Wellington City Council has just released some useful guidance on using the cycleway:
"With the cycleway and related work on The Parade just about completed, we’d like to extend a big thank you to all Island Bay residents for your patience over the past few months.
We are very aware that the cycleway is a new arrangement and a significant change to The Parade – especially for residents, business people and others who use the route regularly.
We are continuing to monitor how motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are adjusting to the new road layout.
To help everyone adjust to the new road layout, here are a few tips.
Bus bypasses are a shared space
Cyclists slow for bus bypasses - pedestrians crossing
Drivers - let pedestrians and people on bikes go first unless you need to pause on the cycle lane
Cyclists - slow and give way if vehicles are over the cycle lane
Drivers - please park in the marked spaces. The broken white line shows the door buffer zone
Exiting passenger side of cars
Passengers - check before opening your door
Cyclists - slow down for people crossing the cycleway"
We think these are good messages based on common sense and courtesy. Although people on bikes have priority in the cycleway there are legitimate reasons why other users will be temporarily crossing or blocking the cycleway at times. People on bikes may need to occasionally slow down or even stop when that happens. Other road users also need to respect the rights of people on bikes to use the cycleway and try to keep any obstruction of the cycleway to a minimum.
What do you think of this guidance? Does it make sense? Is there anything that has been missed out? Let us know in the comments below.
Why am I writing about driving on a cycling blog? Like most adults who ride a bike, I also drive a car. The Island Bay Cycleway has changed the environment for driving as well as cycling, so I decided to see how the Island Bay Parade felt as a driver. I drove north and south along the Parade, and tried some maneuvers that are said to cause problems.
Some of the issues such as the visibility getting in and out of driveways have been exacerbated by maximizing the number of parking spaces, rather than following the policy in the Cycling Framework (unanimously agreed by Councillors) “The movement of traffic will take priority over on-street parking”.
Of course the cycleway involves changes, and it’s understandable that some Island Bay residents are uncomfortable with this. The question is whether the way we drive cars should have to change a bit in order to make riding bikes more attractive. I believe the answer is yes: if more trips are done by bike, there’s less congestion, and it’s easier when we need to make trips by car. And there’s no doubt that we urgently need to reduce fossil fuel emissions, the cause of climate instability which has contributed to another major change which has concerned Island Bay residents, the collapse of the seawall.
This blog was originally posted at Cycle Aware Wellington.
Councillor Paul Eagle was on Radio New Zealand's The Panel at 4:30 this afternoon to announce the results of the survey run by the Island Bay Residents Association.
A total of 1,792 valid responses were received, which represents 35% of the population of Island Bay eligible to take part in the survey.
According to Councillor Eagle 87% of responses "want the cycleway switched back". That is a total of 1,559 people, or 31% of the population of Island Bay eligible to take part in the survey.
According to the member of the Residents Association committee I just spoke to the results were meant to be embargoed until 7pm tonight but Councillor Eagle obviously felt it appropriate to break the embargo. Perhaps he felt the need to control the narrative after we posted last week about a range of problems with the survey, including the fact that as a non-probability survey it is not statistically valid to infer the result to the entire population. When Councillor Eagle was asked about this on The Panel he simply side-stepped the question and then inferred the 87% result to the entire population.
The only factually correct statement that can be made about these survey results is that 65% of the population of Island Bay eligible to take part in the survey chose not to. It is time for the Residents Association to do what they promised and listen to the majority of people in Island Bay. A clear majority are saying "we do not care enough about this issue to participate in a survey that was widely advertised and distributed to every single letterbox in the suburb". The Residents Association should accept this result and drop any further opposition to the cycleway. They do not have a mandate from the community to take any other course of action.
Update (9/4/16): Both Councillor Eagle and the Residents Association continue to mis-represent the results of the survey by regularly claiming that "87% of Island Bay residents want the cycleway put back the way it was". The Residents Association has responded to criticism of the survey and their interpretation of the results in this Facebook post.
I was disappointed when I recently received a survey in my letterbox from the Island Bay Residents Association (IBRA) on the cycleway. The IBRA say they want to "determine what the majority of residents in Island Bay want" but there are several issues with the survey that mean it is unlikely to allow them to do that in a reliable way. Before I go on I should say that I consider myself neutral about the cycleway and I can see that there are pros and cons. I also think this is a genuine attempt by the IBRA to determine what the majority view is. However, some of the issues with the survey are so fundamental that using the results to infer the "majority view" is likely to be extremely mis-leading and will potentially cause even more division in the community.
