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.



  1. Thanks for this post. Really interesting to see the original proposal – it does look so much nicer!

  2. Ah yes artist impressions councils lubricant for getting what they want.The Golden Mile Statement of Proposal equally was full of incorrect information and false measurements; showing buses at one third of their legal measurement in a converted Manner Mall on page 25 giving the general public a perception there was plenty of room for buses.

    The selling point of this proposal was “faster” and yet a reply by Council to an OIA request confirmed only the North bound route achieved and in fact the South bound did not and is slower. A 50/50 outcome costing ratepayers $ 12 million causing serious injury and death; we should ask was it worth it?

    • From my view, I don’t think we’ve broken even on the work done. Having said that, there are steps forward that we can still take to get there, which is why I keep banging this drum as publicly as I can. Lower Cuba street can, and should, be better than it is. The artist impressions should be revisited and Wellington City Council should have a good look at the work that Auckland Council has done with shared spaces.

      • Good work Gregory. An associate of mine has tried to have market days in Lower Cuba Street to liven it up a little but turned down by Council officers every time.

      • The Wellington Night Market has applied to use the space for 2015-6, which looks like it should have passed easily., Item 2.1

        Of course, I don’t know what actually happened at the meeting until the minutes are posted for the next one.

      • Lower Cuba St is already a market on at least some Saturday nights, and very good it is too – and proving that Council officers don’t turn down such proposals every time!

  3. It’s not a ‘shared space’ — it’s a pathetic road and a joke of a pedestrian-friendly area. The paving, parking, seating, and planter boxes only serve to delineate a road and the usual footpaths. It was billed as the Council trying shared spaces, but they ended up building just another road.

  4. I’m afraid this delineation problem is common elsewhere. The multi million pound Exhibition Road “shared space” scheme in central London failed for exactly the same reason: if you delineate a “vehicle strip” you relegate pedestrians to the footpaths on each side.

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