The Island Bay Cycleway works well but could be improved by providing physical delineation between the cycleway and parked cars
The Island Bay cycleway is a big improvement over the old bike lanes painted (sporadically) on the road and performs its primary function of separating people on bikes from moving cars, trucks and buses really well. Having personally made over 300 trips along it since the first sections opened back in mid-December I can honestly say it makes for a much more comfortable and safe journey than previously. Some people are obviously taking a little longer to adjust to the changes than others, but that's fine and only to be expected. Building the infrastructure is just one part of the equation, it's also a big cultural and behavioural change and that simply doesn't happen overnight. It will take at least a year or two before we are able to properly evaluate the impact of the cycleway and assess whether or not it has been a success.
What I really like about the cycleway is that apart from the 30 kph shared zone through the shopping centre the only interactions a person on a bike now has to have with moving traffic are at intersections and driveways. In five months and approx. 300 trips I have encountered a car turning in to or out of a driveway no more than 10 times, or around once every couple of weeks. In every case I had good visibility and was travelling at a moderate speed so there was plenty of time to slow down and stop if necessary. The intersections all have good visibility so I haven't had any issues with turning vehicles seeing me or me seeing them. I've probably only had to yield to a car already committed to a left hand turn on a couple of occasions and the situation never felt unsafe or out of my control. The bus-stop bypasses are a joy. It makes a huge difference not having to engage in a game of leapfrog with a 12 tonne bus that overtakes you before stopping to pick up passengers so you overtake it and then repeat the process all along The Parade. My kids (aged 7 and 9) have joined me on many cycleway journeys without any issues. The only time my concern for their safety is even slightly heightened is when they go through intersections but the clear markings, good visibility and those nice yellow poles make even that very simple and straightforward.
However, there's always room for improvement and one aspect of the cycleway that is particularly annoying for both people on bikes and motorists is the lack of physical delineation between the cycleway and parked cars. This makes it difficult for people parking cars to get their positioning right so that they are not encroaching into the cycleway buffer zone. It also increases the sense that parked cars are 'floating' in the middle of the road, which a few people are finding hard to adjust to.
So what are some of the options to fix this? Luckily for us Auckland Transport has already been looking into this as part of their plans to put a separated cycleway along Karangahape Road. The design for Karangahape Road hasn't been finalised but it's likely to use parked cars as separation from motorised traffic, similar to Island Bay. All three of these options could be deployed on The Parade so let's look at some of the pros and cons versus the current design:
It's fair to say all three of these options would move the cycleway from being good to great. I would probably lean towards Options 2 and 3 because they provide clearer delineation between the footpath and the cycleway. All three options would also seem to satisfy the Island Bay Residents Association's stated desire to have the council "develop at least three alternative designs for a cycleway from Shorland Park to Dee Street that has vehicle parking at the kerbside". However, the main issue is likely to be the cost. The Island Bay Cycleway Working Party that I was a member of actually discussed the possibility of Copenhagen-style bike lanes with council officers a year ago and was told the cost would be significant i.e. in the millions of dollars. Although proper Copenhagen lanes would be fantastic the fact is that the current cycleway works well and I'm not sure that such a cost is justified when there are other parts of Wellington (including stages 2, 3 and 4 of the Island Bay to City Cycleway) that also need attention. It would be good to see the three options at least get costed, however, and I suspect Option 3 could be cheaper than the other two because the barrier would be broken at many points along its length to allow access into driveways (basically anywhere that there isn't currently a carpark marked there wouldn't be a barrier). It would also have the least impact on the existing services (drains etc).
There are also some other much cheaper options. The council could use concrete or rubber blocks, or even a rumble strip, to create greater delineation between the cycleway and parked cars. Plastic poles like the ones used in the original concept drawings of the cycleway would also provide a reference point for drivers reversing into a park and help to prevent cars parking in the cycleway. Perhaps the council should experiment with different options for delineation of parking along different sections of the cycleway?
What do you think about the various options to better delineate the cycleway from parking and provide a kerb for cars to park against? Are they necessary, and at what cost?