Newswire report by Nita Blake-Persen
Wellington bus drivers using the new Manners Mall bus lanes will need to hug the kerbs – there is barely enough room for two buses to pass. Even scraping their kerb-side tyres, they will have just on a metre between mirrors.
When driving a comfortable distance from the footpath, the gap between two buses passing in the new lane could be down to just over half a metre – close enough to squash a pedestrian silly enough to be caught between them.
This conflicts with a concept drawing on the Wellington City Council’s website, which shows there is plenty of space.
However, the council is confident the street will be wide enough.
The road has been made narrow to allow more room on the footpaths, says council spokesman Richard MacLean. “Measurements have been done to ensure buses will be able to pass safely.”
One of the key things about the lane was buses will not be travelling fast – the area has a reduced speed of 30kmh, and is not designed as a high speed space, he says.
Mr MacLean says although there will not be much manoeuvring room, if buses are driven carefully and properly, the lane will work well.
Maria van der Meel, president of lobby group the City is Ours, disagrees and thinks the lane is too narrow. She has concerns for the safety of buses and pedestrians and says the road needs to be at least 7m wide to be safe.
According to one worker on the site, there has been speculation among them that the road is too narrow. Another said the buses might need to be fitted with retractable mirrors to ensure enough passing room.
NewsWire reporters measured the new street layout after passersby expressed concern that it looks too narrow.
The lane averages 6.5m in width, with the footpath on the seaward side averaging about 4.7m and the other side about 3.8m.
Buses are 2.5m wide, plus another 150mm to 200mm for their mirrors. Another 100mm to 200mm is usually taken up because drivers stay clear of the kerbing.
Assuming drivers do not rub their tyres against the gutters, two buses passing will need between at least 5.5m and perhaps as much as 5.8m to be safe – leaving as little at .7 of a metre gap in the middle.
The $11million transformation of the mall is due to be completed in just under three weeks and buses will begin using the lane on Sunday, November 28.
Nita Blake-Persen is a Whitireia journalism student.