Novel Cycle path design in Christchurch, New Zealand-Part 2
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
What are the pros and cons?
Trey: So, this design looks like to be directing traffic. The street looks wider and then, the design is more for traffic than a living area. I think what this design does is to create comfort for the cyclists and make cycling more convenient in the area by diverting car traffic. So, I think it does archive this goal although it looks different than what I would expect. The diversion of car traffic is very important but ironic because if you’re diverting car traffic then there should be fewer cars on the streets which means your less need for an actual bike lane.
Mahtab: Aha, I think it makes sense to restrict car traffic or try to just change and reduce the flow of traffic but I think using a cycle lane in this way is like using the cycling lane as a “ Do Not Enter” sign and is somehow disrespectful to cyclists! Because this design is clearly closing the road for car traffic with a cycle lane. If we look at the intersection, cars are left with only one option to continue their path! Although it definitely depends on the location of the intersection, the traffic volume and flow but, if I were to design it, I would prefer more cycle lanes, reduced car lane width but never to omit any options for other groups in favor of cyclists! This would be the same type of perspective that former traffic designers had; they omitted all the cyclists from the street. I think this pattern should not be repeated by crossing the cycle lane across the street and obstructing the car traffic with a cycle lane.
Trey: I have two thoughts here. The first is that maybe it’s not the smartest policy to restrict car traffic with a cycle lane. Maybe something like trees or something less political would be better. My second thought is that yes! It makes sense. You don’t want to restrict other traffic with cycle lanes. We now have a lot of knowledge about cycling. If a car is driving at high speed next to a bicycle it severely affects the cycling experience but if a bike is running next to a car, it doesn’t make much difference. There is a conflict between having a lot of cars on the road and a lot of bikes on the road. So one way that Netherlands deals with this is that they have roads designated for bikes to go and roads designated for cars to go. This means that the entire network is not convenient just for cars or just for bikes or just for people walking but there is a good grid for all modes. There are of course exceptions for the city center that they seriously restrict car traffic and they are actively discouraging you to drive your car to the center but outside of the center, there are generally options for everyone. What do you think?
Mahtab: What about peripheral areas? Do you think it’s fine to discourage car traffic in those areas too?
Trey: well I see this is in Christchurch in New Zealand, they are still experimenting with cycle lanes and it’s cool to see them experiment with this. I think you made a good point. It’s already political to take the space and convenience from people driving and moving it to people cycling. Activists here are very direct to say that cyclists are been pushed aside for a long time and they need to be prioritized and this intervention clearly shows that they are prioritizing people cycling.
Car diversion is very common not only in NL but even in the USA and it’s not just for cyclists but to improve the quality of residential spaces to make it safe for children to cross the street and etc but I haven’t seen it being done like this with the bike lane.
What would you do if you were to design?
Mahtab: I agree. As an urban planner and designer advocating walking and cycling, it’s a very innovative design for me too. I hadn’t seen it before but I’m not sure it’s the best design because we really need to consider all the users and we probably want to prioritize cycling by having everyone respect them. This is only one small intersection in the whole city. We can say ok, at one intersection we can obstruct car flow with a cycle lane but in this way, you can’t make drivers respect cyclists in other parts of the city or at other intersections, too. So, if it was me, I would add two-way cycle lanes at both sides of the street while still keeping the car traffic and providing better safety for the cyclists and a little softer reaction maybe!
Trey: Yup! I think it’s an interesting exercise to think about what would we do as an alternative to this design. For me, depending on the situation, because I don’t know what the situation is, I would try to divert car traffic a different way so that there is less car traffic through the residential area and try to keep them on the main arterial streets where it’s not a problem to go fast. And perhaps I wouldn’t use the bike lane and I would use things like trees, playgrounds, depending on the context maybe benches maybe picnic tables, or what the community would actively use. So, your idea creates more space for cycling with the two bidirectional lanes, I still see the conflict with the speed of cars in that, going through the neighborhood and I could address that by adding traffic calming you could add more speed bumps or making cars go around. Overall I think it’s a political decision. If you want to slow down the cars you can if you don’t want to slow them down you can. It’s a choice and depends on your approach to doing this
Mahtab: Yes! I think it makes sense to have traffic calming strategies throughout the whole residential area and not only at intersections.
Trey: Yes! I don’t know the full context here, perhaps they are doing more traffic calming...