Posted by: Gregory | August 4, 2015

Switched On Tours

switched on stickerHaving been sidelined by a mix of winter illness and heavy workload*, I crawled out from under my rock a couple weeks ago to go for a bike ride. Not just any ride, but as a guinea pig for Switched On Bikes‘ tours. It was my reward for contributing some money as part of the their PledgeMe campaign. That, and stickers!

That Saturday morning was sunny and cold, which seemed to be the perfect combination for riding around Evans Bay. As it turned out, electric bikes can give enough extra boost that I didn’t really warm myself up with the activity. More on this shortly.

There were three of us on the ride. Ryan, from Switched On Bikes, was leading a pair of us around the harbour and back as a way of play-testing the tours that they’re offering, fine tuning the pacing, touristy informational stops and some of the awkward road crossings along the way.

The ride was incredibly pleasant. We were asked in advance about our confidence riding on the roads. My reply was that I was comfortable on the roads, but the motorists out there can be stupid at times. As it turned out, once we were going, I didn’t have to worry much about the cars around us. Some of this was based on the route, which largely hugged the water’s edge and made use of several cycle lanes and shared pathways, but there’s a factor attributable to riding an electric bike. Regardless of wind direction or incline we were able to maintain a decent pace, staying in the 20-25km/h range for most of it. That kept the speed differential between us and the cars reasonably minimal, helping ease any on-road friction.

I was actually surprised by the effectiveness of the electric motor on the bike I had. I’ve heard great things from people I’ve spoken to, but until riding one, you just don’t know. By the time we’d arrived at Shelly Bay for a coffee break, I’d noticed that it was still a bit chilly. The ride hadn’t warmed me up and I hadn’t really exercised my legs at all. On the return trip, we went under the airport, along the Leonie Gill Pathway and up Crawford Road. When we hit the uphill part, I was expecting to work for it, but it never happened. Even turning onto Alexandra Road and heading up to the Mount Victoria lookout, we kept around 20km/h, bumping the electric motor into a higher gear and I didn’t break a sweat. As I was told by Councillor Sarah Free, electric bikes eat hills for breakfast.

DSC_1639The end result is that electric bikes opens up a new world of cycling for people who don’t want to power through headwinds and hill climbs. This is cycling for anyone who just wants to get around and see more of the city than just the flat bits. It doesn’t solve the issue of on-road safety, but it does improve some of the issues around fast cars and slow bikes. Hats off to Ryan and Sofia for giving all of Wellington a chance to try them out.

* I know, it’s all excuses.

Posted by: Gregory | July 7, 2015

Getting to school safely

Last week, the Cook Strait News ran an article about making sure that kids can safely walk to school.

In the 1980s more than 50 percent of children would walk or cycle to school and just a third would be dropped by car, Cr Free says.

She says that these days those numbers have flipped and she would like to see a return to the days when the majority of kids would walk or cycle.

We’re suffering through a generational change. Parents started worrying about kids getting hurt, or worse, on the way to school and started driving them, which makes the areas around schools more unsafe than they were.


But it’s not all the fault of the parents, as it turns out. This post on StreetsBlog depicts an 18-block walk through Calgary that would shame parents into driving.

Yehuda Moon cartoon

But Turner wasn’t satisfied with the cartoon’s cheeky conclusion that parents are making bad decisions. “Too often, these discussions blame PARENTS,” he tweeted, “not URBAN DESIGN.”

To illustrate his point, he tweeted “a photo primer in how urban design in an inner-city community encourages parents not to even think about letting their [kids] walk.”

By the way, Turner’s daughter is trying out the walk to school because the 18-block journey, which takes six to eight minutes in a car, takes 55 minutes on the school bus. She’s the first on and the last off, commuting two hours a day to get 18 blocks. It takes half an hour to walk it. Last year, her parents drove her every day, but now they’re trying the walk.

On my last trip back to Calgary, I lamented the pedestrian infrastructure where we were staying. It’s not all bad, but much of the design has the same car-centric planning that exists in New Zealand.

Many of our arterial roads act as barriers, especially for those attempting to cross using pedestrian signals. Additionally, residential roads near arterials will often fill up with traffic trying to avoid congestion. This has the effect of making those intersections unsafe for children attempting to cross.

