This website is now defunct.

12 07 2016

As long time followers may have noticed this website is now defunct. I haven’t made a post in a couple of years. If I had you’d think I’d have posted about things such at the Island Bay cycleway and the Hutt Rd deshamozzalisation, but alas time moves on, and so have I.

May the Wellingtonians on bikes keep riding safely and happily.
And may the stupidest mayoralty candidates all lose.

I’ll delete it properly in a month or two, or when I remember. If there’s anything you want to copy off then do so kind of now.

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Being a pedestrian in a car oriented city

29 03 2014

You might remember my post of last year about Salt Lake City and how it was building light rail and putting in cycle share. I’d like to share with you an experience of another western American city, Las Vegas. This is the details of a couple of walks I did through Las Vegas’s suburbs. This post is dedicated to every politician that thinks cities are primarily for cars, and not primarily for people. This post shows what happens when a city is only built for cars as the newer parts of Las Vegas are.

First up to get from where I was staying I had to walk across a giant car park. This was designed especially to hold many cars, and as you can see it was a thriving business:

Lovely Las Vegas (1)

Next I got to walk across a lovely field. On my return walking back a 4WD decided to go off road at high speed across the lovely field to save himself some time at some traffic lights:

Lovely Las Vegas (2)
Then it was ok I wasn’t going to hassled by the homeless people, they were asleep behind the sign:

Lovely Las Vegas (3)

Then I got to cross the road, and yep it’s homeless person number 2 up with her shopping trolley by the electricity pole:

Lovely Las Vegas (4)
And I got to cross the side road, which was built extra, extra wide, just in case someone might want to use it someday:

Lovely Las Vegas (5)
You think building the roads extra wide they’d be safer, but you’d be wrong. Here is where someone couldn’t quite work out how to go around a corner from a 4 lanes in each direction road to a 2 lanes in each direction road:

Lovely Las Vegas (6)
What’s that, 4 lanes in each direction, do I mean an 8 lane road? Yes I do, and all I wanted to do was cross it, so I thought I’d walk up to the next set of traffic lights:

Lovely Las Vegas (7)
But I couldn’t cross it, because well pedestrians are subhuman:

Lovely Las Vegas (8)
Well what about across the minor road, could I cross the 8 lane road then? Of course not:

Lovely Las Vegas (9)

And this is the experience of crossing that lovely road without any signalised crossing. If only they built more lanes:

Lovely Las Vegas (10)

And why do they need to build roads so wide and have the cars go so fast (signposted 55 mph, and most often going faster)? Because they all have ridiculously huge vehicles:
Lovely Las Vegas (11)

And where was I, I was in a giant carpark:

Lovely Las Vegas (12)
The photo only shows a little bit of it, so just how big is the carpark? It’s huge and always near empty.
Giantcarpark
And on my way back, some more homeless people. If it wasn’t for them I’d be the only pedestrian:

Lovely Las Vegas (13)
And then another walk following the giant road the other way:

Lovely Las Vegas (14)

I’d thought I’d check out how lovely motorway overpasses are since Wellington looks like getting one, and they are particularly lovely:

Lovely Las Vegas (15)

Or how about this view?

Lovely Las Vegas (16)

I jaywalked across the giant road, and across a lovely untouched part of the Mojave Desert and then just in case you thought I was being unfair to Las Vegas and I wasn’t showing it at its best here is a photo of the Las Vegas Strip, on the horizon beyond the garbage bag trees:
Lovely Las Vegas (17)

And if you think that was unfair well here is the world famous Las Vegas Boulevard:

Lovely Las Vegas (18)
And a lovely water feature in the desert:

Lovely Las Vegas (20)
It is hard not to conclude that Las Vegas, like anywhere where cars are catered for and actual human beings with legs are not, is a bit, well:

Lovely Las Vegas (19)

 





Island Bay cycle routes

31 08 2013

The good news is that Wellington City Council is consulting on a preferred safe cycle route between the city and Island Bay. Cycling Aware Wellington organised a successful public meeting to garner local support and got quite a turnout.

To get a good feel for the ride between the Island Bay and town have a look at one of the videos from Bike Everywhere


Current conditions

The route is generally flat on the Parade. The road is quite wide and there is more traffic as you head further north. At the southern end on the Parade there is a painted bike lane that puts cyclists right in the door zone.

