A Ngaio Gorge cycleway

30 01 2011

This post is a thought for the future, being a little ahead of the curve. After we’ve built the Great Harbour Way and we’ve built the bike lanes across the Cake Tin concourse, and Wellington is a city of trams and ferries and bicycles we might like to consider developing this idea.

At the moment Trelissick Park is for pedestrians only, and is a nice place for a hike, so close to the city, and yet quite wild in places. I’m not encouraging anyone to cycle up there at the moment.

The idea is to build a quality shared cycle and pedestrian way through Trelissick Park, up the Ngaio Gorge, ending the cycle path in the bottom of the gorge beneath Crofton Downs station. Crofton Downs station would then have the train station for the Johnsonville trains, an elevator (like the one in Durie Hill in Whanganui) from the bottom of the gorge to the station level, plus there’d be an aerial gondola from Trelissick Avenue in Ngaio (giving people at the southern end of Kenya Street bit of Ngaio, easier access to the Johnsonville Line). Crofton Downs was put forward as one of the TODs for a redevelopment of the railway station area, and this could be a part of that. The elevator, the station and the station end of the aerial gondola could be manned by as few as one or two people if sufficiently automated.

On this map the dashed red line is the current Northern Walkway, the green line is an aerial gondola. The red circle is the elevator, and the red line is the path of the bikeway. And yes the red line through the hill is a tunnel. This plan is nothing if not ambitious. More on the tunnel below:

So if you’re on a bicycle you could ride up the waterfront, over the Cake Tin concourse, up the cycle path through the area currently all rail yards, to behind the Interislander terminal then up the waterfront Great Harbour Way for a short distance, then ride over the railway lines around Kaiwharawhara and up the Ngaio Gorge, all the way to Crofton Downs, and all the way from Oriental Bay without ever once having to ride your bike on a road, or even have an at grade road crossing. Then at Crofton Downs you put your bike in an elevator and ride it up to the station and then continue riding on cycle lanes on Churchill Drive and Waikowhai Street, or you put the bike in a gondola cabin and fly over the gorge to Ngaio and ride from there, or you put your bike on the train and ride to Johnsonville, or it was a bike share bike so you put it into a rack and catch the train back to Wellington.

The Kaiwharawhara end is a bit of a shambles, but that could be fixed with a rebuild of the Kaiwharawhara station environs, and linking the existing tracks in Trelissick Park which run past the ruins of the magazine buildings with the Great Harbour Way, with some combination of going over and under Hutt Road, the motorway and the railways, following the creek, School Road and past the oil tanks.

In Trelissick Park at it’s eastern end the existing path is quite wide:

The track remains flat and gets a little narrower. There seems to be at least two generations of buried sewers buried under and beside the existing tracks. I’d widen and flatten a couple bits of it, but where there is still room I’d build a paved (and lighted) cycle path. Looking westwards (as if riding towards Crofton Downs) the creek is on the left, some of those photos are looking backwards:

where the trail has started to thin out, where it could be widened a little, and where the sewer pipes are under the trail:

And here is were I’d start the tunnel (just past the gated entrance to the sewer tunnel):

So a tunnel? I must be a crazy. Firstly there are already other tunnels in the park. There are a couple of sewer tunnels, and there is a tunnel that carries the Kaiwharawhara Stream under the Johnsonville Line. The Trelissick Park Group (a friends group of the park) even suggest making that tunnel open to pedestrians. I went down and had a look. From the outside it looks unpromising:

But with a stoop, and a torch it is kind of walkable, albeit not that comfortable. My general impression was that it isn’t a good idea to send people walking through the tunnel. I ended up with a cut head, as so too would a lot of other people. Here’s the inside.

The cycleway tunnel would only have to be 300 metres long which is only half the length of the Summit Tunnel on the Rimutaka Rail Trail. (I know the Summit Tunnel was built for trains, not cyclists, and building a tunnel for cyclists may be nearly a world first, but if it is in the public interest then why not? The 3 other nearby tunnels show geotechnically it wouldn’t be that difficult). West of the cycleway tunnel then a couple of the small wooden bridges over the Korimako Stream may need some realignment.

This photo shows the small hill where the Crofton Downs elevator would go. From near the grassed area at the bottom of the gorge to the rail line, which runs across the photo at the height of the white roofed hardware store. The existing station is the little red roofed building. There are walking tracks to get up the hill, but they’re not suitable for bikes.

