Guest Post: On-road cycle lanes

Here’s a guest post from Darren who’s been thinking about his regular commute:

There’s an ongoing debate around the world regarding delineation of modes:

    • Separate different types and speeds of travellers (think: footpaths, separated cycleways, medians, rail corridors, with signal-controlled intersections where they intersect)
       
    • Mixing all travellers together (think: shared spaces, slow neighbourhood streets, Cashel Mall)

Both can work well, and both can fail. One of the potential issues with delineation, is that road users get used to it, not having to worry about other travellers on different modes (e.g. a car on the Southern Motorway and cyclists on the parallel cycle path; cars on the motorway don’t have to consider cyclists any more, but then have to mix with bikes on Brougham Street). The more delineation and direction you have, the more road users can come to rely on it, meaning less thinking (or a different type of thinking) is required.  In situations where we go down this path, it’s important to get this delineation right.

I cycle home down Ferry Road every night, and the improvement that’s had the most impact on my perception of safety is some minor re-marking where the eastbound cycle lane comes away from the kerb at the Wilsons Road intersection by the old stadium, just to the east of Leyden Street.  I’ve trawled through Google images to try and find a good resolution “before image” (the remarking occurred in mid 2016 I think) but failed.  The “after” situation is shown below, a nice smooth curve as two lanes filter down to one.  Previously this had a kink in it, probably less than a metre, but it meant that merging cars just cut across this kink (and very nearly me at least once a week).

Ferry Rd near Wilsons Rd – a lot smoother merge now

There’s a similar situation a bit further east on Ferry Road as you come into Ferrymead and the cycle lane transitions from being alongside parked cars, to running along the kerb.  This results in a very minor kink where the cycle lane maintains a consistent width, and the general traffic lane widens out.  I understand that this taper meets all design guides and standards, but still it results in cars cutting across the cycle lane (and again, nearly me at least once a week) to be positioned in the left of the traffic lane when it has widened out.  This is no doubt exacerbated by the slight left hand bend in the road.

A little kink in the road but a big impact on cycling (apologies for photo quality)

Here’s another example looking south on Linwood Avenue from Avonside Drive (I used to cycle into work this way when I was based to the north of the CBD).  You can see how the cycle lane used to be marked, with a significant kink before joining the off-road path, and how it’s now marked with a slightly narrower kink (full marks to council for doing this when I raised it as a safety concern).  Left-turning vehicles onto Avonside Drive used to just cut straight across the cycle lane (and still do, but to a far lesser extent).  Would there be opportunity here to have the delineation marked in a more natural line marked for left turning traffic so that they don’t cut across the cycle lane?

Linwood Ave – what line would you drive?

I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that the areas where I’ve had the most near misses as a cycling commuter are on bends, and where cycle lanes transition between the kerb and alongside parked cars.  Kinks and lines that vehicles don’t naturally track along mean that drivers drift into cycle lanes (there may be examples of where cyclists drift into general traffic lanes).

The new major cycle routes make great use of complete separation, and intersection treatments are well thought through.  It would be great to make minor tweaks to existing on road cycle lanes to provide safer (perceived or otherwise) access to the cycle routes. {Editor’s note: I think a few more cycle lane separator posts could also come in handy…}

Do you have any problems with on-road cycle lane alignments?

Photo of the Day: Central City Sharrows

The rebuild continues apace in the central city, and that includes the Accessible City transport plans. While some of that includes separated cycle facilities like those seen on Tuam St and south Colombo St, other parts rely on traffic-calmed (30 km/h) shared streets to get around by bike. So it was interesting to see these markings appear recently on Colombo St near Ballantynes:

Sharrows: share that space

Sharrows: share that space

As discussed before, sharrow (= “share arrow”) markings indicate places where motorists and cyclists share the same road space. Clearly the carriageway width shown isn’t wide enough for a bike to be alongside two lanes of traffic, so the trick is to just become part of the traffic and take the lane. That might seem a bit daunting for some riders, but in this location it’s actually pretty easy to do because no-one is travelling very fast (in fact, the only drawback might be you will get a bit frustrated having to crawl along with the cars…). The previous sharrow trials around NZ actually found that they reduced mean traffic speeds by 1-2km/h as well (which might not sound like much, but translates into a 3-5% reduction in serious crashes; it all adds up…).

