Proposal puts the pedal to the metal

16:00, Feb 19 2010
Jan Gehl
URBANIST: Danish urban designer Jan Gehl in Christchurch in 2008. The Christchurch City Council is now considering his suggestions for improving the city.

Cyclists will be the big winners if a proposed shakeup of Christchurch's inner city gets the green light.

More people will live in the inner city, people and bikes will dominate and public spaces will be more used if Danish urban designer Jan Gehl gets his way.

His $314,000 Christchurch City Council-commissioned report, released yesterday, contains 110 recommendations. Councillors will next week decide which should be investigated.

Central city businesses were shown the plan at a breakfast and have welcomed it.

Getting people on bikes by "spoiling" them was the best way of encouraging more cyclists into the city, Gehl said.

Giving cyclists a four to six-second "head start" at intersections, continuous cycling lanes, replacing some car-parking spaces with cycle racks and giving cyclists more space on roads are suggested.


Spokes Canterbury secretary Nigel Rushton welcomed any moves to improve access and safety for cyclists.

Continuous cycle lanes offered safety while a pedestrian-dominated environment in the inner city would encourage more to bike there, he said.

The report identifies pedestrians as the most important group.

They would get more walking routes, car-free streets and priority in certain streets. Giving them more time to cross streets was important, Gehl said.

"The pedestrian signals should be better timed so that pedestrians have a reasonable time to cross, a minimum time to wait."

Gehl wants a simplified public transport network with a "bus ring" around the heart of the city.

He mooted reducing the numbers of buses on Colombo St and Cathedral Square and letting bus routes only "touch the periphery" of the city centre.

The tramway system should be extended and light rail eventually introduced.

Gehl called for a "traffic calmed" city centre with speed limits of 30kmh. Key one-way streets should be changed to two-way with pedestrian refuges to stop streets being barriers.

He recommended reduced central-city parking space.

Remaining parks should be short-term only with parking buildings at key entry points to the city.

Other recommendations include more trees, "pocket parks" of small green spaces, improving access along the Avon River and encouraging more activities at night.

Mayor Bob Parker said the report was "a vital health check" to ensure the city got the best out of its natural and built assets.

Central City Business Association chairman Paul Lonsdale said anything encouraging younger and older people into the centre city was welcome.

The council was already investing there and private property owners would do the same if Gehl's initiatives were introduced.

The Press