Trust me, you’ll know if a cycleway has been designed well.

Complete?

You are invited to wait here before turning right into the new cycleway.

I went out recently on my bike to photograph some parts of the new Dominion Rd Parallel Cycle Path. (#domcycle) I ride it regularly with the #NinjaPrincess. We know it well. It’s for that reason that I have been watching this project closely. I have written about it before and I will have plenty more to say about it once it has been officially opened. I have been told that it will be officially opened and ready for the new school year in early February 2015. Apart from turning on the traffic signals, all the infrastructure appears to be complete. But even if some amazing new infrastructure is installed during the next 4 weeks of the New Year holiday period, I still believe that this new cycleway project will fail to deliver on its brief of…

…making cycling an attractive, easy, and safe transport and recreation option for communities around the Dominion Road corridor…

Let me explain why.

If Auckland Transport was serious about getting more people riding bicycles in this vicinity, the whole project would have been handled differently.

  • There would be full community (household, school, business) engagement.
  • There would be targets set and and those targets would be shared with the key stakeholders.
  • There would be extensive promotion and marketing.

And what about the new infrastructure?

Well, let’s put it this way. I always know if a cycleway has been designed right. The #NinjaPrincess is my expert in such matters. She is one of the customers whose needs should be considered most highly when such infrastructure is being designed and built.

Give me a city that is made to fit the people, rather than a city where the people are made to fit it.

It is certain that every box in the performance specifications, set by the traffic engineers, has been ticked. But that is no guarantee that it will be a design that is conducive to the wider range of the 8-80 demographic. There is a difference between surviving and flourishing.

So while I don’t pretend to have the expertise of the traffic engineers who have installed this new infrastructure, nor do traffic engineers have the same valuable world view that the #NinjaPrincess possesses. It would be nice to think that her view has some value in the process of designing and building cycleways.

There seems to be an underlying assumption that the presence of speed bumps, green paint and some signalised intersections will automatically;

  1. slow motorists down,
  2. reduce traffic flow,
  3. make motorists give people on bicycles more space when overtaking,
  4. make people on bicycles ‘feel’ safer,
  5. increase the number of people riding bicycles without any further intervention.
Yes, it looks like cycling infrastructure but is it effective?

It’s called cycling infrastructure, apparently.

This is also my justification for the limited fondness I have for the bicycle training sessions that Auckland Transport offers to school students. The onus needs to be taken off the children and onto the engineers and politicians who are responsible for creating the urban environment that we live and move in.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

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5 comments

  1. If I see your photos on Flickr, there is enough space for cycle paths? But in your country cycle paths are a political choice I think, not a default choice. In my country (NL) all important roads as your Dominion Road, have cycle paths alongside, when they were built years ago (but in recent years mostly upgraded because of the increase of cycle traffic).

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    1. Hi johdi, Thanks for your comments. The suggestion to put separated cycle paths on Dominion Rd was met with stiff opposition by local businesses and residents. The alternative option was to make the surrounding residential areas ‘cycle-friendly’. My argument in this post was that this project is going to be largely ineffective in getting people to ride bikes. Current mode share for cycling is very low and the cycling that we do see is mainly for sports and recreation. In this environment, it is hard to get the non-cycling public to take up cycling, view cycling as a normal and acceptable way to travel short distances or, support the proper implementation of cycling facilities.

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      1. It’s hard, when the local residents are the ones helping scupper the chances of decent infrastructure which would let everyone cycle; which would allow children to play and travel independently. Then they complain that there are no cheap easy ways to get into town – the buses are too expensive and infrequent, and driving is out because of congestion and parking problems…

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  2. Lovely wide road there, though not enough space for vehicle 2 lanes (or parking and a vehicle lane) in both directions while keeping the bike lane, as traffic increases it would make a good candidate for a turning median however but they don’t seem a popular choice when more lanes can be added.

    The lip to from the cycle lane down into the kerb looks mighty dangerous, did you happen to measure the widths of the lanes?

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