NZTA Research Report 420 is aimed at schools to develop a travel plan and provides some baseline information on the issue in terms of congestion:

Congestion is estimated to cost the Auckland region $755million per annum (ARTA 2009). Higher fuel bills, lost time and productivity, uncertainty and poor air quality have direct economic costs to individuals and businesses, while health impacts and stress are examples of less tangible costs (in monetary terms). To most people, it is obvious that congestion levels in urban areas are tangibly worse during the school term. The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) estimates that a third of morning-peak trips (7-9am) in Auckland are to school (ARTA 2007), and in Christchurch, 34% of morning peak-time travel is education related (Greater Christchurch 2008). In the UK, the 2008 National Travel Survey found that at the peak travel-to-school time of 8.45am on weekdays during term time, 2 in 10 (20%) car trips by residents of urban areas were generated by the ‘school run’ (DfT 2008). In the US, estimates from multiple cities indicate that the motor vehicle traffic generated by travel to and from school adds 20-30% more traffic volume to the roads (PBIC 2007).

And safety:

An unpublished ‘crash analysis system’ (CAS) analysis focusing on injury crashes has been carried out by Transport Engineering Research NZ (TERNZ), as part of a previous analysis of school bus safety. Many of these crashes (albeit an unknown proportion) are likely to be related to education-related trips, as they occurred during school travel times.

The results of the analysis were as follows:


  • Time period: 1987 2008
  • Age of injured person: 0 17 years
  • Times of day: 7 9am, and 2 4pm, excluding public and school holidays.

NZTA RR420 Table 2.1

The bulk of the report goes on to develop strategies for improving process and implementing safer access. It utilises a traffic-signal visual analogy to indicate status and urgency for categories.

NZTA RR420 S4.3.4.1

A few case studies are worked through at the end, showing clear relationships between actions and intended rationale, however lacks actual implementation and comparison of results to expectations. I’m unaware of follow-up work to this, but even the intervening five years would be too short a time frame to see a clear change in accident statistics.

I see it as similar to the tree-planting proverb though. Sure, the best time to have started in on safety improvements was a decade ago, but the second best time is now.

Posted by: Gregory | June 30, 2015

Councillor Young vs Skateboards

Councillor Nicola Young took another shot at kids skateboarding around Wellington yesterday.


She cites damage as her concern, but her previous comments had shown a desire to keep skateboarders in the skate parks, which strikes me as elitist.

The spaces we create present opportunities, but often take on lives of their own as people explore. It’s not up to designers, nor councillors, to enforce use of a space after it’s been put in place.

ST Place Comes First

The argument of damage caused is valid to an extent, but we should expect that kids are going to be looking for parks and furniture that present opportunities. They’re carrying a skateboard and they’ll use it whenever they can. We know that damage will happen and we should design for it.


The attitudes that Councillor Young display are, in my opinion, anachronistic and deserve to be challenged. I’d like to see some of the school-aged skateboarders pick this up as a school project. The skate parks that are in place are too few and lack the capacity for the skateboarding population around Wellington. It would be easy to show with population statistics and a measure of the capacity of the existing skate parks. If anyone takes this up, I’d be more than happy to publish as a guest post.

Posted by: Gregory | June 26, 2015

Cycling wins the lottery

I’m late, I know. Everyone else has already covered the news of cycling projects moving forward by leaps and bounds this week.

The Wellington City Council meeting was packed full of good things, which I’d summarised in anticipation in my previous post. Feel free to watch through the meeting, or at least skip to the good bits.

The first big win was approval of the Long Term Plan, which set aside funding for the cycling programme for the next 10 years. Investment is weighted to the near term, starting at $5.6m for 2015/16 and jumping to $12m and $17m in the next two years before settling down to come to a total of $57.5m over 10 years.

It’s a significant investment, but it’s being put in place to cover a significant job. The next big item was debating the cycling framework. To be honest, two days later, I can barely remember the debate, but I remember being quite shocked by the vote.


The second task for the agenda item was to appoint councillors that would sit on the working party to oversee the development and implementation of the framework packages. The original membership was to be six, but was quickly incremented to seven and then eight.