The Parade

The Parade

Then through the village there are no marked lanes but it is 30km/hr zone and pretty safe.

North of the golf course through Berhampore the cycle lanes have disappeared and the road narrows and there are parked cars everywhere.

Adelaide Road at Chika St

Adelaide Road at Chika St

There’s a bit of a rise after the Britomart Street lights and the road is generally rising as it goes past Macalister Park. From Torquay Tce or so you can see the downhill all the way down Adelaide Road.

Adelaide Road at Torquay Tce

Adelaide Road at Torquay Tce

And Adelaide Road between Riddiford Street and the Basin Reserve is a very busy stretch of road, with bus lanes that can generally be ridden in.

Looking down Adelaide Road from the Riddiford St lights.

Looking down Adelaide Road from the Riddiford St lights.

Then it’s usually possible to ride through the Basin Reserve and on to Cambridge Terrace.

Riding through the Basin Reserve

Riding through the Basin Reserve

Alternative routes

In the Bike Everywhere video Ashley avoided the hill which is steepest around Waipori Street by taking a detour on Luxford, Rintoul and Riddiford Streets.

On this map below:

The light green line is the most direct, and hilliest route to Island Bay, completely along Adelaide Road.
The light blue is the Luxford and Rintoul route (with an eastern part of Waipori St marked also)
The red line is perhaps my preferred route
The pink line is Alexandra Road which southbound could be a commuter route.and the green lines are other routes.
Island Bay routes
My preferred route is through Newtown on Riddiford St and then up Russell Tce and through the golf course down to the Parade. This also means the route to Houghton Bay is improved too.

Russell Tce looking South

Russell Tce looking South

What I think should be built

On the Parade in Island Bay it would be nice to change the current painted cycle lanes into protected separated green lanes, but I think this is less of a priority than some improvements further north in the route.

I wouldn’t waver from the highest quality cycle infrastructure that could be built. This is going to be the showcase project that is going to change Wellington. People in other suburbs are going to see what can be done and demand it too. This is the project that is going to change the modal share dramatically. This is going to get bums on bike seats, reducing congestion in a big way.

On Cambridge and Kent Terraces using the central medians and/or 1 lane of parked cars next to the median (presently there are 4 lanes of on-road parkingon Cambridge-Kent!!!), build completely separated bidirectional cycle lanes  all the way from the Basin Reserve to the Waterfront.

Similarly the John, Wallace, Taranaki street route I’d give separate cycle lanes.

Adelaide Road between the Basin Reserve and Riddiford Street gets the full separated cycle lane treatment so the bus and cycle lanes are separate like this picture I knicked from the Christchurch Cycle Guide Design Guidelines. I can’t think of a good reason to keep any car parking on Adelaide Road along this stretch at all.

Busstops

Through all of Newtown on the lengths of Riddiford and Constable Streets I’d do separate green lanes over the whole lot keeping on street parking only where there is room. This should also be the light rail route (but that is another post for another time). Riddiford Street for the routes to Island and Houghton Bays and Constable Street for all routes east.

Then with a little less priority than the above I’d also put separated lanes along the length of Russell Terrace.

Then I’d build an off-road paved cycle route through the golf course. The golf course holes can be redesigned around the cycle route, or vice versa, or a bit of both.

Some of the alternative routes on Adelaide Road through Berhampore (as marked above on the map in light green), on Rintoul, Luxford and Waipori Streets (as marked in light blue) I’d also look at making for safer riding with separated cycle lanes as well. I wouldn’t build just the one route to Island Bay, but all the alternatives. i.e by improving the route to Island Bay it’s not just Island Bay and Berhampore that should get quality bike infrastructure, but Mt Cook, Cambridge-Kent, Newtown and Kilbirnie too. This project should transform Te Aro and the whole of the southern and eastern suburbs and completely change the character of the city. Not bad for strategically building 10 kilometres of separated cycle infrastructure.





How to wrap a child or an adult in cotton wool

8 09 2012

Yes it is true that the cotton price is currently dropping, but it is still so expensive to wrap a child in cotton wool. You can’t watch them all the time, but hell, they might climb a tree, play in some mud, pull the tail of a mean-arse dog, whack each other over the head with a stick (and yes it could take an eye out), or more likely in this day and age get run over by a reversing 4WD in a driveway.

