Guest blogger Robert has some thoughts about his local…
Can the injection of a cycleway help revitalise a Village that keeps on keeping on?
Like most small suburban centres in any New Zealand city, life has been tough for Edgeware Village in recent years. Large-scale mall development, big box retailing, internet shopping, petrol station convenience and the ease with which we can drive anywhere to get anything has made it difficult for many small local shopping centres. Most supermarkets have become ‘hyper-stores’ selling just about everything. In Christchurch, earthquakes shook up the buildings, the lives and the routines of shoppers.
A short summary of business activity over the last 30 years at Edgeware Village tells this story starkly, a story played out throughout much of local suburban Christchurch. Two banks have come and gone. Two video stores likewise. The large Post Office became a postal centre at the bookshop, which added a KiwiBank Franchise. The toy and bike shop closed years ago, the TAB downsized and relocated. A wine shop, clothing store, fish shop, and second hand book shop can be recalled.
As a result of the earthquakes, the hairdressers, mower shop, medical centre, hardware store, and one of two bakeries never returned. A pizza chain location and a bar were recently demolished. Redevelopment of the site will happen. A large joinery business intends to redevelop their site. Progress for the future. Holding it all together all together by rebuilding quickly post-quake, the supermarket returned . Other long-term players remained to see through the difficult years that followed. The pharmacy, butcher, fruit and veg shop, bookshop, liquor store, bakery, take-away, and book exchange provided local loyal service for staples. Despite the road work disruption that lasted years, the Village has held firm.
Today, 11 of the 15 small tenancies that make up Edgeware Village provide services that involve food and or beverages.
Equally as unsettling as earthquakes in many ways, was the decision by CCC to route one of the 13 Major Cycleways through the Edgeware Road, Colombo Street intersection on its way north to Papanui. This was controversial, and was to create divisions within both the residential and business community and created more road work disruption for everyone. Parking issues topped the list of problems. Compromise was reached.
All that has passed, now it feels as though things are looking up for Edgeware Village. The cycleway standard required an intersection change (Colombo Street and Edgeware Road). Whilst this has slowed the flow of through traffic, it has vastly improved the feel of safety for pedestrians (in particular) and those riding bikes. The signalised crossings between the three divided areas of shops has improved pedestrians access to all of them. Pedestrian safety and convenience had been a decades-old problem.
The speed of most through traffic has reduced, the area feels more pleasant. Once the northern arterial and Cranford Street widening project is completed, additional advantages of the traffic signals will be realised, tempering an excessive increase in vehicle numbers whilst maintaining safety for others. A 30km/h speed zone would also help to create a ‘feel’ that Edgeware is a good place to stop. Overseas experience indicates that slowing through traffic speeds increases the spend in small and strip shopping areas. Also well documented is the positive effect on local shopping centres that a safe cycling route will bring. Encouraging more through-traffic that is moving at faster speeds is of little benefit to locals.
A new speciality cafe with outdoor seating gives the area a feel of people interaction. Good to linger, for longer. A busker regularly entertaining outside the supermarket adds to the vibe.
And what part does the cycleway have to play in this? Will it bring more people? It is early days yet and CCC is coy with data of the numbers using the cycleway until accurate long term trends are evident. At this stage, commuting numbers appear well ahead of initial predictions. Four unofficial bike counts have been undertaken, one in July, one September, a third in November. During the time of 7.00am until 9.00am the number of people on bikes riding the cycleway and along Edgeware Road through the intersection were 97, 125 and 172 respectively. An evening count in December between the hours of 4.30pm and 6.30pm recorded 201 people riding through. Several emerged from the supermarket with bags of groceries, others tied their bikes up wherever they could to purchase from the butcher, vege shop and the bakery.
Overall, the cycleway overall feels safe, the intersection is functional and safe for the 8 to 80 years user and the seasoned commuter. Mobility scooters can negotiate more easily. On those grounds alone, numbers will increase as more people realise just how easy and more enjoyable it is to get into the city by bicycle.
Will this bring more business to Edgeware Village ? All the evidence obtained so far in New Zealand and from overseas suggests yes. It does take time for habits to change . A regular commuter may only gradually start to appreciate the convenience of stopping off on the way home from work to get a few necessities. A local may take time to discover how quick it can be to jump on the bike and pay a visit during the day when traffic is quieter. Already however, social rides on all of the new cycleways are bringing small groups of people eager to discover the city by bike to places like Edgeware, even if only for a coffee and scone. It is a start. Events such as the Biketober Passport helped create cycleway awareness. This was supported by four Edgeware businesses, all of whom were pleased with the number of visitors that came on bikes to get their Passport stamped.
Most people who ride bikes also drive motor vehicles and are well aware how important it is to be able to park at their destination. Like vehicle parking, if the park is secure, easy to access, highly visible and fit for purpose it will attract users. The main off-street car parking area for the Edgeware shops is in need of repair. There is nowhere to secure a bike that does not cause an obstruction to others. The parking area can reach capacity at times. At present there are 30 car parks. 12 bikes would fit into the space of 2 parks, cheaply increasing the overall capacity by a third. It would send a message to those passing through by bike that this group of Edgeware businesses value a visit from those who ride bikes. Once installed, the bike parking area would never need expensive repair.
The Papanui Parallel Cycleway has enabled Edgeware Village to be first out of the starting gates in Christchurch to experience what effect a major cycleway will have for local business. Progress is being observed with great interest.
Have you accessed Edgeware Village by bike?