That gives us an aspirational high-level network, a budget and a team, using this provisional timeline for the start.

WCF Delivery PlanNext up for the cycling agenda was the fight over Island Bay. The media hype had grown with the lead up to the council meeting and community tensions were high. From the councillors, very little was said that was unexpected. The same faces said mostly the same things as before.

The vote came in at 8:6 in favour of the traffic resolutions allowing for the cycleway to proceed. Interestingly, Councillor Ritchie was absent despite demanding a vote on the cycleway back in February. Some things are inexplicable.

As you can see in the delivery plan above, the implementation phase of the Island Bay cycleway looks to be starting in the August-September time-frame. Once it’s in place, the hope is that other communities can see how it works instead of fomenting fearful impressions of community destruction.

The two smaller cycleways in Rongotai and Ngauranga passed with ease. There is still work to be done on the western segment of the Coutts Street cycleway, which was deferred during it’s first discussion in Transport and Urban Development. The eastern suburban network highlights Coutts Street as a path under the airport and to the east, so I have little doubt that the wider community has a vested interest in this passing.

With those wins in place, the cycling and wider sustainable transport community was on a high.


The next day, the announcement of the next set of funding from the Urban Cycleways Programme took that high and made it astronomical.


UCP Allocation

The Wellington city focus is on CBD and Eastern Suburbs plus the line along Thorndon Quay to Ngauranga. The wider region is getting project funding as well, which is looking to generate a step-change in cycling mode share across the region within a few years.

RLTP 2015 Cycling mode share

Notably absent is the Ngauranga to Petone section, which is still under discussion as to the path to take.

Construction of the remaining section between Petone and Ngauranga is anticipated to begin in 2019. Announcement of a preferred option for Petone to Ngauranga is expected later in 2015.

UCP Wellington AllocationOver the course of the cycleways debate, Councillor Young has stuck adamantly to her position of CBD first before considering any other project.


Whether right or wrong, it looks like CBD will be one of the first out of the gate. It’s not my choice of first target, on the basis that trips would likely be within walking distance and therefore competing active modes, but the we’ll eventually need a whole network, regardless of order. The more connected the network, the more useful it is.

Over at Eye of the Fish, Leviathan ran a post on the CBD section, which is worth a read. The fish is taking an early stab at how effective the proposed network will be.

There is some parts of this that don’t quite make sense to me, but I’m sure that if I read through the full pile of info, it will become clear. The cycle route along the back edge of the motorway for instance – while parts of it make sense, such as using the unused route for extra motorway (the empty pillars that you drive past beside the motorway), I have to ask – is this an area that a cyclist would want to bike along? Apart from the noise and the fumes, it is halfway up a hill, and I reckon cyclists would be either scooting across it (east-west) or on the flat below it (ie Willis St). Your thoughts?

This is the constant problem with transport and urban design being considered separately. Even if you find a corridor that works, it might not line up with where people want to go. Unfortunately, Wellington lacks the benefit of spare land to shuffle around, so even though funding appears to have been solved, land use will continue to be contentious.

Posted by: Gregory | June 22, 2015

The big meeting: WCC 24 June 2015

Big is an understatement. The agenda for this meeting is huge. There are 4 PDF links to read through, should you be bothered, totalling around 1000 pages. I’m actually quite impressed that any councillor could absorb that much information between publication and the meeting.

There are a few specific transport issues:

  • 2.3 Adoption of the Wellington Cycling Framework
    Presented by Mayor Wade-Brown
  • 2.4 2015/16 Statement of Intent for Wellington Cable Car Ltd
    Presented by Councillor Foster
  • 3.1 Report of the Transport and Urban Development Committee Meeting of 5 February 2015
    Presented by Councillor Foster
  • 3.4 Report of the Transport and Urban Development Committee Meeting of 21 May 2015
    Presented by Councillor Foster

There are others that fit in on the periphery as well, but these are the few that I’m interested in highlighting in advance of the meeting.

Consultation on the cycling framework was largely positive, but nowhere near unanimous. I’d be lying if I said that I read through every submission myself and I’m reasonably sure that most councillors will be relying on summaries as well, and probably plenty of phone calls and personal messages, given the nurtured controversy that we’ve witnessed.

