Waimakariri District Walking/Cycling Strategy

Immediately north of Christchurch, our nearest neighbours Waimakariri District are also getting into the cycling swing of things. While many people have been focused on the many cycleways happening across Christchurch, the Govt’s Urban Cycleways Programme is also delivering some cycle facilities north of the Waimakariri River as well. With that in mind, the District Council has decided to review its existing 2010 walking and cycling strategy, and the revised draft strategy is currently out for consultation.

New cycle routes being funded by the Urban Cycleways Fund
New cycle routes being funded by the Urban Cycleways Fund

Waimakariri District is one of the fastest growing districts in the country and its proximity to Christchurch results in a lot of traffic congestion. Notably, it features a number of small towns all within cycling distance of each other (and Christchurch). So a lot of previous planning has been around the creation of cycle-friendly links between Rangiora, Kaiapoi and Woodend. Until recently there wasn’t a lot of central government support for funding cycleways in small councils like this, but the Urban Cycleways Fund and associated changes in Govt policy have now reinvigorated the opportunities for getting more cycleways delivered.

The Council have set the following vision for their strategy: “Waimakariri residents choose to walk and cycle. The environment is friendly, safe and accessible for walkers and cyclists.” While I’d rather that they talked about people walking and cycling, the overall sentiment is a pretty good one to work from. It’s interesting that there are no specific goals going with this vision to help measure the success of the strategy – how do you know when you’ve achieved this vision?

The strategy then identifies four key priorities of “Inclusive Infrastructure”, “Community Connections”, “Safe Travel”, and “Healthy Lifestyles”. Inclusive Infrastructure includes the following main objectives:

    • Providing / advocating for new and extended on-off road walking and cycling infrastructure: The Council has Activity Management Plans for Roading and Greenspace; it’s important that they consider the ability to provide walking/cycling facilities in their future plans. As well as pathways and cycleways, that also includes things such as directional signage, drinking fountains, lighting and bike parks.
    • Providing cycle links between the District’s main towns: The Rangiora-Kaiapoi and Rangiora-Woodend routes have 3.5m shared pathways planned for them in the 2017/18 year. It’s not clear yet when other possible inter-town links might be developed however, e.g. Pegasus, Woodend and the new Ravenswood development might need good connections.
    • Supporting the cycle link project between Kaiapoi and Belfast: For far too long there has been discussion around providing a safe cycling connection across the Waimak River. There is some tentative indication of funding in 2017/18 (with the current idea being a ‘clip-on’ cycleway built onto the motorway bridge), but the challenge has always been getting Waimak DC, Christchurch CC, and NZTA all in alignment to get it over the line – I’m still not convinced yet that it’s a realistic happening.
    • Integrating walking and cycling into public transport planning: Bus routes out to the Waimak District already have bike racks on them, but there are also plans to create “Park & Ride” centres in the district. It’s not clear whether they would also encourage people to walk up or “ride and park” their bikes, rather than just driving there.
Not much fun cycling on the old Waimak Bridge...
Not much fun cycling on the old Waimak Bridge…

Community Connections covers the following areas:

    • Ensuring walking and cycling linkages are provided in new urban subdivision areas: There are a lot of new developments happening around the District, and the planning stage is the ideal time to get walking/cycling provision right, e.g. links through reserves. This means that the District Plan and other Council planning/design guidelines need to adequately consider them – a good idea, although checking that developers and contractors comply with the guidelines is also necessary.
    • Working towards safe and convenient walking and cycling within and around smaller settlements and rural areas: The Waimak District has a lot of smaller communities set amongst a predominantly rural backdrop. So it’s important that the active modes are well catered there as well, e.g. near rural schools, and where people go for rural rides. The strategy is a bit vague on exactly how it might do that though, e.g. what about opportunities for cycle tourism?
    • Promoting walking and cycling as a way of making connections with others and the natural environment: The strategy is keen to support the development of local walking and cycling groups, which is a great to build enthusiasm. It’s also looking to improve provision of information about walking/cycling networks, e.g. signage and online information.
Cycling on rural roads can be a challenge
Cycling on rural roads can be a challenge

Safe Travel has a number of focuses:

    • Providing safe walking and cycling access to and from schools: There is a desire to increase the amount of active travel to school. Achieving that includes developing school travel plans and addressing any issues and barriers to walking and cycling near schools.
    • Ensuring walking routes are usable for people with restricted mobility: Many footpaths and crossings are not easily used by people with wheelchairs, vision impairments and the like. So the plan is to upgrade existing footpaths and to ensure that the relevant guidelines also reflect best practice.
    • Supporting programmes that improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists: Programmes are proposed to improve road user behaviour, such as “share the road” and visibility campaigns. For a small council like Waimak, perhaps it would also be feasible to adopt a “Vision Zero” approach to walking and cycling fatalities in the district – that will need more than a few marketing promotions to achieve though.
This Waimak road safety campaign back in 2003 was highly effective
This Waimak road safety campaign back in 2003 was highly effective

Finally, Healthy Lifestyles deals with:

    • Working with organisations to develop sustainable travel plans: The intention is to support workplaces, schools and communities to develop and implement travel behaviour programmes that encourage more walking and cycling. Don’t under-estimate the financial resource needed to make this work effectively though; it’s not necessarily the “cheap option” compared with infrastructure.
    • Promoting walking and cycling as a healthy lifestyle choice: Working with the Canterbury District Health Board and community groups, the health benefits of walking and cycling can be highlighted.
    • Promoting walking and cycling opportunities: Again, this is largely about good supporting signage and public information, so that people know where good walking/cycling routes and facilities exist.

