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?