Mr. Bridges, open this gate. Mr. Bridges, tear down this wall!

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood by the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin and called on Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, to take down the wall cutting off Berlin’s east and west halves.

A photo of a photo which also includes a photo. The black and white bit is the Brandenburg Gate at the end of World War Two. The colour bit is what the gate looks like today.

In 2017, I’m calling on the Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, to take action. I could have called this post “let’s get rid of mandatory helmet laws in New Zealand” (and I’m not sure comparing Simon Bridges to Gorbachev, or me to Reagan, does either of us any favours), but let’s roll with it for now – at least it gives the post titles some variation.*

Back in September/ October 2016, I took a holiday to Europe, visiting Germany (Munich and Berlin) for the first time.

Germany is the country that gave the world Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi and Porsche. It’s the country famous for its no-speed-limit autobahns, which I remember being told about in reverent tones growing up – probably one of my strongest wired-in memories to do with Germany.

Germany today has a very different zeitgeist. I was struck by the popularity of cycling in both cities (and also by the great quality, well used public transport, but that’s a story for another day). I found the contrasts so striking that I started writing this post while I was still in Berlin, and I’ve stuck with the title that came into my head then. Because if Germany, this famous automotive country, can make cycling so popular then New Zealand can do the same. Because in Munich, Berlin, and every other great cycling city around the world, hardly anyone wears helmets.

People on bikes by the East Side Gallery, one of the few remaining remnants of the Berlin Wall and decorated with street art.

Berlin today is ranked as one of the top cycling cities in the world, #12 in the Copenhagenize index. Munich is now outside the top 20 of that index, but still regarded as a very cycle-friendly city. There are bikes everywhere in Berlin, at least in the more tourist-friendly inner parts of the city. There’s a widely available bike share scheme, run by DB Bahn (who also run the public transport).

100 metres from where I stayed in Berlin, there was a cycle school – a little cycling track, mocked up with miniature street signs, cycle lanes and different turning scenarios. In Berlin, all primary-school children take a cycling safety course.

People on bikes in Berlin

People on bikes in Munich (where helmets seemed a bit more common than Berlin)

Cycling in New Zealand

New Zealand, of course, has more vehicles per capita than almost every other country in the world (712 vehicles per 1,000 people; Germany has 572). Germans make the cars, but they don’t drive them anywhere near as much as Kiwis do. Cycling in New Zealand has become a fringe, marginalised activity, although this is getting better. Cycling rates have dropped precipitously since the 1980s – they’re now climbing again, but off a very low base. With cycling, there’s safety in numbers. The lack of cyclists in New Zealand means that drivers aren’t looking out for them, so our accident and fatality rates for cycling are well above those of European countries, despite our policy of mandatory helmets.

New Zealand’s government has been quite forward-thinking on cycling in the last couple of years, launching the Urban Cycleways Programme and also spending more on cycling out of the National Land Transport Fund (of course, it’s still a tiny percentage of the overall fund). The cycleways programme was an inspired piece of policy: it provided some funding, but also leveraged this as a way to encourage councils to invest in cycleways. Costs now get split between the Urban Cycleways Fund, the NLTF, and the local council.

I think it’s quite appropriate that the cycleways programme uses funding from outside the general transport funding sector. Looking at the costs and benefits from cycling, the biggest benefits are actually health-related, and nothing to do with transport. Ideally this could be recognised by funding some cycling initiatives out of the health budget, but at least they’re coming from outside of transport.

Of course, if we make helmets optional, we’ll get much better value out of these cycleway investments – there will be more people cycling and using them. Plus, there’s much less need for helmets on cycleways – serious cycling accidents are overwhelmingly caused by collisions with cars and other vehicles, not falling off the bike.

Cycling and Health

The direct costs of cycling are pretty straightforward – it’s the amount being spent on infrastructure, whether it’s cycleways or token splashes of paint on the roads. As for indirect costs (externalities), cycling arguably has less than any other travel mode. Cyclists aren’t hurting anybody.

The benefits are a bit more complex. Like public transport, cycling helps to mitigate congestion – so car users benefit from having faster, more reliable travel times. Cycling also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Then there are the health benefits of cycling. Quoting from a 2014 paper which modelled potential cycling investment in Auckland (emphasis added):

Our findings suggest that the most effective approach would involve physical segregation on arterial roads (with intersection treatments) and low speed, bicycle-friendly local streets.

We estimate that these changes would bring large benefits to public health over the coming decades, in the tens of dollars for every dollar spent on infrastructure. The greatest benefits accrue from reduced all-cause mortality due to population-level physical inactivity.

Overall, the authors estimated that a $630 million investment in cycleways and “self-explaining roads” (traffic calming etc) would get cycling mode share to 40% by 2051, and give benefits of more than $13 billion, with a benefit:cost ratio of 24:1. Pretty good really. And we’ve found so far that the benefit:cost ratios for cycleways, at least the ones getting funded by the Urban Cycleways Programme, are often an order of magnitude higher than what we get for roads.

So, riding a bike is good for fitness and keeps you healthier for longer. At the New Zealand level, if more people cycled we’d have a healthier population, with lower mortality.

The next step: making helmets optional

Now, let’s have the conversation around helmet laws. Looking at the international picture: New Zealand’s compulsory helmet laws make us an international outlier. The evidence on their effectiveness has been mixed at best. Yes, helmets can reduce the severity of head injuries; but they’re also a barrier to cycling uptake.

