road and the tracks. It will obviously require a lot of reclamation to occur along the waterfront and will be interesting to see how that goes with consenting. The NZTA say that as they haven’t finalised the plans yet it may be possible to design it so it could also provide an opportunity to straighten the rail tracks in the future.
Being flat it would be a nice easy ride and on a nice day it would be a fantastic way to arrive into the city from the north – although probably not much fun if a strong southerly was blowing.
Connections on either side of the route are currently being funded as part of the Government’s Urban cycleway fund to the tune of $19 million however this middle section falls outside of that funding. The total project is expected to cost about $54 so that would put this part with reclamation at $35 million an isn’t expected to start till 2019 financial year.
An interesting aspect to the project is that it isn’t just about creating a cycleway but also about improving the reliance of the road and rail networks beside it. This should help prevent a repeat of what happened in 2013 when a large chunk of the rail formation was washed away disrupting travel for a week.
Overall this looks like a good decision from the NZTA and it sounds very similar to what’s needed for Seapath in Auckland
The proposed route is below.
One of the more interesting decisions is that the NZTA have now said they will only upgrade the motorway through Tawa if they need to in the future after the current projects are finished. This is an approach I wish they’d take with more projects.
I’m guessing that with the level of growth that Wellington is experiencing that even the NZTA were struggling to justify spending more.
However when speaking about justification there were a number of comments in the NZTA press release that set my BS detector off. I don’t know enough about the project to say categorically that what the NZTA claim is false but many of the comments are similar to ones they’ve made about other dubious projects. For example, the NZTA claim this route will allow Wellington to reap economic benefits. This isn’t to say there aren’t any but my guess they’re probably not as big as claimed for a couple of reasons.
The NZTA say the new motorway will cost $250 to $270 million which seems extremely unlikely given the size of the road and terrain it travels through. As a comparison the Hobsonville motorway opened in 2011 covering about the same distance and which cost $220 million. This project seems to require massive civil works to move hillsides. To see the impact watch the video on the Stuff article to see impact. Higher costs will obviously reduce the BCR of the route.
They claim time savings of up to 30 minutes per day. This is likely to be mostly people travelling to east-west destinations but I wonder how many actually need to do that. Even getting the demand and time savings results a little wrong could have big impacts on the projected usage and therefore the benefits that accrue from the project.
Last week I spent a few days on the Gold Coast and I wrote about their great new light rail system. While I was there I was also struck by a few other observations – in particular cycling. It started on the way from the airport when I noticed multiple large groups of teenagers all getting around on bikes – many of which were sit-up city bikes rather than BMX or mountain bikes. As this is something you don’t see too much here, it immediately stood out.
I thought that perhaps initially it was just a one off, but the more I looked around the place the more saw people of all ages, genders and body sizes riding bikes. Further, on many of the street corners I noticed a lot of small bike racks, and they most often had a handful of bikes locked up to them. To be clear, in no way am I talking about anything close to Dutch or Danish levels of cycling but it was a difference from Auckland. Note: I stuck to the beach corridor so things might be quite different in the suburbs.
As someone who advocates to make Auckland more bike friendly, this intrigued me as to what caused this – especially given Australia is the only other country in the world¹ with a law requiring people on bikes wear helmets.
Now of course the Gold Coast has a couple of things going for it right off the bat, it’s flat and warm which, while not the sole determinant of bike use, certainly don’t hurt. But from the experience we’ve seen in other cities that’s not enough to drive bike use, infrastructure is.
Next I thought I’d look to see what level of bike infrastructure exists, assuming there must be some sort of bike network. So I searched and I searched and to my surprise struggled to find anything. The closest thing to any bike infrastructure was the wide walkway and separate shared path alongside some of the beach at Surfers Paradise – but that’s only about 750m in length.
Next to the beach walkway the road had these markings. I guess you could call them sharrows but there wasn’t much space for cycling, and I’m not sure why you use it given the walkway above is right next to it.
