Who are we providing cycleways for?

Recently there was a Facebook post to Chch City Council’s site by someone grumbling about cyclists using traffic lanes in the central city when a cycleway exists on the same road. Not surprisingly, there was quite a bit of animated discussions about the rights and wrongs of this (hint: you are allowed to cycle on the road even if a cycleway exists). However, there was also an underlying question that popped up (even by a current City Councillor) essentially stating “what is the point of building all these cycleways if some cyclists don’t even use them?”

Someone’s a bit grumpy…

As well as potentially inciting possible aggression towards some riders, this kind of thinking rather misses the point of why most new cycleways are being built. They are not generally being built for the benefit of the confident people who were already riding on our streets without them. Rather, they’re being built for the large portion of the population who are really not confident to mix with general traffic on our roadways (often known as “the interested but concerned”). The point is to attract these people to ride more, and they will generally gratefully make use of the new cycling facilities provided. As for those who who were already biking beforehand? Well, they might choose to use them too, but in some cases they may not suit them and they’d rather continue to use the road.

It seems to me that getting upset about this possibility is rather like complaining that we’ve spent billions (literally) on building new motorways all around Christchurch and then some people still have the audacity to go and drive on parallel roads like Old Main North Rd instead.

What are all these vehicles doing on this road? Can’t they see that there’s a perfectly good motorway right next to them?!

If we want a non-transport analogy (and it’s not a perfect comparison), some people like to go tramping and they pitch a tent overnight. Others though won’t consider long tramps at all unless DOC has provided a hut with all the facilities for sleeping, shelter, etc. Just because taxpayers spend some money to build some huts doesn’t mean we should get annoyed at the people who still choose to keep using their tent (maybe if the weather’s bad though, they might decide to take advantage of the hut sometimes too).

Deciding to cycle is a choice, which we can encourage more people to think about by building great new cycleways. But deciding where to ride is also a choice, and I’m a big fan of giving people multiple options for where they are most comfortable riding.

Do you sometimes not use the new cycleways when riding?

12 thoughts on “Who are we providing cycleways for?”

  1. That’s a good analogy. (On a related note, I heard another elected member complaining recently about seeing a bus in a general traffic lane rather than an adjacent bus-only lane.) I use the Papanui Parallel on a semi-regular basis but happily pop out of it here & there (especially north-bound to make the right turn onto Rutland St and at the top end of that same street).

  2. That’s the Rub really, lanes are helpful and desirable, and yet they’re often frustrating as they don’t make junctions as easy, or joining or exiting safe either

    The resulting power games of territory (bikes on roads, cars parked in bike lanes or across paths), and the misconception that this area is single use leads to friction. Turning left over a bike lane, parting for just a minute in a bike lane, using the road because it’s faster or faster at the next junction: all leads to perceived privilege and unsafe/unexpected behaviour

  3. I would like to think that the poster is not representative for most drivers. I can only speak from personal experience but over the past few year I have noticed I huge improvement in behavior towards cyclists. It is good that the poster is given the cold, hard facts on this. Very likely this will not change his opinion but it will inform others. To me, the likes of this poster struggle to grasp a complex intricate world with lots of shades of grey. It is much easier to divide the world in “they versus us”. Whether something is legal or not does not depend on the act that has been committed but on who has committed it. Speeding and running red lights is appalling when cyclists do it but fine when you a driver and are in a hurry. Roads belong to drivers as and because they pay lot of taxes they are the king of the road.

    We should not let us divide this way! I know lots of people who drive and not cycle and they are perfectly reasonable people. Most cyclists are drivers too and an increasing numbers of drivers have become cyclists over the past few years. If you are on the bike do your cycling advocacy work and be courteous and considerate towards other road users. A friendly wave when you get the right of way or when a driver slows down for you goes a long way.

    1. Nicely said, and I would agree. Most people driving in Chch are pretty good and courteous (and of course sometimes that is us behind the wheel). Unfortunately a very few enraged people spoil it for the rest (and put some people off biking), but then that occasional bad behaviour probably applies both to some people cycling and driving…

  4. “The network that we’re creating is making Christchurch one of the most cycle-friendly cities in New Zealand. It is making cycling a safe, convenient option for more people and easing the pressure on our roads.

  5. Sometimes I want to turn right from Durham St North into Chester St West. Can’t do that from the bike lane.

    Sometimes the bike lane isn’t suitable because its got slow riders, walkers, parked cars, road works, vegetation, standing water, mud, poor surface finish, etc in it. “ride as far left as practical” might just mean to ride the car lane.

    Sometimes I want to go roadie-fast and I can do the speed limit. Tuam/St Asaph street’s are good examples where one can stay with the flow and hit all the greens. I’m doing the posted speed, why would a driver want to go faster ?

    So yes – I occasionally eschew “cycle facilities” and use road vehicle facilities, of which I am one.

  6. I often cycle across The (McCormack’s Bay) Causeway.
    Depending on wind, energy levels, deadlines and traffic I vary my use between the superb Christchurch Coastal Pathway and the off-road cycle lanes. The CCP is safer and more scenic, while you are on it, but the on-road cycle lanes are generally faster.

  7. About a month ago, I was riding in the main lane on the north end of Trafalgar Street rather than in the separated cycleway because I needed to turn right onto Courtenay Street. A driver sped up Trafalgar Street behind me and pulled into the right lane to pass me in what was already an unnecessary move (I was going 30 km/h in a 30 zone). Then, just as they were nearly past, they moved into my lane, nearly side-swiping me with the back of their car and causing me to grab my brakes and swerve (and shout). The driver stopped their car in front of me, blocking the lane, and yelled at me angrily to get out of the road – they were of the opinion that I had no right to be there because there was a cycleway available.

    So, yes, I sometimes leave the cycleways/cyclelanes – as others have noted, there are always going to be times where people will need to make a manoeuvre that they can’t make from within the cycleways, regardless of their skill level. And, unfortunately, I encounter drivers like the poster almost every day as I bike in this city: blindingly selfish, stupidly aggressive, and completely ignorant of the rules of the road. In my personal experience, I don’t see any improvements happening; if anything, things may be getting worse.

    1. Did the motorist stop on the broken yellow lines on Trafalgar Street?

      In which case they broke the law in order to berate you about an imaginary law. Par for the course with some motorists.

    2. Trafalgar Street is bad in so many ways. Sending thoughts and prayers, there but by the grace of god go I (-: .

      Yes it may qualify for a ‘greenway’ category based on vehicle counts over a 24 hour period ( Vancouver data examples ) but did they consider a good % of those vehicles travel in a 2 hour window twice a day in a rat-running macho style convoy. Sadly these also are the times the majority of cyclists who commute would like to enjoy their journey on what as been touted as a major cycleway built to a standard of safe and enjoyable travel for the 8 to 80 year olds. And don’t get me started on the Trafalgar St and Edgeware Road intersection. Solution ? Cul de sac the street as originally planned, or restrict turning at Edgeware Road to left turn, in and out only. And do it soon.

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