Protected Cycleways Proposed For Dunedin

The New Zealand Transportation Agency (NZTA) and Dunedin City Council (DCC) have released a summary report that provides recommendations for improving long term cycle safety on the state highway that runs through Dunedin.  The report recommends constructing a protective barrier between cyclists and fast-moving heavy vehicles on the state highway.  SPOKES believes this proposal will significantly enhance safety and will contribute to improving the liveability, accessibility, and attractiveness of Dunedin for everyone.

So how did this proposal for the one-ways come about?

It was a sunny Monday morning in November 2011 when Peter Wells was struck and killed by a logging truck while cycling. One year later, on another sunny November Monday morning, Dr Chris He, a popular lecturer and promising young researcher in the University of Otago’s dental school, was struck and killed by a stock truck after being “doored” while cycling to work.

Both deaths happened on State Highway 1 in central Dunedin. Both cyclists were riding in the cycle lane, and neither cyclist was at fault. These two similar fatalities demonstrate all too clearly the inherent dangers of narrow cycle lanes sandwiched between parked cars and fast-moving vehicles.  A person on a bicycle is as unprotected as a pedestrian, so when it comes to collisions, a person on a bicycle is no different than a pedestrian.  Now imagine a footpath sandwiched between parked and moving vehicles, and only wide enough to walk single-file.  In this kind of environment it is no surprise that few people choose to cycle, even if they would like to.

Following Dr He’s death, the Dunedin City Council unanimously voted to request that the New Zealand Transportation Agency (NZTA) conduct a safety review of the state highway system and provide short-term enhancements and a long-term plan “with special consideration for separated bicycle facilities” (SBFs).

Finally, the results of that review are to be presented to Council on Monday, 23 September 2013.  Several short-term improvements were identified, and most have already been implemented on the one-ways – most notably a metre or more of widening on the existing cycle lanes.  However, two long-term options are recommended for further study: The first design option features a uni-directional SBF on the right hand side of each of the SH1 one-way streets, with cyclists riding in the direction of traffic. The second ranked option is for a bi-directional SBF along Cumberland Street only.

Example of uni-directional SBF in Copenhagen, Denmark

Example of Bi-directional SBF in Washington DC

An SBF on the state highway is a great step forward for everyone:

  • Cyclists can ride without the constant anxiety that they could be the next one knocked into the path of a car or truck.

  • Drivers – especially professional drivers of large, difficult to manoeuvre trucks – are much less likely to be involved in a possibly career-ending incident that injures or kills a cyclist.

  • Traffic flow can actually improve through a reduction in car-cyclist interaction and by enabling more people to cycle instead of drive, thereby reducing congestion and competition for parking.

  • Even if you won’t ever ride a bicycle, chances are that you have family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors who do or would like to, and who you want to protect.

The best part of the proposed one-way SBFs is that as a state highway, the one-way system is NZTA jurisdiction, so NZTA will be paying the bills.  After the losses at Hillside, Delta, and Invermay, this project represents at least one significant investment of government money in the city.

What about parking?  This Otago Daily Times headline focuses on the loss of parking the plan entails.  Parking is a challenge in any city where a lot of people want to go to the same destination, because on-street parking will always be limited.  Demanding challenges require creative solutions, and the parking challenge is not without solutions.

  • Enabling more people to cycle will offset the demand for parking.

  • Significant amounts of existing parking is under-utilized – reserved and covered spaces on the University campus, for example.

  • The DCC owns several off-street parking lots, e.g. across from the Leviathan Hotel.  Constructing parking buildings at these locations could more than compensate for any lost parking and provide more reliable parking options for commuters.

The proposed project is a crucial step that will significantly enhance safety on the state highway in Dunedin and contribute to making Dunedin one of the world’s great small cities, but it needs your urgent support in order to happen.  We’ll be letting you know when consultation begins so you can have your say, but here are some things you can do over the next few days and weeks:

  • Attend Monday’s Council meeting (with a bike helmet) to show your support for cycling through your physical presence.  The meeting will begin at 1pm on Monday 23 September 2013 in the Council chambers.  We will let you know a more approximate time for the cycling part of  the agenda when we know.

  • On Monday, 30 September, 12:00-12:30, SPOKES Dunedin, in conjunction with the Southern DHB, will be unveiling a plaque in memory of Chris He.  This public event will take place outside the Cumberland Street hospital entrance where Chris was killed.  Please attend and show your respects for Chris and your support for better safety.

  • Write letters to the editor of the ODT in support of the proposal, and add your comments to the online discussions ongoing here (parking) and here (transport strategy).

  • Talk to your friends and family about why this is important and raise the issue at DCC candidate forums.

  • Encourage your friends to stay in touch by joining our Facebook group today and post a comment on the ODT’s facebook page

  • Tell the mayor and sitting councillors that you appreciate their unanimous request to NZTA last year and are counting on their continued support.

  • Tell the council candidates that you want them to support cycling.

Now is the time to be heard.  SPOKES Dunedin is here to help unify all of our voices.  Together we will make this happen.  Stay tuned for the next step in the process.

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