Will Christchurch be an Accessible City for Cycling?

CERA released its draft central city Transport Plan “An Accessible City” last Thursday (hmm, just before a holiday weekend – trying to bury things?). This follows on from the Central City Blueprint that we saw a little over 100 days ago. It contains some quite bold plans for transport in Christchurch, such as changing some of the one-way streets and priority bus routes – so what’s in it for cycling?

The grand plan… (click to enlarge)

Here’s a rundown of the good, the bad, and the “interesting” as best as I can see:

  • There are a number of new (traffic-free) pedestrian zones, such as Cathedral Square and along much of the Avon. Excellent! What’s not entirely clear is whether cycling will also be able to take advantage of these routes (and preferably with some level of separation in places). For example, there are a lot of cycling lines all leading into the Square, but can you bike across it too? Interesting too that cycling only seems to be shown along the true left bank of the Avon…
  • A key feature will be the 30km/h central city zone covering much of the inner core. This is one of those little sleeper things that tends to get ignored in the rush to look for new cycleways, but actually shouldn’t be underestimated in helping to (a) discourage unnecessary motor traffic and (b) make cycling far more comfortable and safe with the remaining slow motor traffic.
    Still, there is the danger that it is viewed as the panacea for all things cycling within this zone, when it may still be appropriate to provide some separate cycling provision in places. Someone pottering along at 15km/h on their bike may find it pretty daunting to have a lot of traffic backed up behind them. And, as we saw briefly on the newly reconstructed Hereford St before the quakes hit, it’s a bit of a pain to be stuck in congestion on your bike but not be able to get out of it because the street is too narrow…
The 30km/h slow core in blue
  • Key cycling routes have been identified across the city. The Plan suggests that these could be a mix of treatments, from separated cycleways (separated from pedestrians as well) to just sharing with other traffic in the 30km/h zone. Hopefully there might be the opportunity to implement some neighbourhood greenway treatments too. Intersections along these routes will also be designed to ensure priority and safety for cycling as well. So all this sounds really great for cycling (in theory at least).
Separated cycleways – conceptual diagram
  • Those key cycling routes include parts of Colombo, Victoria and High termed “Main Streets” in the Plan. Although they are to be “prioritised for walking and cycling” and slowed down to 30km/h, they also tend to carry many of the priority bus routes and have no real restrictions on motor traffic it seems. The artists’ impressions show people simply cycling in the traffic lane with everyone else; again I’m not sure that a lot of the “interested but concerned” are going to buy that.
  • Some of the suggested routes seem a little odd as they head out of the city. I mean, why would key cycle routes head for busy Riccarton Rd and Fendalton Rd west when many people prefer something like Kilmarnock or Matai St? Once in town too, a number of routes seem a bit disjointed. For example, the busiest cycle route in Chch is probably the Armagh St bridge at Hagley Park, so should Armagh St be an east-west cycling route? (it’s not designated for anything else in the Plan)
Key cycling routes – are these all logical?
  • The plan says that cycle parking facilities will be provided at convenient locations” – this includes secure bike parking in conjunction with the new Bus Interchange and “super stops” (hmm, access using your MetroCard perhaps?). Private developers will also be encouraged to provide their own bike parking, but it would be nice to see a plan of where the City needs to front up with its own bike parking (either with public facilities or near other key destinations). I mean they’ve taken the time to show where the car parking will be…
  • A nice feature proposed is improved way-finding signage around the city including cycling routes. Hopefully this will be good at highlighting key cycling destinations and where good bike parking is.
Key ingredients for a cycle network: good parking and way-finding signage
  • What needs to be explained further is exactly how cycling is provided for if your desired destination isn’t actually on one of the key cycling routes. That might not be a big problem if it is in the 30km/h zone or on a local street, but what about the one-way streets or Four Aves for example? Although nothing was mentioned in the text, it was intriguing to see this mock-up of a new one-way street that seemed to feature separated cycleways on both sides. Could we actually see two-way cycling provision along these routes?
Separated cycleways and contraflow on the one-ways?
  • For motor traffic, the existing one-ways are largely identified as the main ways to get through the city (with even more preference given to travelling along the Four Aves if your business is elsewhere). However there seems to be little to actively discourage drivers from using the remaining non-arterial streets around town (other than the 30km/h limit). As it stands, I could drive right across town on a street like Manchester or Hereford; yet presumably that’s not what is intended. I understand the need for access by car to destinations and parking, but I don’t see why those same streets should also provide complete thoroughfare. Perhaps a few strong “breaks” in the network (with walk/bike bypasses) are needed to really encourage drivers to use the road hierarchy properly.

