A little while ago, one of our at-times-supporters-at-times-critics expressed frustration on social media about why New Zealand keeps insisting on “trialling” cycle infrastructure that is well-established overseas. Instead of responding with the usual answers (legal factors, our drivers not being used to such infrastructure, etc), this time we responded with what we think is the (other) real reason:

It’s to get Kiwis who aren’t reading cycling blogs – and who haven’t cycled overseas either – used to these “new” things.

In other words, trialling new designs is a way of convincing the doubters. By trialling things, you’re not simply “testing” how they work, but engineering acceptance that they work. Among funders, designers, politicians – decision-makers most of all.

See?” one can say after a trial, “It works here too, even though we’re not Holland!

Of course, the downside of this approach is that often we end up proceeding by half-steps – fully knowing where we eventually want to be, yet not quite getting there (yet).

  • STEP 1: We start with the idea that cyclists deserve some dedicated space on the road – so we add painted lanes. At this point, we’re fighting for the mere right to the space, making a stand against accusations that bike lanes slow other traffic down, etc. And wherever we lose the fight, we try to be graceful about the shared paths we get instead.
  • STEP 2: After more gruelling years of work and protest and more cycling and so on, we work our way up to the acceptance that we should really protect soft human bodies from hard metal boxes, and that people on bikes deserve better than they’ve had to date. So we start getting kerbs between bikes and cars, with bike paths sometimes squeezed in as two-way paths on one side of the road, enven though we know better solutions have been found elsewhere many decades ago, namely…
  • STEP 3: We push for a move away from “fitting-around-what’s-already-there” and instead demand more dedication, more quality and proper new-builds rather than retrofits. We arrive at real Copenhagen lanes, one-way on each road side, separate from car lanes and pedestrian paths both – and wide enough to allow for some growth in the numbers of people cycling!

As advocates, our hopes and dreams are firmly fixed on Step 3. Right now, the builders of our cycleways are at last moving more and more from Step 1 to Step 2. Which is all the more reason to encourage our cycleway designers to move from Step 2 to Step 3.

Because even with the current boost in cycleway funding and the new energy and enthusiasm for cycling, we need to keep pushing the boundaries on projects that still can easily take 1-2 years in preparation alone. That’s the nub of it: what gets built today was being designed (at least in spirit) several years ago. And what gets designed and approved today is what you will be riding on in 2017 and 2018!

On that note, let’s talk about an aspect of the existing protected cycle lanes in the “Auckland style” – many dozens of which are to be found in various planning and design documents, just waiting to be turned into reality across all the city.

Those kerb dividers. Those bloody things.

What? Do I hear you say that right? Didn’t we just spend years fighting to get proper separation from traffic???

True, true! They’re perfect Step 2 material! And they’re massively better than a painted line on the road surface. But they have a number of issues, of which we’re going to see a lot more, in the coming years. And yet they also have some advantages over both Step 1 AND Step 3 infrastructure (which is why we are using them right now, in the “Step 2 World” we still live in).

Let’s show some images and make a table (who doesn’t like a good table? Click to see a bigger version) of the pros and cons:

"Auckland-style" cycle lane to left, and "Copenhagen style" cycle lane to the right. Though to be fair, the Auckland example is narrower than the Copenhagen example - unlike in the table below, where we assume the same total width.
“Auckland-style” cycle lane to left, and “Copenhagen style” cycle lane to the right. To be fair, the Auckland example is narrower than the Copenhagen example – unlike in the table below, where we assume the same total width.

ProsAndCons

So there you have it. Our “Auckland-style” cycle lanes are a good thing… for now. But they remain an interim solution, with a couple of key issues: the main ones being that they are a bit clunky and that they limit the amount of space available for future cycle growth.

Let’s keep up the progress and look forward to our first real Copenhagen lanes. Arguably, Albany Highway comes close, and should be finished next year. And who knows what else is in the pipeline?

