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.