Well now, thank goodness, there are Thudguards to keep the little buggers safe:

Thank the gods. She’s now safe from enjoying a dangerous childhood.

So instead of enjoying the rough and tumble of a traditional childhood, they can stay safe in their antiseptic rooms watching brain training DVDs whilst their parents are busy racing their older siblings from ballet class to soccer practice to liquor store in their 4WDs.

And whilst the funny hats may be a sad indictment of their parent’s poor ability to judge risk, and their potential guilt if something went wrong, I don’t think it is much different than the mandatory bicycle helmet law in New Zealand.

(My most fun childhood accident involving a bicycle involved stacking it into a rose bush as an 8 year old, and bugger the helmet, I should have been wearing an inch thick kevlar jacket and trousers.)

New Zealand adults lost the ability to make the decision for themselves as to whether, when riding a bike, to wear a helmet or not in 1994 because of the tragic story of Aaron Oaten and the driven crusade of his mum Rebecca.

Aaron was struck and thrown from his bike by a car on the Pioneer Highway in Palmerston North in 1986. His head hit the gutter and Aaron suffered terrible injuries and became a tetraplegic. He sadly died two years ago. His mother, who obviously loved him and I do not wish to belittle her or understimate her dedication, cared for him for all those years and campaigned relentlessly for mandatory helmets. I too probably was riding a bike to school that day in 1986, my first year of high school, and I would have been without a helmet, so yes it could have been me, or one of my friends in that position.

But making helmets mandatory because of that accident was an emotional response, and not necessarily a rational one.  It is the wrap them in cotton wool response.

Why picking bike helmets, and not cars as the target of her fury I don’t know. It was the car that threw him from the bike.

I don’t think the mandatory bike helmet law is an appropriate memorial to Aaron. A more fitting memorial would be the Pioneer Highway shared path for cyclists and pedestrians:

Real bike safety is under the wheels and not on the head.

and extending it south-west to Longburn and north-east of Botanic Road where it stops at the traffic lights:

There’s plenty of room on Main Street, Palmy to extend the cycleway

The 20th anniversary of the mandatory helmet law is coming soon. Judging by the empty bike racks at every school in the country it has utterly failed. It’s time to reexamine the law, and instead of using emotional arguments or relying on anecdotal evidence we need to ask questions and get scientific data about bicycle participation rates for children and adults, for head injury rates (reduced more by people not cycling at all than their helmets) and what adults really think about being wrapped in cotton wool to assuage the guilt of motorists. If it is true that real cycle safety is what’s under the wheels and not wearing an ice cream tub on your head, then why don’t we build quality Dutch style infrastructure for cyclists, and why don’t we slow down the cars, and get the drunk drivers permanently off the road? Mandatory bike helmets may have the unintended consequences, of not only reducing cycle participation rates and making bicycling seem more dangerous than it really is, but pretending to be a real solution for improving cyclist safety and therefore real safety improvements never get implemented.

It is a bit like all these curbs on smoking, a little bit more strict each time. It just wastes time, before we get to the point we really need to get to; a full ban on smoking in public.

Mandatory helmets on bicycles are the wrong answer. Let’s chuck out the law and start afresh, not ignoring the bull that is the biggest danger to cyclists are motor vehicles.





Tramping from Levin to Palmerston North

25 08 2012

If you’ve got a spare 4 days and want a decent enough tramp that isn’t going to kill you, with public transport at both ends, then I’d recommend a walk from Levin to Palmerston North following the route of the Te Araroa Trail. It is varied and challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so hard to be too difficult. There are no real places to stay along the way, but it should be reasonably easy enough to find a few tent spots along the way.

Starting in Levin at the post office tower first walk up Queen St East to Denton Road and climb the hill up the Arapaepae Lookout track. It’s short and sharp.

Levin from the Arapaepae Lookout

Then follow the track over undulating hills until reaching the far end of Gladstone Road. This is about 3 to 4 hours from the start in Levin.  A little further on along Gladstone Road is the start of the Mangahao-Makahika track, which is to be walked from the Makahika Stream to the Mangahao Dams. Initially it goes across some private land and there is an easy creek crossing or two.

