Yesterday the government announced the formal transport plan for the Christchurch central city which is one of the parts to the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan. I’ve had a brief look through the plan and I must say that overall, it isn’t too bad. You can read the plan here. It appears that one of the key actions has been to prioritise streets for different modes instead of trying to make all streets do all things for everyone. I think that this is a good strategy and something that should be thought about for Auckland too. Here is the plan showing all modes.

Christchurch central city plan

One of the central themes to the plan appears to be about making it easier to get around the city by walking and cycling while reducing the impact from cars. One of the key parts to this is that the inner part of the central city will have the speed limit reduced to 30km/hr and the document also says that it will be more than just putting up some signs as the streets will be designed to reinforce the speed limits through streetscape upgrades. The outer zone will remain at 50km/hr although they say some of the residential sections will be managed with lower speed limits to “fit with the surrounding environment”.

Christchurch central city speed limits

Overall that seems very positive and Auckland could perhaps learn something. Queen St has a 30km/hr speed limit but that is the only street to have one in the CBD (although the shared spaces help to encourage people to drive slower.


One thing I like is how the plan frequently talks about the need for the central city to be people friendly to encourage people to once again visit the central city. I couldn’t agree more as it is people that buy things, not cars. In the core (inside the red dotted line on the image above) the plan talks about how some streets will be pedestrian focused either by being pedestrian only or becoming shared spaces. The plan also mentions that additional walking connections will be encouraged through the introduction of laneways (and they will be required in the retail precinct). The walking plans all sound really good however the key will be how they implement them.


Like the walking section, there are a lot of positive aspects about this plan with it even talking about having some physically separated cycle lanes in some places (although just how many will be like this is still to be decided. The plan also talks about providing more cycle facilities around the city and requiring developers to provide cycle parking (this is happening in Auckland as part of the Unitary Plan). It even talks about the how cycling parking needs to be provided at the bus depot and at some of the major stops to enable people to combine cycling and PT.

Main Streets

Victoria and Colombo Streets which both extend outside of the slow zone will have the 30km/hr speed limit imposed and the plan says that they will be redeveloped to prioritise walking and cycling while the parts that have PT on them will have that PT priority measures included. Here is an image of what the change may look like.



If the after image is what actually happens then that’s a nice change.

Public Transport

The plan talks quite a bit about the bus interchange however it only says that bus priority will be provided on streets where necessary which seems a bit weak. In saying that it appears that Manchester St will get a physically separated central busway for about 600m as shown in the image below. For most of the city the bus network has been consolidated onto two way streets to make it easier for users to understand – except for in the south of the city.

Christchurch central city plan central busway

Car Travel

As mentioned earlier one of the great things about the plan is that central part of the city will have the speed limit reduced to 30km/hr which should really help improve safety and comfort for pedestrians. However one disappointment is that the two way system will be retained with the exception of northern pair of Salisbury and Kilmore. The plan also says the roads “will be enhanced over time as needed to cater for increased traffic volumes.” That doesn’t really sound ideal and seems more about moving as many cars as possible improved only by the fact there is a lower speed limit so time will tell if they live up to the promise of being more friendly for everyone. Here is a before and after from the document showing Montreal St which appears to have been narrowed and had decent chunks of parking removed.




The last section I will look at is parking and there appear to be some good things here too. The plan says the amount of on street parking will likely reduce overall due to many of the previously mentioned plans. In the core the parking will be focused on serving the disabled, deliveries and short term parking. Within the zone parking maximums have also been applied to try and reduce the amount of vehicles that need to travel through the more pedestrian focused areas. Public parking will be managed through initiatives like time of use and variable pricing. The plan also talks about how the preference is for any off street car park to have active street frontages which should hopefully reduce some of the impact of parking buildings.


All up there are some very positive things for Christchurch in this plan and some that would be good to use elsewhere. For example it would be great if we could a 30km/hr speed limit across the Auckland CBD. What’s perhaps even more positive is that Gerry Brownlee has been talking up how important it is for the city to be friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says reducing the speed limits of Christchurch’s inner-most streets will provide for a more people-focused environment in the redeveloped city.

The new 30km per hour limit is a significant factor in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan transport chapter “An Accessible City,” released today, which explains the transport system which will support the new compact CBD core.