The only other infrastructure I saw was very poor on road cycle lanes on the main North-South route – the Gold Coast Highway. By poor I mean a strip of very faded paint – often quite narrow and in the door zone of parked cars. The image below was one of the better locations.
If good bike infrastructure didn’t exist, what was it that was generating the bike use I was seeing. I had to think back to all of the times I’d seen people on bikes and there was one common denominator, they were all riding on the footpath. A quick google confirmed my observation with Queensland allowing people ride on the footpath – as does Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory.
As we know, people will ride more if they feel safe, and in the absence of bike infrastructure a footpath often provides a much safer environment than a road does. With the exception of some high pedestrian areas, allowing cycling on footpaths effectively creates an instant network. Naturally the biggest concern is the interaction between bikes and pedestrians, and just how that works in real life is hard to tell, but everyone seemed to get on OK. Unlike on a shared path where the width encourages people on bikes to ride a little faster – and get frustrated by pedestrians taking up the whole thing – a narrow footpath encourages slower speeds allowing for better interaction. Queensland also has a requirement that people on bikes give way to people on the footpath, although I’m not sure how well that is enforced or if it needs to be.
In my view allowing riding on footpaths definitely isn’t a substitute for a high quality cycle network but perhaps it’s something we should consider in the interim, at the very least just for kids to help encourage parents to let their children ride to school.
On that note, perhaps my last observation was the most powerful. From the top of a double decker bus to the airport as I was going to leave we passed a school – I happened to have a seat upstairs right at the front so had a great view and while gazing out of the window I noticed the school had a bike storage area and this is what it looked like.
My guess is there are at least 50-100 bikes parked up in this space from kids who have ridden to school. That may not be Copenhagen or Amsterdam levels but seems fairly impressive for this corner of the world, and in the context of what we’re used to seeing in Auckland where very few kids will ride.
What do you think, should people be able to ride a bike on the footpath?
¹Some specific cities/provinces/states in other countries require them but they’re not a requirement for the entire country.
While we’re on the topic of silly things said in the media, there was another one late last week on Radio NZs The Panel. In the section where the panellists can raise a topic of their own Michelle Boag raised the issue of the Nelson St cycleway.
Or listen here
She is incredulous at Auckland Transport for what she says is deliberately causing congestion by adding a cycle lane to Nelson St. Here are a couple of thoughts about her rant
As mentioned this morning in the busy morning peak Nelson St moves about 6,000 people per hour – this will drop off the further north you go. At its widest points around intersections the road has up to six traffic lanes while in other places it has five lanes and a parking lane. This is more than enough space for the amount of traffic that the road carries – in part due because there are only so many people that can exit the motorway at any one time. Even the times I’ve been in a car in the morning peak I can’t recall a time when Nelson St was congested
Taking some space for a protected cycle lane is unlikely to have much impact on the traffic lanes beside it with the biggest disruption likely to be caused by the safety procedures needed for the construction than the cycleway itself. In saying that the old phrase “you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic” springs to mind.
One of the points of projects like the Nelson St cycleway is to give people a realistic choice how they get around. The more people cycling and using the new cycleway the fewer there may be on the road.
She talks about the old off-ramp but says she doesn’t know where the cycleway goes. Perhaps when she was asking Auckland Transport what the project was she should have asked about this aspect too.
One aspect she may not be aware of is the strong political support for the project from the government. In fact the project launch was also where they launched the first round of projects as part of their urban cycleway fund.
The comments also from Dr Brian Edwards were a bit odd. He talked about the need to keep cyclists and vehicles separate which is of course exactly what this project is designed to do.
For Michelle at least perhaps and extra five minutes spent googling may have saved her so much angst.
Here’s the latest installment of Sunday Reading starting with a cartoon cameo of parking guru Donald Shoup.
Eric Jaffe. “California’s DOT Admits That More Roads Mean More Traffic“, CityLab.