Here are the main issues:
1. The survey type
The survey is an example of a non-probability survey. This means that it involves self-selection not random selection, which introduces the problem of self-selection bias. Non-probability surveys are normally only used for qualitative purposes such as developing a hypothesis or identifying issues. A non-probability survey should never be used to infer a result from the sample population to the general (or whole) population, which is what the IBRA clearly intend to do. The only way it could ever be considered safe to do this would be if the response rate is so high, say 80% or more, that close to the whole population is actually in the sample population. It is particularly dangerous to do this when the response rate is less than 50% because in that case the only statement that can reliably be made about the "majority view" is that the majority of the general population did not take the survey.
For example, the usually resident population of Island Bay at the 2013 census was 6,861 (this is the sum total of the Island Bay West and Island Bay East area units). This survey is being checked against the electoral roll, however, which means only adults over the age of 18 are counted. This puts the general population for the survey at around 5,100. Let's say that the survey has a response rate of 40% and 75% of those people say they do not want a cycleway. That sounds like a good response rate and a large majority against the cycleway. In actual fact it is only 1,530 people (5,100 x 0.4 x 0.75), which is 30% of the general population. In this example we also know that a further 10% (5,100 x 0.4 x 0.25 = 510) of the general population have said that they do want a cycleway. The problem is the remaining 60%. With a non-probability survey there is no way of knowing what they think or why they did not do the survey. In this example the only thing that can be stated as a fact is that a majority of the general population did not do the survey.
2. The survey design
The biggest problem with the survey design is the lack of a "don't know" or "undecided" option for both questions. Even better would have been to measure strength of opinion along a scale. This would have given a much richer dataset and shed some light on how many people consider themselves neutral, rather then forcing a binary yes/no choice. Being a neutral myself I see this as a glaring omission. It is quite possible, despite all the noise being made by the "for" and "against" camps, that people who are undecided, ambivalent or just don't care about the cycleway are actually the largest constituency in Island Bay. The survey won't shed any light on that.
Another issue with the survey is that it excludes children, which is unfortunate when they could be one of the biggest groups to benefit from the cycleway. The main reason for excluding kids appears to be that it would have been too hard to validate them as residents when they are not on the electoral roll. This issue could have been partially overcome at the design stage by asking respondents how many children under the age of 18 they have in the household. This is not suggesting that parents be allowed to make a proxy vote on behalf of their children because that would raise some other ethical issues. However, it would have at least allowed some analysis to be done on whether there is a distinct difference in views about the cycleway among respondents with young children as opposed to the rest of the population.
A final issue with the survey design is the lack of a privacy statement on the paper version (this mistake was corrected on the online Survey Monkey version). This is an almost unforgivable error in the modern world. People are more attuned to data and privacy issues than ever and the lack of a privacy statement will have put some people off responding. This issue is made worse by the fact that the IBRA are running the survey themselves. Anyone who perceives the IBRA to be anti-cycleway or simply didn't want to give the IBRA their contact details could have been put off doing the survey.
It should be noted that fixing any or all of these design issues still would not have been enough to resolve or mitigate Issue 1.
3. Environmental factors
The cycleway is such a hot issue in Island Bay that you would think the IBRA would make every effort to ensure that the survey was conducted in the fairest and safest way possible. So aside from the issues already raised it seems extraordinary that the President of the IBRA and Councillors Paul Eagle and Nicola Young all continued to openly campaign against the cycleway during the survey period. In the case of the two councillors this included the highly dubious "budget blowout" story that appeared on the front page of The Dominion Post the same weekend the surveys were delivered into letterboxes. The story was categorically denied by Wellington City Council (WCC) but that didn't stop Councillor Young from repeating the claim in a letter delivered to all Island Bay residents nearly two weeks later that also included a link to the survey. There is no doubt that this behaviour has compromised the integrity of the survey, the only question is to what degree.
4. What next?
In my view the IBRA cannot safely use the results of the survey unless the response rate is well above 50% and they can demonstrate that an absolute majority of adult Island Bay residents are against the cycleway (> 2,550 residents). Even then questions will remain around issues such as the lack of a "don't know" option and how the survey was affected by negative campaigning and mis-leading information about the budget. If the IBRA intend to use the survey to try and force the WCC to hold a binding referendum of Island Bay residents on the cycleway I cannot see how or why the council would agree to this. It would certainly be a decision that was open to challenge. Councillor Young has promised to hold a referendum of Island Bay residents if she becomes Mayor but it is a promise she might not be able to keep as it would need to be a full council decision. If a formal referendum was held I would also expect that the result will be a lot closer due to a) a more robust methodology being used, and b) opinions softening over time. That would create another problem. Even if the result showed a majority still against the cycleway if opinion is clearly softening would the council really remove it?