The recommendations to the council are to amend and adopt the draft Wellington Cycling Framework, appoint up to six councillors to a working party, and agree to a terms of reference for the working party. Officers will report back to the Transport and Urban Development Committee in September 2015 with a proposed list of priority packages and routes.

During the decision to send the draft framework out for consultation, Councillor Eagle proposed a successful amendment to request advice on lower thresholds for parking changes, specifically 40m and 80m thresholds instead of 160m. Officers kindly put in some context:

  • A 160 metre, 2 minute walk is the length of lower Cuba St from the Michael Fowler Centre to Manners St.
  • An 80 metre, 1 minute walk is like crossing Civic Square from the Library to Nikau Café.
  • A 40 metre, 30 second walk is the length of eight cars.

Submissions were open for four business weeks and received 135 submissions.

Of the total 135 submissions, 120 were received from individuals, 13 from community organisations and two from public agencies. In total, 15 (11%) clearly stated their opposition to the Framework, 6 (4%) did not state a position (2 appeared to be opposed, the remainder neutral) and the remaining 114 (84%) submission ranged in their support of the framework.

There’s a refrain within the negative feedback that shows a belief that only motorists spend money and businesses that are deprived of immediate parking will rapidly wither, which is quite contrary to the findings of NZTA Research Report 530:

The data from this study shows that sustainable transport users account for 40% of the total spend in the shopping areas. It also shows that pedestrians and cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas.

The NZTA submission makes the direct link between the framework and the Urban Cycleways Programme and has proposed changes to strengthen the description of the strategic importance of cycling. The end result should be a better case being made to the public for creation of the cycling network.

Interestingly, NZTA provides support for the parking principles beyond the draft wording.

WCF NZTA submission

The submission from Greater Wellington Regional Council was clear that negative impact on core bus routes is unacceptable, which had also been indicated by NZTA.

WCF GWRC submission

The resulting wording takes this on and indicates that for non-core bus routes, a threshold of 5% increase of journey times will be referred back to full council.

Without extra time, it’s hard to see all the little changes in wording that may have occurred elsewhere. There have been plenty of changes, but nothing struck me as changing the intent or direction of the framework.

The next transport item is the Statement of Intent for Wellington Cable Car Ltd. There’s plenty of content in there for the keen reader, but the highlights will suffice here:

8. Officers have reviewed the 2015/16 SOI and acknowledge that it responds constructively to the Letter of Expectations and the subsequent comments and recommendations of the Transport and Urban Development Committee. The main areas for Council to note are as follows:

9. The company’s SOI does acknowledge the Committee’s request for more information regarding its future capital expenditure needs. In 2015/16 the company will replace the Cable Car’s electric drive and controller in a project worth $2.9m, of which Council has provided for funding of $2.5m in its Long Term Plan, and the company will fund $0.4m.

10. Also beginning in 2015/16, a tunnel strengthening project worth $0.3m is scheduled to be undertaken over 3 financial years finishing in 2017/18 and will be funded by the company.

11. The company notes that in 2025/26 it intends replacing the passenger cars and bogies in a project that is estimated to cost between $8.0m and $10.0m and expected to take approximately 5 weeks.

12. In terms of decommissioning the overhead network, the company notes that variables including project scope, planning and scheduling plus significant negotiations with external parties have not been concluded. As a result, the expected cost of decommissioning the network is not able to be confirmed at this stage.

Item 3.1 reports on the Island Bay Cycleway, including the working party report and proposed amendment to the traffic resolutions required for the cycleway. The report includes a list of 20 recommendations, a number of which set up a scheme of monitoring performance and safety aspects of design compromises. As expected, parking concerns are a dominant theme as well, with a few adjustments being recommended.

Unfortunately, there was also a recommendation to retain Dee Street as a roundabout.

IBC WP Dee Street

This annoys me greatly, not only for the notably poor safety performance of roundabouts for cyclists. My issue, as I’d mentioned in my original submission on the cycleway, is regarding pedestrian issues, which jumped out at me the first time I had taken a buggy to Island Bay. These are the sight-lines from the dropped kerbs at the Dee Street roundabout:

Dee Street sightlinesFor a pedestrian to step onto the road at the dropped kerbs, they’d need to be clairvoyant to have been able to properly assess their safety. Motorists can’t be trusted to be looking for pedestrians either, especially when multiple obstacles are on the road at a given time. I hope that councillors realise this before approving this change on Wednesday.

