Graeme Tuckett: Rip up expensive cycleway follies

The Island Bay cycleway is a dangerous mess, says daily bike rider Graeme Tuckett.

The Island Bay cycleway is a dangerous mess, says daily bike rider Graeme Tuckett.

OPINION: Most days in Wellington I ride a bicycle.

By this, I don't mean I zip myself into sloganed Spandex and ride some $5000 carbon fibre creation around on sunny weekends. Nor am I one of those infuriatingly sanctimonious numpties who rides at strolling pace down the middle of the road at rush hour, and who I suspect are behind a lot of the pro-cycling letters to the Dominion Post.

I'm just someone who finds that an old frame fitted with toughened rims and mountainbike brake pads – total cost about $200 – is still the best way to commute around Te Aro and the inner suburbs of Wellington.

So, you might guess I'd have an opinion on our Island Bay and Victoria St cycleways, since I am the very definition of the person they were designed for. And here it is: Rip them up.

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Island Bay, which we were assured was designed with "international best practice" in mind, is a dangerous mess. The road was already safer for cyclists than most. Wide shopping streets with 30kmh limits enforced by gentle speed humps are about as benign an environment as any Wellington cyclist (or pedestrian or car driver) ever hopes for.

A cyclist's greatest defences are visibility and manoeuvrability. If car drivers can see us, they generally don't run us down. And if a car door opens in our path or a pedestrian steps out in front of us, we need to be able to swerve to avoid them. The Island Bay path robs us of both defences, by forcing us to ride right next to parked cars and by concealing us from following traffic until the moment we are spat back out onto the road.

It's no surprise that a pedestrian is blaming the cycleway's "dangerous" design for her collision with a cyclist. It's only a matter of time before this botched design is directly responsible for a cyclist's or a pedestrian's death.

As a daily commuter bike rider, please, rip it up and bury the plans where they can never be found.

Even worse, in its way, is the Victoria St cycle lane. The design completely ignored the existing road layout in favour of imposing a "vision" on a place that already had an existing safe cycle route for anyone with eyes to see it.

For the price of a few signs, tins of paint and a couple of concrete ramps I could build you a safe cycleway that links Victoria St to Willis and Aro St without costing a single car park, inconveniencing any businesses or ever putting a cyclist or pedestrian in danger. Contact me and I'll show you how.

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Or just stand near the intersection of Victoria and Abel Smith streets and watch the route the smart cyclists actually use. Trust me, it's not the expensive folly we are "supposed" to ride on.

Wellington is bristling with great potential cycling infra-structure. It's just not being identified by our urban designers.

Cyclists and drivers clash daily on Kent and Cambridge terraces, but there's two little-used paths running either side of the median strip that divides those roads that would convert simply and cheaply into a safe cycleway running from Basin Reserve to Chaffers St without any fuss, inconvenience or loss of parking.

Adelaide Rd – which is probably the busiest cycle route in Wellington – is more of a challenge, but there's a safe option running parallel to Adelaide on Hanson St that canny cyclists already use every day. With minimal work that route could get us from near Basin Reserve all the way to Berhampore and then to Island Bay – where all this mess began – without ever having to worry about being run down by an impatient driver or holding up a bus.

Drop me a line and I'll be happy to put my thousands of hours of cycling around Wellington at your disposal. Because surely, if you're planning on building cycleways in Wellington, it's not "international best practice'' you need. It's hard-earned local knowledge. Ask the cyclists.

Graeme Tuckett is a Stuff film reviewer.

 - The Dominion Post


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