Bicycling in the ‘Hood: Do-able or Dangerous?

Here’s another guest post from regular contributor Robert:

The anticipation and high expectation of better things for the everyday cycle-person in post-quake Christchurch is palpable right now. Rightly so – news of the 13 cycleways to be developed soon is frequently reported in the media and via PR releases. . Naming the routes will perhaps be next big announcement.

Is this activity already having an effect on the number of people on bikes around the city this summer? Certainly there are plenty of styles, colours and fashions visible for bikes and attire.  Retro, pastel, high-viz, funky helmet, baskets, boxes and cargo’s all over the place. Looks promising so far.

How are newbies managing?  Will the new cycleways meet expectations for safety, and what about streets and routes that don’t get the cycleway designation? Will the $69 million spend be sufficient to attract the hoped for numbers of “interested but concerned” onto their bikes and make it all successful?

There is much at stake.

Grate is not so great

Since short journeys (up to 5 km) are very doable in Christchurch, given the flat terrain, a mode switch from car to bike by as many “interested” people as possible is desirable. I thought it may be useful to share the experience of riding a bike within the neighbourhood of St Albans, my ‘hood.

From home, it takes 5 minutes to bike to Merivale  or Edgeware, 10 minutes to the Palms, Central City or Papanui.  25 minutes will get you to the movies in Sydenham or Riccarton and the University. 30 minutes is all it takes to New Brighton.  So pretty central really. St Albans folk should get on their bikes more.

Here are a number of examples that I think are less than ideal  for someone on a bike. They are, without exception a distance of 500 metres or less from our house.

  • Westminster Street: Ample width for cars and a bike, providing the car doesn’t cross the centre line and meet another = Squeeze if you are in the vicinity.  At commuter time, vehicle speed is 60kmh plus. There is a school very close, a few children bike to school.
Westminster St
Westminster St

Courtenay Street: There is insufficient space for 2 cars to pass when there are parked cars. The rough road edge requires a bike to claim a lane for simple safety reasons. Fast moving traffic attempting to avoid Cranford Street congestion can be intolerant of bikes moving at less than speed if claiming a lane.

Courtenay St
Courtenay St
  • Roundabout: Bike lane along St Albans Street disappears entering the roundabout as the road-width narrows.  Claim the lane and fast-moving vehicles behind you get agitated. Don’t claim the lane and risk being forced into the gutter. Early indication is essential.
Courtenay/Trafalgar/St Albans roundabout
Courtenay/Trafalgar/St Albans roundabout
  • Trafalgar Street: This is a quaint residential street that has had a history of speeding vehicles. Upgraded 15 years ago, speed humps were added. The street is too narrow for parked cars and two-way traffic so, as with Courtenay Street, if you don’t claim a lane you are squeezed. The humps aren’t pleasant to ride over and they appear to make some vehicles move even faster between them, out of  frustration I guess.
  • Roundabout: This intersection is on the Springfield Road – Rutland Street commuter race-track and traffic moves fast at peak times so be very aware. Not unknown for a vehicle to drive over the raised lip and pass someone on a bike, rather than wait behind for a few seconds.
St Albans / Rutland roundabout
St Albans / Rutland roundabout
  • Westminster Street – Rutland Street “T “ Intersection: A pinch-point when entering this intersection, which has, on one occasion, ruined an evening out.
Westminster-Rutland intersection
Westminster-Rutland intersection
  • Westminster Street – Cranford Street intersection: At peak traffic time, space is insufficient for turning vehicles. Bikes have to do the best that they can.
Westminster-Cranford intersection
Westminster-Cranford intersection

A healthy dollop of optimism is necessary for cycling in our area. Plenty of care also.

In fairness, the problems with Courtenay Street plus the roundabout leading from it onto Westminster were to be improved prior to the earthquakes.  Hopefully any improvements planned for the future are more cycle friendly.

Courtenay Street took a hammering in Feb 2011.  It has a very uneven surface.

The other two roundabouts are joined by a painted cycle lane but neither are cycle-friendly when vehicles do not slow down.  This route (including Trafalgar Street heading to Edgeware) is part of the planned Grassmere Cycleway. There are high expectations for a cycle friendly route.

I cannot see how Cranford Street / Westminster Street intersection will ever be a joy for anyone on a bike.

The surveys have indicated:

  • 50 to 60 % of respondents would be interested in cycling but have concerns   (safety in particular)
  • Around one third would not ride a bike under any circumstances.

Upwards of 12% are enthused and confident about biking and do so regularly. The planned infrastructure will, for certain, attract some of the “interested but concerned” respondents onto their bicycles. What will also determine the success of the scheme will be the effect of traffic calming initiatives throughout our roading network to complement the cycleway infrastructure.

It is early 2014.  My current status for riding a bike in our neighbourhood is: “very interested,  highly enthused, but quite concerned.“

The concern is as much about excessive speed by vehicles, as less than friendly infrastructure for those one bikes.

Rate your own status, and if there are concerns – please  share them.

2 thoughts on “Bicycling in the ‘Hood: Do-able or Dangerous?”

  1. Picking up on your mention of the introduction of “traffic calming” measures, from my experience “traffic calming” measures equal danger and frustration when you are on a bike. Some encourage more speed from some drivers, especially if they have turned a straight road into a set of fast chicanes… Or narrowed a wide street and allowed parking on both sides hardly leaving enough room for a car let alone a car that wants to pass a bike (or a bike that wants to pass a car). I can’t see any shared space being desirable by anyone. One of the main advantages of riding a bike in traffic is the ability to beat the queues of cars. If you try and make people share the same space cycling is going to be just as slow and frustrating as driving a car! It would probably put me back in a car. I have seen this time and time again, they narrow an intersection with sticky out kerbs making a difficult intersection a dangerous pinch point!

  2. My main route is from Bishopdale to work on Kilmore St every day. Intimidating things for the novice cyclist:
    – negotiating the big roundabout at the intersection of Harewood and Highsted
    – the right turn from Harewood on to Papanui
    – the Merivale shops on Papanui Road, where the risk of being doored or cut off is very high. If it were up to me, I’d remove the relatively few car parks on Papanui Rd in this block.
    – the lack of cycle lanes on Harewood Rd (except for some token bits around Bishopdale Mall)
    – the everyday occurence of vehicles parked in the cycle lane on Papanui Rd, in defiance of the yellow lines.
    – The roadworks in the CBD often create dangerous pinch points.

    A general bugbear is the way cycle lanes seem to disappear just where they are needed most (eg where roads become double-laned at intersections).

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