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Better for cyclists and drivers – in support of a Brooklyn Hill bike lane

brooklyn hill 1
Trucks ascending Brooklyn Rd creating pinch points with pedestrian build-outs and parked cars – photo Sam Donald, May 2020.

by Nick Mouat, James Burgess, Sam Bridgman & Sam Donald
A2B (Active to Brooklyn), a local group seeking to support safe, healthy ways to move about in and around Brooklyn, has sent a submission to the Wellington City Council on the plan for a pop-up uphill bike lane on the Brooklyn Road – a very topical subject in the community. We strongly support this proposal.

It is in line with the aims of more people using active transport to get to and from Brooklyn. For people who already cycle the route, it will make the ride up Brooklyn Road much safer and more inviting. For people who aren’t yet comfortable riding up Brooklyn Road, it will remove one of the major barriers.

This is especially relevant for those who have rediscovered (or discovered) cycling during the lockdown and who wish to cycle instead of using public transport – but who are feeling vulnerable now that traffic levels are increasing again. A bicycle is an affordable alternative to bus trips, unlike the upfront costs (e.g. parking and fuel) and hidden costs of commuting by car.

We also believe that this bike lane will provide more comfort for drivers on the hill as there will be less chance of an accidental close pass or accident involving a driver and a person on a bike.

We encourage the Council to get this cycle lane operational as soon as possible to make a safe route for cycling, as an attractive option in Wellington’s transition from lockdown towards a ‘new normal’.

● We agree with the route chosen. All alternatives (e.g Central Park, Ohiro Road, Nairn Street, Thompson Street etc.) score much worse for one or more of directness, gradient, road width, proximity to parked cars, route clarity, and personal security.

● Allowing cyclists to avoid the existing pinch points from kerb build-outs and pedestrian refuges on Brooklyn Road and the risks associated with passing parked cars will make a big improvement. Many of these situations are unpleasant and very unsafe, even for experienced cyclists, forcing cyclists into traffic, and are probably a major barrier to people starting to cycle the route (we are aware of life threatening near misses caused by pinch points and ebikes attempting to overtake regular cyclists while moving past parked cars).

● Bypassing the bus stops where possible, as is planned, is a sensible approach and will reduce conflict with buses, bus passengers and help bus drivers too.

● At least one of the pedestrian refuges immediately west of the Washington Avenue intersection must be retained to allow safe crossing for pedestrians between Washington Avenue, Jefferson Street and Central Park/CBD. The wide path area at the corner of Washington Avenue and Brooklyn Road could allow people on bikes to bypass the pinch point formed by the refuge, waiting for buses or passengers as needed. Repositioning of the bus stop and/or adjustments to the road lane markings and position of the pedestrian refuges should be considered to avoid the requirement for buses to stop in the line of traffic (which would likely cause dangerous behaviour with vehicles attempting to overtake a stationary bus).

● We understand the temporary approach constrains some aspects of the design. We think it would be helpful to explain how a permanent cycle path here could be different – e.g. extra possibilities opened up when more of the road markings or kerbs etc could be changed as the road is resurfaced. At least to provide an approximate timeline (3, 6, 12 months?) for evaluation and feedback of the pop-up lane in use.

● We would love to see the project scope extended north to the intersection of Victoria and Webb Streets, e.g. by making the left lane between the Karo Drive traffic lights and after the Willis St traffic lights into a bus and cycle lane (vehicles turning left off Victoria St into Webb St are a safety hazard for cycling at present, as is getting to the advance stop box at the Willis St and also navigating the tight corner and the bus stop).

● For safety of all traffic in both directions, we would like to see the Brooklyn 30km/h limit extended past the intersection with Brooklyn Terrace and Ohiro Road. This would improve cycling comfort and safety at this high-crash-rate intersection and,reduce conflict and near-misses between through traffic and turning traffic and allow safer pedestrian crossing between Brooklyn and the Central Park routes into the CBD.

brooklyn hill 2
Cyclist passing parked vehicle ascending Brooklyn Road, creating a pinch-point with overtaking eBikes, cars, buses and trucks – photo Sam Donald, May 2020.