We don’t know for sure in New Zealand, because the research hasn’t been done. But here’s my personal view. If we got rid of the law that says you have to wear a helmet while cycling, we’d have more people on bikes. This means car drivers will pay more attention to them, and drive more carefully. As such, it’s not clear whether the rate of serious head injuries (and in the worst case, deaths) would rise or fall. It depends on which effect dominates – cyclists being less likely to wear helmets so getting more severely injured, or drivers being more alert around cyclists. I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter effect wins out.

But here’s the thing – even if the latter effect doesn’t win out, it’s probably still a good idea to get rid of the law. Because there are all the other benefits from cycling to consider too – a healthier, fitter population, plus the congestion and emissions benefits. Those benefits are likely to be much greater than any ‘net’ cost from having more cyclists injured.

We’ve got an unusual split of powers in New Zealand:

  • The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) funds the costs of accident injuries. Every time a car slams into a cyclist, it’s ACC who pays for it. Understandably, ACC is all about doing things that reduce the risk and severity of injury (helmets can help with the latter, and don’t help and may even hurt the former). As noted above, it’s not clear whether making helmets optional would be better or worse for this.
  • The Ministry of Health handles the remainder of the public health system. They should be very interested in things which boost the general state of health among New Zealanders, such as cycling.
  • The police are responsible for enforcing the helmet law. It’s positive to see that cops aren’t fining cyclists as often as they used to, but ultimately they’re still giving out fines because that’s what the law says.

ACC and the Ministry of Health are more or less separate, with separate departments and different Ministers. The police are also separate, of course. These different organisations may have differing views on cycling and helmets, given their different responsibilities. We need a consensus-builder (a Gorbachev or perhaps a Bridges?) to bring the parties together and make, the right decision to give the best outcome for society.

Mr Bridges, it’s time to open this gate, and let the cyclists through. In order to get the most from the Urban Cycleways Programme, to encourage cycling as an everyday activity, and to unlock the health benefits, we need to get rid of the helmet law and make helmets optional.

* It also seems kind of unnecessary to have gates, walls and Bridges all mentioned in the title, but such is life

The Bike Blueprint 2020 – where should Auckland invest in cycling next?

This is a cross post from our friends over at Bike Auckland. It was written by Max

The Urban Cycleway Fund has given a huge boost to new bike facilities over the last few years – but its initial 3-year funding period ends in mid 2018. And well before that happens, both Auckland Transport and NZTA will need to have a strong vision of where to go next, and a programme of projects prioritized and ready to go.

That’s why, over the last six months, Bike Auckland has been working behind the scenes on the next tranche of Auckland’s bike infrastructure, 2018-2021.

With an eye to round numbers – and the “vision thing” – we called it the Auckland Bike Blueprint 2020, and have been sharing it with AT and NZTA to help inform their official plans.

If you’ve been to recent Bike Auckland meetings, you may have seen earlier iterations of the Blueprint – but this is the first time we have shown it online. Read on to find out how we developed this vision, and where and why we want to see more cycleways in the next funding period…

The “Routes” and “Areas” base maps combine together to form the Bike Blueprint (read on for explanations, links, and close-ups).

What is the Bike Blueprint?

The blueprint shows Bike AKL’s proposed priorities for Auckland cycling infrastructure over the ~3-5 years from 2018.

These priorities are set out in two key maps: The Routes, which are new key backbone links; and The Areas, which are coordinated approaches to a whole suburb or sector.

What is it not?

It isn’t a citywide network – that’s a much larger and longer project. Rather, it’s parts of the future Auckland cycle network that we think can and should be prioritized in the next funding and building period.

It isn’t everywhere – because if you prioritise everything (much as we’d like to!), you prioritise nothing. And by scattering your investment across the map, you risk not making the kind of measurable difference needed to guarantee more investment. But be assured that as we cut our strategic cloth to fit the vision, questions like “Is this fair?” and “Shouldn’t this area get something?” were some of the most difficult and most hotly debated.

It isn’t Greenways – but we do see Greenways as a smart way over the coming years to ensure bike-friendly changes in areas that are not being prioritized with major chunks of AT or NZTA funding. We’re also alert to local“windows of opportunity” in areas we haven’t prioritized, which can provide unexpected chances for improving cycling as part of unrelated projects.

How did you develop the maps?

We looked at the following key criteria for investment:

  • Potential users (employment / residents)
  • Gaps & opportunities in the bike network (aiming to Ungap the Map, as our Vancouver mates phrase it)
  • Planned housing development & planned transport projects
  • Positive feedback loops between the “routes” and “areas”

More on all that as we go through…

So, what are the “Routes”?

Continue reading The Bike Blueprint 2020 – where should Auckland invest in cycling next?

Missed news wrapup

Every week we receive numerous press releases related to transport and we only tend to comment on a few of them. Here are a couple that piqued our interest but not quite enough for a full post of their own.

Recently Auckland Transport announced they had put the first tender out for the rest of the CRL project (after the early works currently underway). This week they announced they’ve put up the tender for the construction of the tunnels and two new stations.

Largest City Rail Link tender process starts

The largest component of the City Rail Link (CRL) project – the construction of the tunnels and new stations – took a major step forward today with the release of its first tender documents to the industry.

The project is picking up speed with Expressions of Interest sought only a fortnight ago for the design, procurement, installation and commissioning of all tunnel track work and rail systems between Britomart Station and the Western Line at Mt Eden.

There will be two new stations as part of the build of the underground rail line linking Britomart with the existing western line near Mt Eden. The new stations will be near Aotea Square with entrances at Wellesley and Victoria Streets and a station in Mercury Lane, just off Karangahape Road. The present Mount Eden train station will be extended and redeveloped.