I have no problem with the IBRA attempting to find out what the majority view of the community is but this survey is not the way to do it. The methodology is not fit for purpose and the results are unlikely to be reliable unless there has been a response rate well above 50%. It seems ironic that in attempting to fix what a lot of people see as poor quality consultation by the WCC the IBRA is prepared to engage in practices that are of equally poor quality.
The author is an Island Bay resident with a background in research.
This afternoon WCC Chief Executive Kevin Lavery announced a solution to the issues with mobility parking outside the Island Bay Medical Centre. Mr Lavery writes:
"I’m pleased to inform you that the council has made some changes to the cycle path layout in Island Bay.
Following discussions with representatives of the Island Bay community, and receiving some independent feedback, a decision to modify a 50 metre section of the cycleway south of Medway Street has been made.
It’s a practical solution that makes the layout more consistent and better for everyone.
Essentially, the change will turn this section into the same shared space layout as exists through the commercial area to the north of Medway Street, which makes the layout more consistent. The protected cycleway will transition to this shared space layout further south than currently exists.
There are three key reasons for making this change:
These changes will be implemented as soon as possible.
In the meantime, a post construction safety audit is underway and the balance of the project will be subject to a fuller review before March 2017. Unless there are issues raised through the safety audit that require urgent attention it is envisaged that there will be no further changes until the substantial review in a years’ time."
This is a decision that definitely has pros and cons. The main upside is that the mobility parks outside the medical centre will now be immediately adjacent to the kerb which resolves a significant issue for the users of those parks. The main downside is that 50m of protected cycleway is now being converted back to shared space. This definitely lowers the level of service from a cyclist's point of view and represents a major compromise.
As a member of the community stakeholder group that advised the council on this I can assure you that this issue received more attention than any other and was the subject of hours of discussion, including a one hour site visit. The apparently straight-forward solution of simply moving the mobility parks back to the kerb created knock-on issues in terms of the consistency of the design on both sides of the road that then needed to be dealt with. The council officers did a very good job of thoroughly exploring and explaining all the possible options. They also listened to all the feedback they received from around the table. Although the chosen solution was not my personal choice I am happy that the process was very robust and that the council officers made their decision from a fully informed position and taking into account all views. Some cyclists will not be happy with the decision from a cycling point of view but I think it is very important that at the current time people on bikes are seen to be willing to make some compromises so that the cycleway can be completed and the community can move forward. This area will be closely monitored by the council to ensure that it is working well and if it is not then changes will need to be made. It may also be possible to make further refinements once the cycleway is completely embedded into the overall transport environment.
In addition to moving the mobility parks back to the kerb this solution also has the benefit for motorists of creating a net gain of one new car park and lessening the severity of the pinch point in this area. In return, I hope that people on bikes can expect to see motorists always observe the 30 kph speed limit through the shared area. Motorists will also need to respect without question the rights of people on bikes to merge into traffic and take the lane without being forced over to the left.
Vancouver based urban mobility advocates Modacity recently published a great article outlining the 6 biggest roadblocks to building complete streets in our communities. It's well worth reading the full article yourself but I thought they raised so many good points that it would be interesting to look at some of them from a local perspective (let's call it the remix version). Just about all the roadblocks are relevant to Island Bay to a greater or lesser degree, and you can bet they will also be relevant as cycleways get rolled out around the rest of Wellington. So here are six paradigm shifts needed to build more livable and equitable streets in our cities:
An unintended, but counterproductive focus on the commute to work
"We agree that getting more people out of their cars and riding a bike to work is great. However, what about the dozens of other trips a person makes in a day? When we switch from a mindset of commuting, to one that places import on cycling as a means of transportation for other daily errands, it quickly becomes apparent that we are falling behind in encouraging the average person to ride to the nearest market or restaurant. Once we realize that, it becomes very easy to make the case for bike lanes on high streets – the places people actually go outside of office hours."
A tendency to frame the discussion around those people who already cycle
“Don’t design streets that make the 5% already cycling marginally safer. Build them to entice the other 95% onto their bikes. If a city provides comfortable places for its citizens to ride, then the types of people using them will change dramatically. What was once the domain of fearless bike couriers and Lycra-clad road warriors is now a space shared by people of all ages and abilities – especially families with young children."
