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Novel Cycle path design in Christchurch, New Zealand-Part 1

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

What is the project?

A couple of months ago, a thread about a new cycle path design in Christchurch, New Zealand went semi-viral on Twitter! The design looked very creative and unfamiliar to the eye. It apparently divided judgments into full pros and full cons immediately. I decided to look deeper into the design and discuss it with my friend, Trey as we were already covering the judgment range within us! Haha! We had an interesting conversation and the topic expanded to many different sides of cycling in the city! Read about it in the following blog posts.

What is it about?

It’s been in 2019 when the decision-makers in Christchurch, New Zealand decided to propose a large-scale plan to promote cycling in a residential area in the city which also included creating cul-de-sacs and some major changes at intersections and for trees. The Christchurch city council planned to create a preferred 15-kilometer route for the South Express cycleway, aiming to link the south-western suburbs with the central city with a budget of $38m by 2024.[1]

Among so many different new ideas presented in the plan, one grabbed our attention the most! As you can see below the new intersection design includes a bi-directional cycle path that runs from the north edge of Elizabeth Street to the south edge with a diagonal shift at Division Street intersection.

This cycle path is being used as a car diversion technique, which disconnects the east-west and south-north car traffic to develop a safe cycling environment. We are going to discuss some pros and cons of this design now.

Very creative, isn’t it?

Mahtab: Ok Trey, this design looks very unfamiliar to me, is it the same for you?

Trey: I think it makes sense to know the context where it is applied. Generally in the Netherlands, when they want to approach the idea of making cycling more comfortable, they first look at what street you’re on. So if you’re already on a residential street they try to maintain calm traffic and minimize car traffic. There are different ways to do that. One of them is diverting cars and not letting them pass through the residential street. Which is quite often. For doing so, you don’t necessarily need a to add a bike lane. Because then, everyone is already at the speed of the bike. But in this case, which we don’t know well enough, does it look like a semi-residential street?

Mahtab: Apparently, yes!

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.






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