CERA has given people until February 1st 2013 to provide feedback on this Plan; it’s not clear whether the democratic process extends to having hearings or anything (CERA seem to be strangely immune from such public accountability requirements…). Nevertheless, it’s pretty important that you have your say and let them know what you like and dislike.

So what do you think of the draft Transport Plan?

16 thoughts on “Will Christchurch be an Accessible City for Cycling?”

  1. Great post! thanks. I agree with your assessments here and think that two way cycle paths or a contra lane down the one ways would help things quite a bit – Particularly around the Polytech. – AT least high street is a walking street (which hopefully will allow cycling but nothing will be done for the huge amount of pedestrian and cycling traffic that is not just going between the Central City and the PolyTech. Students at the polytech trying to get across to the cafes/ eateries on the other side of Madras st are no better off, for example. Will their be some refuges? How about traffic lights across Moorhouse Ave on all four sides of the intersection so that it is easy for peds and Cyclists to get across it without having to wait for three crossings?

    I guess like most things the devil will probably be in the detail … and many statements in this plan are quite vague – the bike parking is one such statement. the other one that got me was cycle lanes will be provided where possible on other streets. What makes these things possible (or not), I wonder.

  2. More a business as usual plan with minimal concessions thrown in for cycling. What is offered is conditional, ‘where necessary’, ‘encouraged’. Your parking example makes their priorities clear. Parking garages are prioritised and in abundance, cycle parking is merely mentioned and encouraged, with no real commitment provided.

    Words in the text may be adhered to, pictures are merely ‘artists impressions’. Still they are attractive,what we want to see, but not a commitment.

    The community has clearly asked for cycling and is desperate to find some hope in this plan. Compared to the past near total neglect for cycling this plan does offer some hope. I imagine that hope will only be fulfilled if many hundreds of us make submissions insisting that more be done for cycling.

  3. I do not think that this document should be classed as a plan. In my humble view every plan has very specific milestones and allocates budget to every milestone. This is not to say that this document can not lead to improvements for cyclists but fact is that it does not offer a guarantee. My personal view is that is much more a vision than a plan. I do think that this document is a watered down version of Christchurch Recovery Plan. This document still revolves around the mighty old fashioned motor car. We have tried this model for decades and it was not a great success as was acknowledged by so many people in the Share an Idea campaign. I also had great hopes to see some form of commuter rail in this document and I think this is a missed opportunity. Public transport and cycling can complement each other. I do not want to sound negative because I am not. There is overwhelming support for cycling in Christchurch and I am sure people will make sure their voices will be heard at some point. But I am little bit over the artist impressions and the glossy pictures. What we need is an unambiguous plan that clearly sets out the course to become a genuine cycle-friendly city so can we all can measure the progress in achieving this.

  4. Yes agree this is not really a plan – an upmarket discussion document perhaps. If Christchurch really is a flat city where cycling can be a dominant form of transport, you wouldn’t really get that from this document. Marks out of 10 maybe 4 🙁

    Many ratepayers don’t yet know they are closet cyclists and this plan won’t help them make that transition. Cycle infrastructure has to be more explicit for the consultation to be meaningful. Like, one way streets for cars must have a separate cycleway in the other direction for cyclists. European urban environments have this everywhere, its a core ‘thing’.

    I would like CCDU to display some leadership here and hold some focus groups (loath that word) / or whatever purely on the cycling planning option. A specific cycle plan must be produced quickly. Are we a flat easy-cycle city or are we not? If we as a city don’t get this right now, it will be forever relegated to the margins; and at the moment it’s not even really at the margins.