In addition we would like to make the following comments:

Benefits of removing the passing lane or creating a slow-vehicle pullover area:

While we understand the preference of some to retain the passing lane between Nairn Street and past Bidwell Street, there are also benefits to its removal.

Firstly it will slow down the uphill traffic which currently more often than not drives faster than the 50km/hr limit. Sample data from WCC traffic monitoring in 2019 showed over half the traffic was breaking the speed limit on the two-lane uphill section, with some of those reaching speeds of 70km/h or more.

Secondly, the likelihood of lower speeds and one less lane will make it easier and safer for pedestrians to cross Brooklyn Road to/from Bidwill Street. This is a route well used by students heading to the three secondary schools and Massey University in Mount Cook. We believe there is an opportunity to use some of the available road width South of Bidwill St to create a pedestrian route that enables much safer crossing than would otherwise be the case.

However we would also like the designers to consider whether a short slow-vehicle pullover area could be incorporated at some point on the ascent of Brooklyn Road (most likely just before the Bidwill Street bus stop) to mitigate the likelihood of dangerous passing maneuvers being undertaken through driver frustration when heavily-laden trucks or other very slow vehicles might on rare occasions be travelling extremely slowly. This would address one of the major points of opposition to this cycle lane and minimise the risk of strong opposition if and when the cycle lane becomes operational.

Approach to Tactical Urbanism

We believe that the trial will be an excellent opportunity to understand the benefits of the cycle lane and make minor adjustments as required. It is a preferred approach ahead of building expensive fixed infrastructure with its associated large costs which are therefore problematic to amend.

We encourage the Council to fully engage with the community and implement best practice collaboration (as is intended with the Innovating Streets programme). This might for example include an independently facilitated co-design process to harness the community’s detailed knowledge and explore opportunities for the project together, leading towards a constructive feedback process which could aid the design and development of permanent infrastructure in the future.

“Today, people-focused streets are a proven global best practice and the first-line response for transportation and transit agencies during the COVID-19 crisis, from Berlin to Brussels to Bogotá and from Minneapolis to Mexico City to Milan.” – Janette Sadik-Khan, Streets for Pandemic Response and Recovery

Overall, as regular users of the road (by car, bus, bike and on foot) we would welcome the opportunity to discuss detailed feedback with the Council and to participate and learn from the evaluation after a period of use to enable the Council to deliver the best temporary project it can from the outset, greatly improving cycling and walking and minimising the impacts on other road users.

Background on A2B

The Active to Brooklyn group sprang out of a 2015 morning coffee catchup organised at The Bresolin (south end of Willis Street) with the purpose of discussing improvements that could make active transport in the Brooklyn/Kingston and CBD linkages safer and more attractive. An open invitation was put on social media and over 30 people were in attendance including invited Council transport staff.

Following this initial gathering, a group of around half a dozen locals have been meeting to identify opportunities to achieve the goal of more active transport and active recreation for the Brooklyn area.

The overarching goals of the A2B group are:
● Creating a vibrant, healthy and safe community.
● Making the most of the Brooklyn area’s proximity to the CBD and recreational opportunities for walking and cycling.

As part of the 2016 Annual Plan process, A2B made a submission proposing nine projects that would help with active transport options, have wide community benefits, deliver low-carbon outcomes and align with WCC policies. The projects linked back to the Kaka Project (a community visioning exercise led by locals working in partnership with WCC) and feedback gathered in 2014/15 was incorporated into the A2B Annual Plan submission in 2015.

One of the tangible outcomes of that submission has been the Tawatawa-Vogelmorn Bikes in Schools track at Vogelmorn Park, a project led by our group in partnership with Ridgway School and its community. A2B led the design, secured funding of over $100k and managed the construction of the new track, new bikes & helmets for the school, all in collaboration with the WCC, Ridgway School and the Bike On Trust. This facility will shortly have further improvements with bike skills features and a Pump track constructed, adding to an increasingly popular community facility (that was especially popular with people of all ages and abilities riding bikes during the Level 4 and Level 3 lockdowns where at times 2m physical distancing was difficult to achieve due to the popularity of cycling).

