These are the speaking notes to accompany my presentation to Christchurch City Council on the "Westmorland cycle connection" as part of the "Way Safer Streets" consultation at the Council Offices on 21 September 2023. This is a follow up to my response to their online request for comment. The following is to be read in conjunction with my presentation, (attached PDF).
Update 2023-09-27 - if you would like to see my presentation to council, here's the video (thanks to the Christchurch City Council and former Egressive customers, Tandem Studios).
[slide 1] Kia ora all. I'm Dave Lane and I live in the neighbourhood of Cracroft, next to Westmorland. My concern is with active transport - namely modes of travel like walking, scooting, and cycling that do not involve being inside a motor vehicle. I'm interested in active transport's real and perceived safety, and the continuity of the active transport network here in south Ōtautahi/Christchurch.
Regardless of what people think of the Westmorland intersection - and yes, I do think it desperately needs improvement - anything that makes it more efficient for motorists and active travellers will only increase traffic intensity at downstream traffic bottlenecks.
As we all know, when you have motorists and active travellers competing for access to a roading bottleneck, it is always the latter who shoulder the risk. As 30 year veteran of cycle commuting in Ōtautahi, I'm keenly aware that regardless of my behaviour every single vehicle that overtakes me on the road could be the last.
So what is the downstream bottleneck? It should be familiar to any of the local active travellers here. It's what my neighbours and my family refer to as 'The Gauntlet': [slide 2] the narrow section of road between the Cashmere Stream bridge, where the stream enters the Ōpawaho/Heathcote river, squeezed in along the base of the hills to Fernihurst Street. Unfortunately, running the Gauntlet is currently unavoidable for all active travellers heading east or north.
[slide 3] In addition to cycle commuters, hundreds of school kids pass through the Gauntlet daily at peak times on the way to schools like Thorrington, Cashmere, and Somerfield primary. My own two kids go through it to attend South Intermediate and Cashmere High Schools. I cycle with my younger son to South most mornings in an effort to make sure he gets there safely. You'll notice the cyclist caught by the bus at the tightest part of the curve. They're leaning away from the bus, which always surprise cyclists as they pass silently - all their noise is at the rear.
Many parents and kids feel so uncomfortable about cycling through the Gauntlet that they drive their children to school most mornings, adding to the traffic load through that bottleneck, making it even worse for active travellers who brave it.
As many of you will be aware, south-west Christchurch is experiencing huge housing development bringing a daily rush of tradies and heavy equipment like extra-wide dump trucks with trailers through the Gauntlet - some emblazoned with the name of our new mayor. [slide 4] These add substantially to the vehicle congestion. My understanding is that we can expect at least 400 additional households in the next few years, which will substantially increase the already bad peak traffic.
The Gauntlet is the missing link in the south Christchurch active transport network.
It forces bikes, scooters, and cars, trucks, and buses together into a space that goes from a comfortable width of just over 12 metres down to a very narrow 8 metres. It also features a sweeping bend which vehicles are prone to cutting into, adding further anxiety for users of the east-bound painted cycle lane.
So what can we do about it? What's the alternative? [slide 5]
We need the Council to negotiate to buy perhaps 10 square metres of stream boundary from the owners of number 134 Cashmere Road [slide 6] - it's the wee triangle of land you can see just to the left of the bridge over Cashmere Stream - that can act as the terminus of an active travel bridge from the end of the existing active transport network on Ashgrove Tce - currently a cul-de-sac - to that patch of river bank creating a connector to Cashmere Road. From there, a signalised crossing over Cashmere Road - as shown [slide 7] - would connect the network to the cycle lanes on the west side of the Gauntlet where the road widens again.
This would allow active travellers, and those reliant on disability scooters, to avoid the Gauntlet altogether. [slide 8] It will almost certainly also reduce vehicle traffic at peak times because some will feel safe enough to become active travellers themselves - or allowing their kids to do so - rather than driving as they currently do.
A great strategic advantage of this crucial link would be integration with the path through Worsley's Reserve along Cashmere Stream, which could gain a ramp up down from Cashmere Road and be paved, providing a largely off-road route for pedestrians and mountain bikers to the new Lower Cashmere Valley Flood Storage Basin reserve and the Christchurch Adventure Park up the valley.
In future [slide 9] - after the Council has convinced the two or three land owners along Worsley's road to do the right thing for the Greater Good and allow a path along their Cashmere Stream boundaries - much of the walking, scooting, and cycling traffic from Westmorland and even beyond could join into the greater Christchurch active travel network without ever going onto Cashmere Road at all except to cross it, further reducing the traffic on Cashmere Road overall and through the Gauntlet in particular.
I see few if any downsides to this proposed approach and many upsides. From my perspective it's an obvious choice, and every neighbour with whom I've discussed it has agreed emphatically. This is also exactly the sort of action that a Council which is serious about addressing the Climate Emergency it has declared would take.
Thank you for your time.