City streets becoming footpath-free zones - NZ Herald

4:00AM Monday Jun 15, 2009
By Mathew Dearnaley
Pedestrians and cars already share road spaces in the Danish capital, Copenhagen. Photo / Supplied
Pedestrians and cars already share road spaces in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

Auckland drivers and pedestrians will have to get to know each other a lot better as footpaths are removed from some busy city side-streets.

Urban designers have won approval in principle from the city council's transport committee for developing a suite of streets into "shared space" where pedestrians will be free to roam as long as they do not unduly hold up motor traffic.

Footpaths will be removed, as will parking spaces and most street signs, leaving the onus on drivers to act on visual cues and clues to nose their way carefully past pedestrians.

Four thoroughfares centred on Elliott, Fort, O'Connell and Lorne Sts are being proposed for trial treatment in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, although the public will be consulted before the council decides whether to approve designs on a case-by-case basis and expand the concept.

The trials will fall within a 10-year $71.7 million programme for upgrading inner Auckland, to be paid for mainly from the targeted rate on CBD property owners.

"The concept is all around the psychology of space, understanding that personal responsibility is something we all need to have," urban design group manager Ludo Campbell-Reid told the committee. "It is pro-pedestrians but not anti-cars. It is innovative and very much an idea around democracy - it will be a good fit with the New Zealand psyche, so we'll all grow to love it."

A report by Mr Campbell-Reid and CBD projects group manager David Jones said though vehicles would be legally obliged to give way to pedestrians, their passage must not be unduly impeded.

In cities where the concept had been successfully introduced, including London, New York, Copenhagen and Brisbane, streets had been "reclaimed" as high-quality spaces for people without having to ban traffic.

Mr Jones told the transport committee of reduced road injuries to pedestrians, and an increase in street activity such as outdoor dining even in inclement British weather.

Committee chairman Ken Baguley said the concept "could be fantastic", though he wondered how easily New Zealand drivers would adapt without putting pedestrians at risk.

Mr Campbell-Reid said the designers were taking advice from disability groups and were confident of improving accessibility for all. He acknowledged they might have to explore the use of tactile strips to delineate areas of comparative safety for the visually impaired.

Although some retailers are nervous about the concept, especially after the disruption during the $43.5 million Queen St do-up, Heart of the City business association chief Alex Swney believes it will inject more life into the retail centre. "Shared space will have a calming effect on cars and people will be able to intermingle more."

City arts, culture and recreational committee chairman Greg Moyle said he had seen examples on a visit to Chile and Peru, where shared space tended to generate more activity for retailers than traditional streets.

* Sharing the space

The trial will involve these zones:

Elliott St-Darby St (likely to be first).

Fort St precinct, including Lower Shortland St, Jean Batten Place, Fort Lane, southern sections of Commerce and Gore Sts.

Lorne St-Rutland St (in front of the city library).

O'Connell St.


and in Wellington:

Slow speed ahead in Cuba St proposal

Cars may be restricted to 5kmh on parts of Wellington's Cuba St under council plans to put bus lanes through Manners Mall.

The proposal, to be voted on by Wellington city councillors on Thursday, would restrict vehicles on lower Cuba St to a snail's pace, turning the area into a pedestrian mall but with vehicle access.

Cars would travel slower than the walking pace of many pedestrians.

The council has earmarked nearly $5 million to upgrade public spaces, $1.9m for lower Cuba St alone, after a public outcry over the potential loss of Manners Mall as a purely public space.

On lower Cuba St, car parks would be reduced and road markings removed.

One lane would remain, though traffic direction could be reversed to northbound under one option.

The Automobile Association's Wellington spokesman, John Christianson, said 5kmh could not be shown by most modern vehicle speedometers.

"It's difficult to enforce if you can't tell what speed you're going." The mall could be dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists because Kiwis were not used to driving in public malls.

"We have a very poor culture of compliance of the road rules. We kill a lot of cyclists in quite large numbers. The planners love it but unfortunately the cyclist pays the price."

The council's principal transport adviser, Greg Campbell, said the proposal was a great opportunity. "Overseas these spaces are commonplace ... [with] people pushing bicycles down the centre of the street. That's how these things work."

In other cities little enforcement had been required because design features had discouraged speeding. "If in the unlikely event that they're knocked down, they'll be knocked down at a very low speed."

Funding for the $10.4 million project is yet to be confirmed.


Typical running, walking, assisted walking and snail speeds:

* Runner - 12kmh

* Walker - 6kmh

* Walking frame user - 2kmh

* Garden snail - 0.04828kmh

But how will they monitor your speed?

* Fixed and mobile speed cameras are calibrated down only to 20kmh.

* Handheld laser guns are calibrated down only to 16kmh.

* Police car-mounted radars are calibrated down to 5kmh.

I think this is an absolutely great idea. However, I have a concern and a query:

Concern - the trial areas that they have selected have very little current pedestrian usage - such as the road outside the library. It is unlikely that pedestrians are suddenly going to flock to a street like this; it is a destination – you go to the library when you want to go to the library. There is a raised pavement area adjacent to the library and only the back-side of some buildings to entice the public into the street. I am concerned that the choice of trial sites will encourage a verdict of ‘unsuccessful’. This kind of treatment would be excellent for High Street and Lorne Street (main part) for instance as there are interesting shops and cafes with outside seating and already plenty of foot traffic but, from what I gather from the media, these areas are not included at the present time.

Query - will bicycles still have to follow the road rules for the cars etc. or will we be (officially) allowed to cycle the wrong way down a one way street as in many European cities ie. will slow cyclists be treated more a kin to pedestrians than motorists?


Auckland Cycle Chic