Tender documents sent out today are for the tunnel and station works that involve:

  • Aotea Station:  Cut and cover construction of a 15m-deep, 300m-long underground station and plant room box, including platforms, lifts and escalators to street level, plant rooms housing station and tunnel equipment, full station fit-out and entrances at either end at Victoria and Wellesley Streets.
  • Karangahape Road Station:  Mined construction of a 32m-deep underground station, including platform tubes and 150m-long platforms, lifts and inclined escalator to street level, plant rooms housing station and tunnel equipment within two shafts, full station fit-out, entrance at Mercury Lane and provision for a future entrance at Beresford Square.
  • Tunnels:  Twin-bored tunnel construction (circa 7m diameter) between the Mt Eden station and the southern end of Aotea Station.
  • The provision of maintenance services for the new stations.

CRL Project Director Chris Meale says today’s development shows the considerable progress being made.

He says that as well as the tenders rolling out for future construction, current works are well underway. The 2m-wide tunnel boring machine simultaneously excavating and installing a new stormwater pipe under Albert Street has finished the first leg of its journey.

The nine-storey-high piling rig working in Albert Street has already dug more than 140 of the 376 piles required.

“What will be a highly efficient and reliable transport choice for Auckland is now visibly taking shape.”

The tunnels and stations contract being sent out today will be procured using a Design and Construct model with a lump sum price based on a bespoke contract.

They also put out a few new high quality images of the stations.

Aotea Station – Wellesley St

Karangahape Rd – Mercury Lane

Mt Eden

Hot on the heels of Auckland Transport announcing it was going to trial two electric buses in Auckland, operator NZ Bus announced they were trialling some BYD electric buses in Auckland and Wellington

BYD’s all electric battery bus, with fast re-charging

NZ Bus to begin trial of BYD electric bus

NZ Bus to begin trial of BYD electric bus in Auckland and Wellington

NZ Bus will this week begin trialling its new BYD eBus in Auckland and then in Wellington, as another part of its strategy to lead the transition to electric-powered public transport in New Zealand.

NZ Bus Chief Executive Officer, Zane Fulljames, said that the trial will enable NZ Bus to assess whether this fully electric bus, which is proven in other markets across the world, can meet the challenges of New Zealand’s unique topographical landscape and the specific requirements of bus networks in Auckland and Wellington.

“As a business we are committed to leading the industry towards an electric-powered bus fleet, as was reflected in our announcement last year to invest NZ$43m in Wrightspeed electric powertrain technology to be retrofitted to buses in our existing fleet.

“Trialling BYD eBus technology is about looking at options for the future in terms of our ongoing fleet replacement programme,” said Mr Fulljames.

The makers of the eBus, BYD Company Limited, operate across 6 continents, 48 countries and regions, and 200 cities. They are the suppliers of the largest electric bus fleet in Europe and are in fleets across Canada, USA, Chile, China, Singapore and Australia.

NZ Bus’ trial of its BYD eBus is expected to last up to three months. The BYD eBus may not attract attention as it travels Auckland and Wellington bus routes, given that it looks much like a conventional diesel or diesel-hybrid bus, but people might notice that it is significantly quieter.

In parallel with the BYD eBus trial, NZ Bus is also well underway with the process of retrofitting Wrightspeed electric powertrains to its existing bus fleet at its workshop in Wellington.

“As a major transport operator, NZ Bus has the scale for investment of the kind these initiatives represent. We are committed to continuing to lead the industry and contribute to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint through innovation,” said Mr Fulljames.

And finally, Mayor Phil Goff has kicked off The Auckland Bike Challenge

Mayor Phil Goff challenges Aucklanders to get on their bikes.

The Auckland Bike Challenge kicks off today and Mayor Phil Goff is encouraging Aucklanders to join the 2,500 people who have already registered for the free month-long event.

Bigger and better than last year, the Auckland Bike Challenge run by Auckland Transport is now part of NZ Transport Agency’s nationwide Aotearoa Bike Challenge.

The Auckland Mayoral Office has two electric bikes and Mayor Phil Goff is looking forward to getting on his bike during the challenge.

“Living out in Clevedon means cycling to work’s a bit tough for me, but I enjoy getting to meetings and events in the city on my bike, and use it when I can,” he says.

“Cycling’s a great way to get around our city. It’s a joy being out of a car in the fresh air, getting fit and reducing our carbon footprint.”

The Mayor says Auckland Council is committed to helping more people get out of their cars and on to bikes, and is investing in new world class facilities to make cycling safer and more accessible.

“The Quay Street Cycleway, the first stage of the Glen Innes to Tamaki shared path, the Mt Roskill Safe route and the award-winning pink Lightpath on Nelson Street are very popular,” says Mayor Goff. “We will continue to invest in safe cycleways across the city to reduce congestion and pollution and make Auckland an even better place to live.

“The 2017 Bike Challenge is your opportunity to explore our beautiful city and to see it in a new way. I look forward to seeing you out and about and on your bike this summer.”

The Auckland Bike Challenge is a fun, free workplace competition that encourages people to give cycling a go during the month of February 2017.

More than 270 Auckland organisations have signed up and will compete against similar-sized businesses within the Auckland region and nationwide.

Run by Auckland Transport and supported by the Sustainable Business Network, Healthy Auckland Together and Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the event supports workplaces encouraging staff to ride for at least ten minutes during the month of February.

Rides are recorded online, and there are prizes up for grabs for both businesses and individuals.

