Wellington Scoop
Network

Berhampore, we have a problem

adelaide-rd-berhampore

by Regan Dooley
The Berhampore shops on Adelaide Road might be the trickiest part to get right in the entire Newtown Connections consultation.

Back in April 2015, the Dominion Post ran a story on the boutiques of Berhampore which focused on the 1st anniversary of a handful of new businesses in the area. The various business owners who were interviewed, including my partner, spoke optimistically about being “a collection of people here all trying to do the same thing” and how they hoped for Berhampore to develop a greater sense of identity.

Two things specifically mentioned were getting some ‘Welcome to Berhampore’ signage and a 30 kph speed limit.

Three years later things haven’t exactly gone wrong but it’s hard to see how they’ve really progressed either. At least four of the businesses mentioned in the story have now gone out of business or moved on. The Gooseshack, Rinski Korsakov’s, Celie’s and the tattoo parlour are all gone. The only dairy on that stretch of road has also closed and the building is for sale.

Natty, Baker Gramercy, Baron Hasselhoff’s and Adelaide Trading Co. are still going strong and doing their best to maintain a local, artisanal vibe while older, more established businesses Europe Modes Tailoring, Hair by Ange and the Golden Sun Takeaways keep doing what they do. The BP petrol station sells petrol.

berhampore-shops
The property on the left was sold in June but the business is now for sale. The property on the right is also for sale.

A 30 kph speed limit was implemented in early 2016, not that it seems to have made much difference. No sign of any signage yet, unless you count the 30 kph one.

To be brutally honest, and with the benefit of hindsight, dropping the speed limit and putting up some signs fall woefully short of what Berhampore really needs to carve out its own identity. Even Berhampore’s residents describe it as a “forgotten, in-between suburb” which is seen as “that place you go through to on the way to Island Bay, or just part of Newtown”. Berhampore actually has a rich and interesting history and is genuinely one of Wellington’s up and coming suburbs, but it suffers from one huge issue that is going to take some imagination and determination to overcome: it is an absolute traffic hellhole, especially the narrow stretch where the Adelaide Road shops are.

adelaide-road-traffic
Adelaide Road is a very busy, very narrow arterial road

Here’s the problem.

There are 18,000 vehicle movements a day through the 100m long, 10m wide stretch of Adelaide Road between Britomart Street and Luxford Street. For comparison, around 10,000 vehicles per day move through the Island Bay shops (and there’s 14m of road width to work with). The problem is that Adelaide Road is a major arterial and the characteristics of the surrounding streets mean that the 100m stretch between Britomart and Luxford is a classic bottle-neck. It has to deal with far more traffic than it was ever intended to and a lot more traffic than the other sections of Adelaide Road immediately to the north and south. There is no way you would ever deliberately set out to design what’s happened in Berhampore.

adelaide-road-map-with-traffic

From the point of view of a business motor vehicle traffic is good, until it is very, very bad. Business owners like cars because they bring customers from far and wide to their business. As long as there is somewhere to park, of course, and there’s not much parking near the Berhampore shops (approximately 10 car parks on that stretch, 5 x P10 and 5 x P60). However, there’s a tipping point where there’s simply too much traffic, the carparks are full and the sheer volume of traffic is ruining the attractiveness of an area, maybe even making it dangerous. Businesses tend not to want to lose motor vehicle traffic and carparks though because it takes a leap of faith to believe that customers arriving by other modes will pick up the slack (despite an increasing body of evidence that they will).

Part of the problem might be that businesses don’t tend to be open at the times when traffic is at it’s worst, when commuters are trying to get to and from work and kids are trying to get to school. As a result businesses may genuinely believe the problem is not as bad as it is. One thing is for certain though, the Berhampore shops just aren’t humming at the moment. Despite the optimism shown in 2015 there’s too many empty shops and too many businesses failing. Something needs to change.

Notice I haven’t even mentioned cycleways yet? OK, here it comes. The current Newtown Connections consultation is great but one of its limitations is that it’s largely focused on cycling and “making biking safer and easier for more people”. I think the reason for that is the usual boring legal and administrative stuff. Councils have appropriations of money to do certain things. They are legally obliged to spend money on the things they say they will and then report on it. If ‘cycling’ is one of those things, then a consultation on spending that money gets framed as being about cycling, when maybe it could or should be framed as about transport or urban design.

