Feedback closes today! The Victoria Street Cycleway

May 30, 2017
Feedback closes today! The Victoria Street Cycleway

Bike Auckland

Victoria Street is one of the key routes into the city from the western suburbs – but what with heavy traffic, huge intersections, and heaps of buses in the mix, you only see the more intrepid bike riders on it.

So it’s fantastic that Auckland Transport, as part of the Urban Cycleway Programme, is proposing to add cycle lanes along Victoria from Beaumont Street to Hobson Street, creating a key link to the new Franklin Rd semi-protected cycle lanes and a future College Hill Route into the City.

This is one of the best cycleway designs we’ve seen for Auckland in recent years. Most importantly, it includes protected one-way cycle lanes – as opposed to shared paths, or two-way paths on one side only.  It’s great to see AT proposing best practice by making this choice, and like Greater Auckland, we feel this design deserves your strong support. 

Feedback is open until 5 June 2017, and the direct link for feedback is here.

If you’re short on time, here’s what we think are the most important points to include in your response:

What do you like about the design?

  • This will be a great link for the inner-city network.
  • We love the protected one-way cycleways!

What do you think could be improved?

  • Please add more bus boarders.
  • Please improve the right turns for people on bikes.
  • And please make safer loading zones.

For those interested in the nitty gritty and pretty-pretty, read on. First, note how Victoria St links up with the Nelson Street Cycleway to start creating a proper cycleway grid for our downtown. Woohoo!

The Victoria St Cycleway project area.

AT has created some pretty lifelike renderings, most of them facing westward. Here they are in order, from town towards Ponsonby…

On Victoria St, between Hobson and Nelson, traveling west on a Copenhagen cycle lane (raised to almost footpath-level).
Approaching Victoria Park and the Wellesley/Halsey intersection – Note: This shows the cycleway skinnier than it will be – the graphic makes it look barely 1.0m wide, when in reality AT’s dimensional drawings confirm this section is 1.9m wide (plus a 0.4m buffer).
Rolling past the Victoria St Market building, on our way toward Ponsonby. Again, the cycle lane is shown overly narrow – it will in fact be 1.5m wide here.
Approaching College Hill… if you were to hang a left out of Franklin Rd, this is what you’ll see. We’re not big fans of the bus stop treatment shown, though – more on this below.

The sole eastward-facing rendering shows the view uphill towards Nelson St…

Up from Hardinge Street… Wait, is that a bus stop ‘boarder’ island between the bus and the cycleway? Yes! This is what we want to see for bus stops, so people getting off the bus don’t have to step into a cycle lane. Safer and more convenient for bike riders AND bus riders.
For contrast, this is the existing view from Hardinge St. (It’s a bit dingy, all right!)

Now for a few cross-sections – this time working from Ponsonby towards the City…

From Beaumont St, passing Victoria Park (on the left) and New World (on the right).
A gratuitous ‘before’ shot of the same location, just because we have it to hand. There is a bicycle in this photo, if you squint into the far distance. (We look forward to more of us being able to ‘be rewarded for the energy we use every day’, as per the glowing sign)
Passing Victoria Park on the left, with Victoria Park Market on the right.
Heading uphill from the Halsey St/Wellesley St intersection: bus stops without ‘boarder’ islands between the bus and the cycleway.
At Hardinge St further up the hill: bus stop WITH boarder (compare with photo above).
Between Nelson and Hobson. Protected bike lane on the left, Copenhagen lane on the right.

What do we like about the design?

Protected two-way cycleways are like a very specialised tool – great for some jobs, not so useful for others!

We love the one-way cycleways on both sides of the road. In recent years, when not building shared paths, Auckland has mostly built two-way cycleways like Nelson Street and Quay Street.

But these are a highly specialised tool – great for certain tasks, but not so appropriate for others. In particular, they don’t work well if you have unsignalised side roads or lots of driveway. Drivers don’t tend to expect / see riders coming the ‘wrong’ way; and a lot of effort has to go into managing that factor.

On top of that, protected two-ways are really hard to roll out in suburban areas, which have even more side streets and driveways that we can’t realistically put traffic signals on.

Two-way cycleways, useful on some main urban roads, not exactly an urban multi-tool.

Protected one-way cycleways each side – the Swiss Army Knife of cycleway infrastructure!

Meanwhile, protected one-ways are like the Swiss Army Knife of cycleways: useful for (almost) any occasion, whether city or suburbia! Because riders always travel in the same direction as cars, drivers also check the same direction, whether they’re looking for people on two or four wheels.