There’s still time to register for the Auckland Bike Challenge at www.lovetoride.net/auckland. The website includes a live leader board to track results, information on prizes and easy ways to encourage others to participate.

A future for Auckland’s transport network

Lately I’ve been thinking about how to better join the dots between Auckland’s housing challenges and its transport challenges. We’re all familiar with the common stories about Auckland’s problems: Housing is too expensive, pricing young people out of the market and forcing low-income households into crowded or unhealthy accommodation. The transport system isn’t working as well as it could – key roads are congested, public transport is often unreliable due to our mid-century decision to eschew a rapid transit network, and walking and cycling often feels unsafe, again due to policy choices.

But it strikes me that we aren’t yet telling a clear story about how we could solve Auckland’s challenges. This is an attempt to tell some of that story.

It all starts with the street. When Auckland’s suburbs started to get built in the late 1800s, people did a few things to cut costs. One of those was providing long, narrow residential sites without back alleys or many cross streets. This left behind more saleable land while avoiding the need to provide stormwater or sewerage – people simply dug long-drops at the back of their long sites.

The result was a city that has a dearth of streets. The following map compares my neighbourhood in Auckland with my brother’s neighbourhood in Denver, Colorado – his is a bit further from the city centre but otherwise similar. Note the fine mesh of cross-streets and the closely-spaced arterial roads in Denver, and the spidery mesh in Auckland:

When we zoom out the map, the comparison gets even starker. Not only does Auckland lack a Denver-style street grid, it also has a regional transport network full of gaps and pinch-points caused by its position on two harbours.

This is exacerbated by the fact that we have recently built out most of the space in most designated motorway corridors. Once the Waterview Connection opens, the motorway network will be largely complete and will probably never be significantly expanded again, at least within the city. Contemplate that, for a moment.

In short, we are a growing city that lacks street space and has extremely constrained ability to add more transport corridors virtually anywhere in the city.

This brings me on to the second part of the story: Cars. Cars are wonderful things. They are the best way to get to the West Coast beaches, and the second-best way to get to urban beaches, after cycling. If it weren’t for home delivery, they would be the only way to buy a refrigerator or a tonne of compost for the garden. But we’re not going to be able to fit an ever-growing amount of them on Auckland’s roads at peak times. We don’t have the space for it.

In saying this, I’m not arguing that we should necessarily fear congestion. Auckland’s existing performance isn’t terrible: the aggregate cost of congestion is right about what you’d expect based on data from large Australian cities, and average commute times are reasonable. But the constrained nature of our street grid and regional motorway network leads me to think that it will tend to increase more rapidly as the city grows. Consequently, we will need to do something differently.

[A brief digression: We will face this problem regardless of where new residents end up living. Banning growth in your neighbourhood and insisting that all newcomers move to Drury will not solve the problem: many of those people will simply hop on the road to commute to jobs in the city or in the growing Auckland airport business park. Similarly, banning growth on the fringes won’t fix the problem either: many newcomers will still need to drive to get to jobs spread around the city.]

This leads directly to the third part of the story: What can we do instead, if the current approach won’t keep working?

Basically, there seem to be three things we can do.

One: We can implement congestion pricing – or, as Jarrett Walker calls it, a decongestion charge – to take the edge off peak-period delays on busy corridors. I’ve discussed this extensively in the past so won’t rehash this discussion here. One point that many people raise, though, is that congestion pricing should be paired with a strong focus on improving alternatives to driving, to allow people to avoid the charge.

Two: We need to improve Auckland’s regional rapid transit network to ensure that it is possible to travel longer distances within Auckland both quickly and reliably. Setting aside congestion pricing for a moment, rapid transit is the only way that we can reliably achieve this. If you want to travel 20 kilometres and get to work on time most days, you’re better off being in a train or a busway service than a car.

Rapid transit improvements are likely to be especially important for making greenfield growth work well. People who will soon be living in Dairy Flat, Whenuapai, and Drury can benefit from the option to access fast and reliable transport options.

However, good rapid transit isn’t simply a matter of building a busway out to the wops. Service integration is also essential. What that means is that buses or trains need to connect with each other at key points, offering easy and reliable transfers between services and access to a wider range of destinations. Interchanges like Otahuhu and Panmure are important, but the city centre is even more important, as it will always be the place where most of the lines converge.

In other words, if we want to make rapid transit work well for greenfields, we also need to sort out what’s happening to buses and trains downtown and in the inner urban areas.

Three: We need to improve Auckland’s urban cycleway network to give people new options for short- to medium-distance trips within the existing urban area. Cycling has a lot of unrealised potential in Auckland (and most New Zealand cities): At peak times on congested roads, a bicycle can get you to your destination faster than a car, and technological improvements (ebikes!) are flattening out the hills as we speak.

Getting more people cycling for everyday transport would go a long way to sorting out the transport challenges associated with new housing development in a city with a fragmented street grid. Every person who rides to the shops or to work is one who isn’t competing for road space and parking space. We will value those people more in the future.

A key barrier to cycling in Auckland is the perception that it is not safe. This doesn’t necessarily dissuade the mid-30s bloke in lycra, but it will keep many schoolkids, middle-aged women, and a whole bunch of other people off their bikes. We can fix this – and get people from ages 8 to 80 cycling – by designing streets better and providing safe cycling infrastructure where it’s most needed.

To summarise: Auckland’s built itself into a bit of a hole, and in order to meet the needs of a growing city, it will have to do things differently. That means congestion pricing (to make the road network work better), a really good regional rapid transit network (to ensure fast and reliable journeys throughout the urban area), and a safe, joined-up network of urban cycleways (to give people more options for shorter trips). This shouldn’t be seen as an alternative that we could pursue once we’re done building motorways: it is now the most realistic way forward for the city.