“Overall we are trying to make the central city as attractive as possible for people to come in and shop, socialise and live, and I’m confident executing this plan will help meet that goal,” Mr Brownlee says.

And you can even hear him saying it will encourage more pedestrians and cyclists in this piece from TV3.

I must say, it’s really nice to be able to talk positively about a government announcement on transport for once. If only it happened more often.

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  1. From what I recall from overseas when they remove one way systems, pedestrian and cycling accidents dramatically increase. This is a no brainer because you increase conflict points. So generally, one way systems are safer. As long as they control the speeds with narror lanes and signal phasing, I think it is better option.

    1. Increase rate of injury, but do you increase risk of injury? ie are there far more injuries or far more cyclists?

    2. Indeed, perhaps they dramatically increase because the number of people actually walking and cycling dramatically increases. Who knows what the injury rate is like, and still haven’t seen any evidence of these claims yet either…

      I’m sure there are more pedestrian injuries on Queen St than Hobson St, but only because there are 100 times more pedestrians on Queen.

  2. I must say, I greatly appreciated the many levels of irony if Gerry talking up the need for cycling. Surprised he didn’t get someone else too, you can almost visibly see his discomfort!

    1. Funny, but I caught the announcement on TV and was thinking the exact same thing.

      When talking about the design supporting cycling, it looks like he was spitting out something very distasteful. Mind you the mental image of Gerry on a bike wearing lycra…

  3. How is that first image an improvement for cycling? You go from a street with cycle lanes to one in which cyclists will be in the same narrow lane with cars and still have to deal with doors opening and cars pulling in and out of the indented carparks. If this is the cycling revolution that is planned for ChCh then it’s a real disappointment, just a continuation of the idea that cyclists should share road space with cars.

    1. It is a massive improvement. A car travelling at 30km/h is nowhere near the threat that one travelling at 50km/h+ is. The narrower road will discourage fast speeds and although doors are an issue, people are more careful in an area that isnt designed just for cars. These designs work well in the Netherlands and there is no reason it cant work in a nice flat city like Chch.

      Separation is good on arterials where cars are travelling quickly but slow, light traffic is no danger to cyclists.

      The one obvious improvement is getting rid of the centre line. That will take away any feeling by motorists that an area is “their” space and encourage them to share and drive responsibly.

      I am excited. If it is done properly, I may head home to Chch in the not too distant future. Especially with the changes to the UP in Auckland signalling that the NIMBYs are in control here.

      1. These speed limits are never enforced, I’ve never seen police checking speeds on Ponsonby Rd or on Queen Street both of which have speed limits of 20km/hr. On Ponsonby people drive just as they did before the speed limit was reduced. I’ll wait to be pleasantly surprised, but a cycling strategy based around reducing the speed limit and doing nothing else for cyclists isn’t a cycling strategy.

        1. Speed limits should be set by the infrastructure. Motorists adjust their speed to the road type. Also, Queen St has a 30 km/h limit (?) and Ponsonby is 40 km/h from memory. As long as you have 4 lane, arterial style roads, the average speed, unless limited by congestion, will be higher than 30 km/h.

        2. By itself the new speed limit is no use, I agree. But the road will also be narrowed and the whole environment changed (though again, need to remove the centre line). That will change everything. Look at the shared spaces in Auckland. The environment means that the road is not just for cars and so cars share the space. It is more psychological than anything.

  4. I should preface my comment by saying that I don’t generally agree with putting in one way systems, but that it does make some sense to retain the ones we do have, though they probably need to go on a diet lol.

  5. And the retailers and developers are coming out with concerns that show they are still living in the 1960s:

    “The reason the malls are so successful and the central city was in decline is because you can go to a shopping centre, park right outside, you don’t have to pay and it’s easy.”

    I know Christchurch very well (born and raised and lived there recently as well). The city was starting to do better before the earthquakes exactly because it wasnt going head to head with the malls. Places like High Street were attracting high end retail and many entertainment precincts like Poplar Lane and SOL were doing really well. This wasnt based on great parking.

    The kind of people who think the malls are great are never going to appreciate the inner city and these kind of environments. But there is about 40% of the city who love a more vibrant area and want to get away from the sterility of the malls.

