Kicking Off 2014 – A High-speed Look Back At 2013

It’s 2014 and SPOKES is ready for the year ahead!  The first meeting of the year is Monday 10th February at 5.30pm, Room CEN3 of the University’s central library (corner of Cumberland and Albany, upstairs at the East end of the building).  There’s a lot to talk about including: top priorities for the year ahead, SPOKES Dunedin’s growing relationship with the New Zealand Transport Agency and what that may lead to, what SPOKES might push for through the Council’s Annual Plan process, the Vogel Street Vendetta, gunning for a cycle facility on Andersons Bay Road, the next parts of the roll-out of the Strategic Cycle Network in South Dunedin, the informal race plan, and a million other things that SPOKES could turn into cycling gold!  Come, meet your comrades-in-arms, chit chat about bikes and turn your vision into reality!

Before turning our full attention on 2014, we need to do something we wanted to do before Christmas but life got in the way!  A look at what SPOKES Dunedin, and it couldn’t have happened without you, achieved in 2013.  So, here’s a high-speed look back from SPOKES Chair Robert Thompson…

2013 was a busy, productive, and successful year for SPOKES Dunedin!  After the terrible death of Chris He in late November 2012, SPOKES led the charge to demand better, safer cycling infrastructure on the one-way system.  With several newspaper and television appearances helping to raise awareness, SPOKES also led a public campaign to demand change.  Hundreds of people responded to the call by sending emails to Dunedin city councillors, NZTA regional director Jim Harland, and NZTA CEO Geoff Dangerfield.  In an extraordinary council session, Dunedin’s councillors unanimously voted to request NZTA explore short and long-term options for improving cycling safety on the one-ways, with special consideration for separated cycle lanes.  A working group was formed comprising traffic planners and engineers from NZTA and DCC, an outside consultant from Via Strada, and two representatives from SPOKES (myself and Hank Weiss).  The group met regularly through the year to explore options for cycling in the city.  Several short-term safety improvements were identified and implemented,  and a long-term proposal with options for separated lanes on SH1 was eventually settled on, and NZTA/DCC presented the proposal to Council on the 23rd September, 2013.

SPOKES then engaged in the most ambitious campaign it has ever undertaken in order to help the public have their say and speak out for the separated lanes proposal during the public consultation stage.  A consistent presence in the newspaper and on television kept cycling a hot topic for two solid months, including through the October election.  In the end, NZTA and DCC received more than 2000 submissions – orders of magnitude more than NZTA is used to seeing on any project.  SPOKES will continue working on the next stages of the one-ways plan with NZTA and DCC in 2014.

With the kind permission of the Southern District Health Board, we put a commemorative plaque on the exterior wall of the Dunedin Hospital at the location where Chris He was killed and also set up a memorial bike.  A dedication ceremony was held on September 30 and was attended by over 200 people.  Several speakers, including Deputy Mayor Chris Staynes and National MP Michael Woodhouse, talked about Chris and also about the need for separated cycle lanes.  The memorial bike will be removed by the end of the year, but the plaque will remain indefinitely.

Although the one-ways have been a major focus for the year, the South Dunedin part of the Strategic Cycle Network and the Portobello Road widening projects are also continuing apace, and SPOKES has been involved in both of these.  Most importantly, we were successful in having DCC reconsider the layout on Portobello Road.  The planned layout (as already completed in some sections) would have a not-very-wide shared path along the water, along with narrow cycle lanes painted in the traffic lanes.  The new layout will see a footpath and separate dedicated cycle path next to the water, both physically separated from vehicular traffic by a barrier.  Package 1 of the South Dunedin cycle network is currently under construction, with widening of the Portsmouth Drive shared path at the top of the list.

Over the past year we’ve built our reach and presence in Dunedin significantly.  Our mailing list has grown five-fold, and our Facebook following is increasing every day.  We hope, with your help, to continue this growth over the next year.

In the coming year we will further grow our membership, and in particular will be looking out for those who are willing to contribute their skills to SPOKES and its expanding impact.  We will continue to work with NZTA and DCC both on individual projects but also for a cultural shift where cycling is automatically considered right from the initial design phase of any project.

To 2014.  Forget the Year of the Horse.  In Dunedin, this is the Year of the Bike!

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