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.
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.[tweet https://twitter.com/sustwelltrans/status/608413466899173377]
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.