In presenting their case for the motorway flyover they want to build at the Basin Reserve, the NZ Transport Agency has made great play of the shared pedestrian/cycleway they plan to build along the flyover’s northern edge. NZTA witnesses even made the extraordinary claim that adding a pedestrian/cycleway to the proposed flyover would somehow stop people thinking of it as a flyover.

Unfortunately, NZTA seems to have become so enthusiastic about the “decorative” potential of the pedestrian/cycleway that they have neglected to focus on more fundamental aspects of design: making it usable and safe.

During the Basin Reserve Board of Inquiry, both walking and cycling advocates have criticised the design of the proposed pedestrian/cycleway, and in particular its planned width – a mere 3 metres, when, to meet the environmental conditions found at the Basin Reserve, a shared facility for pedestrians and cyclists should be at least 4 metres wide, and preferably wider.

In his submission, cycling advocate Patrick Morgan pointed out a 3m pedestrian/cycleway becomes effectively even narrower when the width of bike handlebars is taken into account: handlebars shouldn’t be scraping the guardrail, or banging into other users. And Living Streets Aotearoa’s Ellen Blake also pointed out how hazardous such a narrow pedestrian/cycleway could be for pedestrians, when the grade, frequent windy conditions, and the need to avoid cyclists and other pedestrians is taken into account.

So why haven’t NZTA designed walking and cycling facilities that meet standards? The answer appears to be that to make the proposed pedestrian/cycleway any wider may mean having to change the designation under which they have applied for the project – and that would land them in all kinds of legal difficulties.

When it comes right down to it, NZTA is all about cars and trucks and motorways. Pedestrians and cyclists are afterthoughts, despite the figures that show an increasing trend away from the use of private motor vehicles. NZTA thought they could get away with designing an inadequate and potentially dangerous “solution” for pedestrians and cyclists because that would make the flyover look less offensive. It seems they thought wrong.