Everybody says they support cycling, which is great, but that's not what matters. What matters is whether you support growth in cycling. Another pair of contradictory criticisms constantly being made of the Island Bay cycleway are that "The Parade has always been perfectly safe for cycling" but that "the cycleway is just for a minority". If The Parade is so safe for cycling then why do only a minority in Island Bay ride a bike? Yes, its true that in recent years there have been no serious or fatal accidents involving bikes on The Parade but that's partly because the number of people riding bikes is so low. And it's not accidents that are the real problem, it's the unreported near misses (for more information on how near misses have a massive impact on the uptake of cycling check out the University of Westminster's Near Miss Project). The fact is that lots of people simply aren't comfortable riding among cars, trucks and buses travelling at 50 kph and would certainly never dream of allowing their young children to do so. That's the demographic the cycleway is really aimed at, rather than existing cyclists (although any safety improvements for them are also most welcome). The argument that "the cycleway is just for a minority" only reinforces the size of the problem that needs to be overcome and is central to the business case for cycleways i.e. the payoff from even a modest increase in the numbers of people riding a bike could be huge. Also, when cycling numbers are as low as they are you won't change the status quo by simply asking the status quo if it wants to change.
The belief that streets should act as thoroughfares, not destinations, and the conviction that bikes belong on side streets, not on main streets
"When behind the wheel of a car, travelling upwards of 50 km/hr, people see the world through a windshield, and therefore don’t focus on the shops they are racing past. By returning to a pre-1950’s mindset, high streets can become destinations where neighbours connect, and spending at local markets and shops increase. Relationships are built, and the idea of a well-knit community becomes a greater reality."
"Relegating bikes to backstreets only reinforces the idea that they are built for commuting and recreation, and not transportation."
The Parade is an arterial route, with a 50 kph speed limit along most of its length and one of the most frequent bus services in Wellington. It is very clearly dominated by motorised traffic, both moving and stationary. In fact, the dominance is so great that we all seem to have developed a mass case of "Stockholm syndrome" where we blindly accept that the car is king even if it is not always in our best interests. This is not a war on cars (and most cyclists are motorists too) but it's fair to ask whether the dominance of the car has come about simply because of a lack of other options. It's also completely legitimate to question whether that dominance is a sustainable situation.
In a classic example of this "Stockholm syndrome", some cyclists have complained that the new cycleway is not for them because it doesn't allow them to travel at the kinds of speeds that they are used to. That's fair enough, but they also need to realise that's a type of cycling that excludes a significant number of people from riding a bike. It is reasonable to ask commuter cyclists to change their behaviour slightly in order to get more people on bikes? I think so. In my own case I only ride fast and "take the lane" because it is the safest way to ride in traffic. I am forced to ride as if I am a car. I have quickly discovered that as soon as I get on the cycleway, however, I naturally want to slow down a bit, relax, and enjoy a hassle free ride. I've even started stopping occasionally to say hi to people I know, something I wouldn't have done when racing past at 30 kph trying to keep up with the traffic. The difference between riding the 1.5 km length of The Parade at 15 kph and 30 kph is actually only a few minutes and I certainly don't mind sacrificing a few minutes of my commute for the greater good.
The perception gap around how customers actually arrive at a business
"We’ve seen this recurring theme in cities around the world, which may be the biggest mental block for businesses opposing better transit and bike infrastructure. The simple fact is this: every person has a wallet, but not everyone owns a car. Businesses continually underestimate how many of their customers arrive by foot, bicycle, or public transit"
This is very much related to the previous point. The perception gap among retailers about how customers arrive at their businesses is also true of New Zealand and has actually been confirmed in research by the New Zealand Transport Agency. NZTA research report 530 found that sustainable transport users account for 40% of the total spend in shopping areas and account for 37% of all shoppers. The data indicates that pedestrians and cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas. The study also identified that retailers generally overestimate the importance of on-street parking outside shops. Shoppers value high-quality pedestrian and urban design features in shopping areas more than they value parking and those who drive are willing to walk to the shopping precinct from other locally available parking areas. There's a whole lot more local and overseas evidence to support this point here.
It seems bizarre to me that local retailers don't embrace more walking and cycling as a great strategy for keeping local people shopping locally. Cars are actually a threat to local retailers because they allow people to take their business anywhere they like in the city. I don't have any problem with people exercising free choice but it seems strange that local businesses would be so wedded to competing for the attention of people in cars rather than positioning themselves as the attractive, local destination for people walking and cycling. This doesn't have to be to the exclusion of cars but it's just a fact that the more people who decide to make shopping trips by foot or by bike the better it will be for local business.
