Several weeks ago, I submitted an OIA request to NZTA via fyi.org.nz regarding cyclist access to tunnels in Wellington. On Friday, I received a personal reply to the public request. While they resend the letter to the right place, I’ll just get on with posting the results.
The three tunnels are all part of SH1. As the road controlling authority, NZTA can specify which types of transport are welcome. Here’s the link to the bylaw update, to save you typing it out.
The implication is that mixing cars and bikes is dangerous when anyone needs to change lanes, even though this happens on a daily basis around the rest of the city, mostly at speeds above 30km/h. The reference to 30km/h is at a change point in the relationship between speed and injury severity and is actually a good reason to drop the urban limits for most of the city (PDF Reference).
While the cyclist bypass exists, forcing cyclists onto the footpath is a substandard solution. It might have been better to coerce cyclists onto Tasman Street via Rugby St. While the potential for injury to cyclists and pedestrians is much lower when there are no cars involved, there are still risks that are best avoided.
Here’s the real issue that we’re dealing with. It’s not about cyclists, it’s the fact that drivers are less capable in tunnels than on roads. This might be worth looking into further, but I’ll take the statement on faith for now. Drivers aren’t on their game in tunnels.
This annoys me quite a bit. Mt Victoria Tunnel is a narrow road, set to 50km/h. This is like most of our residential roads, except – as above – more disorienting. Maybe if the motorists were less fixated on beeping their horns in the tunnel, they could pay attention to the task at hand.
There’s a side issue implied around travel times through the tunnel. At 623m long, the difference between 50km/h and 30km/h travel speeds is about 30 seconds, which is catastrophic from the point of view of a motorist or a road manager, but less than the time that I’ll probably have to wait to safely cross the road at any number of arterial roads on a daily basis. Time is relative.
It’s good to know that no cyclists were harmed during the decision-making process, but I would like to see more evidence being presented to justify setting the road conditions. If tunnels are so disorienting, maybe the evidend would show that they’d perform better on safety metrics if the speed limits were lowered to, say, 30km/h.