    If the city tries to compete with the malls, it will lose, simple as that. The developers need to create a point of difference and a pedestrian/cycle friendly street environment is the way to do it. Look at how successful cities like Portland and Davis have been in the United States with their cycle friendly areas. Off street parking facilities on the fringe of the Core will reflect similar arrangements in the Netherlands that have created great and successful inner cities in new cities like Houton.

    The bus system was also doing well and growing before the earthquakes as well. As we have found out with the Northern Busway, people will use PT if it offers a better option for at least some trips.

    I agree with Matt, finally National have done something they can be proud of. Now they need to stand firm and believe in the vision. Once it is a huge success the doubters will back down (as they have on the Fort Street shared space) and we can look to create the same concepts in Auckland. Well done Gerry B.

    1. Having a new pro cycling mayor probably helps too. The new inner city townhouse style concept looks pretty decent as well. Now if they could only do the same with Hamilton, Auckland and Tauranga! Did light rail get scrapped completely? Would have thought it is the one city in New Zealand that could do it quite easily as wide and flat streets.

      1. Really, I am surprised. Who is still doubting it? Cameron “I have never had an original idea in my life” Brewer?

        Luckily the retailers are the only ones who care. They would scream blue murder if the Council tried to take it away now.

        1. Soke chump commenting on a couple of politicians Facebook pages reckons that it is empty and all of the businesses are struggling, which is ironic as he spends his lunch break there really.

    2. “……The kind of people who think the malls are great are never going to appreciate the inner city and these kind of environments. But there is about 40% of the city who love a more vibrant area and want to get away from the sterility of the malls…..”

      I think the mall designers need to work on this to try and overcome the anti-mall attitudes of the minority. What sort of design do you have in mind to provide this elusive “vibrancy”?

      Mall design right at the outset decades ago, and periodically since, was something that attempted to provide a surrogate for the “old Europe” town square, in modern US towns. I think this was a worthier objective than many people give credit for.

      In reality, the famous old town squares in which people mingled and interacted, prior to the automobile, were something enjoyed by only a minority – far more of the population was still “rural”, and the masses crammed into urban high density did not generally have the leisure to mingle and interact culturally and intellectually.

      “Automobility” has been the most powerful democratiser of access to “urban” amenities. Leisurely mingling and interacting without madding crowds destroying the experience, requires duplication of the facilities for this mingling and interacting, throughout the urban area. Spatial sorting of populations by the urban land rent curve and “ability to pay” for one’s location, is a powerful excluder from enjoyment of amenities. Suburban malls and vibrant public spaces for the drinking of coffee are a great idea. If these amenities were only to be found in the CBD, and only accessible on foot and by public transport, most people would be “excluded” from them.

      I think it perfectly possible to replicate almost any “vibrant, urban” space, only with car parking underground below it to provide the commercial viability. The presence of an underground carpark below Queen’s Wharf, Wellington, does not detract from the experience of the facilities above.

      Christchurch has generally got on with life without its CBD, and even the Lonely Planet Guide has complimented it on its vibrant suburban cafe scene. Many of the workers displaced have come to appreciate suburban nodal amenities as really little different to a CBD, especially a somewhat weak one like Christchurch had.

      Goodness knows how long it would take to get anywhere with rebuilding a new Wellington CBD when it finally gets hit by a once-in-250-years “Big One”. Going by the Christchurch experience, possibly never. People with fancy plans in their heads never seem to understand the realities of how Real Estate markets react to strict prescriptions of what is to happen where, in the absence of nationalisation or compulsory acquisition of land. I will post a very interesting scholarly analysis of Tokyo post-1945 following this comment.

  6. The bus service could be interesting. Without seeing where which routes will actually run it’s hard to tell how well it will work. My fear is that each route will just run to the bus interchange and terminate there, that means that all the routes from the southern half of the city don’t get very good coverage of the central area and everyone will be forced to walk a good half kilometre to get to the north side of the CBD, or make a connection. The smaller square in bus colour at the rear of Cathedral Square suggests there will be some major stops there, but perhaps those are only for the northern routes. I think the best arrangement would be if all the routes were through routed across the city from one side to another, but not sure if that will happen.