    Children will not bike to school until parents believe it is safe for them to do so; many areas are not considered safe now so children are driven to school. A focus to fix the ‘bike to school’ issue, and several traffic, route capacity, health, household, and developmental matters are solved – straight away. I sometimes have to travel along the base of the port hills, Cashmere/Centaurus Rds – there’s only one way out of there for hill suburb residents so I would see the explicit investment in the riverside cycle tracks and adjacent quiet streets a worthwhile priority.

  5. Gosh, what a negative lot we are cyclists of Christchurch. You’re obviously feeling pretty secure to be able to bag the plan so comprehensively.

    I have never seen a document that references cycling so often. 41 times over 20 pages by my count.

    To the planners responsible for this: You rock! This is exactly what we asked for at “Share an Idea”.

    To the cyclists of Christchurch: pull your head out of the gift horses mouth and support this draft plan with all you have. Quickly. Before they change their mind!

    Love, Morris

  6. I have only been in Christchurch since early 2000’s. Several plans have been and gone over that time and nothing much has happened. And what is in place is highly localised and lacks connectivity; some of it is actually pretty lightweight. Also, what is negative about scrutinising the expenditure of our tax and rate money. last time I looked we were in a democracy.

    I don’t see 21st Century cycling infrastructure as being a gift that I should be grateful for, like broadband, it really is a right.

    There has to be equity in the transport infrastructure; 13 – 14 yr old kids can’t drive and many older people can’t either. I would assert that they should have access to safe dedicated cycleways like most other places in the developed world. And grown ups who need a low cost transport option, or who just want to cycle, should also have that. Are you saying that is unreasonable?

    With that in mind, I’ll challenge anything that purports to deliver this, but lacks the detail to make the announcement credible. I also want people like you to have access to a much improved infrastructure, even though it seems you would settle for a lot less. Morris Oxford – that’s very ’50s. Look at the bottom right corner of your monitor, it’s 2012.

  7. ‘…Private developers will also be encouraged to provide their own bike parking…’

    Cr Tim Carter has already been in the Press outlining a tour of a new building with the developer, and how he was told of the cutbacks, short-cuts, take outs …to keep the cost down.

    So the question is ‘How will they be encouraged?’
    This the great throwaway line. If at this point in the planning there is no positional information for bike parking, we are left with the inevitable conclusion that it doesn’t exist.

  8. Good to see your opinion here Morris because the more discussion about this topic the better! But are you suggesting that we should be happy with whatever is promised to us? This issue here is accountability. Cycling is enormously topical in Christchurch and it is no surprise that you find many references of cycling in this document. Policy makers have discovered the feel good factor of cycling and this is progress. The problem is accountability. This proposal is costing tax and rate payers billions and the public needs to know that the money is well spent. The problem that this proposal is open for wide interpretation.

    For example:

    Where necessary, roads
    that are prioritised for cycling will have
    separated cycle lanes to allow safe routes
    for all users. Other streets may also have
    improved, safer cycle facilities.

    What does “necessary” and “may” mean in this context? Can we please see the criteria for this? What about time frames? The devil is in the detail and the detail is missing.

  9. The cynic in me has to question the purpose of the glossy CBD pictures with cyclists featuring prominently .Yes they look happy and relaxed , but how did they get to the CBD ??. Unless you live just west of Hagley Park your travel to the CBD would have been fraught with frustration and risk . A risk for sure I am (un) happy to take , but the “closet” cyclists referred to certainly won’t be. Until there is some actual infrastructure built around the city in a cohesive and integrated fashion these pretty pictures and generalised sweetner statements are pretty meaningless , in my option .

  10. I’ve just squandered the last half hour I’m going to spend actually reading this plan. It’s tokenism and plays to the central city rebuild hype which to some extent is a given – the Avon was always going to be ‘cyclified’ and ‘pedestrianised’. The cycling masses are supposed to be placated with this; well we are not. It is junk plan and does not address the ratepayers sentiments as expressed in the share an idea.