The last item I’ll look at is 3.4, which recommends implementing two cycle lanes, one in Rongotai and the other in Ngauranga Gorge. I’ve been meaning to write about the Coutts Street cycle lane for a while, mostly for the claims that on-street parking must be preserved to that house prices are preserved. This claim is worth looking at yet, but not today.

The Coutts Street cycle lane appears as a vastly cut-down version than was proposed in the 21 May 2015 Transport and Urban Development agenda. Most of the length of the cycle lane was deferred to a further meeting because of resident parking issues and the principal of Rongotai College.

I have to admit that I didn’t notice the Ngauranga Gorge Road traffic resolutions before. The problem identification looks like a horror story for vulnerable road users.

TR Ngauranga cycle lanes

The entire set of proposals were carried by T&UD, so now the recommendation awaits council approval to deliver approximately 250m of cycle lane.

I’ve skipped over the Urban Growth Plan, which is Item 3.3. It has massive implications for transport and will come up repeatedly in future posts. I’ll leave you with this summary.

WUGP Transport

Posted by: Gregory | June 19, 2015

Police suggest cyclists get off the road

This precedent has nasty implications for Wellington’s narrow and hilly areas. The legislation clearly allows for cyclists to take the lane if it’s unsafe to move left, but there’s an implication from the police here that if a cyclist needs to stop in order to pull over safely, that’s better than impeding traffic. This is clearly discrimination of transport modes.

Cycling in Christchurch

Following the conviction of Alex Mann for ‘impeding traffic’ for 400m while biking up Dyers Pass Road, there was an interview on Radio New Zealand featuring Alex and senior sergeant Scott Richardson (Radio NZ interview link). Rather than admitting they were wrong to fine Alex when many tractors, caravans, boats and trucks impede traffic thousands of times a day for far longer distances and times than Alex did, or suggest cars should obey overtaking rules, he proceeded to suggest cyclists should pull over and get off the road whenever a car approaches.

cyclist get off your bike

I personally find this quite a disturbing attitude. Our own Police force think that cyclists do not have a legitimate place on the road. I suggest some changing of these attitudes would be a helpful start to easing the needless conflicts that occur. Another thing I would like to see is a reduction in the speed limit…

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Posted by: Gregory | June 16, 2015

Painting for pedestrians

Lower Cuba Street is a pet peeve of mine. Ever since the conversion between bus route and supposed shared space, all I can see is failure. I remember looking at the sketches for the 2009 proposal (PDF). I remember being excited by the prospect.

Lower Cuba Artist1Lower Cuba Artist2

Somewhere along the way, councillors decided that parking was more important than creating a safe pedestrian area and I’ve been complaining about it ever since.

The most recent change has been a shiny, new paint job.

Trudy Whitlow, Wellington City Council’s Urban Design and Heritage Manager, says the street graphic is being used as a traffic calming measure in this shared space.

“This type of design intervention helps to slow cars and create a bright, fresh feature for the area.

The key point here is that the splash of colour at the endpoints of the street are meant to act as traffic calming. There’s a psychological change that’s meant to happen to drivers, to let them know that they’re sharing the space with people, most of which are vulnerable to things like being run over.

Take a look from the viewpoint of the entrance.


Now take another look from about 5 metres along.


There’s no doubt in my mind that any normal motorist would assume that Lower Cuba Street is just another road. Even with the sign in the top right of the picture saying please, it’s unlikely that motorists would give any courtesy to pedestrians in their way.


Loading zones and special parks are needed there, but the configuration of parks give a visual cue of where motorists go and where pedestrians belong. No amount of colour at the ends change those cues in the places that matter. As it turns out, even the seating blocks at the midway point don’t discourage motorist from taking pedestrian space.


As we’ve recently discovered, unpainted car parks aren’t legally enforceable, so council has been unable to enforce the car parks on a few streets, including Lower Cuba Street, for several weeks. Maybe we should use this as impetus to abandon them and make it a people space.

