Here is something exciting that appeared on Auckland Transport’s website last week. Evaluating Quality of Service for Auckland Cycle Facilities: A Practitioner’s Guide is a planning and design guide that establishes the requirement for “high quality” cycleways as the default design approach. While designing separated or protected facilities is standard practice in places like the Netherlands, there are no cities with similar ambitions in Australia or other low-cycling countries (to my knowledge).

Before talking about what that might mean for us, here is an overview of the guide.

The guide establishes a rationale and mandate for the requirement of high quality facilities. High quality means that users are removed from the stress (and danger) associated with cycling in traffic. Here’s an excerpt of the forward by Kathryn King, Auckland Transport walking, cycling and road safety manager.

There is a growing body of evidence from around the world that shows the importance of providing high quality cycle facilities in order to maximise the effectiveness of investment in cycling infrastructure. When we talk about quality we are addressing most people’s reluctance to cycle in stressful conditions alongside (or with) traffic. Quite simply, cities with high levels of cycle use have extensive cycle networks that separate users from fast moving and heavy traffic.

By developing high quality, low stress cycling infrastructure we have the potential to attract the widest number of users. That’s why I am asking engineers, project managers, planners, and designers to make high quality facilities the default design objective for new cycleways. On busy streets this will mean protected or separated bike lanes; on neighbourhood streets this may require traffic calming or traffic reduction strategies.

Auckland Transport’s ambition is for Auckland to be a global leader for every day cycling, to become a city of cyclists. This Quality of Service evaluation tool plays a key role in helping us achieve that goal.

The guide sets out a series of principles that have been adapted from the Dutch CROW manual (below).

Using these principles evaluation criteria have been established for both mid-block segments and intersections. For example, criteria for “Directness” is “Geometric directness” and “Intersection wait time”. These are then turned into standards which can be used to score a planned or existing cycleway.

The Guide walks users through scoring a cycleway by breaking up the length of the route into unique segments and intersections. Each segment and intersection is scored from 1-to-4, with scores of 1 and 2 meeting the design objective of high quality.

There are about ten standards each for mid-blocks and intersections. Some of the standards get detailed such as the “Facility blockage (by traffic, parked vehicles or other obstructions)”. In order to get a good score, the choice of facility is key. There is stand-alone section describing the facilities that are required under different traffic conditions (speed, volume). The guidance here is clear and unambiguous (below).

The Quality of Service tool uniquely works at multiple levels. It establishes the requirement for high quality facilities and is also a practical tool for specific projects. It will undoubtedly influence the quality of legacy projects that emerging from the pipeline and it should raise the bar for projects at early design stages. Hopefully we will start seeing fewer projects like the latest shared path on Beaumont Street in Wynyard Quarter and the first Ngapipi Road design.

While we are just starting to bring the city up to a basic level of cycling provision, it’s worth noting the foundation that has been set up with guidance tools like this and the investment strategy and funding recommended in the Cycling Programme Business Case. Here’s where we are:

  • A substantial 10-year budget investment of $600 million, over 10 years,
  • Clear direction for the types of people we are designing for: new users who may not cycle now due to safety concerns,
  • Clear direction on the types of trips we are designing for: short-to-medium distance practical transportation trips to schools, PT hubs. shopping, etc.
  • Focused priority geographic areas for investment, and
  • Clear direction on the acceptable types of facilities and the design objective of low stress cycling.

Is there any other city that is progressing cycling as steadfastly as Auckland?

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39 comments

  1. Good to see this getting greater acceptance. One thing that seems to hold us back and reduce the effectiveness and safety of the bike lanes we are building at present is excessive deference to those who oppose them, including shopkeepers who think the sky will fall in because people can’t park outside; and general public who scream “waste of ratepayers’ money”.

    (Aside: why are people so vehement about a few million dollars on footpaths/bike lanes/street improvements yet curiously silent about limitless billions being spent on utterly motorways? Is it because they can comprehend a million, but a billion is just too big a number to get one’s head around?).

    Consultation is good and necessary, but giving weight to the views of the ignorant obstructive and obtuse is seriously damaging to the city. Someone on Twitter this week pointed out projects to improve public health by building drains and sewers don’t get scaled down in this way, and neither should essential safety improvements like bike lanes.