Expect to see a lot more sharrow markings on neighbourhood greenway routes coming soon along the Papanui Parallel, Rapanui-Shag Rock, and Uni-Cycle Major Cycleways. And also around the other shared streets in the central city. In fact, the only intriguing thing about these new markings is the fact that, technically, sharrows haven’t been ratified for general use in NZ yet…

What do you think of these sharrow markings?

Photo of the Day: Hook Turn Signs

Although we’ve had hook turn boxes at intersections in Christchurch for a few years, it may not always be obvious on approach that they’re there for your use. So a new advance information sign has now been approved in New Zealand, and the first ones have shown up in downtown Christchurch:

A sign of things to come...

A sign of things to come…

The new signs show the two-step process that is expected for a hook turn manoeuvre. Both the Colombo St and Tuam St approaches to the bus interchange corner have these signs installed, leading to marked hook turn boxes at the intersection. This saves you having to get across the busy traffic lanes to make a right turn; just keep to the left and park yourself in the green box until the lights change.

While these are a handy addition to our network, it’s important to remember that you can actually make a hook turn manoeuvre anywhere; you don’t need a special box or a sign to legally do a hook turn. Just be careful with some of the one-way streets that you don’t get caught out trying to do a hook turn in a place where you can’t see any traffic signals, e.g. trying to turn north from Bealey Ave onto Barbadoes St here.

Do you use hook turn boxes around Christchurch?

First Look: Wigram-Magdala Overbridge

A few weeks back, guest blogger Robert reported on his observations near the Wigram-Magdala overbridge under construction. The official completion date was given as October. So it was a pleasant surprise to all to find that the new overbridge from Magdala Place (and Birmingham/Annex) to Wigram Rd opened this weekend. While that will no doubt please many motorists to have this additional network link, it’s arguably even better news for those who cycle in the area.

The new bridge connection (click to enlarge)

The new bridge connection (click to enlarge)

Long-time blog readers (or at least, locals familiar with the area) will know that this section has been a notable gap in the provision of a cycleway out west ever since the Southern Motorway came along in 2013 and filled in the rest. The completion of the new link allows people to ride off-road all the way from Barrington St (and eventually town) past Middleton, Sockburn, Wigram, and out towards Westlake and Halswell. That’s over 7km off-road, for those of you playing at home…

A new beginning on Wigram Rd

A new beginning on Wigram Rd

Let’s start at the western end where the route joins the existing motorway pathway near the A&P Showgrounds entrance. Heading along Wigram Rd, there is now a lovely 4m-wide shared pathway running alongside. For those who prefer to stay on the road, the once-troublesome carriageway now has marked cycle lanes.

You can choose on-road or off-road

You can choose on-road or off-road

One thing that made me immensely pleased was the introduction of regular directional arrows to encourage all path users to keep left. This simple trick has the potential to make things a lot smoother when people have to share pathways – let’s hope we see more of them around the city.

Approaching the new overbridge from the west

Approaching the new overbridge from the west

Approaching the Treffers Rd intersection prior to the overbridge and a spur path heads off to the northern side to connect with the pathway along Curletts Rd. It’s a bit convoluted, requiring people to cross two roads to get there. This seems to me a slightly wasted opportunity given that there’s an overbridge right in front of them – why didn’t they just run the path along the south side and under the bridge abutment?

Getting to the Curletts Rd pathway seems more complicated than it should be...

Getting to the Curletts Rd pathway seems more complicated than it should be…

Onto the bridge itself, where the shared pathway narrows to about 3m wide (with the cycle lanes still available too). The new chip-seal is in rapid need of a sweep, as all the loose chip is ending up in the cycle lane and pathway (could be handy if we have an icy morning I suppose…).

Riders on and off-road will be glad to see this swept soon...

Riders on and off-road will be glad to see this swept soon…

Over to the other side of Curletts Rd and the route runs alongside the alignment of Magdala Place to a new signalised intersection with Annex Rd and Birmingham Drive (the shared pathway remains at 3m wide).

