The consultation on the final four options for The Parade is now open. Here's my take on the four options and how they stack up. I've tried to make things as simple to understand as possible but if you have time I highly recommend you also read the frequently asked questions and the summary of the proposed design options, which should take you about ten minutes each. You could also read section 4.1 (pages 18-19) of the design report which provides a good analysis of the main issues raised in the Love the Bay feedback and the designers responses. The design report is actually excellent and fully explains how the designers have used the feedback gathered during the Love the Bay process and combined it with previous community engagement, NZTA best practice guidelines, engineering guidance and council strategies to come up with the four options.
Remember - you have until 9pm on Sunday 13 August 2017 to make your submission so don't waste any time. The council have been absolutely clear that the submissions are not a vote but it is still important that no matter what your preferences are you let the council know. If you have time please explain to the council why you selected your preferred option(s) and why you would make any amendments.
The "I really don't have time for this" summary
Options B, C and D are all good and will all be a significant improvement on the current kerbside cycleway. Option A is sub-standard and will be a backwards step. It reverts back to roadside bike lanes and is only in the four options because councillors insisted that there had to be an option similar to the original layout. The designers note that Option A doesn't adhere to NZTA guidelines and it won't provide the levels of service that make it safe and comfortable for all ages and abilities to ride a bike. If you really don't have much time my advice is to go to the online submission form, fill in your details and then rank Option C as 1, Option B as 2 and Option D as 3. Don't bother giving Option A a ranking but you might want to add a comment that you don't want roadside bike lanes because they don't give cyclists enough protection from traffic and that's what makes cycling feel less safe and less comfortable. That you should take you about two minutes. Go!
The Love the Bay process has probably been the longest and most thorough council consultation in recent years. The design report written by Tonkin & Taylor and Studio Pacific Architecture is very comprehensive and does a great job of explaining how the designers used the feedback gathered during the Love the Bay process and combined it with previous community engagement, NZTA best practice guidelines, engineering guidance and council strategies to come up with the four options. The four options are a real step forward from the draft options presented at the drop-in sessions in May, which demonstrates that the designers have really listened to the feedback from those sessions.
Here are the main points of interest:
Overall, Options B, C and D are all a significant improvement on the current kerbside cycleway and any of them would be acceptable. Option C probably comes out on top for me because it gives cyclists a little bit more room to maneuver, provides for 3.2m traffic lanes and gets rid of angle parking at the shops. It also retains generous footpath widths. Option B comes next because it also maintains generous footpath widths and gets rid of angle parking at the shops, but it has slightly narrower traffic lanes and doesn't give cyclists quite as much wriggle room. Option D comes next because it provides room for cyclists to maneuver and provides for 3.2m traffic lanes, plus a 1.0m median strip. However, it significantly reduces the western side footpath width and retains angle parking at the shops.
Option A doesn't provide the separation from traffic that is needed to make all ages and abilities feel safe and comfortable while riding along a busy road. Even the design report admits that Option A doesn't adhere to NZTA guidelines for a road with the volume of traffic that The Parade has. If the intent of the Wellington Cycling Master Plan & Framework is to increase the levels of cycling by all ages and abilities then it simply shouldn't be acceptable for Option A to proceed.
Here's my take on the individual options. I've included a brief description of each option from the design report and then my own commentary. I've focused largely on the differences between the options and how I think the options stack up against each other. Factors which are common to all the options such as extending the cycleway through the shops, and the reduction of parking are not discussed in any depth.
"Prior to the construction of the Island Bay Cycleway, The Parade south of Medway Street had kerbside parking, a roadside cycle lane, and traffic lanes separated by a central flush median. Option A proposes a layout that, as close as safely possible, reflects the original design. Changes have been made to reflect the recommendations of the 2016 post-construction safety audit and peer review, and current NZTA and engineering safety guidelines that the original design did not include. It is these requirements that preclude a return to the exact original layout."