    1. “Excessive deference” and “scream” are emotive words.
      I have never owned a shop nor know anyone who does but if I had invested my savings and my life into running a small shop I would be livid if a nameless bureaucrat changes my opportunity to make a living by removing convenient short term parking near my shop. This would be especially true if I was dealing with bulky items such as lawnmowers or furniture.
      Losing your job and your wealth are more important than the reasonable desire to cycle – when AT make such changes they really do have to be open, transparent and willing to listen. The parking place on the road and the footpath in front is not the property of the shop owner but it is only natural justice to treat them as an attribute of the shop and changes to them should be compensated..

      1. Sounds good to me. Then the council should be compensated for providing the free parking for businesses. Say 50k a year per each car park close to a shop?

          1. If the misappropriation of public assets is to be retained on the basis of “status quo”, then we’ll never make progress towards a more sustainable and equitable city.

      2. “Losing your job and your wealth are more important than the reasonable desire to cycle”

        But is that one shop owner’s job and wealth more worthy of public subsidy than the desire of the entire city to cycle?

        1. If as you say the entire city will be cycling by then a very modest collection from these cyclists (say ~$0.01 per ratepayer) would give the shop keeper compensation.
          I do tend to agree with most writers to this blog that a cycle path has very little effect on most shops and for some it may add value – especially cycle shops for example. However just as we rightly moan when a new motorway is built with very little warning or compensation through a loved park or past your back garden then we ought to be considerate of others affected by our cycling pleasure.

          1. Except that a motorway has adverse effects, if a cycleway has adverse effects then they are smaller by several orders of magnitudes.

        1. Not just anecdotal. Measured. Fort St business takings were well above that of the surrounding areas. O’Connell St businesses were surveyed and the vast majority felt the changes were positive. AT have been asked for an update of the Fort St research, so I’ll post it if/when it comes. I’m also asking for the current swathe of cycleways to have retailer takings measured before and after.

      3. There are many ways an astute business could work around this Bob, maybe their customers could park around the corner in a side street (which they might have to do anyway), maybe they could offer a delivery service. To expect the rest of the city to make comprimises, just because a shop owner can’t/won’t adapt to their environment seems a bit much really doesn’t it? Part of the ebb and flow of a city that’s still finding it’s form.

        1. I like your phrase ‘ebb and flow’. That sounds as if you are willing to listen. There is no debate that the council has the power to just impose whatever it wants, whenever it wants and however it wants. Fortunately because of democracy it usually tries to listen to one and all and make compromises where possible. And that is the way it should stay not with a special interest group imposing their vision without any sympathy for the individuals whose dreams are crushed.

          1. I completely agree, it’s ridiculous that a tiny minority crush everyone else’s dream to cycle without being crushed.

      4. “changes to them should be compensated” – you are kidding, right? Council should compensate shop owners if they want to use council owned land differently? Wouldn’t that incentivise council to never provide car parks (or anything for that matter) in case they can’t take them back?
        Council should be able to do whatever they like with council owner land, if you don’t like it then vote them out.

        1. So the Chinese cities that have pushed peasants off the land they have lived on for as long as anyone can remember in order to build golf courses would be OK in your eyes?
          It would allow the our council to dig up the road and footpath in front of your abode leaving you with no physical exit and build a new sewage farm. I’m sure that is not only extreme example but also illegal – I am sure you do have some rights to the council owned land in front of your home. All I suggest is there are circumstances where a similar set of rights apply to a shop. I’m not discussing big stores but the small shops that form part of the neighbourhood community. In Auckland these are often owned or rented by immigrants who work desperately hard to make a very modest living – they are unlikely to spend time protesting or visiting this website or receiving “excessive deference” from our council.
          As an example use googleearth to look at Verran Corner Superette on Birkdale rd and the adjacent two takeaways and hairdresser. They have been there for a long time with half a dozen 15 minute car parks. Removing those car parks would be immoral (but never suggested as far as I know). However as other reasonable contributors have said a compromise might be found with the council building a car park or moving all the tenants to a new shopping arcade but at the same rent etc.