In our 2016 Annual Plan submission, an up-hill cycle lane on the west/downhill side of Brooklyn Road was one of the 9 projects. The proposal did not go into detail as to whether this was two-way for cycling, demarcated from the pedestrian space etc. and the thinking at the time was that this was would primarily be for new or less confident cyclists with others continuing to ride on the road on what would one day be a dedicated, protected uphill cycle lane as has long been envisaged for this modest gradient arterial route.

32 comments:

  1. Traveller, 4. June 2020, 14:57

    Every time I drive up the Brooklyn hill I marvel at the bravery (and the energy) of so many cyclists who have to cope with the big trucks passing so close to them … A bike lane is needed asap.

     
  2. Twerp, 4. June 2020, 16:50

    Every time I drive up the Brooklyn hill I never see a cyclist.

     
  3. Georg, 4. June 2020, 19:08

    It’s time “the coolest little capital in the world” wakes up out ofhibernation. Wellington needs much more bicycle lanes otherwise it will be “the most bike-unfriendly capital in the world”.

     
  4. Russell Tregonning, 4. June 2020, 19:53

    Electric bike numbers are increasing in Wellington. They make this route readily bikeable by many more – given a safe, separated lane as you propose . Temporary the way to go initially. Healthy and climate-friendly transport promoting congestion relief. Well done.

     
  5. Richard, 4. June 2020, 20:21

    Does anyone else notice the irony both of the published photos showing a flush median wide enough for two bike lanes? Leave the parking, add bike lanes by replacing the median with a centre line. Might even slow down errant motorists by narrowing “their” bit of the road.

     
  6. City Lad, 4. June 2020, 21:38

    Electric bike batteries use finite quantities of our planet’s precious metals. The human race needs to keep fit. Gears on modern bicycles enable hilly terrain to be dealt with easily.

     
  7. Russell Tregonning, 4. June 2020, 22:42

    Yes, city lad. Battery technology is not perfect. But we have a climate crisis, so electric battery power is preferable in the meantime to burning fossil fuels. Electric bikes open up cycling Wellington’s wind and hills to many more people than muscle bikes, and they still need pedalling so promote fitness.

     
  8. Gwen, 5. June 2020, 9:49

    This is great – and we need to try more good ideas out! Wellington is supposed to be the innovation capital, let’s have more trials of stuff

     
  9. Roo, 5. June 2020, 10:41

    I support this. I think Wellington needs more cycle lanes and bike paths.

     
  10. Ross, 5. June 2020, 10:59

    On the uphill side from the end of the two lanes to the Brooklyn shops there is no room for a dedicated cycle lane. All a cycle lane will do is create traffic congestion back down to the lights at the top of Willis Street as people get blocked in behind buses and the many trucks heading to the dump. All road users just have to respect each others use of the road and the current road will continue to work well. As many bikes go up Hutchison Road (on the other side of the hill) with no issues.

    This proposal is for a temporary cycle way while Covid restrictions are in place –they are nearly totally removed and will be by the time of the proposed construction so the need on that basis is removed.

     
  11. Peter steven, 5. June 2020, 11:50

    While I strongly support more cycle infrastructure in Wellington as a way to make cycling more safe, relaxing and accessible, I really don’t like how this is getting done under the guide of social distancing.

    They could have set up some temporary cycle lanes when we really needed them, in the places that matter (like Newtown to the city), but they sat on their asses and didn’t do anything.

    The council need to be open and transparent about the reasons why we really need more safe cycle infrastructure – they have a plan and they need to get on and make it happen. The lack of safe cycling infrastructure in Wellington is atrocious.

     
  12. TrevorH, 5. June 2020, 13:03

    All part of this Council’s grand plan, using whatever pretext comes to hand, to thoroughly inspissate the city’s traffic flows.