What do you think Auckland should do in order to address its growth challenges?

Quay St: Oh Yeah

Off-road cycle routes are great, but I love on-street ones even more, as they are real city changers.

Both of course are required and required to be interconnected, but for today, here’s a celebration of the Quay St on-street cycle lanes, an important step towards a network:

Quay Sy Cyclelanes 01

Quay St Cyclelanes 02

Quay St Cyclelanes 03

Quay St Cyclelanes 04

Looking forward to this route being connected to the Nelson St on-street cyclelanes, the SkyPath, and Tamaki Drive.

Thanks to everyone who made this possible; from the Minister with his championing of the Urban Cycleways Fund, the Auckland Transport team and executive that put it together and got through a few tricky conflicts, and Auckland Council for their share of the funding (the transport levy) and of course for the policy support.

To my mind this is Radical Incrementalism on show; a little-big change.

Nelson St Phase 2

The Nelson St Cycleway was completed just over a year ago and has been a fantastic addition to the city.

Since then we’ve been patiently waiting for Phase 2, which has had a particularly long gestation period. It is intended to extend the cycleway to the Quay St cycleway and also includes extending it along Pitt St to Karangahape Rd. Auckland Transport originally consulted on a design way back in September 2015, months before Phase 1 even opened.

We weren’t thrilled with the design which would have seen the cycleway cross diagonally to the eastern side of Nelson St before sending cyclists along Sturdee St and Lower Hobson St, across in some places incredibly narrow footpaths, before reaching Quay St. We, and others, wanted the cycleway kept on the western side of Nelson St and linked into the tree lined Market Place. We also liked this well illustrated idea from reader Jonty to send it via the Hobson St Viaduct.

Just before Christmas, Auckland Transport finally announced the outcome of their consultation and the final design. Like we’d see in some earlier board reports, AT confirmed that the cycleway would now link into Market Place rather than using Sturdee St.

The link that will complete Auckland’s city cycle loop is a step closer.

The route, announced today, will connect the Nelson St Cycleway with the waterfront.

The connection along Nelson St to Quay St via Market Place, Customs St West and Lower Hobson St, will complete the loop.

The city cycle loop includes cycleways on Quay St, Beach Rd, Grafton Gully and the pink Lightpath.

Phase 2 of Nelson St Cycleway will include protected, on-road cycle lanes on both sides of Nelson St and Market Place from Victoria St to Pakenham St East.

Construction of this section will start in April and be completed by July. Plans for the remaining section of Market Pl, Customs St West and Lower Hobson will be made public in early 2017.

The major difference from what we suggested back in 2015 is that instead of the cycleway being completely on the western side, it will be split with northbound (downhill) cyclists staying on the western side but southbound (uphill) cyclists using the eastern side. We’re comfortable with that change.

As we understand, the biggest hurdle, and the reason it’s taken so long to confirm the design, has been the need to convince the traffic engineers that carmegeddon wouldn’t ensue from removing the two lane signalised slip lane from Nelson St on to Fanshawe St.

So here’s what AT plan to build (click to enlarge)

The cycle lanes on either side of the road will be protected. The biggest challenge will be the driveways and so all road users will have to take care here.

It’s the Nelson/Fanshawe intersection that will see the most change with the left turn slip lanes removed to allow the cycleway to be built and the kerb built out on the western side which will be a welcome addition to the many pedestrians that walk past here and who are currently squeezed into a narrow space.  The cycleway heading southbound will have a short section of being a shared path till it gets past Wyndham St. It will also require two legs to cross from Market Place which is a bit annoying.

Finally on Market Place the cycleways continue past Pakenham St.

AT are still working on the final design for Market Place which is why it hasn’t been included yet but from what we understand of it, it will good. From Market Place the intention is to use Customs St West and then Lower Hobson St.

The news for the Pitt St section isn’t so great though. Here, AT have scaled the design back to a simple shared path. They say this is caused mainly by the CRL and the significant disruption it will have on the area both during construction and after it with where they’ve decided to put vents.

Since design for this cycleway project started in January 2015, there have been changes to the CRL (City Rail Link) design, particularly the vent location in Pitt Street. The CRL team have advised that the CRL project will cause significant disruption including a very large excavation across Pitt Street in the Beresford Square vicinity.

AT met with key stakeholders in the area, including local businesses, NZ Fire Service, and St John NZ, to listen and understand their concerns.

Based on feedback received from submissions and also from meetings with key stakeholders, we have decided the cycleway should be re-scoped to provide an interim off-road shared path facility for Pitt Street.

AT is developing a design for CRL in the vicinity of Pitt Street and Beresford Square, incorporating the Pitt Street and Karangahape Road cycleways.

Here are the designs, which as you can see still retain a gap between Karangahape Rd and Beresford Square. It’s not clear how less confident cyclists will bridge this gap, presumably most would use the footpath.

As the press release earlier said, construction of the first section down Nelson St is expected to start in April and at least that and the section to Quay St are expected to be completed in the middle of the year.

Great Cycling Myths & Mistakes – How Auckland can easily be a Great Cycling City

Recently I have been doing a lot of research on cycling, reading CROW – Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic, the NACTO Guides, and reading/watching some great content over by Mark Wagenbuur at Bicycle Dutch. People have always told me that the Dutch are the Holy Grail of Cycling, I had some knowledge of Dutch cycling, but it made sense for me to check it out more extensively.