Posted by: Gregory | June 15, 2015

Will we ever see integrated ticketing?

Travelling around the Wellington region has been hampered by competing operators and modes. Having a single ticket to take passengers from A to B regardless of distance and mode has been a goal for a generation or two and no one at Greater Wellington Regional Council has been able to progress the agenda beyond the investigation phase. The latest set of papers going to tomorrow’s full council meeting indicates that we’re still not getting anywhere.

The first thing that I noticed was a mention about changing the budget relating to integrated ticketing.

GW LTP 2015 Rebudget 1

This was accompanied with a slightly redundant description.

GW LTP 2015 Rebudget 2Two appendices accompany the paper add a little bit of information. The first looks at the operating expenses being changed.

GW LTP 2015 Rebudget A1

And the second looks at changes to capital expenditure.

GW LTP 2015 Rebudget A2

Investigation started late and expected to take longer than anticipated. This is after a phase of waiting for Auckland to sort out its HOP system and after a phase of sitting idly while operators argued over who got which pennies from passengers that needed to cross the gap.

Coincident to this is the release of NZTA Research Report 569 Public transport and the next generation. As noted by Auckland Transport Blog, there’s a difference between Auckland’s and Wellington’s interest in integrated ticketing:

The report also breaks this down by different region presenting interesting comparisons, for example in Wellington Integrated Ticketing is in the top two for the two groups while in Auckland it is 7th or 8th which will reflect the fact that Auckland already has integrated ticketing rolled out.

Looking into the report, we see that, for Wellington, both Generation Y and the control group are clamouring for integrated ticketing.


So how much longer are we going to have to wait?

Travel demand management techniques often focus on road tolls or parking charges. Using insurance to encourage better driving behaviour isn’t a common topic. It’s an interesting idea, although predicated on mandatory insurance, which New Zealand lacks.

SoLoMo Consulting

Once a new road opens, people switch back to cars and congestion increases back to a steady-state point of gridlock. For lasting effectiveness, policy needs to include congestion charges and better rail services.

Sourced through from:

It is very important that discussions like this are taking place. I don’t believe there are simple answers. We have a lot of very clever people in the industry and if the answers were simple, we would simply apply them.

An interesting thing to me is that we still point fingers at institutions and not at ourselves. If road tolls work for example, it is because they force commuters and other road users to change their behavior by making the journey more painful. At that point they will look for a less painful solution such as changing their travel times or routes. Wouldn’t it be great if business took advantage of new…

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Posted by: Gregory | June 11, 2015

Where exactly is my bus?

Greater Wellington rolled out RTI on the bus network back in 2011 and it’s been hobbling along for years. We still see lots of services showing scheduled times on displays and event tracking is horrible at best. There is still work being done, though. I recently took a look at Metlink’s Android widget and they’ve just released an iPhone app.

I’ve been holding a copy of the March 2015 quarterly report from Greater Wellington for a while and there is a bit of info in there on the RTI system as well.


When I spoke to GW officers about RTI issues last year, they indicated that a good portion of the tracking issues related to operator errors, as in drivers. They were hoping that training would solve most of those problems. Since then, I highlighted another issue that stemmed from buses being shuffled between routes which caused prediction errors. There’s bound to be more faults in the system. There always will be.

Open access to the RTI data is something that developers have been wanting for years. It can’t come soon enough, but the May due date indicated above has quietly slid on by. This teaser tweet from March is getting a little stale.


With the release of the iPhone app, interest for the RTI API has popped up again and Metlink is claiming the end of June.


If it’s any later than that, it won’t be ready for use for GovHack 2015.


Given the effort that people want to put into improving the system, it would be a shame to not be ready for them. Even if it slides by this soft deadline, we’d rather have it eventually than never have it at all.

My interest in access to the RTI data is mostly for statistical information. How often are the buses early or late? How often are they even tracked? The quarterly report had a graph on this, but there’s no way to rearrange the data to find specific problems.


Fingers are crossed for the end-of-June due date. I hope that the internal resource at GW doesn’t get reallocated or something. Accurate information is nearly as important as reliable services.

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