Making biking safer and easier for more people is a very worthy aim but it’s really just one part of the picture when you are looking at a problem as tricky as the one facing the Berhampore shops. Berhampore doesn’t need a discussion about cycling as much as it needs a discussion about transport. And it doesn’t need a discussion about transport as much as it needs a discussion about identity. What does Berhampore want to be? Only then can we explore how transport can help it get there.

The good news is there are already some pretty big clues about what Berhampore wants to be. Let’s take a look at the last census, for example:

Berhampore has a lower percentage of households that own a car than the rest of Wellington. 22% of households not owning a car is significantly higher than neighbours to the south Island Bay (8%), but lower than neighbours to the north Newtown (26%).

car-ownership

Berhampore has a much lower percentage of people driving to work than the rest of Wellington and a higher percentage catching the bus and cycling. 33% of people driving to work is much lower than neighbours to the south Island Bay (52%) but higher than neighbours to the north Newtown (25%).

car-travel-to-work

And what about the last general election? Berhampore is much more progressive than its neighbour to the south Island Bay and maybe even a little bit more progressive than its neighbour to the north Newtown. A 26% party vote for the Greens is easily one of highest in the country. At the 2014 general election the Green Party actually won the party vote in Berhampore with 35% against Labour’s 32% and National’s 22%.

election-party-vote

These are just three examples but you can see where this is going. Berhampore is already a pretty progressive place that has a strong foothold in non-motor vehicle transport modes. And yet it has 18,000 cars per day going through its shopping centre, largely going to and from other places. For example, in the 2013 census over 2,000 people from Island Bay drove themselves to and from work, accounting for approximately 4,000 of the 18,000 vehicle movements per day in Berhampore. If I lived in Berhampore I’d be pretty concerned about that. I’d also be a big supporter of Island Bay residents getting on the bus or cycling to work. More importantly I’d be thinking “this isn’t who we are” and “what can we do as a community to control our own destiny?”

It seems to me that if Berhampore wants to play to its strengths, one of the things it should do is consciously make a decision to embrace other modes of transport and say “we’re not going to contribute to this problem”. That doesn’t have to mean going car-free but it might mean deliberately making some moves towards being significantly less car-dependent. Here’s a slightly random list of things Berhampore could consider doing, or ask the council for help to do:

+ Agree as a community to build upon the existing strong foundations for public transport use and uptake of walking & cycling. Set targets. Becoming the leading Wellington suburb for use of public transport and active transport is totally achievable and would be a real point of difference and source of pride
+ Make it clear to the council and private providers that Berhampore wants access to car-share, bike-share and scooter-share and the infrastructure to support it i.e dedicated car-share parking plus bike-share and scooter-share docking stations or corrals. And yes, dare I say it, separated lanes for scooters and bikes to use. Check out this great article from Women in Urbanism introducing the concept of ‘Little Roads / Rori Iti’
+ Turn more of the on-street parking in Berhampore into residents parking only and reduce the amount of commuter parking
+ Seriously promote the use of park-sharing via apps such as Parkable to get parking off the streets and make the most efficient use of valuable land
+ Do an intercept survey at the Berhampore shops to identify how people are currently travelling there so that more informed decisions can be made
+ The Berhampore shop owners could consider maximising their local, artisanal credentials by offering cargo bike or e-bike deliveries. Imagine getting hot, fresh bread from Baker Gramercy delivered to your door on Saturday morning
+ Investigate whether the western end of Luxford Street could be developed as retail, with the intention to gradually move the shops around the corner and away from Adelaide Road

These are just my thoughts and I’m sure there are many other things that could be done, both large and small.

Of course, the most immediate thing for residents and businesses to do is participate in the current Newtown Connections consultation in an open-minded, optimistic and constructive way. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is notionally a consultation about ‘cycling’. Newtown Connections is paving the way for a potential $32m investment into the Southern Suburbs. That’s a lot of money and it represents a once in a generation opportunity to fundamentally change the urban design of Newtown and Berhampore for the better.

This article was first published yesterday on Regan Dooley’s Island Bay Cycleway blog.

11 comments:

  1. Ron Beernink, 7. December 2018, 9:00

    Fantastic article, Regan. Not an easy problem to fix. It definitely needs to be considered from a wider perspective than just cycling, and with its local community values and objectives at heart. What is it we want to leave for our next generations? Definitely not a suburb that is defined as a vehicle-heavy busy commuter route.

