Auckland Transport's cycleway design for Franklin Road provides an informative contrast with The Parade in Island Bay, and reveals a hidden jewel in Rotterdam.
Auckland Transport (AT) recently released their design for a cycleway on Franklin Road, which is based around on-road bike lanes. This is similar to the option which Wellington City Council (WCC) chose not to proceed with on The Parade in favour of parking-protected kerbside lanes. At first sight Franklin Road looks like The Parade with more trees so what gives? Have AT meekly kicked for touch when they should have gone for goal and provided a much higher level of service to people on bikes? Or, is this proof that WCC dropped the ball and got The Parade all wrong? As usual, the answer lies somewhere in between and what it really comes down to is horses for courses.
Bike Auckland have done a really good job of documenting the Franklin Road discussion in a series of posts on their website (1, 2, 3, 4). In summary, after a bit of to and fro in the latter part of last year AT announced they were looking at 3 possible options for bike lanes as part of upgrading Franklin Road:
After consultation they settled on Option 1. The reasons why Option 3 was not chosen by AT are very specific and can be summarised as:
So that's why AT decided parking protected kerbside lines were not appropriate for Franklin Road. However, only one of those four reasons is actually an issue on The Parade - the visibility for cars going in and out of driveways. WCC got around the median strip/right hand turn issue by simply removing street parking at those particular points to make room for right hand turn bays. I'm really not sure why AT didn't consider doing the same. Gradient is not on issue on The Parade, and although we have Pohutukawa all along one side they are further back from the road, between the pavement and property boundaries, so the roots aren't a problem. This is also why the issue of visibility is not as severe and can best be managed on a case by case basis (time permitting, I'll be writing a blog on visibility along the Island Bay cycleway soon).
The key point to understand is that parking protected kerbside lanes similar to Island Bay were seriously considered by AT, were Bike Auckland's preferred option and were massively favoured in consultation responses. When the 3 options were first announced Bike Auckland noted that on-road lanes were "unlikely to appeal to less confident riders" and when the decision was made to go with Option 1 they said "it provides dedicated space for cycling, and allows for some cycle growth, but is not really transformative. It’s not the kind of layout parents would let their children ride on unaccompanied". A contact at Bike Auckland told me "a parking-protected design IS better in general, but on Franklin Rd, trees and fast downhill cyclists made it less viable and safe at driveways, for this context. We think [Option 1] is a good compromise – and of course we praised it as such where parking-protected doesn't work. We feel Island Bay has space and circumstances such that parking-protected is much better, especially for children and novice cyclists". So while it's interesting to compare and contrast why The Parade and Franklin Road ended up with different arrangements it's really not fair to say that either one of them is the "wrong" decision when these kinds of decisions are often quite finely balanced. There are quite specific reasons why each design was chosen and it is very much a case of horses for courses.
But wait, there's more! The hidden jewel buried in the discussion about Franklin Road is Bike Auckland's discovery of Molenlaan, in Rotterdam. This 1.5km road runs through a largely residential area with multiple driveways and intersections. Apparently it has over 13,000 vehicle movements per day, which is significantly higher than The Parade. Despite this it has a kerbside parking protected cycleway that is very similar to what we now have in Island Bay.
The only real differences between Molenlaan and The Parade are that the trees along both sides are between the pavement and the cycleway, and that the cycleway is at the same level of the pavement. This means that cars park against a kerb. The really important thing to note is that all the key interactions between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are exactly the same. This also means that all the perceived issues in Island Bay are being successfully negotiated by the users of Molenlaan on a daily basis. For example, passengers getting in and out of cars onto a cycleway, cyclists riding across multiple driveways and visibility of cyclists being partially obscured by parked cars. Motorists coming out of driveways on Molenlaan even have to deal with their view being partially obscured by trees, a problem we don't have on The Parade. Molenlaan very clearly illustrates that the Island Bay cycleway design is not that radical at all and can work well for all road users (note 1).
There are a couple of ways in which Molenlaan is obviously superior to The Parade. One is that the cycleway is grade separated from the road so that motorists have a kerb to park against. This would definitely be an improvement to the Island Bay cycleway, and would also improve the 'look and feel'. Looking at Molenlaan the parked cars don't appear to be 'floating' in the road and the cycleway seems much more a part of the environment. It would be expensive to do this on The Parade, however, as it would probably involve relocating a lot of services as well as raising the cycleway slightly. A cheaper option could be to provide a substitute kerb using concrete or rubber blocks, and use planting or some other type of street furniture to delineate the start and end of the parking bays along a block. The intersection treatments on Molenlaan are also better. By being raised they make it absolutely clear that cyclists travelling straight through have priority and turning traffic needs to slow down and give way. I'll write a future post with some simple ideas for improvement that could make the Island Bay cycleway even better.
If you've made it this far, thank you for reading. Your reward is The Beautiful South's video for the song Rotterdam because after all, this could be Rotterdam or anywhere...