Let's be absolutely clear here. The only reason we are talking about Option A and roadside cycle lanes is because when councillors initiated the Love the Bay process they made an amendment that a design similar to the original design had to be included (along with the current design). This was nothing more than political interference in the process, before it had even started, to placate a section of the community. It also demonstrated a lack of confidence in the process itself to identify roadside cycle lanes as appropriate, which is telling. The fact that the two options the designers came up with where they were free of any constraints are just variations of the current design speaks volumes, and is a huge endorsement of the work originally done. The designers are effectively saying that the only appropriate cycleway treatment for The Parade is kerbside cycle lanes. In fact, the proposed design options document actually states on page 14 that:
"Option A, the original layout option with roadside cycle lanes on The Parade, would not adhere to the most recent recommended guidance above. However, the guidance would suggest Option A could potentially be appropriate if operating speeds and traffic volumes were reduced to around 30km/h and less than 9,500 vehicles per day along the whole route"
The council could drop the speed limit to 30km/h all along The Parade but that would be hugely controversial in itself and would likely require an entirely new round of consultation. The proposed design options document also points out on page 48 that reducing the speed limit:
"may however lead to the related transfer of traffic to side road routes and would need to be considered in regards to the road function of The Parade as a high volume Principal Road. The facility also may not appeal to the target market of “interested but concerned” cyclists and may not have the same effect on increasing cycling uptake as alternative options"
In short, Option A is a lame duck that comes with so many other issues and problems that it is unimplementable. I've included some more information about why roadside bike lanes should be avoided in Appendix 1 below.
"Option B retains the current layout of a separated kerbside cycleway at road level. Design refinements include a raised concrete kerb separator between the cycleway and parked vehicles, and a consistent layout and design of the cycleway between the residential and business zones to achieve route continuity.
This option requires the conversion of the current angle parking to parallel parking on the western side of The Parade, within the business area between Medway Street and Avon Street, and removal of the flush median."
Option B is the option intended to be similar to the current design, and it is, but it is significantly better. The kerbside cycleway stays at road level and the main improvement is the introduction of a raised concrete traffic island between the cycleway and parked cars, which replaces the existing painted buffer zone. This will give cars a kerb to park against and stop cars encroaching into the cycleway. The islands will be 0.9m wide, a significant improvement over the existing buffers, which are only 0.6m along most of the cycleway. That should keep cyclists well away from open car doors and give people getting into and out of cars plenty of space.
One downside with Option B is that the cycle lane is only 1.5m wide. That's just about the minimum possible width and won't easily allow two cyclists to ride side by side. A cyclist riding the cycle lane won't be able to veer in either direction without hitting a kerb. A 'forgiving' or angled kerb design could lessen the impact but at times it could feel like riding down a channel and over-taking will be difficult. However, because of driveways and intersections (where there won't be any concrete islands) there should be plenty of places where overtaking is still possible.
Option B is my second favourite option.
"Option C also provides a separated kerbside cycleway, with the cycleway above road level, either at mid-height between the roadway and footpath or at footpath level. A kerb will separate the cycleway vertically from the roadway (and footpath if at half-kerb height), and a horizontal buffer space separating the cycleway from the adjacent parking door zone is provided by a 1.0m kerbside safety strip.
The design provides a consistent layout of the cycleway between the residential and business zones to achieve route continuity.
This option requires the conversion of the current angle parking to parallel parking on the western side of The Parade, within the business area between Medway Street and Avon Street, and removal of the flush median.
This option results in a reduction in the existing pedestrian footpath width to 2.4m on the west side of the residential area. Within the business area, the west side pedestrian footpath reduces to 5.2m width, the east side increases to 3.5m width."
Option C shares many features with Option B but with two really key points of difference. The first is that the height of the cycleway is either at mid-height between the roadway and footpath or at footpath level. This will mitigate against some of the issues highlighted in Option B regarding riding between two kerbs. If the cycleway is at footpath level, or even at mid-height but with a 'forgiving' angled kerb, a cyclist will be able to use the footpath or safety buffer to avoid a collision or for overtaking if it is safe to do so. The downside of this arrangement is that it may look and feel more like a shared path, which the design report makes clear nobody wants. However, the cycleway is will be clearly demarcated and if properly designed and implemented there should be no real issues. This is actually a design that is quite commonly used overseas.