In short, this is the kind of cycleway that can be rolled out across the whole of Auckland – and it’s great to see that AT are doing more of them, here and on streets like K Road!

Another thing we’re glad to see: the removal of three (!) slip lanes at the Victoria Street/ Halsey Street/ Wellesley Street West intersection. This will not only make it much safer to ride through here, it’s is a great bonus for pedestrians!

Last but not least: we like the ‘bus boarders’ – the bus stop islands between the cycleway and the bus. This is a key feature where, usually for space reasons, it’s hard to create a bus ‘bypass’ by detouring the bike lane behind a bus shelter. A bus boarder island is like a stepping stone across a creek: bus users and cyclists have more space to react to each other. This is much better than putting the bus stop directly next to the cycleway… which brings us to…

What do we think could be improved?

As with any new cycleway project, the devil is in the details; and there are a few imps…

We need more bus boarders to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety! 

  • For some reason, AT’s design has a few stops with cycle lanes passing right next to the bus, with no gap (the red-marked lane sections in the images above). When a bus stops, cyclists have to stop too, or at least go past veeeery slowly, in case of people stepping off the bus into the bike lane. This  can work – Wellington has at least one of these, and it works okayish; Australia uses a similar layout – with much wider cycle lanes – at some tram stops. But it’s not great and it’s not best practice.
  • We see a risk of regular near-misses and the potential for grumbles about rude people on bikes and so on. Not the best approach for an inner-city cycleway with lots of pedestrians, lots of bus passengers, and increasing numbers of cyclists.
  • Some of these ‘boarder-less’ stops can be changed to bus boarder stops in the detailed design stage, especially if future bus routes don’t all go along Victoria (this is currently being reviewed by AT as part of the Mid-Town Busway proposal). AT’s plans here assume the largest possible number of buses, so it’s likely to get better, not worse in that regard. Even so, we feel AT needs to work harder on this aspect. Bus boarders would be especially important going westwards and downhill, where riders can build up speed.
A stop without a bus boarder. We feel these are mainly suitable for lower-volume bus stops, which hardly applies for the City Centre. Adding a metre of distance between the bus and the bike lane allows people to get into / off the bus easier, without as much potential for conflict with riders in the bike lane.

We need safer and more convenient right turns!

To our eyes, the current design is still a bit too ‘through-centric’, designed for people who are going all the way. But a good network needs to let people hop on and off – and the intersection designs don’t do this well, particularly for those on bikes turning right. In particular:

  • There are no ‘bike right-turn lanes’ for riders to wait in (out of the way of through-riders). Nor are there any designed-in ‘hook turns’, to allow proper two-step right-turns. At the moment, the designs pretty much force you to use the pedestrian traffic signals to turn right.
A hook turn in the wild – in Christchurch (image via Cycling in Christchurch blog).
  • So we want to see dedicated areas cyclists can use for right turns. There are lots of ways to do this; one example is shown below.
European left-turn example from Berlin (flipped around to show how it would look for NZ right turns). You might call this a ‘hook turn deluxe’ – or simply a protected intersection.

We need loading zones to protect the bike zones!

We’re concerned that some sections will see a lot of parking on the bike lane ‘just for a minute’ (or a few hours…) by courier drivers, tradies and so on. Especially between Victoria Park and Nelson Street, on the downhill lane.

  • AT notes that on the north side deliveries can use side streets for parking, and that properties on the south side often have loading access from Wellesley Street East. But Auckland drivers find it mighty easy to ignore bike lanes. On the downhill, especially, finding somebody parked across your lane is more than a nuisance – it’s highly dangerous if you are forced out into traffic or toward pedestrians!
  • AT should look into whether it can retain some loading zones (by indenting the cycleway, where absolutely necessary?) or create off-peak on-street loading zones.
Errrrryday on Carlton Gore Road… if we had a dollar for every ‘just a minute’ we’d have enough money (and time!) to buy a spare bike. One day soon, somebody will get hurt because of these ‘just a minutes’. Let’s make loading safer.

Right, that’s our deep dive. Now, make sure you submit your feedback! Consultation is only open till 5 June – here’s the link!

And, just to reiterate the main points for feedback:

What do you like about the design?

  • This will be a great link for the inner-city network.
  • We love the protected one-way cycleways!

What do you think could be improved?

  • Please add more bus boarders.
  • Please improve the right turns for people on bikes.
  • And please make safer loading zones.

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Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better city. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

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