Crisscrossing the Makahika Stream

It starts off flat and only ever climbs gently.

After crossing private land the Mangahao-Makahika enters the Forest Park

The Mangahao-Makahika has a modest climb to a couple lookouts. The walk takes about 5 hours through to the Mangahao Dams and not the 7 or 8 as the brochure and the signs say.

Most of the Mangahao-Makahika track is through forest.

The track descends to the Blackwood Stream deep in the forest. Then it is a short track out to the Mangahao Dams road. Once the Mangahao Dams are reached walk past the 1st dam and take the Tokomaru Valley Road turnoff walking north until the markers are found.

The preferred entrance to Burrton’s track is marked by these markers. There is another access at a boggy carpark a little further north, but this part of the route is worth walking:

Burrton’s track is flat. There are some river crossings which on a frosty winter morning are bracing. If the river is up they’d be too hard.

Burrton’s Track follows the Tokomaru River, and is probably the scenic highlight of the walk.

It’s probably best to camp away from Gladstone or the Mangahao Dam roads. Camping somewhere away from vehicle access ensures your camping won’t be disturbed by the dickhead element. If you don’t want to camp you could stay the first night at the Makahika Outdoor Centre (by prior arrangement) near the end of Gladstone Road. You could also probably, with a bit of effort, make Burn Hut on the Burn Hut Track for night 2, but there’s nowhere for a 3rd night.

Early morning bend in the river.

A good camping spot would be at the first Tokomaru River crossing. There’s a large grassy area with plenty of room. Further along near the site of Burtton’s Whare would also be good.

The perfect lunch spot with light streaming through the foliage.

After the most spectacular bit of the walk through the beautiful forest along Burtton’s Track the Te Araroa trail heads along Scotts Road. It’s not unpleasant. There’s no traffic (and it is behind a locked gate) . It is just in a pine forest.

Is this anti Te Araroa trail graffiti? Why would anyone be against a walking track?

With any luck you’ll meet some pig hunters, like we did. I think the one we met wrestled any pigs and then bit them or something. He didn’t carry a rifle and perhaps he killed  them just with a dirty look.

Through the forest near Scotts Road

Scotts Road is closed to traffic (you’ll perhaps meet some illegal motorcycles) and would be rideable by MTB. It follows a contour and was once a road rather than the current track. Then the Back Track takes you to the end of Kahuterawa Road (which is also the start of the Sledge Track). You could probably camp near the carpark (and there are some loos – the first and only loos of the trip). Walk along Kahuterawa Road for 5 kilometres or so then turn onto Greens Road. The views are quite good over the Manawatu and the roads themselves are quiet country roads.

Keep walking on Greens Road and then onto Turitea Road. On Turitea Road the Te Araroa trail disappears across a paddock to follow the Turitea Stream at the back of people’s houses and paddocks. This gets muddy underfoot and there are a couple creek crossings. The locals might be burning off like they were for me, and you might get pissed off with the smoke and have no choice to walk through it, but hopefully they won’t be quite so stupid for you when you walk that way.

Greens Road countryside

Cross Old West Road and climb the steps into the backblocks of Massey University.

In the backblocks of the University

The walkway finds the Turitea Stream and follows it through the campus. This is actually a nice part of the hike and it finishes up near the entrance to the University. Then it is a noisy walk along the footpath of Tennent Drive through the tunnels with some nice murals, and across the bridge over the Manawatu River.

And then you’ve made it to Palmy.

Palmie’s clock tower beckons at the end of Fitzherbert St

It’s about 50km by road between Levin and Palmerston North, and it’s reasonably direct following the route I describe. I’d estimate it’s about 65 km.

Messages from our sponsors : Mountain View Motel Levin  a great place to stay at the start of your trip.

and does your partner snore like a big old black steam train? Well my better half reckons I do so she started importing earplugs in bulk.





Is it time to dust off Wellington’s 2004 Gehl Report?

18 08 2012

Is it time to dust off for a reread the Danish firm, Gehl Architects’ 2004 Report for Wellington’s City to Waterfront Study?

The NZTA are often accused of sham public consultations and then doing whatever they want, and that may well be the case for what they are now calling The Tunnel to Tunnel Inner City Transport Improvements.