Joe Cortright. “A “helicopter drop” for the asphalt socialists“, City Observatory.
Carlin Carr. “The War on Cars Is Winnable“, Next City. An interesting long read about how countries are moving away from car-based transportation systems.
Sarah Oberklaid. Melbourne: a case study in the revitalization of the city laneways, part 1, part 2, The Urbanist.
Opinion. “A slower speed limit would make Wellington even more delightful“, Stuff.
Daniel Simons, “A Simple Solution for Distracted Driving“, The Wall Street Journal. I’ve never understood why mobile phones aren’t disabled automatically or even voluntarily while people are driving. Here’s a story about how a robust “driving mode” on smart phones would save lives.
Last week the council announced the outcome of consultation into the design of Freyberg Square and the Ellen Melville Hall. The proposal was for the hall to be upgraded including removing the ground floor retail and turning that into a community space. The square would be upgraded and importantly Freyberg Place would be would be pedestrianised and incorporated into the square. In to total they received 337 pieces of feedback.
The report on the consultation (1.5MB) shows there was strong support for both the upgrade of the square and the hall with only four percent saying they don’t like the design of the hall and 7 percent saying they don’t like the design of the square.
As you can also see there was strong support for the removal of Freyberg Place and on it’s own it had one of the most lopsided responses. Out of the 306 responses to the idea a massive 84% supported the idea.
The council say that those that opposed the changes were mostly local businesses, some of who have long been vocal supporters of retaining the status quo for the entire area. The quoted comments in the report mostly talk about concerns of flow of traffic and congestion from removing the street however in the report they also talk about it being very lowly used in which case removing it won’t really have an impact. Anyway if it did happen to cause congestion it might mean a few more drivers look out their window and actually see the shops and want to visit them, at least there would be a better chance of that than if they are racing through.
Unsurprisingly a similarly strong number also supported changes proposed to Courthouse Lane which included changing the direction and adding a raised table between the square and the Chancery.
Again most of the support seems to have come from the general public while it is retailers who are the most concerned about the changes and also again they seem overly worried about traffic flow. They also note that quite a few who disagreed with the raised table idea highlighted that they weren’t sure what a raised table was with some questioning if it meant some kind of pedestrian overbridge.
The council also asked what could be done better for the two aspects of the proposal. For the hall the biggest responses were primarily about issues such as seating and how the space was used. For the square the concern was also about seating, security and other aspects such as the security and planting choices
Lastly the survey also briefly asked about how to improve the wider area. The two largest responses were for a shared space or no cars at all.
There are of course some who oppose the idea of a shared space on High St and they are almost certainly going to be the same people who have opposed the closing of Freyberg Place. The example of O’Connell St is used with them claiming it has been a failure
Because of the feedback from the businesses the council have said that they and Heart of the City are going to work with the businesses to try and find potential solutions. Given the line in the sand approach these some of the retailers have taken in the past over issues it’s hard to see them getting a different outcome. If that comes to pass it raises the question of at what point the council push ahead with improvements knowing that the vast majority of people want a better outcome. Unfortunately there are also no time frames around when these discussions will take place or be finished by.
A good little piece of news from the government yesterday with Environment Minister Nick Smith giving requiring authority status to the NZTA for cycleways. As I understand it, previously the NZTA could only designate cycleways within their own state highway corridors while outside of that it was up to Auckland Transport or local councils to do the consenting. That can make consenting for many projects difficult and that’s before taking into account there are often only a few staff stretched across many projects. Now they’ll be able to (try) and designate cycleways anywhere.
The NZTA have been doing a fairly good job on cycling in recent years where they can and them being able to bring their power to bear outside of the state highway corridors can only be a good thing. Further with bike infrastructure now starting to get some meaningful funding from both central and local governments their expertise should be a welcome addition. Thanks Nick Smith
I wonder if there would be similar benefit in giving the NZTA the ability to designate rapid transit routes outside of state highways too.