The cycleway that hasn’t been built – how slow can they go?

by Lindsay Shelton
Back in 2008, the need for an off-road cycleway between Petone and Ngauranga was being described as “urgent.” The urgency was clear because a prominent cyclist had been killed at the Petone roundabout. We had a reminder of the urgency this week, when another cyclist was injured.

In the six years since the fatality, progress towards building the urgently needed cycleway has been negligible.

In 2010, two years after the cyclist’s death, a “Ngauranga Triangle Study” recommended the need for a project to “close the gap” in the cycling route between Ngauranga and Petone.

In March 2011, all the regional mayors supported the need for an offroad cycleway:

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said that it would be a major step forward to bridging the gap in the Great Harbour Way. Jenny Chetwynd, Regional Director of the New Zealand Transport Agency, agreed to report back to the next Regional Transport Committee meeting on whether it was possible to move its construction forward.

A month later, Regional Council chair Fran Wilde said

“The lack of a decent cycling facility on this stretch of SH2, which is used by a large number of cyclists each day, sticks out like a sore thumb in our regional cycling network. It’s generally agreed that a need for such a facility is long overdue.”

There may have been general agreement in 2011, but the Transport Agency didn’t move till November 2012, when it said that in 2013 it would “soon” begin investigating options, with the aim of creating a safe and efficient cycleway. This wasn’t to be an actual investigation, however. The plan was only to request tenders for proposals for the cost and scope of work required to investigate the project.

The slow-moving Agency – no doubt distracted by dreams of a Basin Reserve flyover – said it expected “to engage with the community on the cycleway’s features once we have detailed options for the route by 2014.”

By June last year (five years after the cyclist’s death) there hadn’t been much progress. Investigations hadn’t started. But the Agency kept talking. It said it would

soon begin formal investigations into a potential facility to help cyclists travel more safely between the two cities. The investigation aims to identify what facilities are needed to make the bike ride between Hutt and Wellington safer and easier.

Investigations may now have started, but the bike ride continues to be unsafe. After a cyclist was knocked off his bike and injured this week, he told wellington.scoop that his accident was 50-60 metres before the Petone overbridge:

The problem i had was that the car came into the cycle lane and hit me off my bike as he wasn’t concentrating on the road and was looking down at something.

And why is the cycle lane not separated from other traffic? Another cyclist told us how this has happened.

The existing offroad cycleway ends near Horokiwi, which is about 1km south of the Petone overbridge. Anyone foolish enough to use it heading north would end up having to ride up the side of the Hutt Road cycling against traffic. This sad state of affairs is the result of the Transport Agency scrapping the last km of the cycle path in order to increase the number of southbound lanes from two to three on the Hutt Road south of the overbridge.

More than three years ago, when all the mayors had agreed on the need for an off-road cycleway, Regional Councillor (and enthusiastic cyclist) Paul Bruce gave a persuasive explanation of why it is needed:

“This cycle project addresses primarily the inadequate level of service to pedestrians and cyclists that has existed for most of the last century. A 2010 survey indicated that about 450 cyclists used the median strip on the Hutt Road, and this can be compared to the 42,000 vehicle movements on that stretch, all moving at 100km/hr.

“Leading US cycle advocate Gil Penalosa would not find this surprising, as he maintains that only 1 per cent “kamikaze cyclists” will use a state highway with no cycling infrastructure. According to Penalosa, the provision of a protected cycle way connecting major centres will lead to an increase of 10 to 30 per cent of cycle commuters.”

Does the next move have to be left to the slow-moving Transport Agency? Or will Fran Wilde (who has the reputation of getting what she wants) and the regional mayors show a stronger determination to make faster progress towards construction of a cycleway that everyone agrees has been urgently needed since 2008.

August 2012: New cycleway was expected by next year
October 2012: Survey of cyclists

 

9 comments:

  1. Mike Mellor, 30. August 2014, 19:03

    There’s a quick, easy, cheap (but admittedly not optimal) solution – convert the shoulder at the Petone end to a shared path (don’t forget the walkers – it’s not just a cycleway) by separating it from the three traffic lanes by a barrier, like the markers that already separate lanes on the adjacent overbridge.

    Can’t be done? Well, NZTA recently removed the shoulder (albeit a bit shorter length) just a few kilometres away, on the motorway at Ngauranga northbound where SH1 and SH2 diverge, so a shoulder clearly has a lower priority than road capacity, which should have a lower priority than road safety; and such a barrier separates the two sides of SH1 Calabar Road, taking up minimal width and separating traffic with a potential legal closing speed of 140 km/h (cyclists on SH1 are separated from 100 km/h traffic by a strip of paint).

    So, why not just do it?

     
  2. John Clarke, 31. August 2014, 7:46

    Based on NZTA’s inaction over the past five years, I think the only conclusion to be drawn is that the bureaucrats think the deaths and injuries reflect an acceptable level of casualties.

