Take Action – The Harbour Cycleway

The Dunedin City Council is preparing to implement the next phase of Portobello Road widening, and is currently consulting with the public on the design.  SPOKES believes that the planned layout is not the optimal design and that we can do better.  Although SPOKES has many members, our organisation submission only counts as one.  Our goal is to see at least 200 individual submissions on this issue!

You can help create change for cycling in Dunedin by making your own submission to the DCC.  Just follow these easy steps before Thursday 28th March 2013:

1.  Go to the DCC’s online submission form here.  You will be asked to fill in your name and address and to input or upload your submission.  At the bottom of this page, you will find SPOKES’ submission which you can copy and paste as-is or modify to your liking.  For your convenience you can also use the Word document version of SPOKES’ submission.

2.  Spread the word by sharing this link https://spokesdunedin.wordpress.com/harbourcycleway/ with your networks, by email, social media (go to the bottom of this page), or good old fashioned word of mouth.

3.  Get on the SPOKES Dunedin email list, if you’re not already, by sending an email to spokesdunedin@gmail.com with ‘subscribe me’ in the subject line.  You’ll get occasional emails from us telling you how you can help make Dunedin a better place to ride a bicycle or asking for your input on specific projects that we’re working on together with the City Council.

4.  Like the SPOKES Dunedin Facebook page and keep updated on what’s happening in your city for cycling.

Thanks for taking action to make safer cycling a reality in Dunedin.  If you’re ready to get more involved, come to our next meeting.

Happy cycling,

Robert Thompson, SPOKES Dunedin


SPOKES’ submission


The Portobello Road widening plan calls for cycle lanes and a shared path identical to what has already been put in place on two segments of road: from Vauxhall Yacht club to around Burns Point, and from Glenfalloch to Company Bay.  Now that those two segments have been complete for some time it is worthwhile to examine whether the design in place is adequate for current and future usage.  Here we discuss several factors indicating that it is not optimal.

The design is now several years old and was a great first step for cycling infrastructure in Dunedin.  However, the City’s thinking on cycle lanes has matured substantially in the intervening time, and the design is no longer compatible with the stated goals of the City Council and the revised Strategic Cycle Network to offer safer cycling through protected cycle infrastructure.   The original design was a good place to start, but Dunedin is ready for something better.

There has been a tendency by some in Dunedin to label those willing to ride a bicycle on the road as ‘brave.’  The layout is based on the idea that less confident cyclists can choose the shared path while the brave cyclists can use the on-road lane. But the idea that these so-called brave cyclists are less deserving of protection or would not choose such protection if it were simultaneously available and did not hinder their freedom to ride to their ability level is incorrect.

Informal observation indicates that when traveling outbound at Vauxhall, a large percentage of cyclists choose the shared path over the on-road cycle lane until forced onto the road after Burns Point (at which point many casual cyclists turn around because they won’t ride on the road).  Those choosing the shared path are not limited to casual off-street-only riders but include commuters and competitive cyclists.  The conclusion, which is consistent with a significant body of research evidence from around the world, is that the vast majority of cyclists would choose a well-designed off-road or otherwise protected cycle track over an on-road lane.

The existing shared path is not functionally wide enough to fully accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists.  A drop into the harbour on one side and raised barrier plus fast-moving traffic on the other encourages users to cluster in the centre of the path.  This has led to several confrontations between pedestrians and cyclists, while at the same time many cyclists who would prefer to use a protected path use the road to avoid pedestrian conflict.

Neither are the on-road cycle lanes satisfactory.  They are narrow – far below global best-practice standards, of variable width – at some places narrowing to less than 0.5 meters, are generally littered with debris likely to cause punctures, and frequently suffer from broken or uneven surfacing.  As a result most competitive road cyclists avoid using the on-road lanes or ride as close to the traffic side of the lane as possible.  The lanes are completely unsafe for use by fast-moving large-group rides because a puncture in such a situation could lead to serious injury to multiple riders; the effect of which is that group rides tend to use the traffic lane, thereby upsetting drivers who do not understand why the cyclists are not in the cycle lane.

Even casual observation finds cars, trucks, and especially City busses (one of which recently injured a cyclist on January 29th, 2013) weaving dangerously across the cycle lane on nearly every curve.  Thus from a safety standpoint the on-road lanes are not optimal and are incongruent with the stated goals of the City Council and the revised Strategic Cycle Network to offer safer cycling through protected cycle infrastructure.  Such on-road lanes are being phased out in other parts of the City, including on the State Highway system.