After this research my conclusion is this,

a) Dutch cycling infrastructure design really is great and
b) It’s made me think, are we prioritising on the right aspects (this question is more posed to engineers/designers), and are there some myths of Dutch cycling that we are to focused on (this question is more posed to us as advocates)

Not everything has to be segregated, like the Netherlands you just have to design it right.

When we think of the Netherlands we think glorious 2m+ segregated cycle tracks safe & protected from traffic, with room enough to overtake, or to cycle with friends/family. While it’s true that the Dutch segregate cycling for arterial roads with speeds above 30km/h, not every road in the Netherlands is an arterial, a large part of the streets network in the Netherlands are local streets which have speed limits of 30km/h, and at these speeds you can still have safety with unprotected cycle lanes, two examples are Fietsstrook streets where motorists can enter the cycle lanes to allow other motorists to pass as long as safe for cyclists, and Fietsstraat (Bike Streets) where motorists are allowed but are guests and must maintain low speeds.

Fietsstrook

Fietsstraat

Safety is about the Intersections

In NZ, we have a tendency to focus on cycle lanes, we put the cycle lanes in either along the street, or add them into the street, but as soon as we get to an intersection we stop. To the Dutch this would seem odd, mainly because it’s intersections where a lot of the danger is, opposed to the section of road we concentrate on.  Surely it makes sense to prioritise the least safe sections for funding, without compromising the network through stop/starting of infrastructure of course, and as these pictures/videos by Bicycle Dutch show fixing them is easier than you might think.

Protected Cycle Intersection

Continuity is Key

Continuity of infrastructure is important, if gaps exist, or it stops short, people wont use it to its full extent. Remember when trains used to stop at the Strand, sure the rail network existed and could be quick, but because it stopped short of the city, people didn’t see it as competitive. Or imagine driving on the Auckland motorway network, then all the sudden SH1 went from 3 lanes each way motorway standard to one lane dirt track then back to motorway standard every few km’s, it wouldn’t be a great drive in the AM peak that is for sure.

For the same reasons why those two examples would be awful for the users, the same applies to cyclists, stopping infrastructure at intersections, gaps in cycle lanes such as at bus stops, or stopping the infrastructure short of where people want to go will lead to infrastructure not being utilized to its full capacity. Arguably, these issues effect cyclists more than PT users/drivers because doing the above not only makes cycling harder, it has large safety effects. Gaps in cycle routes cause a reduction in the perception of safety which leads to potential users avoiding the route, or more likely not to cycle at all.

Therefore getting cycling infrastructure right, and continuous, can be more important for increasing use, than prioritising km’s of cycle lanes across a city.

Floating Bus Stop

Width is Important & not just for Safety.

Width of cycle infrastructure is important for cyclists, it gives more of a buffer against other modes when unprotected, and allows cyclists to overtake safely meaning commuter/social cyclists can ride at their own pace. But it isn’t just about safety, the Dutch believe having wider cycle infrastructure is important because it allows people to cycle together side by side, e.g. riding with your partner, or a mother riding with her children to school. It is understanding that social aspect of cycling is a hugely important part of the mix for driving cycling as a successful mode of transport, and is often mentioned in official guides such as CROW.

Is it time to give Roundabouts more of a go?

In many countries there is a preference to building signalized intersections with a perception they are safer than roundabouts, this is interesting to the Dutch who believe the opposite, over the years converting many intersections to roundabouts. Admittedly the Dutch design their roundabouts a little different, with protected cycle lanes, and with the aim of creating easy sight of conflicts for users, as well as slowing traffic down on the roundabout. This is backed up with the safety record that Dutch four-way roundabouts are around two times safer than Dutch four-way signalised intersections.

SWOV Intersection Safety Stats

Here’s a great video by Bicycle Dutch walking through examples of Dutch Roundabout Design

So what do you think?

2016 – A Year in Review Part 2 – Walking and Cycling

This is Part 2 of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at Walking and Cycling. You can see Part 1 on public transport here.

We finished 20156 with the fantastic Lightpath and Nelson St cycleway and 2016 kicked on from there with more good progress – including right at the end of the year AT announcing the completion of the Nelson St route, something I’ll cover in the new year. So, here’s my summary.

Quay St cycleway

We ended 2015 with consultation on the Quay St cycleway and by July this year it was officially opened by then Prime Minister John Key, Transport Minister Simon Bridges and former Mayor Len Brown.

A number of cycleways have automated counters, and AT have installed more to help measure the impacts of unprecedented investment currently going in but the Quay St cycleway is the first in Auckland to have a counter on it showing how many trips there have been. And the number of trips has been rising steadily. In October just under three months after opening the counter hit 50,000. Then just another two months later it reached the 100,000 milestone. With the warmer weather the daily numbers have been frequently above 1,000 and so it’s possible we’ll see it surpass 200,000 before the end of summer.

In further good news, AT announced that work starts in February to extend cycleway to just short of the intersection with The Strand and will be extended past that as part of the Eastern Path project.

Skypath

In the middle of 2015 we were ecstatic when Skypath was granted consent but we expected appeals from a very small but vocal group of people who opposed it, primarily on Northcote Point. And as expected, those appeals came. During 2016 two of the three groups opposing the project dropped their appeals. That left just one small group of local residents to take the fight to the environment court in November. But only a few days in the judge stopped the hearing and verbally said the consent would be issued, and without any of the crazy demands the opponents to the project were seeking.

In mid-December the formal ruling was released and was very critical of the appeal including comments like.

