Mike Yardley: Christchurch street changes making city inaccessible, not accessible

Mike Yardley is sceptical that major changes to Christchurch's Durham St will create "improved traffic flow".
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Mike Yardley is sceptical that major changes to Christchurch's Durham St will create "improved traffic flow".

OPINION: In Christchurch, Otakaro's "An Accessible City" project is so painfully slow-going that a passing glacier could out-pace it.

Is a vast conspiracy at play to slowly and steadily drive motorists stir-crazy, given the inaccessibility to the Accessible City, by car? "An Accessible City" should become life patron of the Great Misnomer Society.

And don't you love how public officials continue reinforcing, rather snarkily, that this project sprung from the loins of Share an Idea? In other words – you asked for it. Suck it up.

Changes under way on St Asaph St are "daft and dangerous", Mike Yardley says.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Changes under way on St Asaph St are "daft and dangerous", Mike Yardley says.

On Monday, work commenced on the western end of Tuam and St Asaph streets, which will see St Asaph reduced to one lane until August.

READ MORE:
* St Asaph St to be one lane for five months
* Durham St reduced to one lane for five-and-a-half months
* Next phase of transport plan work under way in Manchester St
* Otakaro boss says Christchurch rebuild plans will start to bear fruit in 2017
* Central Christchurch's trouble spots: What is all the fuss about?

Yes, the daffodils will be blooming by the time this crucial west-bound connector returns to two lanes.

It will also mark the completion of the separated cycleways fully swathing St Asaph and Tuam streets.

But the complaints are running thick about the cluttered new road lay-out that's already taken shape on these streets.

Has this grand multi-use re-engineering scheme ended up cramming far too many components onto the existing footprint?

I have no problem with separated cycleways, their roll-out is welcome, but does it have to be at the expense of ludicrously narrowing the traffic lanes for vehicular users? Why not narrow the footpaths instead?

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The pencil-thin lanes are utterly unforgiving with no breathing space or margin for error. Buses, trucks and wide-boy SUVs can barely fit within them. If they have to turn a corner, they duly encroach the neighbouring lane in order to carry out the manoeuvre. Daft and dangerous.

Of the few remaining on-street car parks, their configuration is so tight that motorists have no choice but to bring traffic to a stand-still while they painstakingly negotiate themselves into the slot.

Another trap for the uninitiated is turning off the road into a driveway. The entrance into the Christchurch Police Station is a classic case in point.

Because the cycleway doesn't adjoin the road, but is to the left of parked cars and those hulking island-like concrete kerbs, many motorists are being caught by surprise to see a cyclist suddenly streak past them.

The mind boggles as to how many close shaves or smashes there have been. But the road code onus is firmly on the motorist to give way to cycleway and foot traffic, as they turn into a drive.

No wonder many motorists are lamenting the fact the likes of St Asaph and Tuam streets, critical west and eastbound connections, have been over-engineered to the point of resembling a giant pinball machine or Krypton Factor course.

Meanwhile, the makeovers to Manchester St and Durham St are the two other major Otakaro and city council Accessible City projects.

Both are scheduled for completion by the end of the year, although Durham St, which has been substantially reduced to one lane since October, is scheduled to be back to two lanes by May.

Otakaro's website happily trills that Durham St, "the main southbound one-way road corridor on the western side of the central city, is being enhanced with landscaping and improved traffic flow". 

Improved traffic flow? They've got to be kidding. 

If you have schlepped through this slow-road slalom course lately, currently restricted to a single lane, you will have noticed how pencil-thin the new two lane configuration will be here too, with much of the road's girth being sacrificed on the creation of a shared riverside footpath, rain gardens, tree pits and more of those heaving traffic-calming kerb islands, technically called "build-outs". 

The trees will apparently be transplanted to their roadside pits in winter, in case you're wondering.

If I'm driving across the city centre, I've always preferred to use Madras and Barbadoes streets as a through-route, so the fact that Durham St's days as a glorified cross-city shooting gallery are over, doesn't actually perturb me. Nor does the 30kmh speed limit.

But it's utterly disingenuous for Otakaro to claim that Durham St's traffic flow is being enhanced. It is not.

Durham St symbolises the underlying truth about this project, authored by Danish-doting planners who'd consider a car-free core as the stuff of wet dreams.

Their notion of an Accessible City is one that panders to non-vehicular users and to hell with the consequences for motorists.

* Comments on this article have closed.

 - Stuff

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