Approaching the new Annex/Birmingham intersection

Approaching the new Annex/Birmingham intersection

There are quite a lot of different desire lines here, for motorists and cyclists, so there are a variety of lanes and signal phases to cater for them all. That includes a few advanced stop boxes and hook turn boxes for cycling.

Lots of signs and markings everywhere

Lots of signs and markings everywhere

Interestingly, despite all the money spent on this project ($30 million apparently), someone forgot to think about connecting the new pathway with the existing pathways and underpass down the southern leg of Annex Rd. So, until they get around to filling in this short (150m) link, you’ll have to put up with the (fortunately quiet) road.

Not quite connected yet to the Annex Rd cycleways in the distance

Not quite connected yet to the Annex Rd cycleways in the distance

Here are a few more pics for you:

Lots of green surfacing for all the cycling areas

Lots of green surfacing for all the cycling areas

Not everyone is good at following the road markings...

Not everyone is good at following the road markings…

Already one handrail has bitten the dust...

Already one handrail has bitten the dust…

More of these markings please!

More of these markings please!

Minor quibbles aside, overall this is a fantastic addition to our cycling network. And as more people start living out towards Wigram, Halswell and beyond (more on that in a future post…) this will prove to be a handy link into town.

Have you tried out the new Wigram-Magdala overbridge and pathway? What do you think?

Cycling Road Rules getting a shake-up

Many of the current road transport regulations in place in New Zealand were drafted really only with motor vehicles in mind; trying to apply them to cycles as well doesn’t always make sense. New developments in cycling network design also require changes to be made to the existing legislation to reflect their usage (e.g. did you know that ordinary painted cycle lanes have only been legally enshrined in NZ since 2004?). There are also plenty of other changes constantly occurring across the transport space (e.g. who knew what an Uber service was 5 years ago?), so it’s not surprising that the transport regulations have to be regularly updated to reflect these changes.

Not that long ago, these cycle lanes didn't have any legal significance...

Not that long ago, these cycle lanes didn’t have any legal significance…

The main way that traffic law is upheld in NZ is by a series of Land Transport “Rules”; these are much easier to update as required than traditional Acts of Parliament. Currently the NZ Transport Agency are consulting on some proposed changes known as the “Land Transport Rule: Omnibus Amendment 2016”. Contrary to appearances, this Rule isn’t about changes to buses; it’s the standard term they use when they are proposing changes to a number of existing Land Transport Rules at the same time (in this case, 15 Rules); far more efficient than consulting on all of them separately.

Many of the changes are quite minor technical tweaks to things like vehicle standards. But this year’s Omnibus Amendment Rule also includes a strong focus on cycling-related rules. Some of these are based on recommendations from the 2014 Cycling Safety Panel Report. The Ministry of Transport and the NZTA have prioritised an initial package of “quick win” rule changes that would help provide a safer environment for cycling. Mostly these are minor and/or technical in nature, and reflect best practice design or the results of current trials. Some help to remove inconsistencies in road rules or provide more certainty for the mutual benefit of both cyclists and road users.

Here are the proposed Rule changes that are relevant to cycling:

    • Road User Rule: Expanding the definition of “Intersection” to include “a place where a cycle path or a shared path crosses a roadway”. Explanation: This is needed to legally control either the movement of cyclists or road users where a separated cycle path crosses a roadway.
       
    • Road User Rule: Allowing drivers to encroach onto a flush (painted) median when overtaking cyclists. Explanation: Drivers who strictly observe the current rule may attempt to squeeze past cyclists unsafely even when safer passing distances would be available by using the flush median. Note that drivers would still be required to comply with other general requirements for overtaking (e.g. with safety and due consideration for others).
Soon that bus might be able to pass using the flush median as well (c/ NZTA)

Soon that bus might be able to pass using the flush median as well (c/ NZTA)

    • Road User Rule: Where a cycle path or shared path crosses a roadway, requiring either path users or road users to stop or give way depending on who is controlled by a STOP or GIVE WAY sign. Explanation: The Traffic Control Devices Rule already allows the possibility of controlling path-vs-road priority by appropriate signs, but there is nothing reflecting this in the current Road User Rule; this will clarify the obligations.
       