In the overall analysis, we felt unconvinced by many of the claims of the residents about the existing environment, which unfortunately we considered had been viewed somewhat through “rose tinted glasses”

With the consent out of the way, hopefully 2017 will see progress made towards finally building it.

In what will be linked to Skypath, the NZTA consulted on Seapath too. We haven’t heard the outcome of the consultation yet.

Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai

In December, the first stage of Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai (the path of land and sea), formerly known as the Eastern Path and the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr shared path, was opened. Stage one is from Merton Rd to St Johns Rd. Bike Auckland has some good coverage of the event.

Stage 3, widening of the Orakei Basin boardwalk should be starting soon while Stage 2, from St Johns Rd to the Orakei Basin is expected to start during 2017

Waterview Shared Path

At the beginning of 2016 work started on the Waterview Shared Path from Alan Wood Reserve, over the rail line, through Harbutt and Phyllis reserves, Unitec and over to New North Rd at about Alford St via a 16m high, 90m long bridge across Oaklely Creek.

Franklin Rd

The upgrade of Franklin Rd has been the subject of numerous debates and design revisions, including at one point only catering for “confident cyclists”. But in the end AT were able to find a decent design for the project. This is part of a wider upgrade of Franklin Rd and includes improving utilities. Work on the road itself should start in 2017.

Consultations galore

A lot has been happening behind the scenes too with a huge number of consultations this year for projects that are expected to start construction over the next year or so as AT continue to ramp up to make the most of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Fund. I’m bound to have missed some but they’ve included:

There have been so many, I’m sure I’ve missed some, especially some of the smaller ones.

Usage

Of course, one of the points of investing in more cycling is to get more people using bikes and on that front we’re seeing some good results. For example, at Kingsland on the NW cycleway, usage is the highest it’s ever been and well ahead of what we’ve seen before thanks to the addition of cycleways like Lightpath and Nelson St.

Of course, there have been many other things that have happened over the year and too. Are there any key changes I’ve missed? You can also see Bike Auckland’s summary here.

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus on roads

November-2016 Patronage and Cycle Data

Auckland Transport kindly provided me the public transport ridership numbers for November and once again show spectacular growth on the Rapid Transit Network as well as a new milestone being achieved on ferries.

The numbers for the month were helped by an extra weekday compared to November-2015 but are still good regardless. Over all modes, ridership in November was up 7.9% (adjusted to 6.3% taking calendar and other impacts into account). That saw total ridership increase to nearly 84.5 million trips in the 12 months to the end of November.

The milestone for ferries is that over past 12 months, now more than six million trips have been taken on them. This is the result of solid growth, having only passed 5 million trips around 3 years ago and is thanks in part to improved service. The good news is that it is likely to continue, projects like the new Half Moon Bay ferry terminal are close to completion and AT are currently tendering out all non-commercial services (all except Devonport and Waiheke). They say that should help improve amenity and hopefully will increase the number of services too.

Below is the annual ferry patronage since 1920 and you can clearly see the massive – and expected – impact the opening of the Harbour Bridge had with a revival in usage beginning about 20 years ago. At current rates the last bar will end up at about 6.2 million trips for the year.

While ferries have been going well, what has really been driving big growth in PT use has been the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – the rail lines and the Northern Busway. Those services are showing an impressive a 20.8% increase over the same month last year. The RTN is increasingly cementing it’s place as the backbone of the PT network, a trend we expect to continue in coming years, especially if AT and the NZTA can get a few more routes build, such as the Northern Busway extension, the AMETI Busway and the NorthernWest Busway.

The rail part of the RTN is close to a new milestone of its own, to the end of November there were 17.9 million trips and so based on current growth, hitting the 18 million mark is likely to happen any day now. That’s great news as it means trains are filling up faster than expected, a great success story but also means we’re going to need more capacity sooner than previously expected.

To address this there are still improvements we can make to timetables and dwell times to speed up services, freeing up trains to run more 6-car services. We could also improve capacity by reconsidering the seating layout of the trains, something I wrote about this just over a month ago. But we’re ultimately we’re going to need more of them, a point discussed at the council yesterday by AT CEO David Warburton with the Council’s Finance and Performance Committee. He says a decision on them will likely need to be made next year. With about 20 likely to be needed and at around $10 million each that’s around $200 that will be needed.

As for the rest of the PT network, there was some growth in November but it remains low. There is no new information as to what’s happening in the Southern New Network as a result of the made at the end of October. Hopefully this is something we’ll see in more detail soon.

AT have also recently published the latest bike counts from their network of automated counters. The good news is there are some excellent results for bikes too. Here’s AT’s take

At 14 regional count sites:

  • 1.67 million cycle trips were recorded for the year of December 2015 to November 2016, an increase of 8.5% on the previous 12 months.
  • 145,422 cycle trips were recorded in November 2016, an increase of 4.5% when compared to November 2015.

At 13 city centre count sites:

  • 1.77 million cycle trips were recorded for the year of December 2015 to November 2016.
  • 147,468 cycle trips were recorded in November 2016, an increase of 12.8% when compared to November 2015.

There are many cycleways seeing good growth but the two counters on the NW cycleway at Kingsland and Te Atatu have seen consistently high growth this year. This can be seen below with each month of 2016 being significantly above the same month in previous years. Overall the number of trips at this spot has more than doubled over the last five years.

 

Similar can be seen on the NW Cycleway at Te Atatu.

I suspect projects such as Lightpath and the improving bike lane network are having a huge impact on this and that this trend will continue as the network improves.

It’s Cycleway Consultation Season

It seems it’s consultation season for bike related projects with not one, not two but three currently now underway by Auckland Transport and all could do with submissions to improve them.