    There seems to be a pervasive trend across New Zealand to try and push buses out to the fringe, out of sight out of mind. All things being equal, we should be putting them right in the middle of where people are headed to.

    I think they are really missing a trick here by running on nine or so different corridors, it’s unlikely all but the central most bit will get any priority. I would have concentrated all the routes onto just two corridors, one north-south and one east-west, and ensured that the full length of those where set up as dedicated bus roads right across the CBD, with only minimal local traffic access. I guess Manchester and Tuam would be the ones to go with as they intersect at the interchange.

    So that might be a case of Tuam becomes a two way bus street (with high quality walking and cycling), while St Asaph becomes a two way traffic arterial with no buses.

    1. Agree with less routes (more concentrated and with priority) for the buses and getting them into the middle (less distance for interconnections) makes a lot of sense.

    2. Matt tells me that they are indeed planning to through-route the main corridors. It looks like a star shaped frequent network of four main pairs of lines (eight radial routes through-routed), plus one orbital frequent and a series of local routes. That looks pretty good to me, although I do still wonder about delays and congestion in the city by running them all on various different roads.

    3. Existing bus services in Chch already mostly through-route, e.g. #3 Avonhead to Sumner, #5 Hornby to New Brighton. The existing routes already largely run along similar lines to these proposed lines (except the new Manchester bus corridor); the big improvement will be providing additional bus priority (something we’ve been dragging our heels about for years)

  7. A rather predictable backlash in the comments section…”won’t somebody *please* think of the motorists”…

    1. Yeah well country people usually grapple with new urban ideas. Just look at Auckland and double the hickness.

      However, like every other city where active modes have been encouraged, watch them all flood into the city to experience the great, vibrant street life once it is done. The malls cant compete with that. There is a sizeable minority in Chch who are urban and want a real city. They are just swamped by outspoken rural people.

      The really amusing ones are the comments that say that cars are a big part of Chch history. What a joke. They should ask their grandparents how they used to get to work. Tram, bus or bicycle will be the normal answer. Chch was a huge cycling city before the 1970s and even when I was growing up there (80s/90s) we biked everywhere. It has all chnaged in one generation.

      1. At least they can’t use the “it’s too hilly” excuse to ignore cyclists. I am somewhat lukewarm on the proposal, but hope that the cycle facilities come out better in the wash than shown in these limited graphics. 30 km/h speed zones are also very great, if they aren’t watered down.

        1. There are already funds set aside for separated bike paths, so it will happen. I agree on the 30km/h zones – it will all depend on the implementation.

        2. I was actually more referring to the temptation for some transport planners to start designating “just a FEW but KEY routes” back to 50 km/h or more. But then I am a suspicious bastard, and it may well remain area-wide. Hopefully.

  8. The problem with this plan is that it is likely to fail because Christchurch badly needs a new rail system put in place or at least future proofed because if the city grows faster than expected an a new rail line has to be built it will work out a lot more cheaper to do it now rather than later, but in NZ’s case they don’t seem to think this way.

    1. I agree about the lack of heavy rail in the report being a problem.

      I wrote a semi long-form opinion article for stuff nation at the start of the week on the different options that christchurch has in regards to heavy rail. I don’t know if they don’t like long-form journalism or they are just not interested in that topic. If anyone wants to read it its here:

      One other problem is the need for a last mile service now due to the limiting of the bus corridors.
      There is mention of the idea of a last mile service in the report (if I was reading it right), but it treats it as something to look at latter down the track.

  9. The following extract is from “The High-Rise and the Slum: Speculative Urban Development in Mumbai” by Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava. (Note especially para 3, my emphasis in italics).


    “A conscious acceptance of the type of mixed-use habitat produced by intensive processes of urban development is a rare occurrence in contemporary cities, mainly because the form it generates is typically seen as messy and irrational within a main-stream urban planning perspective. The case of Tokyo, however, provides an outstanding example of the potential of incrementally developing neighborhoods. Tokyo is at the same time high-tech, futuristic, artisanal, traditional, mixed use, world-class, low-rise, high-rise, and high-density.

