Wellington: Cycle-friendly City – yeah right

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

The ambitions of our council are admirable – a cyclist and pedestrian friendly city – but this is maybe a situation of the “Devil being in the Detail.”   A case in point could be Mt Vic tunnel.  Built in 1930-1931, it is a key part of Wellington’s transport route, and one of the few moments where cyclists are compelled to use the footpath.  Perhaps more easy said than done …

Let’s take the approach on SH1 from the city-side – one of the easiest ways for a cyclist to actually get into, through, and out of the tunnel.  Riding around the Basin Reserve the pedestrian-crossing across that part of SH1 running up to the tunnel (and parallel to Paterson St) provides a simple transition from road to footpath.

Despite the potential for waiting pedestrians to block this, and an inconveniently placed post with the pedestrian-crossing button, zipping up this way is easiest because you are turning with the road, which, getting thinner and squeezed for space, makes the footpath looks very appealing.

There is another gap in the kerb slightly later – but one made for mountain bikes at speed rather than delicate road bicycles, or those of us a little slower with our pedal-power.

This all sounds fine-ish – but the catch is that using either of these dropped kerbs is illegal for bikes. While bike-riders must use the pedestrian way through the tunnel, it is only after the nasty barrier of the chicane, when there is no transition available from road to footpath, that bikes are legally able to ridden on the footpath.  God knows what magical flying machine the traffic engineers thought my bike was going to be – but let me tell you it ain’t.

Thank goodness for St Joseph – the patron saint of carpenters, confectioners, engineers and travellers. His church to the left of the footpath provides welcome refuge for cyclists and pedestrians unenthused about entangling with footpath barriers.

Leaving the tunnel from this direction is legally trouble-free.  A convenient kerb-drop post-tunnel allows an easy access onto the road – before the nasty chicane on the Hataitai side.  This is convenient if you are heading to Hataitai – but a trival irritating if you really wanted to go along Ruahine St to play badminton.

This, as I’ve said, is the easy (if slightly illegal) way to bike through Mt Vic tunnel.  Riding the other direction has the big hiccup of being on the wrong side of the road … so, in addition to negotiating the footpath barriers, you also have a road to cross.

So what to do? Get rid of those damn chicanes dear council, and put more signs to welcome cyclist onto the footpath to help us get off the road sooner and into the tunnel more safely.  I enjoy the shadows chicanes make on the pavement asphalt – but that’s about all.  Make life easier for those of us without aerobatic or acrobatic cycling skills.  Save lives, make friends, remove barriers.  Share the love – but not the obstacles.  Make peace, not war, with city-cyclists.


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Posted under: RANTING | 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Wellington: Cycle-friendly City – yeah right”

  1. johnny Says:

    It would be far simpler if both the walking lane and the cycle path were removed and then we could widen the road and install peak traffic flow measures with randomly alternating one and two lane carriageways.

    If you have to go by bike go via Newtown or Oriental Parade but just get off SH1.

  2. helen Says:

    not a terribly nice idea for pedestrians or cyclists who live in Hataitai … and would there even be enough space in the tunnel for three lanes if the pedestrian path was removed?

  3. t Says:

    How about mezzanining (is that a word?) the whole tunnel – cars and vans below, bikes and walkers above. Just mean that trucks have to get off that short section of SH1.

    Or I’d do a trade – me and my bike would stay off that section of SH1 if cars disappear off the Old Hutt Rd (even off the cycle lane would be helpful).

  4. muppet Says:

    Wouldn’t that put the cyclists up there in the thick of the fumes generated from below?

  5. batgirl Says:

    Okay lets talk about getting to Newtown. I cycle from Lambton Quay to Newtown – getting to work is fine, and yes I use the by-pass, but I never use the cycle/pedestrian path because:
    a. it requires crossing the road several times
    b. pedestrians hate cyclists
    c. there are several level changes, curbs to climb and complex signage so that I am never sure when the cycle path has disappeared to.
    ….
    So on the way home, and this is a problem for cars too, it is nigh on impossible to get across town. You either chicane through a series of intersection, with several lane switches, or dip all the way down to Te Papa – where you also have to cross several lanes of traffic to turn right up Kent Terrace. Then to get around the Basin, again there are lanes of traffic to cross to go straight ahead (avoiding SH1). Then I’m on Adelaide road where cars travel at speed (and where a friend nearly lost his life last month because a right turning car failed to see him & drove right into him side-on). Next is the new bit out front the hospital, clearly designed to manage two lanes of traffic with buses pulling out across both lanes…. and where is a cyclist to go while that is happening? The little green bit to indicate where cyclists should wait at the lights appears out of no where squished out between the separating lanes of traffic.

    There is clearly no organized approach to cycle lanes in Wellington, the measure undertake so far with cycle/pedestrian paths are adding to the confusion, not making things safer.

    So I could catch a bus except this morning the bus from Newtown took 40minutes and I was crushed into the bus with far too many other passengers.

  6. johhny Says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but if you are walking or biking isn’t that about getting fit and being in touch with a slower pace of life.

    Please stop moaning about travel taking too long or getting too much exercise by having to make a small detour over or around Mt Vic and enjoy the opportunity to get fitter and the additional opportunity to explore more of our wonderful city from street level by taking back roads and cut throughs.

  7. batgirl Says:

    sorry no cycling is about not using a car, and not getting killed in the process

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