Council, CDHB & Otakaro Undermine Safety or how to disadvantage everyone, waste millions and ignore the public’s best interests

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.

2 thoughts on “Council, CDHB & Otakaro Undermine Safety or how to disadvantage everyone, waste millions and ignore the public’s best interests”

  1. A very interesting article, I am really sorry to hear that things aren’t going as well as they could and should be for people cycling in Christchurch.
    I was sad that more thought wasn’t taken into account with regards to the different types of car/cyclist barriers down St Asaph St. This seems to have widened the gap regarding amnosity towards cyclist’s.
    Even though I don’t manage to get out on my bike, I am interested in the health and safety of cyclist’s in Christchurch.
    What a fiasco it sounds a bit like round the hospital proposal..
    Though I did read another article around peoples views of lowering the speed to 10 and 30 km an hour in this area.

  2. The Automobile Association has made this submission to Council:

    4 September 2018

    Christchurch City Council

    SUBMISSION: Review of Speed Limits Southern Central City
    As an expert safety hazard study has indicated that up to fifty fatal or serious injury accidents a year can be expected to occur in the Oxford Terrace Crossing, as it is currently designed, the Canterbury West Coast District Council of the NZAA is concerned avoidable traffic safety hazards and congestion problems are knowingly being created.

    A suppressed Safety Audit of the Hospital Corner Anchor Project has confirmed thousands of pedestrians and cyclists will be exposed daily to common/frequent risks of likely death or serious injury. Expert assessments project fatal or serious injury collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists will occur frequently though probably less than once a week.

    As designed the road changes will channel hundreds of shuttle buses, taxis, cycles, and private cars along the 120 metre section of Oxford Terrace from the Riccarton Ave, Hagley Ave, and Tuam Street intersection while more than a thousand pedestrians cross daily between the existing hospital and the new outpatients building. As well as dodging the pedestrians and other vehicles stopping to unload passengers or pulling back out into the traffic, cyclists and drivers will also be required to negotiate a new roundabout at the Antigua Street intersection.

    As making the walkway across Oxford Terrace a legal pedestrian crossing would result in buildups of vehicles in Riccarton Avenue even as far back as the other side of Hagley Park pedestrians will not be protected by the legal right-of-way provisions normally afforded to them on an official pedestrian crossing.

    We are not persuaded installing signs to warn pedestrians to give way to cars and cyclists to look out for pedestrians, as recommended by the safety auditors, will be sufficient to alleviate the obvious safety risks. Nor is imposing a 10kph speed limit likely to be a practical or effective method of mitigating the identified hazards.

    The new outpatients unit is expected to cater to around four thousand visits per day with many of the visitors mobility impaired and very frail. The CDHB handles 200,000 to 250,000 outpatient appointments annually. Before the earthquakes there was a parking building on a site adjacent to the new outpatients. To safeguard hospital visitors from the well recognised hazards of crossing Oxford Terrace it was linked to the hospital by a subway which was rendered unusable by the quakes.

    An airbridge to convey both pedestrians and bedridden patients between the two buildings would have been the most cost-effective solution to loss of the subway. However Ministry of Health officials vetoed this proposal on the grounds of cost, yet we understand they have spent around $14 Million repairing the subway just to restore the steam service alone.

    For more than a year Spokes Canterbury, the Earthquake Disability Leadership Group, and the Canterbury West Coast District Council of the NZAA have repeatedly raised our concerns about the obvious inadequacies of this project. Yet though they are now confirmed and reinforced by the safety audit our concerns have still not been properly addressed.

    We request the opportunity to make further verbal submissions to the council on this issue

    Yours faithfully

    Roy Hughes
    Canterbury West Coast District Council
    NZ Automobile Association

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