     
  13. Andrew Bartlett, 5. June 2020, 13:50

    Peter. I agree, more footpath space instead of parking in broader areas right away would have been a good idea – the council seems to be of the view that almost exactly nothing can be done without a full traffic resolution and consultation, and even then very little should be done. (While a construction project can block off half a block without notified consultation or voted-on paperwork).

    The idea here was that increased cycle capacity was to offset decreased bus capacity due to social distancing required on the bus, not that individual cyclists were too close to each other panting their way up the hill. The NZTA offered some free cash for ‘tactical urbanism’ (trying things out rather than planning and then building for years) trials, which just happened to line up with COVID-19 by total co-incidence.

    The idea is to avoid the expense of building some of the ‘meh’ bike paths (eg the little they did on Rongotai Rd) while finding that others (like Crawford Rd, Oriental Pde) actually really work, or likewise that the parking impact is bearable (despite protests) or problematic before shifting cement.

     
  14. Todd’s Hat, 5. June 2020, 16:54

    The flawed logic being that anyone who couldn’t get on to public transport would rush out and buy a bike. As it turned out, hardly anyone went back to work in the city under level two, so the ‘car’nage that was prophesied never eventuated.

     
  15. Hel, 5. June 2020, 18:27

    How I yearn for even a smidgen of evidence that a cycle lane is required. Where is the evidence of the demand and where is the evidence of current usage. I’m not against cycleways but there needs to be some room for a bit of a sense check on these developments, make the case for investment. This route wouldn’t look out of place on the Tour de France hill climbs.

     
  16. Russell Tregonning, 5. June 2020, 19:35

    Hel. You only have to visit a few cities in Europe to see what happens when you make safe cycle lanes. Cyclists come out of the woodwork. But the cycle lanes have to be safe, properly separated and joined up. You watch.

     
  17. Jackson A, 5. June 2020, 19:40

    Hel, I would like to see a tram head up some of those Tour de France hills. The gradient of Brooklyn Road is what it is because of trams after all. Anecdotally, lots of people cycle up the hill… but hard data would help.

    I agree with the comment above about this being pushed through as a covid-driven initiative. If that is the case, the council could have sorted something much sooner. The real danger point for me is heading north on Ohiro Rd, through the lights and over the crest. It is narrow, lots of heavy vehicles combined with no median.

    Re batteries in ebikes, ever considered how many batteries are in a single Nissan Leaf? Perspective and all…

     
  18. Sam Donald, 6. June 2020, 0:30

    Twerp: Drivers not seeing cyclists is certainly a good reason for separated, protected cycle lanes.

    Trevor H: One way to improve the city’s traffic flows is to make it easier, safer and more attractive for people to cycle. Trial projects are a great way to see what might work. The status quo certainly isn’t working for traffic flow or congestion and as the population increases things will only get worse if we don’t make some bold changes to move away from the huge reliance on private motor vehicles to move around the city.

    Todd’s: Continued WFH has bought the council time to consult, rather than them rushing through design and implementation in order to have the projects installed in time for the start of Alert Level 2. We would be unwise to completely rule out the possibility of a second wave during Alert Level 1 and therefore a possible return of capacity restrictions on buses. The vitality of the CBD (and the survival of a large number of its businesses) relies on people returning to central workplaces to a fair extent well prior to a vaccine becoming available.

    Hel: Have a look at page 24 of this report to get an idea of the community’s desire for urgently increasing active, zero emissions transport in Wellington, of which cycling is a prime example. And when you overlay that with this study which indicated a 13% reduction in mortality for those who commuted to work by bike, you can get some idea of why safe cycle routes to (and from) all of our suburbs is a good idea. Current use of the road by cyclists isn’t that relevant (other than that it is already the most popular route due to its gentle, tram-friendly gradient, thereby identifying itself as the obvious local contender to be upgraded) the more important thing is the rapid update of bikes and ebikes all over the city and WCC’s declaration of a climate and ecological emergency.

