Victoria Street Denial

Once upon a time earthquakes shook up Christchurch. With the central city destroyed, Share an Idea seized on the opportunity to rebuild a city for people, a cycle friendly 21st century sustainable city. The broad community envisioned a creative and life-affirming response to the quakes.

It did not take long for car-centred politicians to respond with the so called Accessible City Plan Transport chapter, which looks like it was a completed document when someone pointed out that they had forgotten to provide for people to ride bicycles.

Cycle routes, shared with cars, buses, pedestrians, on street parking, had to go somewhere and the Accessible City plan had Victoria Street between Kilmore and Bealey a designated  cycle route.

Christchurch City Council got stuck with implementation and offered a compromise project. The proposal sought to address the competing agendas of the NIMBYs, versus the Accessible City plan and Share an Idea. The proposal had major issues, but did seek to remove through-car traffic and limit on-street parking. It was a start, but once again, people on bicycles did not fare well. Narrow painted cycle lanes hard up against narrow on street parking, poor access to intersections, lots of pinch-points and opportunities for conflict.

Sadly, submissions from the NIMBYs made up 55% of the total, with the broader community at 43%. No doubt the opposition from Victoria Street’s wealthy landlords helped to tip the scale. CCC caved in and added back on-street parking, extra loading zones, bus stops, motorcycle parking and (much) easier vehicle access and thoroughfare.

A core element of this plan, and far too many others being pursued, is the fanciful notion that cars will share the road and obey the traffic laws. The worst bit here has south-bound cars on Victoria expected to do a difficult ‘u’ turn on a narrow busy street rather than duck into a bike/bus lane to easily access Kilmore Street.

Take 2: Through-traffic access again for everyone along Victoria St

The new plans dramatically illustrate just how damaging NIMBY opposition to progress can be. The original goals, the strong community desire from Share an Idea are nowhere to be found. Experience is that motorised traffic intimidates other modes off the road.

CCC staff are smart skilled people. So why are they struggling with this project? In part, it is the inertia of the outdated focus on car-centred transport, ingrained by plans like the Accessible City Transport chapter. Add in the cultural resistance ingrained by over 50 years of grossly over-funding motorised infrastructure while neglecting the needs of other modes has trained most to equate cars with transport. If we are to have change, all of those who want to walk or ride a bike are going to have to speak up loudly and repeatedly. It is just too easy for people to fall back into bad habits.

Is it really a big deal if a few projects don’t meet expectations, don’t encourage more people to cycle? Yes. Should this project not lead to an increase of people on foot and bicycle, critics will slam the Council for bad policy and wasting ratepayer’s money. As designed, this is all but certain. Much needed progress will be all the harder to achieve.

The next step will be oral submissions made to the City Council Infrastructure, Transport and Environment Committee, which will meet at 12:30 pm on 16 September at the Council on Hereford St.  That committee will make the recommendation to the Council as to how to proceed.

Only those who made an original written submission can speak, and must schedule that with Samantha.Kelly@ccc.govt by 12 September. Anyone is welcome to come and support Spokes Canterbury, who will be making an oral submission at 12:30. Generation Zero will also be making an oral submission – sign their petition! No doubt the NIMBYs will also be there.

You can also share your concerns with ITE Committee members:

More information can be found at

Spokes will request that Council return this project to the design stage and give it the time and support required to achieve its original goals. One concern is that Council will just want to ‘get on with it.’ Offering the community only the options of the unworkable current mess or the unworkable proposed mess is not acceptable. It is just the kind of response which has produced the many transport problems we already face.

8 thoughts on “Victoria Street Denial”

  1. I work in Victoria Street, so have to ride from either Montreal or Bealey to work.

    The part from Bealey south to Montreal feels like a gamble every time – Its like a microcosm of all the dumb road usage possible, from the caffeine-starved wandering out, to delivery trucks parking up in the lanes, to cars doing manoevers just-cos, topped off with driver’s doors opened into the road traffic.

    Yes there are good drivers on that piece of road, but there seems to be a higher-than-normal quantity of bad road use.

  2. I am gutted about this to be honest! In other cities like Paris the focus is on pedestrianising express ways while here we are struggling with an ultra conservative business community who keeps voting for no change. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that making streets car free can help businesses flourish but try to explain this to a flat earth society.

    This back down is not what the people wanted and the council needs to know this. Email, twitter, sign the petition or make an oral submission if you do agree with the revised plans. Without voice of cycling community the original plan does not stand a chance.

  3. Those door zone cycle lanes look like worse than nothing. Death traps. Better to claim the full lane, but that obviously requires some confidence.

    Would a bi-directional path on Montreal and a short stretch of Bealey be an alternative? It would require removing all parking on one side.

    Let the conservative business choose between that or the original plan for Victoria Street.

    1. To be fair, they’re 1.8m wide, which is wider than the current bike lanes along here and standard recommended width in NZ for a bike lane next to parking. By the time you allow for a car door fully open, you still have 0.8-1.0m left for biking in.

      1. Ah, I didn’t grasp the scale very well. On the other hand, I see plenty of large SUVs with doors that would take up most of that 1.8m when flung open…So I would certainly be riding at the extreme outside of the lane towards the casino, and avoiding it altogether if drivers close shaved me while overtaking.

  4. Whether they are wide enough probably depends on what rider is using the lane. I will be probably ok with it and I imagine lots of other riders will be. But if the end goal here is to attract people of all abilities and with different levels of confidence, young families, people with slight disabilities, elderly people or simply potential riders that just needs some encouragement then I question whether this design will do the job. We can spend mega dollars in the CBD to make it more bike friendly but if people feel it is not safe enough to ride into the CBD then there is not much point in doing this.

  5. I agree with all that you say , except for one point when describing the response to the Share an Idea invitation. I am starting to think that what participants actually MEANT when stating that a green, walkable , cycle safe city is desirable , is that a green , walkable, cycle safe city is desirable but do not under any circumstances remove a single car park, nor impede traffic flow , or reduce traffic speeds in any way.

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