The other main point of difference in Option C is that the traffic lanes in the residential areas are increased from 3.0m to 3.2m. This results in a minor reduction in the width of the western side footpath, but at 2.4m it is still fairly generous.
Option C is my favourite option, just edging out Options B and D.
"Option D is similar to similar to Option C, providing a separated kerbside cycleway, with the cycleway above road level, (either at mid-height between the roadway and footpath, or at footpath level). A kerb will separate the cycleway vertically from the roadway (and footpath if at half-kerb height), and a horizontal buffer space separating the cycleway from the adjacent parking door zone is provided by a 900mm kerbside safety strip (600mm at the angle parking area).
The design provides a consistent layout of the cycleway between the residential and business zones to achieve route continuity.
The footpath width is significantly reduced to 1.6m on the western side in the residential areas. Within the business area, the west side pedestrian footpath is also significantly reduced to 3.4m, resulting in a loss of space for footpath tables and seating.
A central flush median and wider traffic lanes are provided in the residential area. The majority of the existing western kerbside angle parking remains between Medway Street and Avon Street."
Option D shares many features with Option C including the key points of difference from Option B of the cycleway either at mid-height between the roadway and footpath or at footpath level, and 3.2m traffic lanes in the residential areas.
However, Option D has two major downsides. The first is that it reintroduces a 1.0m median strip in the residential area. This creates more space for cars, in addition to 3.2m traffic lanes, but results in the footpath on the western side being reduced from 3.0m to 1.6m. This really isn't necessary or acceptable.
The other downside is retaining angle parking at the shops which requires the footpath on the western side of the shops to be reduced from 5.5m to 3.4m. Business owners are obviously going to have mixed feelings about losing parking but angle parking is dangerous and also creates a lot of visual pollution. I'd encourage business owners to read this blog from Cycle Aware Wellington, Cycleways "support local", before they make a submission.
Option D is my third favorite option.
The proposed design options report signals in several places that the parking arrangement from Option D could possibly be used within other options. This is obviously to placate business owners who might be nervous about losing parking and some of their customers might have sympathy with that. It could mean adding the Option D business section to the residential sections from Option B or C, which would then avoid the loss of residential footpath space that Option D requires. If you feel strongly about this being considered you don't have to rank Option D higher than you would otherwise but make sure you mention using the Option D business design as part of Option B or C in your qualitative feedback.
In conclusion, I can't emphasise enough how much of an upgrade any of Options B, C, or D would be over the current cycleway. The end result will be truly best practice and provide safe, comfortable cycling for all ages and abilities, not just a hardcore few. It will put active and sustainable transport on an equal footing with motor vehicles and be utterly transformational in terms of the liveability of Island Bay.
Regardless of your point of view I hope you've found this analysis helpful. Remember to make your online submission supporting Option C, B or D before 9pm on Sunday 13 August.
Appendix 1 - why roadside bike lanes should be avoided.
There are multiple issues with roadside bike lanes:
The multiple problems with roadside bike lanes can be neatly summed up by asking a very simple question: if it's not OK to walk it, why is it OK to cycle it? Cyclists are just as vulnerable to motor vehicles as pedestrians so if you wouldn't want to walk on the road between parked cars and moving traffic why would you expect cyclists to bike there?
This blog from Dutch-based cycle advocate David Hembrow argues that on-road cycle-lanes are not the best way to keep cyclists safe and concludes:
"On-road cycle-lanes are not the best way to keep cyclists safe. They are also rarely, if ever, the best way to improve convenience for cyclists. If on-road lanes are a preferred option in your part of the world then your planners are aiming for something rather lower than the best standard possible. Aiming for a lower standard of infrastructure means aiming for a cycling modal share which is lower than the highest possible given your demography and geography. You set a ceiling on what is possible by building inadequate infrastructure."