    • Road User Rule: Clarifying that a driver approaching an intersection must not enter a cycle lane if the exit path is blocked by stationary traffic and their vehicle would obstruct the cycle lane. Explanation: This is to maintain the free flow of designated cycle lanes, particularly near left turn lanes, and reduce the risk of cyclists executing unsafe manoeuvres.
Blocking cycle lanes like this could soon be quite clearly illegal

Blocking cycle lanes like this could soon be quite clearly illegal

    • Road User Rule: Allowing a bus to enter and leave a cycle lane and to stop at a bus stop in the cycle lane for boarding/departing passengers. Explanation: This allows for the design and construction of cycle lanes with occasional bus stops included. Otherwise, technically the cycle lane would have to stop and re-start either side of the bus stop, with all the associated signs/markings.
       
    • Road User Rule: Extending the time period for lighting and reflectors on cycles to between the times of sunset and sunrise. Explanation: Currently cycle lights/reflectors are required to be used from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise; this change will improve cyclist visibility at a critical time of the day.
       
    • Traffic Control Devices Rule: Allowing the use of the “sharrow” road markings. Explanation: Sharrow road markings are used to indicate that a lane is to be shared between cycles and general traffic. They have been trialled successfully in limited NZ locations; this proposal would approve the marking for general use.
Sharrow markings like these could soon be an option across NZ

Sharrow markings like these could soon be an option across NZ

    • Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule: Allowing a maximum width of 1.1 metres for all two wheeled vehicles (cycle, mopeds, motorcycles). Explanation: Some manufacturers are making motorcycles with handlebars 55cm on each side, so this would allow these. It also will make it easier to cater for some wider cargo bikes.
       
    • Vehicle Lighting Rule:
      Requiring cycle front and rear lights to be visible from a distance of 200m between the hours of darkness or any other times of poor visibility. Explanation: Cycle lights that are too dim are a regular factor contributing to crashes involving motor vehicles. The change would improve cyclist visibility by increasing the distance from which front and rear lights for cycles and power assisted pedal cycles are required to be visible (currently 100m).
Bike lights may soon have to be a bit brighter and on for a bit longer

Bike lights may soon have to be a bit brighter and on for a bit longer

Overall, while mostly minor, these Rule changes should help make cycling a little bit easier and safer. They also give road designers a few more options to work with, although I think they will need to be careful about where they allow bus stops within cycle lanes. The deadline for submissions about these Rule changes is 5pm, Friday 12th August.

Meanwhile, a number of further pieces of work are currently underway to look at other possible changes to Road Rules related to cycling (disclosure: my company is doing some of this work). These include:

    • Will this soon become mandatory?

      Will this soon become mandatory?

      Research underway to investigate minimum overtaking gaps in NZ, including the feasibility of a mandatory minimum overtaking gap.
       
    • Research underway on further changes to Give-Way and other related rules, including:
      • giving pedestrians right-of-way over turning traffic when crossing side roads
      • giving cyclists right-of-way over turning traffic where separated cycle facilities cross side roads.
      • allowing cyclists to use a left turning lane while riding straight ahead
      • allowing cyclists to “undertake” slow moving traffic (i.e. pass on the lefthand side in the same lane)
      • allowing cyclists to “lane split” when filtering to the front of a queue of traffic
      • allowing cyclists to turn left (and/or ride across the top of a T intersection) despite facing a red light
    • Lane splitting or going straight from the left-turn lane? Either way, technically they're both currently illegal

      Lane splitting or going straight from the left-turn lane? Either way, technically they’re both currently illegal

    • Research investigating the possibility of changing rules relating to riding on footpaths (which could consider changes to either the allowable users or allowable bikes)

As you might have guessed, some of these have a few more fish-hooks to them, hence the time being spent to analyse them carefully. But with luck you can probably expect to see some of these resulting in further Rule changes next year.

What do you think of the proposed Road Rule changes?