And this is a photo showing where the aerial gondola station would go on the Trelissick Ave side. It is a straight line route only about 400 metres long across the gorge, which would angle down to the station just to the right of the white roofed hardware store again:

Well it’s a better view of the future than widening the motorways and not fixing up the areas they run through.

Also after a comment I received, I’d like to point out that  the cycleway as envisioned from Kaiwharawhara to the bottom of the elevator at Crofton Downs would be near enough to flat  for the whole of it’s distance. The tunnel is necessary, as the gorge itself where the tunnel bypasses it, is narrow, no place for a bike, and quite picturesque.


Catching a Ferry to Massey Regional Park

25 01 2011

This website for the promotion of the Massey Regional Park deserves not only a wider audience, but to actually be acted upon. I really like their idea of putting a ferry between Shelly Bay and the city. I think it is an idea that has merit on a few provisos:

1. It should be possible to walk easily uphill to Shelly Bay from Maupuia and this may require some new tracks and stairs and lighting.

2. That the new ferry service serves more than just Shelly Bay. See the doctored Google map below.

3. Of course, the ferry should be able to carry a number of bicycles.

4. Massey Road between Scorching Bay and Shelly Bay could be restricted to one way car traffic, and the other, seaward lane used solely for bidirectional pedestrians and bikes (at the very least, on the weekends). Alternatively on weekends the road is completely closed to motorised traffic.

5. Shelly Bay be utilised for more of the funky, arty and community based activities.

Brisbane’s CityCat ferries have been in the news, but as a recent rider of them before the floods, I’d like to say that they were a great way to see the city in a way that riding their City Glider bus just isn’t.  So the idea of having a CityCat type service meaningfully serving some more of the Wellington suburbs (than what the Days Bay ferry already does) makes a lot of sense to me. (As an aside, see the Auckland Transport Blog‘s take on more ferries for Auckland).

I’d have a Queens Wharf service to just east of Te Papa, going one way to Shelly Bay, Greta Point, down near that wharf that people fish off near Miramar and back to near the Evan’s Bay Yacht Club, then back to Oriental Bay and Queens Wharf.  I’d have two (or possibly three) 50 person or so ferries doing the run, and run them with a 15 minute  frequency or better, with fares fully integrated with Snapper for now, and once the national smart card scheme is done, with that.

I think it’d capture a lot of walk up commuters, and tourists, and recreating people just enjoying the regional park in their own city, and it’s got to be better than the indignity of catching a bus. And perhaps the ferry stops could be the focus of the in-vogue Transit Oriented Developments rather than Johnsonville. I think I’d rather live by the water than the motorway.

If we put our minds to it, we could have it up and running by the end of this year.

Waikanae River Paths

16 01 2011

February 19 marks the planned opening of the extension of suburban Welly railway services to Waikanae. To mark this occasion, which I think is going to be a great thing for Waikanae, I thought I’d do a post about the cycling possibilities of the Waikanae River, as it will soon be possible to put a bike on the train in Wellington and go for such a ride, and some of it is really quite pleasant. Such as this bit:

Back in my shit-stirring days (circa September 2010) I asked local candidates in the Kapiti local government elections some questions about cycle infrastructure and air quality. I was hoping some talented individuals would get voted in to council, because the service we get from the KCDC is quite pathetic and they need a boot up the arse, (and all these posts about incompetent councils are pretty much inspired by the losers of the KCDC who can’t do their jobs properly.) Of course the councillors we got aren’t any different from the previous lot, and I have yet to see any positive results (especially on air quality).

One of the cycling related questions I asked them was:

Would you support the paving of the riverside paths on one or both sides of the Waikanae River to make them cycleways?

I got lots of answers from the candidates ranging from wanting to keep it in its natural state (which means neglecting it I guess) to how great it already is and how they love riding along it, which only means I don’t think they’ve tried riding it all.

My general premise is that the paths should be paved on each side of the river, because some of it is too rough, and when it is wet it gets muddy and boggy. So I think a minimum standard for a suburban bike track is a paved surface such as asphalt and a complete lack of gates. Some suburban bike tracks in the world, such as Adelaide’s River Torrens paths, or even Scottsdale, Arizona’s Indian Bend Wash are paved, and it doesn’t distract from the “naturalness” of them or make the experience any less lovely. In fact providing safe, quality cycle infrastructure actually makes the paths more pleasant to use. Fancy that!! And how else does a school kid living in Waikanae get to college in Paraparaumu anyway? (Well they probably drive themselves from age 15 on the already congested State Highway 1, such are the policy cluster fire trucks in New Zealand)

At the moment there are 3 bridges across the river, all kind of rideable: The best is the westernmost which links the Kotuku Lakes/Otaihanga end to the Lagoons. It can be ridden across if there are no pedestrians, and is part of the Kapiti Coast Coastal Cycle Route.