Lastly, a well-designed harbour cycleway stands to be an economic boon for Dunedin.  The Otago Rail Trail survey of 2011 shows that Central Otago derives more than $12 million per year from the Rail Trail.  In May 2012, Lonely Planet rated the Otago Peninsula as one of the top ten cycling routes in the world.  A well-designed and well-implemented harbour cycleway could have enormous economic benefits and will pay for itself.  Key to the success of the Rail Trail is that it is not on a road, which should be a lesson for the harbour cycleway.

The beautiful Dunedin harbourside provides the perfect canvas for a high-level, enhanced design such as a bi-directional dedicated cycle path in between, and separate from, a dedicated footpath and the traffic lanes.  A successful design that is usable for all cyclists should consider several factors and satisfy several requirements including:

  • Cyclists travel at a wide range of speeds which are heavily influenced by frequent strong winds.
  • Any cycle lanes or paths should allow overtaking without leaving the path.
  • Traffic flow on a bi-directional or shared path should be clearly demarcated with a centre-line as on the road, with all users keeping left and passing on the right.
  • The functional width of a path along the harbour edge may be different from the physical width and should be designed for functional width.
  • Any shared path or bi-directional cycle path should meet or exceed best-practice standards.

A design change at this stage would necessitate a revision of the layout already in place through  MacAndrew Bay and Vauxhall/Burns Point.  However, these locations represent a small portion of the total system so it would be more economical to realign these locations now than to realign the entire system at a later date.

We would also recommend that the completion date should be brought forward dramatically.  As mentioned, completion of the harbour cycleway will have strong economic returns.  The longer it takes to complete the more revenue is lost.  Also, the construction phases should focus on linking to the rest of the City as quickly as possible because:

  • There are many people who would like to ride out from the City centre and back.
  • Traffic density increases with proximity to the City centre.
  • Commuters would like to be able to ride into the City centre.

Other problems with the already completed sections include:

  • Cars parking on the shared path between Vauxhall Yacht Club and Sea Scouts.
  • The inbound lane ends abruptly in a poor-visibility location near Vauxhall Yacht Club.
  • The outbound lane around Burns Point is between traffic and a crash barrier.
  • The 25kph sign at Burns Point overhangs into the shared path.
  • Standing water near Glenfalloch after rain.
  • Lack of safe crossing at Shore Street.

In conclusion, the current layout is a schizophrenic mess that does not adequately provide for any of the users it tries to provide for and does not adhere to the standards of protection being sought across the rest of the City.  The shared path is not wide enough to provide for pedestrians and bicycles without conflict, while the on-road lane is a deterrent to less confident riders but is simultaneously not optimal for competitive cyclists, especially in larger groups.  Nor does the layout provide a world-class standard of infrastructure to match the world-class rating of the route, which is necessary to fully realize the potential economic benefits.  Dunedin is now taking great strides toward making itself a world-class city for cycling and a destination for cycle tourism, but the current and proposed harbour cycleway layout is a holdover from the first tentative steps of a few years ago.  The widening should commence immediately – the longer it takes the more revenue is lost,  but the layout should be seriously reconsidered in conjunction with current users and with an eye toward future users.

4 Responses to Take Action – The Harbour Cycleway

  1. Pingback: Take Action On The DCC’s Draft Annual Plan | SPOKES Dunedin

  2. Sr says:

    I would like to see the extension to Port Chalmers completed!

    • So would we! Someday it will be possible to complete the entire loop by taking a boat from one side to the other. Given the world-class status of the Peninsula for cycling and the natural beauty of the Harbour, such a complete circuit could not only be a joy for local residents but an economic driver on par with the Otago Rail Trail. But to clarify the situation: The Ravensbourne – Port Chalmers path is an NZTA initiative and is funded through NZTA while the Peninsula path is DCC jurisdiction. So this submission deals specifically with DCC planning for the Peninsula path. In fact the time-line proposed by DCC doesn’t see the Peninsula path complete until the mid 2020s, so unless the time-line is revised it may very well be that NZTA finishes the Port Chalmers path first.

  3. Pingback: SPOKES’ Calls on Cyclists to Take Action for the Harbour Cycleway | SPOKES Dunedin

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