          1. Meanwhile, back in the real world, shop owners understand that they have no “rights” to any parking spaces (however long they have been there), and such things can – and do – change all the time, subject to due process, without any hint of immorality.

    2. I’m hoping that AT will start an information campaign on retailer and customer needs. New Zealand research has shown that customers – however they arrive – want good walkability and pedestrian amenity, so they can visit several shops in the location. This is more important to customers than parking outside a particular shop.

      If retailers understood this, they wouldn’t be resisting losing the park outside. They would fight against the narrowing of footpaths, the long wait times at traffic signals, the lack of pedestrian crossings, the removal of trees… These are the things that are hurting retailers.

      Providing good cycling infrastructure allows more customers to reach retailers, because of the sheer space efficiency of cycling over cars.

      1. Yes. Also I think we have consider where these facilities are & be sensitive to the types of existing businesses, can’t be too simplistic to compare with Fort St. I think in some cases certain businesses could suffer enough initially if say parking is not already or gets provided around the side streets, back or somewhere. Know vaguely of an example of an IT business but in a low density suburbs as they were worried with a new cycle lane going in was going to loose its parking right outside the shop, so cycling walking unlikely to be a big part of their customers (maybe hardware was a big part of their thing, not sure), but seems they have parking just a short walk away so should be fine.

        Actually looks like they moved & “cycleway” didn’t take away their parks…design compromise happened perhaps.

        1. Yes I quite agree. We don’t have enough data on suburban situations. I’ve been discussing this with a member of my local board, who has been asking for this to be researched. Hopefully our sources of data will just keep increasing.

          I think retailers can be hit hard during the work involved in any transport or placemaking development, too. The level of disruption caused should be a factor in decision-making too, because there is often a lower-disruption option that meets the same objectives. (What we call in permaculture “small and slow solutions”.)

      1. It’s been covered in past posts. Auckland’s weather is indeed comparable or better to cities where cycling has a far higher mode share.

  2. “Is there any other city that is progressing cycling as steadfastly as Auckland?”

    Possibly Christchurch? Glenn Koorey could probably comment more comprehensively than that. Last time I was in Nelson I was impressed with the amount of cycle infrastructure they had there.

    Wellington is the big disappointment on the cycling front. All the controversy over the Island Bay Cycleway seems to have bogged things down their completely.

    1. Greater Welington seems to be slowly progressing a handful of high profile, long distance routes for traditional cyclists (Hutt Road, Petone-Ngauranga, Evans Bay Parade, Hutt City beltway, Eastern Bays shared path, etc which are all being consulted on) but only limited urban cycleways for casual or prospective cyclists.

      For example, there’s only limited plans I’m aware of to connect the CBD to its immediately surrounding suburbs besides the existing waterfront shared space. The Hutt river trail is also great, but it has only very limited connections (if any) to the areas immediately adjacent. You get off the wide separated off-road path straight into 70km/h traffic at some points.

      In fact, the waterfront shared space in the CBD seems to almost be a stumbling block, as the routes proposed for the city fringe all funnel people down to the waterfront, and avoid completely the retail and employment centres of Cuba street, Willis Street and Lambdon Quay.

      1. Frustratingly slow progress thanks to a timid council and vocal residents associations. Less than 5km of protected lanes would be immense (end of hutt rd facility thru the cbd to the war memorial end of town & the petone gap) but they seem to be more focused on making the (limited) pre existing facilities better than on creating new ones.

        Also Id like to see some cheap improvements in some cases immediately rather than wait an eternity for gold plated facilities.

    2. Certainly in Central-West Auckland, there’s the feeling out there that this is going to be an amazing summer for cycling. I’m noticing it in the safe places. My husband cycles an hour each day (or more), and says the sheer number of cyclists out there – even on hideously dangerous roads that I’d never go on – is like nothing he’s ever seen before in Auckland.

    3. Things are far from “bogged down completely” in Wellington city – a dozen projects are listed at http://transportprojects.org.nz/current/, of which one is under construction, two have gone through consultation, and five are currently open for consultation, with open days this week.

      In addition, both Hutt and Upper Hutt councils have cycleway/shared path programmes, there are shared paths along the full length of the Kapiti expressway, and NZTA has recently consulted on a Petone-Melling cycling facility connecting with the Hutt River Trail.

