Time is running out to have your say about proposed plans for changes to Riccarton Rd. Although mainly promoted as a “bus priority” project, there’s actually a lot of implications for cycling down there too.
Riccarton is probably the busiest bus corridor in the whole city; in the peak hour that can mean over 50 buses/hour along there. Unfortunately those buses tend to get stuck in the same traffic jams as everyone else, making it hard to attract people onto the buses. Providing bus priority along Riccarton Rd has been talked about for years (decades, even); however it always seems to fall down because of concerns from some of the retailers along the street who feel that the sky will cave in if they don’t have car-parking immediately outside their front door (the fact that there is a whole lot of under-used car-parking behind these shops never seems to get mentioned…). It took long enough to resolve a location for a new bus lounge in Riccarton, again thanks to bleating retailers.
West of Clarence St, the current consultation provides for two different options, A and B. Rather curiously for a bus priority project, one option doesn’t even include bus lanes for much of the route. Instead, Option A proposes a tree-lined median and bike lanes along the route, except for a westbound bus lane near Westfield Mall. Whilst that might make a more pleasant cycling route (although a few separator posts would make it even better), I can’t see how bus priority will be helped by this option (other than by removal of some car-parking “friction”) and instead all the “blame” for the removal of all on-street parking will be directed at cyclists instead.
Option B proposes a part-time eastbound bus lane that allows for car parking in off-peak hours (there will still be room for bikes to safely go past the parking). At least this will make life easier for buses some of the time, although again they won’t get much benefit when heading west (mostly just providing a bike lane). Again, it does feel like a half-solution rather than a serious attempt to encourage bus and bike use.
East of Clarence St, bus lanes are provided through to Hagley Park, although it is a slightly confusing mixture of full-time and part-time facilities (and on-street parking still trumps any eastbound bus lanes at all west of the railway line).
The other significant change is the conversion of the Deans Ave roundabout to a signalised intersection; that could result in a much improved environment for cycling, although it may still need some improvements to the little details (e.g. what kind of delay is expected when crossing between North and South Hagley Parks? How can I turn right here?). There is even a suggestion of a Copenhagen-style separated cycleway east of the intersection, but also no indication of how anyone coming from North Hagley Park could actually access it. In fact, as is often the case, it’s not clear to me that the designer has considered how someone on a bike could get from every possible origin to every possible destination in a safe, convenient manner.
Another thing that hasn’t been raised in the consultation – why not introduce a lower speed limit? In a mixed-use environment like Riccarton, there will always be conflicts between different road users that can’t be easily separated. So why not follow the lead of Wellington (who are introducing lower speed zones in all suburban shopping streets) and include a 30km/h speed limit along Riccarton Rd at the same time?
Overall, while I want to support what is being proposed (bus priority along Riccarton Rd is long overdue), I’m not convinced that this is the best mix of solutions. It’s nice to see that cycling is provided for, given the many major destinations along this route, but even then it may not be enough to sway the “interested but concerned” to want to use this route on their bikes.
Consultation on this project closes this Monday 18th May at 5pm, so get your submission in. As usual, other parties have provided some useful guidance to help you with your submissions; see what Spokes Canterbury and Generation Zero have to say.
What do you think of the proposed Riccarton Rd works?