     
  3. Sridhar Ekambaram, 31. August 2014, 12:31

    Again it boils down to priorities set by the govt of the day. For the last 6 years, the priority was motoring. Under the same govt, cycling seems to have suddenly got a higher priority with Nat’s announcement of an increase in funding to $100m (still short of what is required but nevertheless better). So we can expect the NZTA to act faster on this? Or am I being too optimistic?

     
  4. James Gilbert, 31. August 2014, 13:12

    I use the state highway currently but wouldn’t consider myself a “kamikaze cyclist.” Quite frankly, I find the insinuation that I am somehow reckless or foolish insulting. I have built the necessary competency to confidently ride that stretch of road. It smacks of sensationalism to make out that my daily commute is a suicide mission.

    Mike: those barriers on the overbridge are a hazard to cyclists more than anything. If I am riding with any other cyclist we point those types of things out as a hazard to steer clear of – having them lining the motorway would be a nightmare.

     
  5. Mike Mellor, 31. August 2014, 18:45

    James: I’m not sure why the Petone barriers are such a hazard to cyclists, but the precise form of a barrier is certainly important.

    But what is more important at this stage is that there appears to be space available to achieve a shared path, on the basis that if it is OK to remove the shoulder on a very busy motorway to increase capacity, it should also be OK on a less-busy general-purpose road to increase safety.

     
  6. James GIlbert, 31. August 2014, 19:59

    They also have those barriers on haywards hill. they are a menace – if you are riding with another cyclist behind you then they have to be warned about them, especially in winter and in the dark – otherwise any deviation in your line and you’ll hit them and potentially end up on the ground and in traffic – exactly the type of thing you’re trying to prevent.

    I really hope that any consideration of a separated bike lane is not two-directional and is maintained. A lot of cyclists use this recreationally and they must also be taken into account – the benefit of the road currently is that it is wide enough and it is regularly swept of debris. The issue with the current separated lane is it’s a confined space with debris and also used by runners/walkers.

    I sincerely hope that any decision on this is WIDELY consulting cyclists who currently enjoy the route. If there is an intention to remove the shoulder, then the replacement still has to be suitable for recreational cyclists who enjoy riding on the current road – I for one do not want to have runners and walkers blocking/oncoming in a confined separated space.

     
  7. Mike Mellor, 31. August 2014, 21:21

    James: I agree that what you’re talking about is very desirable, but would take time and money to implement. What I’m talking about is cheap and quick, and improves the current situation for walkers and cyclists – not to the same standard, but in a way that doesn’t preclude longer-term action.

     
  8. Bruce Spedding, 1. September 2014, 23:38

    Let’s build monuments to the future, not the past. It’s a shame the government did not have the foresight in creating an ANZAC memorial that looks to the future and celebrates the freedoms that past conflicts have been fought to preserve.

    The Great Harbour Memorial Way would allow people from all walks (literally) of life to enjoy what would be an iconic and safe walking and cycling route from Seatoun to Eastbourne. With frequent rest areas. Each stopping point could be dedicated to a period or event in our armed forces history making this not only a journey around the harbour but a journey through time in a way that could not be achieved in the conventional museum / mausoleum context.

    Not only would this bring our heritage and history to a large number of New Zealanders and visitors, it would also offer an extraordinary number of additional benefits. The development of the shared walkway would bring with it a significantly more resilient Wellington to Hutt Valley link by providing a buffer between the sea and the transport network, an issue that has been only too obvious in recent years. Similarly it would create a more secure connection from the Hutt Valley to Eastbourne, a vulnerable community that has no safe walking access and a single road which is easily closed by bad weather.

    The health and economic benefits would be manifest as well. Not only would cycle commuting become more attractive and safer, the development of businesses to support recreational use of the way would make the journey even more of an attraction. With connecting transport options including buses and ferries running between Seatoun, the CBD, Petone and Days Bay, cyclists and walkers would be able to tailor their journeys to their needs and abilities.

    With easy access from the airport, waterfront, railway station, ferry and cruise ship terminals the tourism opportunities are also evident, and connecting with the Rimutaka Cycle Trail would add further potential for new businesses.

    What better way to remember and acknowledge the sacrifices made by the New Zealanders who served in various conflicts than create a living memorial that is accessible by all and embodies the freedom that kiwis value so much.

    It’s unfortunate that the current government in its rush to meet a self imposed deadline is building the expensive Buckle Street Underpass to enable a park dedicated to the past and of little use to the living, when a future looking memorial accessible to all, with considerable economic benefits and cost savings could have been had. Lets build for the future while remembering the past, not build for the past at the cost of the future.

     
  9. Opus the Poet, 2. September 2014, 6:13

    There is an easy solution that has been proven for two decades in the Netherlands. They use separated bidirectional cycle tracks with either a barrier or substantial distance protecting cyclists from motor vehicles. Their experience has been that good bicycle infrastructure pays back in better health and reduced fossil fuel consumption about 20 times the costs of installing bicycle infrastructure. Added bonuses are that cycle infrastructure takes major wear and tear away from the motor vehicle infrastructure for them as they went to about a 35% mode share for bicycles, and bicycles impose about 0.01% of the wear and tear that motor vehicles create bicycle infrastructure outlasts motor vehicle infrastructure.

     

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