    4. I don’t think anywhere is talking as much as Auckland, I’m not sure I’m seeing much progress…
      A lot of provincial towns (e.g. Hastings) have green painted cycle lanes almost everywhere.

    5. Huh, funny, I was about to respond to that question in a similar vein. Christchurch has so far rolled out not quite half of its Major Cycleways programme; at least 25km of new cycleways built in the past 3 years (incl. countless signalised crossings), and another 20km currently in final design or about to be constructed. That’s of course on top of the 200-odd km of cycle lanes and pathways that already existed here…

      A bit of a plug: if you want to see what all the fuss is about, then maybe you should come down here next month when Chch hosts the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress – http://apcc2017.com/apcc17

  3. It would be interesting to know the level of support there is for all the changes that this blog and most of the people writing in want.
    More PT, intensification near the bus and train stops, less huge highways, more environmental care, car free streets, better and easier walking and cycling paths, and sensible decisions that sometimes the managers get wrong eg the placement Parnell Station.
    Sometimes this blog has 200 or 300 people writing in. How wonderful it is to so easily have my say. We are not trendy lefties and have the best interests of the world in mind .
    But what about the many other people who are not informed about many issues and if for example the NZTA decide to build a road only bridge to the NS (Maggie Barrie supports) would they go along with it.
    They election will be an answer for me to some of these questions.

    1. +1 – maybe we tend to be preaching to the converted but as you say there are some impressive fact informed contributions. Doubt I’d be reading and contributing (however badly) if I didn’t think we are making a difference.

  4. I welcome this “Quality of Service” tool. This will make it much easier at community meetings to discuss particular roads. Instead of dealing with everyone’s perceptions of need, figure 2 (Street Conditions) will allow us to classify the road and what is required, even if it just provides a starting point. In fact, it dovetails nicely with other tools I’ve been developing using GIS. Exciting stuff.

    It also makes design for cycling infrastructure more “measurable” and this is key to having it valued and given higher priority.

    Thanks, AT.

  5. This is focused on on-road cycleways. It is a lot of words, and an excel sheet for ranking the principles of safety, directness, comfort, coherence and attractiveness. It is fairly high level.
    When I think of safety, I also think of:
    -run off area i.e. not placing light posts 0.5m from edge of cycleway and on the outside of bends (like have been fitted recently on NW cycleway near St Lukes, and on the new Oakley Creek cycleway), not bordering the cycleway with a fence (NW cycleway upgrade works), retaining wall (NW cycleway upgrade works), or rocks (like the NW causeway)
    -depressions full of water many hours after rain causing cyclists to swerve, creating potential conflict (how hard is it to pour concrete or lay bitumen with a fall, e.g. NW cycleway new Motions Creek Bridge and depression opposite School Rd)
    -lack of repairs, also creating potential conflict. There are lots of rough bits. The bridge handrail over Oakley Creek at Pt Chev was damaged during winter 3 years ago when trees fell on it. It is fitted with orange emergency barricades reducing width to barely 2 way. This is the bottom of a hill from both directions resulting in high speed conflicts. Bitumen paving overlaying broken concrete here and on the cycleway opposite Alverston St have such a rough transition I’m not using them anymore.
    -bends and visibility ahead, hidden attackers and obstacles
    -off leash dogs, or wandering dogs on long leads
    -people and bikes appearing suddenly from side paths
    Directness, I don’t think of the new Oakley creek cycleway with its many sharp bends and length being about twice what the crow flys.

    1. All those practical examples are excellent. Would love to see pictures in a post, Anthony, if you’ve the time. I have a score of cycling videos showing similar problems, and I mean one day to analyse and post them (when I suddenly find time from somewhere…)

  6. Very excited about the prospect of more cycling. Interesting to see the framework for a great cycle network and while I agree with it mostly, I wondered whether another priority should be flatness! I will go further to avoid going up and down hills. Secondly, attractiveness is a bit in the eye of the beholder. I don’t object to the odd bit of park but on the whole I want to cycle through vibrant streets where other people are, and where I may stop to look in to that business, cafe etc…

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