Once upon a time earthquakes shook up Christchurch. With the central city destroyed, Share an Idea seized on the opportunity to rebuild a city for people, a cycle friendly 21st century sustainable city. The broad community envisioned a creative and life-affirming response to the quakes.
It did not take long for car-centred politicians to respond with the so called Accessible City Plan Transport chapter, which looks like it was a completed document when someone pointed out that they had forgotten to provide for people to ride bicycles.
Cycle routes, shared with cars, buses, pedestrians, on street parking, had to go somewhere and the Accessible City plan had Victoria Street between Kilmore and Bealey a designated cycle route.
Christchurch City Council got stuck with implementation and offered a compromise project. The proposal sought to address the competing agendas of the NIMBYs, versus the Accessible City plan and Share an Idea. The proposal had major issues, but did seek to remove through-car traffic and limit on-street parking. It was a start, but once again, people on bicycles did not fare well. Narrow painted cycle lanes hard up against narrow on street parking, poor access to intersections, lots of pinch-points and opportunities for conflict.
Sadly, submissions from the NIMBYs made up 55% of the total, with the broader community at 43%. No doubt the opposition from Victoria Street’s wealthy landlords helped to tip the scale. CCC caved in and added back on-street parking, extra loading zones, bus stops, motorcycle parking and (much) easier vehicle access and thoroughfare.
A core element of this plan, and far too many others being pursued, is the fanciful notion that cars will share the road and obey the traffic laws. The worst bit here has south-bound cars on Victoria expected to do a difficult ‘u’ turn on a narrow busy street rather than duck into a bike/bus lane to easily access Kilmore Street.
The new plans dramatically illustrate just how damaging NIMBY opposition to progress can be. The original goals, the strong community desire from Share an Idea are nowhere to be found. Experience is that motorised traffic intimidates other modes off the road.
CCC staff are smart skilled people. So why are they struggling with this project? In part, it is the inertia of the outdated focus on car-centred transport, ingrained by plans like the Accessible City Transport chapter. Add in the cultural resistance ingrained by over 50 years of grossly over-funding motorised infrastructure while neglecting the needs of other modes has trained most to equate cars with transport. If we are to have change, all of those who want to walk or ride a bike are going to have to speak up loudly and repeatedly. It is just too easy for people to fall back into bad habits.
Is it really a big deal if a few projects don’t meet expectations, don’t encourage more people to cycle? Yes. Should this project not lead to an increase of people on foot and bicycle, critics will slam the Council for bad policy and wasting ratepayer’s money. As designed, this is all but certain. Much needed progress will be all the harder to achieve.
The next step will be oral submissions made to the City Council Infrastructure, Transport and Environment Committee, which will meet at 12:30 pm on 16 September at the Council on Hereford St. That committee will make the recommendation to the Council as to how to proceed.
Only those who made an original written submission can speak, and must schedule that with Samantha.Kelly@ccc.govt by 12 September. Anyone is welcome to come and support Spokes Canterbury, who will be making an oral submission at 12:30. Generation Zero will also be making an oral submission – sign their petition! No doubt the NIMBYs will also be there.
You can also share your concerns with ITE Committee members:
More information can be found at http://www.ccc.govt.nz/transport/improvements-and-planning/road-improvement-projects/aactransportprojects/aac-consultation/
Spokes will request that Council return this project to the design stage and give it the time and support required to achieve its original goals. One concern is that Council will just want to ‘get on with it.’ Offering the community only the options of the unworkable current mess or the unworkable proposed mess is not acceptable. It is just the kind of response which has produced the many transport problems we already face.