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13 responses to “I see your Auckland protected lane… and raise you a Copenhagen one

  1. Great post, Max. Yes, there is an argument to trial new initiatives, and so long as it results in some progress, great! There is now a real willingness for AT to design protected infrastructure in one way or another, with the proviso of course there is sufficient carriageway width. It’s disappointing at times how quickly AT backtrack and the width shrinks to nothing the moment someone complains about reallocation. AT need to show a bit of backbone here.

    But there are another couple of initiatives, both very popular overseas, which have been trialled in NZ and appear to have gone nowhere:

    – Sharrows – what happened to them? The local trial must have been going on for a couple of years now, but I don’t see them proliferating around Auckland. They’re ideal to advise cyclists where they should position themselves, and for motorists to expect cyclists and reconfirm their right to be on the road. So cheap and easy to implement too

    – Bikes on buses – we’ve had successful trials in Chch and Waiheke, but I’ve yet to see a bike on the front of a bus in Auckland. Yes I know some PT planners think they slow down boarding and alighting, but for off-peak routes they’re a perfect response to cyclists needing to travel longer distances across Auckland’s hilly terrain. Perfect cycling/PT synergy to reduce car dependence.

    And not even on the radar for trialling yet is something you touched on in your table – the inability of off-road cycle paths to have priority over side road traffic. Surely we can pick up on the best design ideas from overseas and run a trial here. It seems ridiculous that we have crossings for pedestrians that cyclists can’t use without dismounting, and no formal crossings for cyclists.

    Perhaps someone from AT is reading this and getting some ideas…

    Cheers – Steve

    1. Hi Steve. Perhaps I can provide a few answers, as I’m currently in Wellington attending the latest meeting of the Active Modes Infrastructure Group – this is a group convened by Road Controlling Authorities and NZTA to oversee potential changes to signs, markings, legislation, design standards, etc for walking & cycling.

      So to your questions:
      – Sharrows were actually trialled in five cities (Akld, Palm Nth, Wgtn, Nelson, Dunedin) in a variety of different situations. As formal trials of a non-standard marking, they can’t just be implemented everywhere yet (not if you want to keep onside of NZTA). But the results have been compiled, the draft best-practice guidelines have been developed, and the necessary change to the Traffic Control Devices Rule to allow them is likely to be in place mid-2016.

      – Bikes on buses can now be found in a number of cities around NZ now, incl. Gisborne, Napier/Hastings, New Plymouth, Nelson, Timaru, Dunedin, Invercargill. I agree that the obvious big gaps are Akld and Wgtn and my own observations in Chch show that delays in boarding/alighting are negligible (esp. if other people are also boarding/alighting). If we took that approach, we wouldn’t allow wheelchair and pram users on buses either because they’re also so slooowww… Given Akld’s hillier terrain and wetter weather, I’d also say that they have a better case for use there than Chch (which, despite no promotion, attracts about 100-150 uses a day), but you’ll have to talk to Akld Trpt about that.

      – In discussion tomorrow is how to change legislation to allow priority for separated bike facilities across side-roads. It’s mostly an issue of clarifying definitions of what a “roadway” is (normally considered the bit between kerbs), as this is what gives traffic on the main roadway priority over side roadways. There’s also a separate question of whether we need “cycle zebra crossings” (for both cycle paths and shared paths); that’s also on the (big) list of regulation changes being looked at. Watch this space…

      1. Thanks for your feedback, Glen – much appreciated.

        I have a fanciful idea about cycle crossings, but maybe it won’t fly. On the basis motorists are very familiar with white zebra crossings, let’s just extend the concept:
        – Current white zebras – allow cyclists to use at pedestrian speed without dismounting
        – Wide alternating green-white striped zebras – specially designed for shared paths in any location
        – Green zebras – designed for cyclists only, eg as a Copenhagen lane crosses a side street

        Simple, intuitive, can be supplemented with warning signs & markings. But there’s probably a reason it won’t work!