A couple of kilometres east is the new pedestrian bridge, which is little used, but you’ll probably want to dismount to get across it as the surface is bit harsh on tyres.

And further east again is the state highway with a 100 kilometre/hour dropping to 70 limit and is only safe to cross on the footpath. On the road is just too scary.

The northern side of the river is pretty rideable the whole way. It has a couple of gate-like impediments where private land has to be crossed. The property boundaries are in the middle of the river. The signs on the paths used to say no mountain bikes which was observed in the breach, and has been changed nowadays to a much more reasonable  no trail bikes (trail bikes make good boat anchors in my opinion). There are multiple exit points to suburban Waikanae streets and it is easy to get out to Te Moana Road. In a few places the path goes through wide parks, such as here:

Between the two easternmost bridges the path has some tighter curves and is more tree-ed, but is rideable with caution all the way to the highway.

The southern side of the river is more problematic. The path itself is a bit rocky and gets muddy patches. Between the middle and the western bridge it is quite rideable. Between the two easternmost bridges on the south side, in places,  it is too rough to ride a bike, even a mountain bike. This is why I say some effort should be made to upgrade the surface of the bike paths to paved, as in asphalt. The current rocks will break your spokes pretty easily.

And the southern bank (the true south side) getting towards the state highway is wholly unrideable probably due to a combination of council neglect and flood damage.

So I do think some money needs to be spent upgrading it, and I do think both sides of the river should be rideable by all types of bikes, including thin tyred bikes, and all the gates should be gotten rid of, and I think some solar powered lighting could be installed so that there is a 24 hour bike route between Paraparaumu and Waikanae, such as on the northern side of the river.

But you can ride it now with fat tyres, and it wouldn’t be a wasted day riding from the new station down the riverbank (stick to the north side (or the southern side west of the middle bridge) for now), and explore the lagoons, and ride down to Paraparaumu Beach, and even onto Raumati and through Queen Elizabeth Park and onto Pukerua Bay. Northwards you can get as far safely as Peka Peka Beach. After that the only safe way heading north is on the beach to Te Horo Beach. There are no real alternatives other than the dangerous SH1. I did so once but not for the happiest of reasons.

Good for a one off adventure, not so good for a regular commute.

The Johnsonville Shambles

13 01 2011

One of the main reasons I blog is to make the world a better place, but I tell ya what, it doesn’t seem to be working. Like I thought that me pointing out, back in 2009, that Fraser Avenue in Johnsonville was a deathtrap, would do the trick, and hey it’s on CAW’s blackspot list too. So something would have been done, right? Nup. And don’t forget the problems of just south of Fraser Ave too with the problems on the Centennial Highway up the Gorge.

Every time I ride through Johnsonville I honestly get scared. It is the biggest disincentive to me cycling to and from work.

Cycling north towards the off ramp cyclists are onto the road now as the footpath has got fallen rocks on it. I drove on the off ramp the other day. One of those impatient motorcyclists was tailgating just on my right arse, wanting me to move over to the left. I would have cleaned up a cyclist if I had. Shame on that motorcyclist, and shame on all (yes all) motorcyclists. They all do that trick on the SH1 north of Pukerua Bay with the double yellow lines and a safety barrier. Numnuts the lot of them.

So this bit is still not fixed. It still needs fixing. What I said here still makes a lot more sense than the free-for-all that there currently is.

There are bike stands on the main strip of J’ville. But no safe way to ride to them.

At the moment you can dance with deadly traffic, and ride in the door zone of the parked cars. From bitter experience I know those parked cars will pull out in front of  a cyclist without looking.

There doesn’t need to be any parking or bus stops on the east side of the road, and there certainly doesn’t need to be a wide median that the odd delivery truck uses illegally.

There is room to do something better.

See. Look at this example from Semaphore Road in Adelaide on how parking, a shopping strip, and a safe cycle path can be built to work together.

C’mon WCC get your act together, and in a timely manner.