The Traffic Jam: Operation Human Shield

RNZ Nights host and transport geek, Bryan Crump, has reanimated his blog The Traffic Jam, in the run-up to the local body elections. In this post, Bryan marks the new name for Wellington’s main cycling lobby group with a look at its latest strategy.


Wellington’s main cycling advocacy group, Cycle Aware Wellington, has a new name: Cycle Wellington.

It’s also trying a new tactic; pop-up bike lanes created by human bollards. It sounds heroic, if not entirely practical. Will support for such action drop off as Autumn turns to Winter? And what happens if a truck doesn’t spot the change in the road layout?

people protected bike lane 2

However, in this case, the medium (or is it the median?) is also the message; there’s been some progress in creation of separated cycle ways, but they’re not coming fast enough for a lot of cyclists, especially in the central city.

So far, Cycle Wellington’s human bollards have popped up on Featherston and Victoria Streets, greeting cyclists with a 25 metre stretch of protected bike lane. Not much, I grant you, but not many bollards give you a wave and a cheer as you ride by.

thumbnail_people protected bike lane 1

Of course 2019 is local body election year, and as Wellington Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman rightly pointed out to this blog on Twitter, while public transport is a regional council issue, the provision of local roads is a city affair. So if you agree with CW, it’s to the City Council you go, which is exactly where the opponents of such cycle ways are sure to be going (as well as taking the council to court).

With the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if the likes of Victoria Street, with its key role funnelling people out of the central city (be it on foot, bus, bike or car) might have been the best place to start the whole cycle-lane conversion.

My recollection of the thinking around Island Bay was; “here’s a nice wide road with plenty of room for everyone, surely no one’s going to mind if we give a little over to the cyclists?”  Turned out quite a few motorists were rather attached to that wide bit of asphalt.

I wonder how much the concern over maintaining motor traffic flow out of the city played in the decision to begin the city’s recent cycleway upgrade in the suburbs? A lot of cyclists use Victoria Street to exit the city to the south. True, there are protected lanes between Ghuznee and Abel Smith Street, but for most of the way, it’s a can of paint or nothing at all, and we all know how colourblind folk can be.

Perhaps more tricky trade-offs between space for motorists and everyone else using the roadway, need to be happening at the business end of town?

And there’s no doubt the cyclists are coming. Look at the bike racks, check out the stats.

This month is down on the last by the way, but the trend is up.

And given what the Traffic Jammers in my previous post were saying about our physical health, what’s not to like about getting more people on bikes?


Further reading:

The Spinoff – Wellington’s most dangerous pastime: riding a bike

RNZ – Bus vs your body on a bike


Image credits: Cycle Wellington, Sha Nagba Imuru.

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