The Strategy includes an Action Plan of first tasks, although it’s rather light on things beyond 2017/18. While I get that not much can be locked in until the 2018-28 Long Term Plan is finalised, it would be useful to see a few more indicative (or at least aspirational) time-frames for getting some future projects completed (some likely costs would also be helpful). After all, it’s a draft strategy for public consultation – so how else will anyone be able to indicate support or otherwise for committing funding?

Well apparently it's cycle friendly...
Well apparently it’s cycle friendly…

What I’m also not seeing much of in this strategy is a focus on providing for easier walking/cycling within towns; flagship inter-town cycleways are all very well, but most cycling trips are shorter than that (and walking ones definitely less). The other glaring omission was the complete absence of acknowledging the role of traffic speed and volumes in affecting people’s likelihood to walk/cycle (and their safety when doing so). Treatments like lower speed limits and neighbourhood greenways could be a key part of improving cycling provision in the district but it doesn’t show up at all.

Consultation on the draft strategy closes on Monday 7th Nov, so if you’re interested in biking in the Waimakariri District have your say.

What do you think of the draft Strategy? Are there other things that should be considered or prioritised?

8 thoughts on “Waimakariri District Walking/Cycling Strategy”

  1. Thank you for this. As a rural Waimakariri resident/person I see that many cyclists and walkers are prisoners in their own lifestyle blocks. You make some great observations and I have been meaning to leave my comment, but not yet done so, but this has prompted me to get my act together. Having a mandatory cyclist passing distance might give cyclists more confidence to get out and about in the more rural areas, as safe cycleways are unlikely to get out our way soon. And then there are speed limits. Just look at the village of Ohoka: narrow roads run through it and the speed limit is 70km/h. Unbelievable! And then we still have speed limits up to 100km/h outside schools. How can you let children cycle and feel that they will get home safely? But these problems are sadly countrywide…

  2. It is counterintuitive, but the safest rural roads are generally the busiest.

    Compare the metre or two of sealed shoulder on most of Lineside Road to the 10 cm of sealed shoulder on every other road., like Flaxton or Tuahiwi Road.

    The one big enabler would be better safety across the Waimakariri. There are four bridges, one of which is reserved for Rail, and one is SH1 a. That leaves two usable bridges, one at the Gorge and the Old Waimak Bridge. And while the gorge bridge is a nice day out, its a bit far for the daily commute.

    How about
    * Adding a cycle lane cantilevered out on either side of the old waimak road bridge. Could do just one side, but if both sides then bikes won’t need to cross the car traffic at both ends.

    * What about signalising on the rail bridge? A 5 (?) minute signal to clear the bridge should be enough, its no more complex than normal rail crossing signals. And there’s only what – three trains a day now? The bridge would need surfacing for wheeled traffic, and possibly a middle bay for those who are slow (or foolhardy) This also means getting the cycle traffic to the rail bridge.

    1. At peak hours vehicles will be a lot slower than cyclists & as the other poster has said just take the lane as you have right of way over a vehicle anyway.

      1. Yes….but when drivers slow down during peak hours how many cyclists would still feel comfortable taking the lane? It is not my sense of adventure..

        For me, if a six year or seventy year old or a person with slight disabilities would not be able or feel confident to ride a bike somewhere it does not classify as cycling infrastructure. Central and local government should come to the table and come up with a plan that enables tourists and locals to cross the Waimak safely by bike or foot.

  3. Cycling across the Waimakariri bridge- can you please advise how you advise cyclists to do this? As there is no shoulder to the lane, a cyclist would according to the road code ‘Take the Lane’. This means that for the length of the bridge, all traffic will be limited to cycling speed whenever a cyclist crosses the bridge. Do you have any comments?

    1. John, that’s pretty much it at present; you have to take the lane to encourage motor vehs to overtake you in the opposing lane. That’s why access across the Waimak has been a bugbear for years and why generally only the “strong and fearless” will usually do it.

      1. Perhaps signs on the Old Waimak Bridge reminding vehicles that they have to give way to cyclists. I go over the bridge in my car once a week & if there is a cyclist on it I put on my hazard lights so that traffic behind perhaps will realise why I driving slow. Of course if there is no traffic coming towards me I will pass the cyclist.

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