    Tokyo is possibly the most efficient, urbane, and sophisticated city in the world, and definitively the most populated. Yet except for its historical core of Edo, it could well be described as one gigantic, incrementally developed slum. The process of literally carving out space, or making it grow bit by bit, was crucial in the development of postwar Tokyo, just as it is central to the evolution of habitats in informal settlements all over India.

    The history of the incremental development of Tokyo after the Pacific War unfolds in the shadow of the skyscrapers that have come to symbolize Japan’s economic miracle. This shadow actually stretches over 100 kilometers around the city’s historical core and largely dominates its landscape just as informal development dominates the landscape of greater Mumbai.

    After the war, Tokyo was left almost totally flattened. Residents had to rebuild lives from scratch. In this process neighborhoods became the fertile grounds which the Japanese middle class emerged. They built upon a tradition of self-help that the Ministry of City Planning had produced by default in terms of incomplete urban plans since the 1920s. The pressing needs for economic redevelopment and shelter, the lack of financial resources, and the absence of legal mechanisms for land acquisition by the state ensured that the urban plans were never implemented. The government focused instead on industrial and infrastructure development to support the economy, leaving the reconstruction of residential and commercial to local actors, who rebuilt the city on its ashes.

    What has been overlooked in the story of Japan’s economic success with its egalitarian income distribution is the essential role of incremental development. Incremental urban and economic development processes are completely interconnected in the history of Tokyo—just as they are in Mumbai. Tokyo and Mumbai are similar in the sense that their suburbs have improved gradually over time and many settlements have emerged through village-like histories. They show a high level of economic activities that are sustained by local factors such as family labor, artisanal skills and mixed use of space, interdependence of consumption, and production and exchange practices. Although the persistence of the local economy is arguably under threat in Japan, with the aggressive advances of franchised retail business that found ways to penetrate the neighborhoods’ intimate fabric, it is still very much alive. These local activities are facilitated by the typology of housing forms characterized by familial and community inputs in the incremental growth of each structure and its adaptation to specific needs, both social and economic.

    There are indeed striking similarities—in terms of the visual landscape – between suburban Tokyo and Mumbai’s many informal settlements. Far from being anecdotal, the typological similarity between unplanned areas of Tokyo and Mumbai reveals a complex story of economic development—involving the informal sector, mixed use of land and space, the presence of street-level shops, pedestrian path networks, and the use of the house itself as a tool of artisanal production and commerce as mentioned earlier. In Tokyo, the older and traditional pattern of urban organization too reflected a similar experience. The roots of Tokyo’s economic development are the bazaar economy, the informal street markets, the family retails, neighborhood-based services, and the local construction industry. These still are very much part of Tokyo’s economic fabric today, and they also explain Tokyo’s urban typology: low-rise, high-density, mixed-use, small-scale neighborhoods that constantly changed and evolved to produce what is today incontestabIy a modern, high-tech city that continues to grow and evolve in newer ways.

    In Tokyo, the intensive processes generating such built forms and street patterns were never seen to be illegitimate, irrational, or dysfunctional—quite to the contrary. This was in line with traditional township management strategies and communal organization. In the postwar redevelopment effort, neighborhoods relied heavily on traditional construction and habitat management methods. For a long time “traditional Japanese urban development and management strategies were still widely practiced and quite effective” (Sorensen, 2002, 149). To this day, most neighborhoods in Tokyo have committees of residents overseeing their internal affairs and communication with the authorities.

    This explains why Tokyo has both one of the best infrastructures in the world and a housing stock of great variety. What emerges are different forms—a cluster of villages, low-rise, high-density urban settlements connected by transport networks, and a combination of coexisting diverse housing typologies (including high-rise structures). These settlements contribute hugely to the cities of which they are a part. They also benefit the urban systems of the whole region to which they belong. In many cases, especially Tokyo and Mumbai, such cities are connected globally as well. While Tokyo’s architecture has been incrementally upgraded, the urban typology is still very much informal and messy-looking, with extremely narrow and labyrinthine streets and shack-type structures built with metal sheets and wood. What can be mistaken for an urban mess by the casual observer is actually a highly efficient and complex urban organization. Tokyo’s leniency toward mixed use has allowed small-scale, family-type businesses to exist in one of the most advanced economies of the world. Interestingly, it also prevents the high degree of residential segregation along income lines that one finds in the United States.”

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