The Basin Reserve – Or why Wellington interests Auckland cycle advocates

The Basin Reserve – Or why Wellington interests Auckland cycle advocates

Bike Auckland

Not only Auckland is wrestling with how big new transport projects will affect our city. NZTA is promoting a significant upgrade of the inner-city-to-eastern-suburbs/airport route through Wellington, including a large new bridge over the northern end of Basin Reserve, a second Mt Victoria tunnel, and some more large-scale road widening.

Somehow, CAA managed to find time to submit on this corridor upgrade – we thought that adding our voice to the local cycling community and cycling advocates in Welly might help a little. And because better cycling in the windy city can only help to make sure our MP’s and ministers keep cycling in mind (around 2/3rds of Auckland’s transport funding is controlled from the national level).

Of course, as so often at the moment, the project itself is not about cycling. In fact, it’s almost all about cars. But if our current government is determined to proceed with their roading plans, the least they should do is to also upgrade the often dismal cycling facilities in the same corridor to high-quality standard. So we submitted with that in mind, and added our voice to the many other public comments now summarised in this report.

Basic questions aside about whether an elevated highway is appropriate at all (NZTA did not provide tunnel or at grade options as alternatives to comment on), there’s some good news in the responses. Many submitters have emphasised that cycling facilities should be provided on the new bridge – leaving cyclists at the lower level only, where they would have to give way to other traffic and wait at signals – would not be good enough. It’s nice to see an NZTA report cite someone saying that providing for cycling on the fly-over bridge should be a “no brainer”! Cycle Aware Wellington also commented:

“The pedestrian and cycling facility is crucial to the bridge fulfilling the aims of the scheme. If a bridge is built, the facility is the only way to achieve a dedicated, direct East West route for pedestrians and cyclists without crossing multiple lanes of traffic… Cycle Aware Wellington surveyed local cyclists in July 2011. Over 96% of respondents said they would prefer a cycling facility on the bridge to the alternative: having to come down to street level and cross the traffic lanes.”

Also important were walking and cycling facilities in the proposed second Mt Victoria tunnel – more than 2000 submitters commented (good on you, Wellingtonians!). Most preferred the new facility to be separated from cars, preferably with a glass barrier for noise and separate air circulation (I haven’t used the old tunnel, but I understand that cyclists and pedestrians there share a narrow path directly above and to the side of cars, and of course have to breathe the motor vehicle exhaust – so of course CAA also supported separation).

There was also some concern that cyclists should also be separated from pedestrians in the new tunnel. If feasible, we can only support that – though actual crash stats are negligable when it comes to pedestrian/cyclist incidents, faster commuter cyclists would probably prefer not having peds in a relatively confided space, and vice versa. Cycle Aware Wellington noted:

“The tunnel will be the busiest section of the proposed new pedestrian and cycle routes. As such, it would have the most conflict among users, particularly at peak time and particularly between walkers and faster cyclists.”

“Please consider providing dedicated, separated facilities for pedestrians and cyclists here. The width of the path would support separation with cyclists one side and pedestrians the other side of a central rail. The height of the path could even provide for a lightweight upper deck for pedestrians above cyclists or vice versa.”

CAA also commented on the eastern section, where NZTA is proposing to widen a local road to up to 6 lanes, which got a lot of negative feedback – and no surprise. At six lanes, the differences to a motorway are fleeting… though at least separated cycle facilities are to be included here as well.

Overall, the project is representative of a trend we see in a lot of NZTA projects – they have really lifted their game when it comes to providing for walking and cycling as part of their large-scale schemes. Too sad that the Ministry of Transport’s funding for dedicated walking/cycling-only projects is so pitiful (0.8% for both walking and cycling together). For now, the best way to get a new cycleway in New Zealand is to hope there’s an expensive new road being built next door.

How deeply ironic.

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