The politics of road building can be pretty nasty. There is the Happy Motoring brigade who never want to stop at a red light, wait in a traffic queue for any amount of microseconds, nor see a bloody cyclist on their beloved tarmac. The current transport minister may well indeed be one of the brigade – see Brownlee is a Roads Scholar. Then at the other end of the spectrum there are the green purists who view all road development and automobiles as intrinsically evil. (Yes I know such people probably are mythical, but I suspect people, like the commenters on every story on the RoNS in the Fairfax press who say “Hurry up and build the thing”, believe that they do exist.)

If we ignore the great economic cost of building giant roads and tunnels in the first place, and if we ignore the pollution issues, and the possible urban blight issues of a flyover in Mt Cook/Te Aro, and the fact that petrol is going to get more expensive, and that Wellington is presently in the economic doldrums meaning traffic levels are probably going to fall, does the Tunnel to Tunnel plan actually have some benefits for making Wellington a more liveable city?

Should we (we as in the non-Happy Motoring Brigade) roll over on the Basin flyover, the Buckle Street tunnel, duplicating the Terrace Tunnel, and the Mt Victoria Tunnel, and the widening of Ruahine Street and then use them as an opportunity to improve the outcomes in terms of urban quality, better cycling routes, getting rid of traffic on the streets that are bypassed and slowing down the traffic that is left? It is after all called the Inner City Bypass.

Firstly I’ve got to say it is a good idea to reinstate the Helen Clark Government’s plan to put Buckle Street into an underpass to make an urban park in front of the War Memorial carillon. It’s now a rush job to get it finished by the centenary of the Gallipoli landings (and it wouldn’t have been a rush if National didn’t cancel the plan in 2009). So we can thank Helen Clark for it, rather than John Key.

Putting the traffic underground here wasn’t National’s idea.

Next consider that a pedestrian cycle facility is meant to be included in the NZTA plan. I’m not sure from the brochure what the quality of it is going to be, but maybe they’ll even improve the Mt Vic Tunnel facilities (how many years have we been ignored on our calls to install a relatively inexpensive perspex screen for the pedestrian route in the current Mt Vic Tunnel so that pedestrians aren’t poisoned with fumes?) The blue dotted lines are crying out for separated cycle lanes (without fear of dooring) on Kent and Cambridge Terraces to join out this proposed better route with the waterfront and the start of the around the Bays route.

Dotted blue line is supposed cycle/pedestrian facilities

Those separated cycle lanes on Kent and Cambridge fit in with Jan Gehl’s idea of City Boulevards, as shown on this map on his report. Notice that with a lot of the traffic removed out of the city centre (and especially off the Quays) the Quays, Cable and Wakefield St and Kent and Cambridge Terraces are all City Boulevards. This is the idea from the Gehl report that needs revisiting.

But the good news is this is the NZTA’s thinking too. This is in their brochure:

So what is an urban boulevard for Wellington? It means reducing the 6 lanes on Waterloo, Customhouse and Jervois Quays down to 4. It means adding Copenhagen style cycle lanes to the Quays, so no on street parking. It means a 3 metre median planted with trees. (Yes it has this in part already)

And it means slowing the traffic. At the moment the Quays are way too fast. They are either 70 or 50 km/hr and it is too fast. The fast traffic and the 6 lanes means it is a barrier to pedestrians to get from the Golden Mile to the Waterfront. I would like a 30km/hr limit. The Happy Motoring brigade would like 50 and then drive at 60. Perhaps 40 km/hr, enforced, is a happy compromise.

We need the bike lanes on the Quays as the Inner City Bypass is for cars, the Golden Mile will remain to be for buses and pedestrians, the waterfront is for walkers, strollers, dreamers, and slow recreational cycling, and the safe separated cycle lanes on the Quays will be for cycle commuting. If you want to cycle slow go on the waterfront. If you want to cycle at 20-30km/hr cycle in the cycle lanes on the Quays.

Happy Motoring. Dire cycling. Cuts off the city from its waterfront.

Wellington is also having its debate on buses versus light rail for the railway station to hospital transport spine study. The Boulevard on the Quays could still be reduced from 6 lanes to 4, and accommodate the light rail tracks.