    Maybe that was just spin; ‘we’ve ticked the consultation box, we have allowed the ratepayers to write on coloured paper’. .’excellent..’….’more tea minister…’

    I’m with Robert on this. Where’s the infrastructure to get to quiet, leafy, picturesque cycling in the Frame. I want to be a Central City Chardonnay Cyclist but I want a safer way to get there, must I drive???. I want my children to be able to go places on their bikes without having to mix it with big trucks. Where is the plan for this level of equity.

    What’s so hard about this – its not the money, so it must be the thinking. Think about the rugby stadium in this town, then think about what is not written, and what is not happening about cycling.

  11. Interesting discussions; it seems like the powers-that-be at CERA were damned if they didn’t include cycling in this Plan and damned if they did…

    I suspect it is tricky to pre-judge CERA too much on the basis of what previous City Councils did (or didn’t do) pre-quake – we clearly have a game-changer in what has occurred over the past two years.

    Also it does need reminding that this is a CENTRAL CITY plan – clearly with transport, how that connects to the rest of the city is important but that wasn’t their brief. For the wider city’s transport, readers might like to have a look at the findings from the recent Chch Transport Plan Hearings – http://resources.ccc.govt.nz/files/TheCouncil/meetingsminutes/agendas/2012/November/12OnlyCouncil22Nov12.pdf#nameddest=DraftChristchurchTransportPlan (warning: 30MB).

  12. This discussion is on the mark – yes we need to bring it the attention of the decision makers CCDU etc. Cycling from my suburb Spreydon to the city to work i turn onto the Brougham “highway” after turning right from Selwyn st, then left down Gasson onto Madras, into the cycle utopia of the inner core.. and relax. improved Infrastructre for (hate to say it) safe cycling needs to be a city wide thing not just inside the choc box world of our new city plan.
    One of my rewards for cycling to work is biking past gridlocked cars, sometimes stretching from Moorhouse ave to Lincoln road Opawa rd intersection. It’s a statement.

  13. At a recent public forum CERA representatives stressed that ‘cyclists will need to learn to share the road’ in response to how will commuter cyclists get across the new central city. They totally miss the point that the interested but concerned will find sharing roads, even at 30K, too intimidating to try. And you can forget about parents letting their children ride.

    Share an Idea clearly expressed the need, desire and support from the 30+% of non-cyclists who want to have real transport choice. This plan is a mid twentieth century plan with some cycling suggested ‘where necessary’ and when we get around to it. Routes are inadequate, incomplete and too often little more than a line on a map. Desire lines, obvious routes are left out.

    It is a big ask for CERA to expect us to trust them to get it right. If CERA wanted the community to trust them they should have opened up the process from the start.

    I can understand the hopes expressed here. People in Chch have been waiting for genuine cycling infrastructure for decades. We have had numerous Cycle Strategy’s which have remained unfunded and unrealized. With Gerry at the helm I can only say ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’

    If we want cycling in Chch and in this plan we will need to make hundreds of submissions. Possibly we will be ignored, even castigated for being ungrateful. Still, we have been polite and ignored for years. It is time to be polite but firm and very persistent.

  14. You are not suggesting “Observant” that a bit of stroppiness is called for , well , it would be about time . lol . I love my ride to work and would hate to return to commuting with the mob.It would probably only take one serious near miss to be tempted . Sometimes it feels like cyclists are nothing more than second class citizens . The problem as I see it is the chicken egg dilemma . Change won’t happen until there are enough cyclists to become a formidable lobby group . There won’t be enough cyclists until things are a bit safer and easier for them . So we limp on in frustration. It is a pity that now seems the ideal time to make significant change , yet how ?. It seems to be the ‘marching in protest ‘ season right now for everyone else , perhaps a well co-ordinated rally of cyclist power would be appropriate .

  15. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o

    An excellent Youtube that explains how Holland got its cycling infrastructure (seen on the Spokes Canterbury facebook site). I was born in Holland and I never realised that so many people had to fight this hard to get their cycle paths! They also demolished buildings to convert them into car parking (sounds vaguely familiar…)

    (rush hour in downtown Utrecht, where are the cars??)

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