Herne Bay cycling and walking improvements – Closes 18 December

This project came out of AT’s recent consultation on improving cycling options in the inner west of the city. AT say the original plan was for cycling connections via Clifton Road, Argyle Street and Sarsfield Street however they’ve now opted for area wide traffic calming measures using speed tables. All up 22 speed tables are proposed at intersections and mid-block, as shown below.

••••••Hernebay-A4

Here are some examples what is proposed. More can be seen on the AT website.

herne-bay-treatment-1

herne-bay-treatment-3

In a location such as this, an area wide traffic calming effort, if done properly, should deliver a good outcome and across a much wider area than a single cycleway as planned before. It will also have benefits not just for cycling but for pedestrians and a wider range of residents too.

But of course there are things that could be better with  the first thing that springs to mind being that there are no ways for bikes to bypass the speed tables, like Auckland Transport proposed recently for Northcote Point, one example of which is below.

northcote-point-speed-cushion

Further, while the traffic calming will likely help in reducing speeds, it surely wouldn’t hurt to back that up with an area wide change to speed limits.

Our friends at Bike Auckland have a few other ideas too.

There are two open days planned for the consultation, the first being today, details below.

  • Thursday, 1 December, 11am to 2pm at The Governor, 228 Jervois Road, Herne Bay.
  • Saturday, 10 December, 11am to 2pm at the Leys Institute (Ponsonby Library), 20 St Marys Road, Ponsonby.

Consultation closes December 18.

Westhaven to City cycle route – Closes 18 December

Many of the cyclists using the Herne Bay roads above, along with those from the future Skypath as well as other locations, will be heading to the city. Currently, upon passing the motorway noose the options are usually to take the scenic route via North Wharf and Te Wero Bridge, wind around Gaunt St and Viaduct Harbour Dr or to brave Fanshawe St. While only anecdotal, I notice a lot picking the later as it’s the most direct route.

AT are now proposing to upgrade Viaduct Harbour Dr to make it more bike friendly and they’re currently consulting on the section as far as Market Pl.

westhaven-to-the-city-route-map

Unfortunately, what AT are suggesting is a complete turd of a solution for a route that will likely have high numbers using it. The plan, like above is to just calm traffic using speed tables as well as some paint while making no changes to the road. That might be appropriate in an area like Herne Bay but in my view, is completely inappropriate in this location which is likely to have higher volumes using it including children. Based on what’s proposed, they’ll stick to using the footpath – a view some have already expressed on social media.

Below is an overview of the plans but more detailed versions can be found here.

westhaven-to-the-city-route-plan

One example of why this is such a rubbish idea can be seen in this more detailed view of the plan on the part of Customs St West north of Pakenham St East. As you can see people on bikes are meant to cycle on the road behind angle parked cars who could start reversing out without being able to see if any cyclists are coming. Would the people who proposed this be prepared to let their 8-year old child ride on the road here, I certainly wouldn’t (if I had one).

westhaven-to-the-city-route-plan-1

AT have already ruled out using Fanshawe St for a direct connection but I think they need to go back to the drawing board and look at as an option again. The road must be one of the widest in Auckland with the corridor in places over 38m wide. For the section east of Halsey St this width includes a massive 4.5m wide flush median. If ever there was a road that could do with some boulevard treatment, it would be Fanshawe St. That boulevard would include improved footpaths, cycleways, a separated urban busway and then the general traffic lanes

And Fanshawe needs some love too, while it is designed and treated like a giant motorway on/off ramp, it also had surprisingly high volumes of pedestrians who would also benefit from making the area more people friendly and less sterile. What’s more, given the width I think that could likely be accommodated without having to compromise on the number of traffic lanes

fanshawe-st-now

This idea is something we might flesh out in a later post but let’s get this option back on the table because what’s proposed won’t get anyone new cycling on Viaduct Harbour Ave and there is already the scenic route available via the waterfront for those that want that.

Like above, the consultation closes on December 18

Parnell cycleway and residential parking zone – Closes 23 December

The government’s Urban Cycleway Programme identified a route from Tamaki Dr up to Newmarket. To facilitate that, AT are looking at putting protected cycleways along St Stephens Ave and Gladstone Rd.

parnell-cycle-path-map

We along with others like Bike Auckland and Generation Zero met with AT over this project some months ago when at the time they were planning to just install painted lanes. We told there was no point in having a fight over removing the parking they would need to if they were just going to put a bit of paint on the road. Thankfully they’ve taken that feedback on board and the proposed solution includes physically separated bike lanes. In some locations these cycleways will have parking outside them while in other locations there will be no parking. AT say that all up just 95 carparks are affected.

parnell-cycleway-artists-impression

This isn’t to say the proposal is perfect, for example at bus stops the cycleway just stops and cyclists would have to wait for it to depart again.

parnell-cycleway-plan

In this situation, a solution like floating bus stops, where the stop is pushed into the general traffic lane and the bus stop and bike lane become a shared area might be more appropriate, but that would mean AT getting over their fears about buses stopping in general traffic.

To go with the cycleway, AT is proposing a residential parking scheme for the area. They say that just 10% of cars parked on the street are from locals with most assumed to be commuters. They also think the scheme will help locals deal with the loss of the parking on Gladstone Rd.

parnell-residential-parking-zone

If you want to talk to AT about the plans, they’ll be at La Cigale French Market (69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell) on Saturday 3 December from 8am to 1pm.

Consultation closes 23 December.

 

What do you think of what AT has proposed?