     
  19. Puriri Moth, 6. June 2020, 10:01

    Horses are a good form of zero emission transport, can we get some horse lanes around the city too? I know not many people ride them currently but if we build them they will come. Also motorcycle lanes, they’re just as at risk as cyclists from being hit by another vehicle. While we’re at it, a lot of motorists feel unsafe around trucks, so dedicated car lanes and separate truck lanes too. Almost forgot bus lanes. So we’ll need 12 lanes thank you, plus footpaths. Or we could all just use the existing roads together, like we have done forever.

     
  20. John Smith, 6. June 2020, 11:59

    Having a cycleway up Brooklyn Hill is a good idea that I endorse – the current 2-lane car highway is over-engineered, and should definitely have one lane removed, and replaced as a cycleway. Brooklyn is close to the city, and being able to bike instead of using a car is a ideal option.

    As for car parks on the road – they can go, and the road actually be used for transport; in this case for cyclists.

     
  21. Glen Smith, 7. June 2020, 11:25

    Good article. As a major transport route with adequate width, a dedicated cycleway is clearly justified. However some more thought should be put into design.
    You mention overtaking and this is a major issue, especially with this gradient and the increased difference in cyclists’ speeds with modern electric cycles. To overtake safely, a minimum of 2.5 width is required. The 1.6m width of the Island Bay cycleway (which I use often) is inadequate, commonly forcing me out between parked cars into the traffic lane (a dangerous move even for an experienced cyclist). If a cycleway is physically segregated (the ideal), then it needs to be 2.5 wide. To have a single cycleway on each side of a road therefore requires at least 5m road width, more with any buffer. There are few Wellington roads that can accommodate this (as Island Bay demonstrates). One alternative is a non physically segregated cycleway with overtaking cyclists using an adjacent traffic lane. But this is not ideal.
    This issue is overcome by using one dual cycleway of at least 2.5m width on one side of the road. Just as cars overtake by using the oncoming lane, so cyclists wait until the adjacent lane is clear before proceeding, the movement all occurring within the dedicated cycle space.

    Segregated dual cycleways can be on either side of any carriageway. For example Cobham Drive, where westbound cyclists travel adjacent to east bound traffic (they are segregated so this is unimportant). The main issue with dual cycleways is cross traffic, so the side with least side roads is the ideal. With Brooklyn Hill this is the west side and I note with interest your comment that you previously proposed “an up-hill cycle lane on the west/downhill side of Brooklyn Road” (can you post a copy or link to this proposal). This is, in my view, the ideal. A dual cycleway on the West could eventually incorporate some of the vacant land on the west side between southern Nairn St and a bit south of Bidwill St, allowing retention of the car overtaking lane. No alteration in layout of side turns at Nairn St north, entrances to apartment blocks, Nairn St south, Bidwill St, Washington Ave, Brooklyn Tce or Bretby St would be required. Parking on the west side of lower Brooklyn Hill could likely be retained by use of unnecessary median width. The Ohiro Road intersection could be managed by setting the cycleway back one car length (see previous reference in the article on the across city cycle proposals) so entering/ exiting cars assess the cycleway separately.

    Dual cycleways have to end at some point and cyclists return to normal road cycling on both sides of the road. This is ideally at light controlled intersections with a separate light sequence for cyclists. However in the north, the cycleway should continue as a dual cycleway on the east side of Willis St between Webb St and Karo Drive (light sequence at the Webb St/ Willis St intersection)- avoiding Aro and Palmer st side roads-, then across either Karo Drive or Abel Smith St to a dual cycleway on the east side of Victoria St (light controlled cycle sequence throughout).

    In the south, the dual cycleway would ideally continue to the lights at the Brooklyn township. This would involve loss of parking on the west side of Ohiro Rd and would need some way of managing the fairly gnarly intersection at Tanera Cres. A solution would be new lights at Tanera Cres with a sequence for exiting/ entering cars and for cyclists to return to normal street cycling for the stretch to the Brooklyn Shops. This would involve more detailed planning but, as with Featherston St and Victoria St, could very well be implemented immediately using cones, signs and temporary traffic lights.

