In a letter to The Wellingtonian (Aug 20) Island Bay resident Keith Robinson asks some valid questions about the Island Bay Cycleway. You can read the full letter here.
One of Keith's concerns is with the profile, or slope, of the cycleway next to the existing kerbing. Keith points out that "The current cycle lanes have an approximate slope profile of 1:4 and are easy to ride. The new lanes will be 1:10, and in some instances worse". He is concerned that "The slope will be particularly bad for children, making them veer towards the kerbing and the large drain grills". What Keith forgets, however, is that at the moment Island Bay kids are mostly forced to ride on the pavement, which has a similar slope profile especially when crossing the many driveways along The Parade. The slope of the pavement doesn't cause any problems now so I'm not convinced that the slope of the cycle lanes will cause any problems either. We also shouldn't forget that there are already many examples around Wellington of roads where there is no street parking and cyclists ride immediately adjacent to the kerb without any problems being caused by the slope. That said, there are certainly patches next to the kerb on The Parade where a tidier job should have been done of resealing the road. It's not a major problem but it is something that the council will need to ensure that their contractors improve on in future. Keith is right about the drain grills, they all need to be replaced by cycle friendly grates that don't have longitudinal slots. This was an issue identified in one of the cycleway safety audits and the council have already agreed that this will be done.
Another of Keith's concerns is the width of the vehicle lanes. The map of the entire route on the WCC website shows the vehicle lanes at a consistent width of 3.0m, not 2.76m as assumed by Keith. The map clearly shows that it is the bike lanes that are variable in width to accommodate variations in the total width of the road. For example, the bike lanes in the section highlighted by Keith are actually 1.4m wide, not 1.5m (not including the 0.6m buffer). Although 3.0m wide lanes should allow plenty of room for vehicles to stay out of each other's path it's also worth noting that there will be long sections of The Parade where there will be no parked cars at all (i.e. where there are driveways and empty carparks) that provide a little more room.
It's true that drivers of parked cars will have to be careful when exiting their vehicles but they should be doing this already. There is a bike lane there after all! If motorists aren't already being careful then that really just reinforces the case for the bike lanes to be moved to the kerbside. Exiting a car into a vehicle lane is something that Wellingtonians are already well used to and any extra caution required is a small price to pay for making The Parade truly multi-modal.
Keith's concerns about what the cycleway will look like are fair but are also entirely a matter of taste. Keith may think that "the splattering of green everywhere will look horrible" but for many cyclists there is nothing more welcome than the sight of some green paint. There's also some context required here. Surely nobody is going to try and defend the existing 3.0m wide median strip painted in boring white diagonal lines? Parked cars themselves are hardly an attractive feature. Of course, I agree that the cycleway must fit with the Island Bay environment but I know from my involvement with the Island Bay Cycleway Working Party that the council are keen to work with residents to try and achieve this. There certainly won't be green paint along the entire length of the cycleway and the exact design of the poles delineating parking, and whether they are even necessary, is yet to be decided.