***

The Gehl report has lots of other good advice especially about linking the Golden Mile to the Waterfront and removing obstacles for pedestrians along the Golden Mile (by closing side streets) and is worth a read, but it also has some recommendations for cyclists. First a map of the cycle routes in the city. The orange boxes are areas of “cyclist confusion”. The northern one could be fixed with my cycle paths across the Cake Tin forecourt suggestion. The Eastern one by boulevardising Kent and Cambridge.

And lastly Gehl’s recommendations for cycling:

All good, and points d, e, h and k I think are particularly great advice. Point j gives the Trondheim example of the bike elevator.

All in all, I reckon the forces of Happy Motoring are going to win the day and we are going to end up with at least a completed 2-lane in each direction road between Cobham Drive and the SH1 and SH2 split. i.e the Inner City Bypass will be complete. The Mt Vic and Terrace tunnels will be duplicated. We have to stand fast and hold them to the Buckle Street Underpass that they’ve promised.

It is not all bad news as significant benefits are going to be had if we ask for them and prepare for them. We can make good decisions about the CBD. It does involve slowing down speed limits, narrowing roads, getting rid of on-street parking, building separated cycle lanes, and lots of things that are anathema to the Happy Motoring brigade, but we should stand tall and say thanks for the opportunity, we’ll take it from here.





A Foxton Beach to Castlepoint Cycleway

29 04 2012

The Tararua Traverse is a proposed cycle track linking Shannon and Eketahuna. It is beyond the means of ratepayers in Horowhenua and Tararua to fund and it was put forward for the first round of the National Cycleway funding. It missed out. So lets hope there is a second round of National Cycleway funding. The track would follow the Mangahao Road from Shannon to the white water kayaking course at the powerstation at Mangahao and then up the hill to the reservoirs. A new track would have to be cut between the No.1 Reservoir on the Mangahao River up the old Puketurua Track to Ngapuketurua (at 1094 metres) and then down a very long ridge coming out of the Forest Park at Kakariki West Road. From Kakariki West Rd to Eketahuna it is a flat ride on quiet rural roads. I’ve ridden the Shannon to the Dams route a few times and even that and back is a decent enough day out, so I can’t think the route over the tops is going to be particularly easy.

But I want people to think bigger. I think the Tararua Traverse should be part of a longer ride from Foxton Beach on the Horowhenua Coast to Castlepoint on the Wairarapa Coast. The first section is the short but pleasant ride from Foxton Beach to Foxton. From the start at the coastal carpark it would go through the parks to the Manawatu Estuary and follow the new paths along the edge to the boat club and then along the cyclepath to Foxton town.

There are numerous possible routes from Foxton to Shannon using the quiet roads, the levee banks of the river and the Moutoa Floodway. There’s also the Moutoa Reserve which could have its muddy and grassy tracks upgraded to cycleable. A bit of thinking outside of the square could also fix the problem of a lack of a safe cycle crossing across the Manawatu.

On the eastern side after Eketahuna the route follows roads to Castlepoint via Alfredton (there are a couple of small hills between Eketahuna and Alfredton), the Castlehill Road (flat), the Alfredton Tinui Road (big hill on a dirt road), the Manawa Road to Tinui (flat) and then the Masterton to Castlepoint Road to Whakataki (one moderate hill) to Castlepoint (undulating).

The route would be approximately 25km from Foxton Beach to Shannon. Shannon to Eketahuna by the Tararua Traverse is 86km. Eketahuna to Castlepoint is 78km. That’s a total of about 190km. As well as the new hut at Ngapuketurua, there’d be places to break the journey at Alredton, Tinui, Whakataki, Eketahuna, Shannon and Foxton.

Photos of the route (except for the bit over the tops, as I’m yet to get up there):

On the edge of the Manawatu Estuary in Foxton Beach

The cyclepath between Foxton Beach and Foxton

The Ken Everett Memorial cycleway to bypass the SH1 on the Wharakino Trestle

The Mangahao Road between the dams

The 3rd dam on the route, holding back No 1. Reservoir on the Mangahao. The route crosses the top of the dam.

Near Nireaha on route to Eketahuna

The view east of Castle Hill

The Alfredton Tinui Road

Down the road to the flats towards Tinui

Castlepoint