I believe that as a city we should take every opportunity we have to retrofit the city with better and more inclusive infrastructure. That means any time we dig up a road for “an upgrade” or even when a road is resealed we need to be thinking about how we can add cycling infrastructure (this also applies to walking and PT infrastructure too). It also means implementing quick wins where ever possible. Below are a few examples of where I think we’re missing easy opportunities to do that.
When I ride to work I try to avoid the utter mess that is Wairau Rd as much as possible – the part around Tristram Ave is particularly bad as the lanes are narrow and drivers are often distracted while also changing lanes etc. Instead travel further along Glenfield Rd and use Chivalry Rd to bypass the worst of Wairau Rd. Using this route adds just over 1km to my journey but it feels much safer thanks to more space in on the road and much less traffic.
The map above shows the Wairau route in blue and the Chivalry route in red. Just because the latter feels the safest of the two, that doesn’t mean it’s great for cycling and can’t be improved. In the last week or so work has started on upgrading the intersection with Chartwell Dr/Diana Dr. I assumed that this would be good as it should mean improved cycle facilities at least around the intersection. This is especially so seeing as the route appears on AT’s proposed cycle network map as a connector route as shown in the yellow circle in the image below. In addition there are two schools nearby – just 100m and 300m away (Glenfield Primary & Glenfield Intermediate). The schools are shown in yellow on the map above.
The image below shows how the intersection looks today. The only thing really noticeable with it – and it doesn’t seem all that bad – is that Chartwell and Diana Dr are slightly offset from each other meaning that drivers have to slightly turn the steering wheel when travelling north/south through it. Unrelated but one additional thing about the intersection is that it runs with a Barnes Dance for pedestrians. That’s something that’s quite rare outside the central city.
I was hoping the change would add in some cycle infrastructure decent enough to get local kids riding to school, after all both proudly display on their fences that they’re a Travelwise school with the primary school a gold Award winner and the intermediate school a silver award winner. As such I asked AT for the plans seeing as there was nothing on their website. The image below shows what is being done and frankly it’s disappointing (click to enlarge) note: this image is effectively rotated 90° clockwise to the image above.
AT say that because Chartwell Ave and Diana Drive approaches are offset slightly it creates safety and efficiency problems and so this project is to address that. Safety issues I can understand however efficiency is just a code word for “a few cars have to queue at the lights.
To make these changes it’s also required the removal of one house (Number 107 in the aerial photo) – the left over land not needed for the intersection works will be left as just a landscaped area. By transport standards the project isn’t hugely expensive at $1.3 million but it’s still a sizeable amount of money as I don’t think that includes the purchase of the house which I understand took place in the old North Shore City Council days. Still, removing a house when housing is such a hot topic doesn’t seem like the best idea AT’s ever had.
However back to the original topic, while the works are primarily on Chartwell Ave it doesn’t appear that a single bit of cycle infrastructure is going in anywhere near this intersection even though this would be the perfect time to implement some. That’s disappointing and means that at some unknown time in the future AT will have to go back and create more disruption to do that. It’s also quite telling that we can seemingly so easily through money down to change an intersection on safety and efficiency grounds but it’s so difficult to do the same with walking, cycling or public transport infrastructure.
One last point on this particular intersection, AT say that they and the local board are funding the project as it was way down the priority list so didn’t qualify for a subsidy from the NZTA. Surely if it’s way down on the priority list that’s a good sign it’s not, well a priority. Also after a brief discussion with a local board member it appears that they too weren’t that on pushing the project forward but that it was AT who came to the board to push it. Is this a case of some engineer trying to get an old scheme across the line?
Another part of my route home takes me along Hobsonville Rd. Since the motorway opened a few years ago the traffic on Hobsonville Rd has dropped dramatically and combined with a fairly wide single lane road used very infrequently for car parking it should be quite easy to start installing some cycle infrastructure. Perhaps the most pressing place to start on this would be the uphill section between Westpark Dr and Luckens Rd. One unique feature is that over the ~400m heading up the hill there are just two driveways as most of the houses are accessed from other locations.
Yet despite no demand from nearby houses there almost always tends to be a handful of cars parked on this section. The cause of is even visible in the image below from Streetview – cars parked for sale. An on road cycle lane could effectively be created up the hill for price of a few yellow lines of paint (note: there are also signs on other parts of Hobsonville Rd saying no car sales but not here).
Another easy to add route would be Moire Rd. A section of the road was recently dug up and rebuilt – which is good as the surface was terrible and like other routes on here is also on AT’s cycle map yet despite being fairly wide and without much demand for on street parking the road was re-instated without any cycle provision. As you can see from the images below there is quite a bit of space to do so. Also note that the empty looking land to the right of the image is one of the pieces of land the government have identified to be developed. It would be good to get some cycling provision in before anything happens with that.
Lastly we have Westgate Dr. This road was subjected to protracted fight between the developer and the council however that’s now resolve and the road is open. The road is significant as it connects to the Westgate shopping centre at one end and runs is right through the middle of an SHA which is being developed.
The first houses are already starting to go in and given the development that’s planned it would surely make sense for AT to get in there now and implement some cycle lanes before people move in and have an expectation of the entire street having free on-street parking. The thing is the road is probably wide enough to have cycle lanes plus parking on one side as you can see in the image below with Westgate in the distance. A quick and easy win (although of course I would prefer protected cycle lanes).
What do you think, where are the quick easy cycle wins in your area and what examples of missed opportunities do you have.