     
  22. Sarah Morgan-Brown, 7. June 2020, 19:38

    It seems that the issues are pinch points and speed of traffic. One is relevant to cyclists and the other is outside the bounds of promoting a cycle lane. If there is a cycle lane, would you be ok with a speed limit of 70kms?
    You can’t blame truckies for the pinch points. Previous councils installed them to make it safer for pedestrians who are harder to see and don’t wear lights at night. It is easy to look behind and slow down if there is another vehicle coming when cycling that hill. What you are suggesting is pitting cyclists against pedestrians. I’ve never been in favour of that. The truckies have as much right to use that road as everyone else.
    The experience with other cycle lanes is that they aren’t swept on a daily basis. This one will be worse because of the debris from vehicles heading to the 3 landfills. With a cycle lane there is nowhere else to go but through the glass. There is plenty of room for all users to be considerate and no need for a cycle lane.
    FYI – anyone can cycle through Central Park. It sounds like some cyclists haven’t progressed past the biking equivalent of paint by numbers and need a green/red stripe to be able to go anywhere.

     
  23. Hone Simpson, 7. June 2020, 20:56

    I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 10 years and never seen a cyclist injured on Brooklyn Hill. This cycle lane is totally unnecessary as I ride my bike up the hill with no problems with other vehicles 4 days per week. There are other quieter routes Brooklyn/city to ride like Thompson Street and Ohiro road, I use these some days for variety. A lot of heavy loaded trucks go up Brooklyn hill at 20kph and you don’t want to be stuck behind them, hence the reason for the passing lane. Also the carparks on lower Brooklyn roads are needed for visitors to the elderly and disabled residents in the Council flats as well as users of the tennis center complex.

     
  24. Catharine Underwood, 8. June 2020, 19:00

    I think that those who don’t use the road should have a comment. Be the change you want to see.
    I’m constantly being told there are so many people who would cycle if it was safe. Safe is purely subjective. If all those people who want to cycle but think it is too dangerous actually got out and cycled, there would be more cyclists and less cars. Trucks will only get less when people stop creating rubbish for the 3 landfills.

     
  25. greenwelly, 9. June 2020, 13:25
  26. Andrew, 9. June 2020, 14:34

    OK, so there are more useless things than the Wellington City Council … but I contend few which cost so much.

     
  27. Fleur Fitzsimons, 9. June 2020, 15:38

    The paper on temporary cycleways has been withdrawn from the Council agenda for Thursday. I know this will disappoint many but the change to level 1 without the need for social distancing means that the basis on which Council proposed them thankfully no longer exists. [via twitter]

     
  28. Island Bay Healthy Streets, 9. June 2020, 15:49

    When you get 1,400 responses to a consultation & 66% overall support this is a very bad look. [via twitter]

     
  29. Moist Breath Zone, 9. June 2020, 15:53

    Two reasons for the bells to ring in celebration. Never thought I’d see the day that common sense prevailed at the WCC.

     
  30. michael, 9. June 2020, 16:15

    Many councils around NZ quickly took up govt funding and took action to temporary trial cycle lanes and wider footpaths. Level 1 and WCC was still talking about it. Just another huge waste of money on project costs and external consultants. What do we pay the council officers for?

     
  31. WCC, 9. June 2020, 18:09

    The Council has also called a halt to proposed temporary changes on Featherston, Hunter and Victoria streets.
    It’s possible some of these projects may be progressed at a later stage.

     
  32. Sam Donald, 11. June 2020, 13:10

    As disappointing as it was to hear that the temporary projects were pulled, despite the officer’s report stating that the projects were due to stay in place until a vaccine was available, at least it now looks like all of the projects are still on the table and some, including Brooklyn Rd, could be back in front of Councillors as soon as August. This will allow officers time to ensure the projects are as closely aligned to the permanent solution as possible, which will make the trial even more meaningful. Hopefully the budgets (and 90% contribution from NZTA) will be increased to allow for an improvement in safety and convenience for all road users. The WCC submission figures show that the Brooklyn Rd proposal for a temporary cycle lane had overwhelming support at around 2:1 and will be able to stay in place until the permanent solution is able to be funded and implemented, rather than having an expectation to remove it when a vaccine becomes available. Great news.

     

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