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Novel Cycle path design in Christchurch, New Zealand-Part 3

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

Thinking bigger

Can EVERYONE really cycle?

Mahtab: One other idea I have is that right now they have put a bidirectional lane here I guess, then imagine if there are more and more cyclists here, there even might be cycling traffic jam, because there are now only two cycleways here which are taking a lot of space!

Another point is that not everyone can easily cycle! I would definitely keep car access. Although we say that cycling is the most comfortable and affordable mode of transport for most people but there are minority groups like children, elderly and patients who cannot cycle really and need to use the car and cars are not always very bad!

Trey: Yeah this is a really good point you’d bring up. It’s like a paradox that we have that cycling is only for people who are very able-bodied until we make it better for people that can’t. Ironically, it’s not going for elders or children to cycle in the current way, and the only way we can do it is to improve the conditions for cycling. So we’re kind of stuck in the middle of this. So perhaps on the street right now it’s not safe for all different people but we have to actively make it safe for people. Of course, there always will be people who don’t choose to cycle or it’s not an option for them and need other alternatives. Or those that have different skills. So instead of driving through at 50 km/h there are ways to create access or you can come and take a little bit more time or you have access to drop someone off. But those are cases where you accommodate that you don’t design just for the person with car. So yeah, I think it’s quite a weird paradox. Also, I’m having a perspective in a high cycling environment vs a low cycling environment. So I’m thinking for me in the USA I have similar conversations like this.

What can be a solution?

Trey: Cycling is not perceived to be for everyone and that’s why I started Bicycle User Experience (BUX) because I think it can be for everyone. Ok, maybe not 100% of people because you’re not going to force someone to cycle but there is a huge difference between 1% and 30-40-50%.

It’s not that you always cycle or you always don’t cycle. In most cycling contexts people think about that. People think there are only cyclists who cycle to get everywhere and there are only car drivers who drive everywhere. In reality that’s not necessarily true. I get the train to get to some places I drive with friends or other people sometimes and I cycle to some places. It depends on the trip it depends on my situation.

Mahtab: I think you’re right. I think the user experience perspective really makes sense here because one person may appear in different personas. One might be cycling 80% of the time but it doesn’t mean that he never uses the car or he will never need to use a car. So it’s important to design for different personas. I mean a combination of personal treats, the purpose of the trip, and the cost-benefit balances. So it makes sense to do urban design for different personas rather than different modes of traffic because it is people who are living the design not the machines and it’s important to understand how people may choose different modes in different situations. I think so far, traffic engineering has tried to make optimum decisions to create optimum networks for vehicles such as cars buses trans or sometimes bicycles but a shift to different people at different times, because for instance if it’s a very cold morning even a cyclist would prefer metro or car or public transport! So it is very much dependent on the different personas that come from the perspective of user experience design.

Trey: Yeah! Definitely! I think not everyone wants to go fast every time. Because there are other uses for streets rather than going as fast as you can from point A to point B. And the personas integrate that also. You have probably noticed that personas aren’t a design solution but a way to conceptualize who is using the street. You have to make designs and decisions based on personas.

What about other complexities?

Mahtab: Yup! And it keeps getting more and more complicated!

Trey: Yeah! And it’s a challenge now. How do you communicate this stuff to people who aren’t getting into this? You have been working with me on this in the last months and you see many people aren’t thinking about this. Ever! How do you talk to them immediately about it? I don’t have a good answer for that!

Mahtab: Absolutely! I mean I’m studying urban planning for now I can say 10 years and there is not a single subject that I can confidently claim I have comprehensive knowledge about all its different forces! It keeps getting more complicated even after ten years! So it is a really delicate and challenging job to see all people! And the most difficult part for me is probably is that... Ok, you understand that there are so many different stakeholders and needs but those needs and those stakeholders are not stable! They change over time and you need to be able to predict those changes. The changes in behavior, in needs, new technologies, and so on. So I guess urban design and urban planning cannot ever reach a definite answer but to only try to reach that!

Trey: I agree. I heard you say the word predict. I want to consider what that means and then talk about the word adapt. I think there is a value embedded in the word predict. I think we have to realize we can’t necessarily predict, but can we adapt and can we learn? Yes.

I think there are so many new lenses, like you already said, the more you learn the less you know you realize there is so much more to learn that you don’t...

Mahtab: Yes, especially when talking about urban planning issues.

Ok, now, Do you agree with the proposed design?

Mahtab: So, if we want to conclude, in the end, do you agree with this design or not?

Trey: Ow! We just talked about other new lenses and we have to choose now?

Mahtab: Haha yes! Those are expectations from urban planners!

Trey: Yeah... I would say that in this design there are certain principles that they used well but that is a good point. But some other principles, depending on the context it could be good or could be bad!

Mahtab: Yup! It’s a fact that we’ve seen only one intersection and have no idea what’s going on around here.

Trey: Yup, perhaps there is an intention here to be politically sharp because sometimes some actions done by activists are intentionally very sharp or extreme for a good reason! Sometimes some major social movements happen because of forceful extreme actions that could make a point so I would leave that up to the context to see.

Mahtab: Uuhum, but if I see it from the view of an outsider urban planner looking at the design at the same time as being a cycling pro, I would do more traffic calming, or I would add cycling lanes each way instead of obstructing the whole path for cars.

Trey: Uhumm I would do both diverting cars and traffic calming on a network level for the neighborhood.

It’s one choice and all choices are subjective and value-laden but we need to make a choice.



The Christchurch new cycling path design has been open for feedback from the community and some changes at the intersection can be noticed in the new plan below. The plan seems to be closed for feedback now and probably new changes will occur for the intersection in the future. Read more:

What do you think?

What do you think about this design? What other points have come to your mind that we didn’t notice? Do you think this design can be implemented in your city? We are looking to hearing your ideas, let us know in the email, please :)




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