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Several experienced cyclists have expressed their concerns regarding the proposed one-way cycle lanes on State Highway 1 through Dunedin, but the NZ Transport Agency’s Simon Underwood (ODT, Letters, 9.8.17) has failed to address the key issues involved.
The proposed separated lanes fail to address the cause of the problems: motor traffic. Safety can only be increased by putting restrictions on motorists and changing motorist behaviour. Instead, NZTA aims to change cyclist behaviour and lets motorists continue their poor driving habits. In addition, many of the problems that affect cyclists on the one-way system (e.g. high turnover cap parks and busy accessways) also affect pedestrians and motorists, but these are not addressed.
The proposed lanes will introduce many new hazards for cyclists. These include an increased probability of red light running by motorists because of delays at intersections, increased conflicts with pedestrians because of the use of shared paths, decreased visibility as a result of directing cyclists behind cars, and increasing the number of times cyclists have to cross multiple lanes of traffic.
Cyclists heading to North East Valley will have to exit the lanes across the flow of traffic where vehicles are accelerating to cross the intersection and where there is a turning lane entering the flow; this crossing will become one of the most dangerous sites in Dunedin for cyclists.
Many of the problems with the proposed lanes are caused by placing cyclists on the wrong side (the right hand side) of the road. The design plan clearly shows the NZTA scrambling to come up with solutions for this. The dangerous northern exit could have been avoided by having cyclists on the left hand side of the road. There are no benefits from changing to the right hand side of road once past the university.
Putting cyclists on the right hand side of the road puts them in unexpected places and makes it difficult to provide safe and effective links with connecting roads. If it is safe to put the new lane on the left side of the road by the university, then surely the lanes could be on the left side of the road elsewhere.
The barrier also causes significant problems. Stopping to access the small openings in the barrier and starting again while regaining balance, all the while keeping an eye on the approaching traffic, is much more dangerous than flowing with the traffic, anticipating gaps and moving smoothly to the other side of the road.
Slower cyclists, and, inevitably, skateboarders and pedestrians will cause major conflicts as there will be little opportunity to pass or avoid them. The barriers will reduce cyclists’ ability to avoid crossing traffic, and encourage motorists to nose into the lane.
Pine Hill Rd cyclists will be effectively excluded from accessing the cycle lane because of the barriers, and accessing the Pine Hill Rd shared path from the lanes will become next to impossible. If the new lanes are so good, why are some cyclists being excluded from using them?
Cyclists are not pedestrians and do not like being treated as such. Mixing cyclists and pedestrians is an exercise in stupidity. The new lanes will seriously reduce accessibility and speeds for cyclists, and the shared paths will increase the chances of collisions. Having to cross the road at lights is ludicrous.
All of the above problems will result in cyclists avoiding the lanes in whole or part, using the vehicle lanes, using the footpath on the other side of the road, or being displaced to other roads.
The NZTA claims the design is a result of "compromise", but this word has been used to justify design changes which result in poor outcomes for cyclists, while motorists remain largely unaffected.
The NZTA also promotes the new lanes as being "a complete change in thinking", but they are following the same old pattern of failing to address the problem, catering to motorist convenience, making cycling more difficult and dangerous, and building low-standard facilities.
The proposed changes to the one-way system are characterised by blunders, a disregard for the needs of cyclists, and missed opportunities to make real improvements to road safety that can be applied elsewhere in the city.
All cyclists need is sufficient space to ride, which can be achieved by just removing the car parks on the left hand side of the road. Cyclists first asked for this 20 years ago, and the NZTA is still not providing what is needed.
This simple change will hugely increase safety, but crucially won’t add any new dangers and difficulties. The spare money should be used to improve road safety for all users (eg through education, enforcement, and installing traffic calming measures at busy entranceways) as well as lobbying for reduced speed limits and laws which specifically protect cyclists.
- Steve Rate is a Dunedin cyclist.