     
  2. Curtis Nixon, 7. December 2018, 11:52

    Excellent analysis Regan. Berhampore desperately needs some destination branding and beautification. I’m very much in favour of some “Berhampore is buzzing” or like signage, street beautification with murals, planting and sculpture, and some infrastructure improvements around cycling and walking.

    Your idea about retail moving onto Luxford St has occurred to me. There is the space for shops and parking but how to start the process. One weird part of the retail scene here that has always puzzled me is the number of empty retail shops that have never had tenants in the nearly 10 years I have been living in Berhampore. These add to the ‘dead zone’ feeling.

    As far as cycleways I am in favour of the off-street versions cutting through the east and west sides of the golf course.and through MacAlister Park. As shared paths these will be good for walkability. Luxford St has a unique position as a connector between Rintoul and Adelaide and has space for one-way, on-road cycleways. Getting through the tight stretch of Adelaide Rd between Britomart and Luxford Sts is the big challenge. Maybe a shared path, which is the least favoured option of the planners but I can’t accept removing parking outside the shops so can’t see another option. Quite a challenge.

     
  3. Patrick Morgan, Cycling Action Network, 7. December 2018, 11:55

    Luxford Street is crying out for an upgrade. It is wide, flattish and connects two shopping areas. It is an ideal location for the healthy streets treatment.
    Let’s add more trees, seats, art and a pocket park. I predict we’ll love the result. It will be the heart of Berhampore.
    More at https://healthystreets.com/

     
  4. Kerry, 7. December 2018, 20:53

    Good article, nasty problem. I make it 15m wide in the worst place, 5m narrower than Riddiford Street. Something has to give: widen, bypass, relocate the shops, whatever. Any ideas?

     
  5. Bernard C, 8. December 2018, 9:16

    Personally I don’t think there is a problem with Berhampore. it’s important we see the actual, not start imagining things that can be improved are problems.
    Many of the new cycleways have narrowed the road too much and made it unsafe – two buses can no longer fit on the top of Newtown hill before the Kilbirne roundabout. Sadly the council seems to always be plotting more stupid which is costly on many levels for us.

     
  6. Benjamin Ormsby, 8. December 2018, 10:20

    Why not just remove private vehicles entirely? Problem solved. Have bus lanes, cycle/scooter lanes, pedestrian footpaths – that’s it. Plenty of examples of removing road space for private vehicles and the traffic disappearing. Great incentive to get people into other modes.

    When it comes to transport, what you feed is what grows. So stop feeding private vehicles with more roadspace, and start prioritising PT and active modes.

     
  7. Curtis Nixon, 8. December 2018, 11:42

    I agree with you to a certain extent Benjamin but on the other hand Regan’s article decrys the weak business activity in Berhampore and removing the parking from outside their premises could have a large impact on them.

     
  8. Traveller, 8. December 2018, 11:50

    You could easily remove all parking on the western side of the street – which would allow space for a cycleway if not a second lane of traffic to help reduce congestion at the lights. The timing of the lights should be reconsidered too. And Regan’s suggestion of more off-street parking is relevant.

     
  9. Benjamin Ormsby, 8. December 2018, 16:29

    @curtis But of course, that’s assuming that the majority of customers are arriving by car (something retailers generally overestimate). If you create an environment that attracts people, you will have more customers. And clearly with businesses closing, the current level of parking hasn’t helped.

    There are many examples of increasing business profits in areas where cars and car parking has been removed.

     
  10. luke, 9. December 2018, 10:57

    A struggling business dependant on ratepayer subsidized carparking isnt worth saving.

     
  11. William, 11. December 2018, 16:42

    The solution to the horrendous through traffic problem is not just to implore Berhampore residents to use their cars less (as you detail they’re already doing their share of that), but to minimise traffic from Island Bay and Kingston. This could be achieved by borrowing from Dutch practice where in some towns it is necessary to drive the long way round to get to the other side of town, but buses, cycles, scooters and pedestrians can travel directly. Known as filtered permeability, it could easily be achieved by installing retractable bollards at the top of Britomart St and on Adelaide Rd at Wakefield Park. Buses & emergency vehicles would automatically trigger the bollards to retract but other motor vehicles aren’t allowed to pass. Cycles, mobility scooters etc can pass between the bollards. It then encourages car travellers to use public transport or bikes etc.
    Alternatively, the drastic changes we’ll soon need to implement to reduce our transport CO2 emissions will achieve a similar result.

     

Write a comment: