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Blown away by the flyover

view south 2 [1]

by Lindsay Shelton
There’s a new addition to the list of bad things about the flyover that the Transport Agency wants to build alongside the Basin Reserve – motorbikes or light trucks could be blown over in strong winds while they’re on it, and there’ll be problems for pedestrians too.

The revelation is authoritative. It comes from the Transport Agency itself, in its huge Assessment of Environmental Effects, one of the many documents which it has prepared for the resource consent application.

The Agency’s assessment says that wind gusts in the central section of the flyover “are likely to range up to extremely high levels.” The assessment admits:

“the orientation of the bridge to the prevailing winds means that pedestrians and cyclists will be exposed to wind flows from the side [2], for which they are less prepared. The main risks to vehicles are from strong cross winds. These risks are greater for high-sided vehicles, such as lightly loaded trucks, and motorcycles … Effects can range from causing tracking variations to complete overturning. The more at-risk vehicles can experience these effects when gust wind speeds range up to 25m/s or higher. The level of risk is considered to be relatively minor, given the fairly short distance of greater exposure towards the centre of the bridge combined with the 50 km/h speed limit.”

“Relatively minor” seems a rather frivolous way to describe a serious situation. Perhaps they’ll consider increasing the speed limit on the centre of the flyover, so that motorcyclists and truck drivers can accelerate through the zone where they might otherwise be blown over. Will there be an emergency exit for traffic and pedestrians if the signs, promised by the Transport Agency, warn that the winds are too high? Or will there be no escape?

These new problems are a reminder that in January we discovered another report from Transport Agency experts giving the flyover a negative marking [3] in seven out of nine categories.

Here’s how they rated its effects:-

Ecology – minor negative
Archaelogy – significant negative
Air quality – minor negative to insignificant
Noise – minor negative
Built heritage – severe negative
Urban design and landscape – minor to moderate negative
Urban design (peer review) – moderate negative
Social impact – minor positive
Transport – significant positive

With so many negatives (and the dubious premise of a flyover somehow having a positive social impact), the writers of the report try hard to find more positive things to say. They make a vague promise of up to a 30 per cent reduction in travel time for westbound traffic on the flyover during peak periods. (My emphasis; it’s a bit like sale advertisements, offering “up to” 30 per cent reductions which can never be found.) The report doesn’t explain how this time will be saved, except that it promises “optimising” of the intersection with Taranaki Street and Karo Drive. Which could have been done years ago. Whatever is optimised, flyover traffic will still be stopped by traffic lights at this bottleneck. And at Victoria Street, and Cuba Street, and Willis Street.

The report also promises to save 45 seconds for buses travelling between Kent Terrace and Adelaide Road. Which hardly seems to be a gain, when the city council – preoccupied with pedestrian safety – has been working all year to slow down buses, rather than to speed them up.

The Transport Agency is not the only authoritative source of flyover criticism. Pay attention, also, to the opinions of Maximus on eyeofthefish [4]. Here’s what he said about the flyover in an article last month:

I am against the flyover because it is just so technically pointless to have a 250m long concrete bridge when simpler solutions existed at less cost. But, as far as flyovers go, it’s much of a muchness. They’re all ugly concrete structures, they all get covered in graffiti, and they all spoil a viewshaft – and this one is no different. In urban design terms … the viewshaft down Cambridge / Kent Tce towards Adelaide Road will be first framed by the flyover, then infilled by the new Stand.

And what does he think of the new Stand? He says as a piece of urban design it has several strong drawbacks. Chief amongst these is of course that it is designed for only one reason: to block the view.

It is there to block the view of the flyover from the ground, and to stop disconcerting movements being apparent to the bowlers and batters when standing at the crease, and it extends for 65m long, despite the Transport Agency’s sketches showing that they needed something only in one small area to block the view.

Being three stories tall, and therefore about 9-10m high, it will also provide a baffle to the noise from the flyover, as well as visually spoil the view, if not completely eradicate it. It is therefore, one could argue, a very selfish Stand, one which caters to the Basin Reserve Trustees, and not to the city. The view of the flyover from the flanks of Mt Victoria will not be lessened one iota.

A selfish stand. A pointless and ugly flyover. Sad for a capital that’s trying to be cool and creative.