Monday, 6 November 2017

The St Asaph St controversy and why adding cycle lanes to an existing road can fail

There has been vast controversy over the redesign of Christchurch's St Asaph St to add off-road cycle lanes. A part of this, and the heated discussion over Wellington's Island Bay cycleway, illustrate how difficult it is to add these off road cycleways to an existing road with driveways coming out onto the street where parked cars and buildings close to the kerb can block visibility of the cycle lanes for vehicles turning into and out of these driveways. 

The answer of the traffic planners has been to try to force drivers to slow down by making the turns ever tighter to get in and out of these driveways. This is simply likely to cause problems with vehicles driving over the kerbing if they can't get round the corners. The result will simply be a lot of money spent unnecessarily on repairing these kerbs.

There appears to be insufficient traffic enforcement as a car yard in the street had parked many of their vehicles illegally at the time I visited the site, such as on top of traffic islands. Handing out a few tickets would solve that one. The biggest issue that has not been addressed is the narrowness of both the parking lanes and the traffic lanes.

The design process is appalling but typical of transport planners who try to socially engineer traffic behaviour all over Christchurch. An example being a roundabout which completely blocked the view for traffic by having trees and shrubs planted in the middle, this was supposed to calm traffic for a safer driving experience. 

In order to fix the issue at St Asaph St, quite simply, is to have:
  • On street parking, if there is any, only one side of the street (the right side as you drive down it). Does not impede the view of the cycle lane, and does not require a buffer zone between parked cars and cycle lanes (to allow for people to get into and out of cars) which saves space.
  • Off road cycle lane only on the left side of the street. 
  • Make sure those trees planted next to the cycle lane never get big enough to block the view of cyclists in the lanes.
  • Make sure the footpaths on that side are wide enough so that cars coming out of driveways have a reasonable view of oncoming cyclists and enough time to stop. Put up caution signs at all the driveway entrances and exits.
The cycleways along the side of Colombo St work much better, and one of the key reasons is there are no car parks alongside them and no driveways going off the street into premises. When you go down St Asaph St it is quite a different design, and those differences have not been fully appreciated by planners. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

NZ First proposed relocation of Port of Auckland


The biggest problem for this proposal is the current state of the rail line to Northland. However all relocation proposals to some extent especially an alternative, the Firth of Thames, are affected to some degree. (Firth of Thames is better than the alternative Manukau because it is on the same side of the country as Tauranga)

Basically the Northland line would have to be doubled which includes all the bridges and tunnels unless these are left as single track sections, but this increases the costs of signalling all the transitions from single to double track. How Tauranga wins at present in competition with Port of Auckland for freight in the Auckland region is that the Auckland to Hamilton line except for a short section through the Whangamarino Swamp is all double tracked and has been for 50 years.

I have no idea of the claims that it will cost this amount or that amount. The new Marsden Point line that is proposed will be another cost.

Essentially this proposal is like suggesting we should close down Port of Lyttelton in the South Island in favour of Picton. There is a rail network but it makes no sense to move the large volumes of freight the extra distance by rail unless there is zero alternative. I don't think the arguments about Northland being closer to shipping lanes matter that much. It is still cheaper to keep the freight on the ship and unload at Auckland than moving it by rail because the rail line would have to be engineered for extremely large and heavy trains to be able to compete with the large container ships that will be coming to NZ in the future. 

Port of Tauranga can already compete effectively with Auckland without needing more money spent on rail line upgrades (OK, they have had some financed already by Kiwirail which means taxpayers probably contributed to it) and coastal shipping to Northland from Auckland is a viable alternative to rail that doesn't require the expenditure on the tracks. It's almost totally guaranteed that if Northport takes a lot of the existing Auckland freight that large amounts of that freight will go by road. Because for example to move the vehicles you will need to equip special trains with special wagons that don't exist now, which is all a waste of time and money when all that is needed is for the ship they are being transported on to go to a different port. Rail falls down when special wagons have to be purchased for a particular traffic. It is true that you do need special car transporter trucks but there would be companies building them in NZ whereas rail wagons would probably have to be built overseas and shipped to here.

Some political parties have got sensible approaches to coastal shipping as an alternative to rail, because our population distribution is mainly near ports (Hamilton and Palmerston North being among the few exceptions) meaning coastal shipping is viable and even the likes of Mainfreight are saying they want to keep it as an option on the Lyttelton-Wellington run. It has to be remembered Mainfreight got their start by using coastal shipping to undermine what was then the NZR rail network. Fast forward and Kiwirail still has a monopoly, but only on rail itself.

Undetermined reasons: Are Robinson helicopters too dangerous?