For people on bikes getting to and through the central city remains challenging. There is the major north/south cycle route up Antigua Street. Tuam and St Asaph offered as compromised east/west routes connecting to the west via Oxford Tce and to the east on St Asaph/Hagley Ave.
Back in 2011 Spokes Canterbury identified many shortcomings in the plans for cycling. CERA, predecessor to Otakaro, and Council promised that people who bicycle would have their needs met, would even be included in the decision making. Over the years Spokes continued to pursue the issues without success or inclusion, so much for promises.
Fast forward to 2017 and Otakaro, Council and the CDHB revealed their unworkable and unsafe plans for Oxford Terrace connecting Riccarton to Antigua. Plans so unacceptable that even the AA and disabled groups oppose it.
The hospital, new Outpatient’s building and other facilities are given Oxford Tce as a drop off and loading zone with thousands of projected daily users seeking to run the gauntlet, cross, park and amble. With Tuam between Riccarton and Antigua dedicated to bus ‘super stops’ and directed to Oxford Tce a pinch point to exceed the pinch point at Antigua Bridge is created.
Getting to Antigua, accessing the Tuam cycle route, will require crossing the hospital driveway. Serious safety concerns were raised when the driveway was to be exit only. The hurdle to making it an entrance was Council’s approval to a change of use. Spokes sought to work with Council only to have information withheld and participation stymied.
In planning for this debacle several safety audits were done. Many ‘Significant’ issues likely to have a high likelihood of injury or death were identified. These issues have been resolved primarily by simply ignoring or discounting them. Traffic engineering seems to be a profession with lots of wiggle room, or bureaucrats responsible for decision making willfully blind. Both appear to have done their parts.
The safety audits clearly identified why this project was unsafe. Spokes made clear their opposition and desire to be a part of process. Council approved the project on 18 August 2018 without allowing public comment. They cited rules which allowed them to exclude the public as justification.
With cars entering the drive and people on foot and bicycle crossing the drive both will assume they have right of way. Pedestrians and cyclists will either be on their toes, or in the E.D.
Let’s put “Rules” aside, they are too often subject to bureaucratic and legal ‘interpretation’ and it is the rare public interest group which has the funds or expertise to challenge them. Key issues here are safety and natural justice.
Do people whose lives will be put at risk by a project have the right to empowered engagement in the decision making on it? Do public officials, bureaucrats included, have a moral obligation to try to empower democratic decision making or to thwart it? Is it acceptable for them to hide behind self-serving interpretations of rules and law?
Otakaro, Council, CDHB have clearly responded. The public be damned.
We have all heard too many of these sad, even tragic, sagas. What to do? Get involved. Share your views with Councillors. Find the political group or party which gives you hope and engage.
Local elections are coming up and we need strong advocates of well-informed democracy to move Christchurch into the 21st century.