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Federal Street contra-flow cycleway map

Federal Street contra-flow cycleway map (map database: openstreetmap.org)

Federal Street runs one-way northbound in Auckland’s central business district, from Mayoral Drive near Cook Street to Fanshawe Street near the waterfront. It has lower traffic volumes than the parallel roads (although still averaging 3,000-7,000 vehicles per day), making it a popular route for walking and cycling. Federal Street is interrupted by St Patrick’s Square, with a Cathedral sitting on the direct alignment.  

A major upgrade project is planned to enhance Federal Street’s aesthetics and create a shared space, so that it will not only be a practical option, but, more importantly, an attractive option, for walking and cycling. 

To enhance the cycle network connectivity of the central city, a southbound contra-flow cycleway is being added to this corridor with the implementation in stages, before the major shared space treatment is installed. The first stage design, as an interim project, was required to be relatively low-cost and quick to install.  It consists of a separated cycleway for contra-flow (southbound and uphill) cycling, polka-dot markings at intersections to indicate a shared space environment, and localised pedestrian treatments. 

Where two approach traffic lanes had previously been provided at intersections, this was reduced to one lane, to help discourage wrong-way driving whilst not adversely affecting capacity.

The cycleway separation consists of colourful planter boxes and rubber speed humps at driveways.  People cycling in the northbound direction can use the general traffic lane (sharrows have been marked within the traffic lanes).

The first section of the cycleway between Fanshawe Street and Victoria Street (470 m) opened in March 2018, with installation taking less than one week.

Project owner: Auckland Transport

  • Key challenges and issues
    • Trying to ensure design components comply with TCD Rule
      • Restraints on colours that can be used – eg. can’t use blue in any of the painted features because of its official application in signage indicating compulsory movements (note: the polka dots in the above figure are ‘teal’)
      • Exempting cyclists from certain rules – eg. need an ‘EXCEPT CYCLISTS’ plate in conjunction with the NO ENTRY sign (added since the above photo was taken)
      • Visibility requirements – need to use reflective tape on the planter boxes

    • Risk assessment around safety and design – need to demonstrate that elements are designed to withstand impact, and don’t become ‘missiles’
      • The project team demonstrated that if the speeds are lower than 30 km/h, then the environment is inherently safe.
      • Have used dense, clay Waikato soils in the planter boxes – remains compact and resilient on impact when planters are crashed into; planter boxes were not secured into the carriageway due to the temporary manner of the project hence on impact, it was important that the planters don’t become missiles. The jelly-like soil takes much of the impact energy (it’s gone through a 40 km/h impact test already) plus that soil holds moisture well.
      • The contra-flow cycling route (southbound) runs uphill, which slows down users and minimises the risk of conflict with unsuspecting pedestrians or motorists.
    • The initial design was found to be too narrow to accommodate over-dimension emergency / civil service vehicles which were larger than the specified design vehicle
      • Traffic lane was increased to 3.45 m wide
    • Accommodating parking:
      • 6 m long parking bays were found to be necessary (even those at the end of a section of parking); in hindsight it would have been better to adjust the length of the parking bay before any other work started.
      • Need to be careful if car doors are likely to be opened near the planter boxes.
      • Very little parking has been removed. Generally the space required for the new cycleway was created by reducing the number of marked traffic lanes from two to one. One short section of two-way road near Wyndham Street (to access a parking building) was treated with sharrows in both directions.
    • Gaps between planter boxes – motorcyclists were parking between planter boxes and their motorcycles overhanging into the cycleway or traffic lane, causing safety issues
      • Have reduced the width of gaps between the planter boxes
    • Vehicles driving the wrong way along the one-way street
      • After this was observed, the intersection approaches were reduced to one lane; this reduced the amount of wrong-way driving, but did not fully eliminate it.
    • Vandalism – unauthorised damage / removal / tipping over of planter boxes
      • Later installed CCTV cameras to address criminal behaviour
    • Maintenance of planter boxes
      • Require frequent watering, almost daily during summer (higher water capacity models are available in the market however)
      • Need to re-set plants and soil every three months
    • Lighting
      • Upgraded to LEDs to ensure visibility of planter boxes during night
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  • Successes and learnings
    • Key success – managed to treat area with planters and paint in short time, in an extremely cost-effective manner.
    • The use of an interim solution is a cost-effective way of learning useful lessons to inform the development of the final project and ensure its quality.
    • The choice of a flexible mounting for the separation devices (i.e. rather than fixing them to the pavement surface) meant there was much less damage, and therefore lower cost, compared to fixed devices used in other locations in Auckland.  However, it is necessary to adjust the planter boxes now and then.
    • People cycling are happy with the cycleway…
      • …but were unhappy when it was blocked during demolition of an adjacent building (resource consent had been granted prior to installation) – avoid giving something and removing it again.
      • At the moment, there is no clear link across Victoria Street to continue cycling southbound (the next block between Wellesley Street and Victoria Street is a shared space but technically still only one-way northbound)
    • Some people cycle the wrong way down the cycleway, and it is used by some mobility device users
      • However, this doesn’t seem to affect the performance for people cycling in the intended direction.
    • The treatment has resulted in a decrease in traffic speed. A reduction of the posted speed limit hasn’t been implemented but may further reduce observed speeds.
    • Preventing just one serious injury crash gives the interim project a good benefit/cost ratio.
    • There are some mobility car-parks adjacent to the planter boxes and it was found that some drivers cannot turn their necks but drive by “feel”. In this case, they nudge the planter boxes which can bring them out of alignment. Wheel stops will be installed that can be nudged instead.
    • Make sure all resolutions are in place well in advance: St Patricks Square is covered by a by-law from the 1970s and cycling is formally banned. It would have been advisable to amend the bylaw prior to the project going ahead but this was not done. For the time being, enforcement staff are advised to not enforce this part of the bylaw and the process of changing the bylaw has been started.

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