        Cheers – Steve

        1. I quite like the idea! Perhaps I will suggest it tomorrow (although currently there is nothing that green markings legally denote)

          The likely alternative is some form of “elephants’ footprints” used elsewhere (i.e. large squares used to denote the edges of the crossing area)

          1. I suggested the same thin as Steve’s “green zebra” option in late 2014 for the Beaumont Street interim path. Which is still held up due to local parking removal complaints. It would need a whole trial scheme approval, but I think green / white striped zebras (green alone might not be conspicious enough) would be a great option – better than “elephant’s footprints”.

          2. The Traffic Control Devices Rule (11.4(5)) allows any cycle/shared path to have priority over a road at a crossing via STOP or GIVE WAY; interestingly the Road User Rule is silent on this. So that’s going to be tidied up to properly allow for it under RUR, and probably also include footpaths as an option in the mix for good measure. I suggested at the AMIG meeting that arguably this could mean that zebra crossings of any kind could just be got rid of and replaced with priority-controlled crossings of this type. Then you could mark them with whatever you liked, because it would be the signs that are legalising it…

  2. Thanks for this, Max. Good to see what we should be aiming for. Would love to see what our next steps are for intersection priority.

    1. Oh, heck. That’s almost harder than getting space on the road. I guess our best bet is get more cyclists, and slowly carve ourselves out more time and priority? On Nelson Street and Beach Road, we have the infancy of “bike phases” coming to New Zealand. One day, I hope all major cycle route intersections will have their own bike phases.

      In the meanterm, we need to fight to avoid more CGR into Park Road left turn failures.

  3. There’s a few more steps beyond Step 3. Something like this
    Step 4 is having lanes for walking and cycling on each side of the road
    Step 5 is slowing the traffic down to about 30 kph.
    Step 6 is removing the cars and trucks. Otherwise how will you get to 60% usage by foot and cycling modes?
    Step 7 is cycling and walking nirvana – a livable city, rather than the roar of the traffic outside your apartment or house

  4. The problem with the ‘Auckland style’ cycle lanes is that they are often very badly thought out. Having recently moved house I now ride up and down Carlton Gore Road everyday. I was quite looking forward to using the protected cycle lanes. However, this is some of the most dangerous infrastructure I have ever used.
    Firstly, heading up the hill. This is more of a loading/ delivery lane that spits one into the wrong side of the junction at the top with Park road. Turning into the domain across the traffic is by far safer.
    Heading down the hill is even worse. While negotiating the broken glass of the (very narrow) separated path you are then hurled into the path of left turning cars into George Street. Who has right of way here? I cant even really blame the drivers as this is such a lovely sweeping fast turning there is no incentive to use the brakes at all! Once past this particular hazard one is then subject to drivers reversing out of building car parks without a moments thought to who could be heading down the bike lane.
    Mixing with the busses on Khyber Pass is proving much safer.

    1. Hi Andrew, your points mainly relate to the intersections (driveways being a type of intersection!), so a bit wider than the subject matter of this post. For what it is worth, we do agree with you. Even AT themselves have admitted that the top, where CGR joins Park Road, is not a good design (but when will they change it again….?) – and at George Street, we wanted a much higher speed table to slow traffic down, rather than the tame thing that got built.

      So while I would disagree with the comparison on Khyber Pass, you’re quite right that CGR is at best, a halfway house at the moment.

  5. I’ve just been in Cambridge (UK) and on the way into town from my folks’ house is a lovely new Copenhagen lane (one of the first in the city). Wide enough for 2 bikes side by side (or overtaking). The kerb on the road side is very shallow but enough to alert the drivers to its existence. It also works really well along here because despite being an arterial, it’s also residential, so the Copenhagen lane allows people to turn in and out of driveways without any change in the infrastructure. The white line on the pavement in this picture is the remnant of the 2-way shared path, still in place until they complete the Copenhagen lane on the other side of the road.

    1. Nice example. Exactly what we want more here in Auckland (even if there will be a time during which we will see lots of tweets with people parking on such lanes – such are the growing pains).

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