The tunnel

A large part of my electorate is cut off from the city by a long row of hilly greenness that stretches from Oriental Bay down to Houghton Bay.  On the whole this is a good thing; A green belt with lots of trees, great walking tracks and bike trails and amazing views.  But occasionally people on one side of the hills want to get to people on the other side – especially if they work in town. They’ve got three options;  they can go around, via Oriental Bay, over, via Newtown, or through, via this:

The queue of cars in the picture has led many people to think we have a congestion problem. Rather than blaspheme by suggesting the cars are the problem, the tunnel has copped much of the blame.

And there are two broad categories of solutions.  We could either build another bigger shiny tunnel through the hill to allow for more conjestion, or we could encourage more people to use public transport and to cycle and walk about and thus reduce congestion.

The City Council has been ‘consulting’ widely on this issue although the mayor Kerry Prendergast said of the consultation process before it began:

‘I think there are some [things] we have to do,’ she told The Dominion Post.

…Ms Prendergast said a new Mt Victoria tunnel should be a high priority, regardless of what submitters to the study say.

There were many submisions from the public thanks to the hard work of Green councillors Celia Wade Brown and Iona Pannett, as well as other organisations.  And those submissions predominantly favoured light rail and other forms of public transport.  But as Object Dart reports, it didn’t quite work out that way:

The options for transport are a dog’s breakfast, and although the greater weight of submissions in a previous process were in favour of light rail as a public transport solution (which implies they would be at very least willing to utilise the service, if not actively support it), the paper dismisses it out of hand as prohibitively expensive. But, digging in a little further we find that costings for light rail are hidden on the very last page. And, they are $35million cheaper than what seems to be the preferred option to improve the corridor in question, a second Mt Vic tunnel…

And Gregory Bodnar says of the city’s plan for walking and cycling:

This section should really be placed higher than public transportation. It is far too common for pedestrian and cycle plans to be placed last in the list of priorities – a gross injustice to the residents of the city. In fact, the draft plan defers any planning for pedestrian and cycle activities for other projects and allocates no funds. Active modes are a vital aspect to a city with a small footprint. Instead of residents taking short trips in a car or on transit, many choose to travel by their own power, using minimal resources, leaving minimal waste and needing minimal infrastructure. Transportation planners must stop impeding active modes.

Anyone who has ever walked or cycled through that current tunnel knows its footpath wasn’t put there with pedestrians and cyclists at front of mind.  Unless I’m in a real hurry I always prefer to go over or around rather than through the tunnel’s fumes and car honks and general grotiness.

So, another tunnel to turn our green belt into swiss cheese?  No thanks

Thanks to Br3nda for the photo

Under ground, over ground, cycling free!

The Southland landscape is undergoing tremendous change as dairying floods into every available (and seemingly impossible) corner of the region. Shelter belts are falling like wheat before a scythe; macrocarpa giants chewed up by mulchers, flax hauled out and tossed aside, the place is beginning to look like a billiard table. A network of enormous ‘swimming pools’  – effluent containment ponds, is being dug from corner to corner of Southland. Even the roads are subject to change, with the excavation of underpasses; tunnels for cows, beneath the tarmac, to make the passage from pasture to milking shed easier. With all of this happening at a pace that has locals somewhat dazed, it was encouraging to hear the comment the other day, that ‘once the boom has bust’ we’ll have a ready made series of cycle tracks throughout the south, along the shingled cow lanes and under ground whenever the happy cyclists need to cross a road, with the added bonus of a series of small lakes to cool off in! Who said the dairy industry doesn’t care for the little guy!

Street gutters

I’m not against cars, but why do they get all the funding and attention at the expense of everyone else?  Not only do they take up most of the space allocated from travelling on but if you want to walk on the car it you are not allowed to until someone paints a stripy white line for you to cross on.  Cars don’t need that when they want to venture onto the footpath. And if you’re on a bike, your rightful place is skirting along next to the gutter. I don’t reckon we need to look much further for proof that the street planners who preceded us were thinking mostly about cars rather than other forms of transport than these things:

Gutter on Riddiford St, Newtown

Gutter on Riddiford St, Newtown

Anyone who has ridden a skinny wheeled road bike through the streets of Wellington must grimace in empathetic pain when they see one of those things.

Biking to the pub

Thursday week Russel is holding his second Politics in the Pub soirée at Bar Edward, in Newtown (here’s the facebook link if you want to come along).  He’ll be talking with Robert Ibell, the national spokesperson for the Cycle Advocacy Network.  I’m really hoping that lots of cyclists come along. Bar Edward is a great pub, and lots of locally brewed beer on tap and NZ wines but ironically it doesn’t have obviously cycle friendly facilities.  Last Politics in the Pub I tied my bike to lamp-post outside, as did a few other cyclists, and there subsequently there weren’t to many lamp-posts left on that section of Riddiford St by the beginning of the talk.  I figure if we keep delivering business like that often enough to the bar they’ll have to invest in some bike racks.  It will be kind of like Critical Mass but with beer.

When I was in Holland one of the things I loved was that the breweries there gave bike racks with advertising of their beer on them to pubs in the same way that breweries here give pubs advertising covered coasters, caps and sofas. The assumption that underlay that advertising pitch was supurb. (BTW – I’m not advocating cycling drunk, but I know I’d rather be hit by a drunk cyclist than a drunk driver.)