Late last year we introduced you to the planned first central city transport works happening around Hagley Park and Hospital Corner. Just before Christmas, the diggers started work and have now largely completed the first phase and moved onto parts of the works further into the central city. So it seems an appropriate time to see what has been produced and what it’s like for cycling.
Let’s start with the good stuff so far:
- That wonderfully wide new shared path along Hagley Ave, complete with shared use behaviour messages (although I wonder whether some directional arrows would also ensure that the messages would be noticed by those who inadvertently travel along the righthand side?)
- Pathway priority crossing of the Netball Centre driveway – more of these please around the rest of the park!
- Mostly quite generous widths provided with the new cycle lanes
- Copious lashings of green colour to highlight the various cycle facilities and conflict points
But (and you knew there was a but), there are still bits where I worry that they haven’t quite thought through how a cyclist is going to use this.
For example, a lot of work has gone into a two-stage signalised crossing to get path users in South Hagley Park to/from Oxford Tce. It kind of works if you are heading north (albeit rather slowly), but that same signal phasing is not helpful if you’re heading in the opposite direction where you have to wait a bit longer to get over the last hurdle. OR you do what many people are doing, and just ignore it and run the gauntlet…
When it comes to designing intersections for cycling, a golden rule in my book is: always consider journeys from every possible origin to every possible destination. It’s no good if you have provided a brilliant safe, optimal route for where you think most people are going, if you have completely forgotten about how others are going to do their journey.
Case in point: I am often coming from work in Ilam, along Riccarton Ave, and then either heading onwards to Tuam St (perhaps to a meeting in the south of town) or turning right down Antigua towards home. Previously I would have used the contra-flow cycle lane to get to the Tuam/Antigua intersection and beyond. Now I note a few confusing challenges:
- Coming from the northside path along Riccarton Ave, I invariably then squeeze past the tight car-parking by the hospital (no point crossing at the lights over to the southside path, only to cross back over again 200m later). Despite all the street works, no-one has either (a) removed the problematic car-parking or at least (b) realigned the lane markings to give me a bit more width to play with. Let’s be honest: it’s not even close to being a legitimate cycle lane.
- On getting to the Hagley/Oxford intersection, it seems the only option presented to me is to veer left into Oxford. That might be fine if my ultimate destination is further to the north; I imagine that Oxford Tce will become quite pleasant with the traffic removed. But if I want to go to Tuam or Antigua (both of which have very nice new wide cycle lanes), the logical thing would be to go straight ahead. Unfortunately not even a shoulder has been left on either side to accommodate me, so essentially I need to “take the lane” to achieve this.
I suspect that the ‘official’ response might be “well, cyclists can go around Oxford and then just around the corner turn right to get to Tuam and Antigua.” But if I’m in a car I don’t have to make that kind of detour, so why should I on a bike? Hardly encouraging people to switch modes…
- If I somehow get myself over to the new link between Hagley and Antigua, the natural instinct would be to ride in the green “bus lane” area. Except that it’s marked “BUS LANE” at the start (meaning bikes can ride on it), then “BUS ONLY” at the end (meaning they can’t), and then a cycle logo is thrown in for good measure on what looks like a cycle lane only anyway. Confused?
There are other little minor niggles too. For example, I’ve been waiting for the contractor (or Council/CERA) to notice that they haven’t actually marked the hook turn box at Montreal/Tuam correctly…
…and, given that they now direct riders along St Asaph St and onto the new shared pathway, it would be nice if there was a kerb ramp directly lining up with their new access path (as shown in the original plans):
I’m also keeping an eye on the Montreal/Oxford intersection; at the moment I’m not convinced of its legibility and level of service for active mode users here either.
So there’s a lot to like, but also a few things where it seems that someone didn’t quite think it through. Fortunately most of them seem relatively easy to fix with a little bit of re-work.
Bear in mind that a lot of this is only “stage 1” works, with further “stage 2” works to provide separated cycle facilities to connect the Major Cycleways into the central city. But, as with any “transitional” works (e.g. during construction) it’s important that it is intuitive and safe for all road users and I’m not sure that’s entirely the case here yet.
I also wonder whether the new wide path will set the bar for elsewhere in Hagley Park – suddenly the other paths will be seen for what they are: far too puny for the amount of usage. Is there a plan for gradual upgrades?
What do you think of the new central city road works so far?