A failure to recognize the (rather lucrative) potential for tourism spending
"Imagine the tourism dollars that could spread from downtown and out to our many treasured locally owned businesses if we made their trip as safe and pleasant as riding along the downtown bikeways."
It would be easy to dismiss this point as being not that relevant to Island Bay but that just shows a lack of imagination. The south coast has plenty to offer to tourists and is part of The Great Harbour Way walking and cycling route. Companies such as Switched On Bikes are already offering eBike tours of Wellington so why couldn't a bike tour of the south coast end with a cruise up the cycleway for a coffee or lunch at one of our great cafes and a look around the shops?
It was obviously disappointing to read in yesterday's Dominion Post about an incident at the Mersey Street intersection on Thursday. My thoughts are with the rider of the bike and I hope he makes a speedy recovery. I also hope that the city council and police are looking into the circumstances of the incident in order to determine exactly what happened.
I am very familiar with the spot where the incident occurred (marked with an X on the map) because it is where I usually enter The Parade when driving or riding. There is absolutely no question that the visibility when you are entering The Parade from the eastern side of Mersey Street has been greatly improved since the cycleway was implemented. Cars used to park directly outside 213 and 215 The Parade (Point A on the map) making it very difficult to see north when pulling out. The closest car parks are now outside 209 The Parade (Point B on the map), which is 30 metres further north, creating significant additional visibility whether exiting Mersey Street from the east or travelling southbound along The Parade.
The photo shows the visibility looking north along the cycleway from the drivers seat of a car waiting at the Stop sign. Note that the car parked closest to the pedestrian crossing is in a hatched area and shouldn't actually be there. Despite this the visibility is good, and much better than previously. That said, it could be improved even more if the telephone pole was moved slightly.
The rider of the bike is quoted as saying "he believed the cycleway was an improvement on the previous road layout, but for those who rode at speed, it made it harder for cars to see them". It has been a real point of contention with the cycleway that some people who prefer to ride their bikes faster don't like the new cycleway.
Of course, the cycleway is not targeted at that type of cyclist, it is targeted at those who don't ride at the moment but would like to if it was safer and more comfortable. That type of rider will typically not be riding at more than 20 kph. Is it fair that we ask faster riders to slow down when they are on the cycleway for the greater good? I think so. I am a commuter cyclist and I have no problem whatsoever with slowing down a bit if it means that more people might start riding bikes, especially kids. The difference between riding the entire length of the 1.5 km cycleway at 15 kph and 30 kph is no more than a few minutes and its not like there aren't often obstructions and delays for cyclists out on the road anyway. To be fair to this particular rider his comment that "he believed the cycleway was an improvement on the previous road layout" does seem to acknowledge that there is trade-off to be made between the needs of different types of cyclist.
I think the key thing to remember here is that no transport infrastructure is completely risk free. This particular incident is very unfortunate but this type of incident was just as likely to occur with the old road layout which had significantly worse visibility at this intersection. The old layout also encouraged the few people on bikes who were keen to take on the challenge to ride much faster.
Something else worth remembering is that safety isn't an absolute concept, it's relative. That means that the safety of the cycleway can only be properly assessed in comparison to a) what was there before, and b) other aspects of our transport infrastructure. While the new cycleway still has some risk the likelihood and consequences of an accident are much lower than when riding a bike on the road. Simply separating people on bikes from motorised traffic for most of their journey along The Parade makes a massive difference. We also shouldn't judge the cycleway to a higher standard than we are prepared to accept in the rest of the environment. It is a simple fact that the risks created by cars, trucks and buses weighing up to 12 tonnes and travelling at 50 kph through our community far outweigh any of the risks associated with the cycleway. It we are prepared to mitigate, manage and ultimately accept the risks associated with motorised traffic, then we can definitely make the transition to a protected cycleway. Humans are remarkably resilient and adaptable and it should not take long to adjust to the new layout as long as we are all willing.
- As mentioned in the story the cycleway is still not finished. Among other things there is still green paint to be applied, which would have helped in this case.
- It's not correct that the Mersey Street intersection has Give Way signs. It has been a Stop controlled intersection for some time.
- The council is yet to publish any education material about the cycleway. This should help to make all users more aware of how to get the best out of the new road layout.