By Paul Callister, 8 July 2022
A previous blog has highlighted the success of the Poplar Avenue crossing campaign supported by Low Carbon Kāpiti. Here is some deeper history of the campaign plus some ideas as to how we can conitune to improve our cycling network.
So why the campaign? We know we have to reduce transport emissions. We need to do this quickly and by a significant amount. One way is to increase the amount of walking and biking we do. We also know that having safe walkways and cycleways greatly helps in this modeshift.
Te Ara o Whareroa shared walking and cycling track that connects the villages of Raumati and Paekākāriki was opened in 2016. Since then it has been popular with recreational walkers and cyclists. It is also used by cycle commuters, including children attending nearby schools. But the crossing of Poplar Avenue was dangerous.
As a result, over many years individuals had approached the Kāpiti District Council with their concerns about the safety of the road crossing at the end of. Some minor safety improvements were made including new signage and a 40km zone was established around the crossing. However, the fundamental safety concerns were not addressed.
Given that Kāpiti Coast District Council had declared a climate emergency and thus hopefully understood that transport emissions needed to decline, members of the community decided to push harder for change. In this campaign, it was also recognised that while Poplar Avenue was a problem, improving safety for this crossing would signal the start of support for safer cycling across the entire Kāpiti Coast.
In late 2021 a petition for a safe crossing at this site was launched. The petition was endorsed by Low Carbon Kāpiti, Kāpiti Climate Change Action Group and Kāpiti Cycling Action.
Over 700 people signed the petition. The petition was handed to councillor Sophie Handford at an event held at the crossing. The media attended the event and witnessed families having challenges crossing the road.
The petition organisers were pleased that the council responded by contracting Tonkin and Taylor to undertake a safety review. The organisers also undertook its own research on use of the track and traffic flows and speed on Poplar Avenue. This was greatly helped by the consultancy Smartsense.
undertaking monitoring at no cost. The Smartsense report showed a significant amount of traffic was exceeding the speed limit.
The Tonkin and Taylor report was released in March 2021. It acknowledged the dangers of the crossing and recommended both short and longer term solutions.
The short term options included:
• Signage – additional/improved static warning signs and/or electronic signs.
• Increase conspicuity of the crossing and reinforce 40 km/h speed limit –use of red markings, use of dragons’ teeth markings, painted rumble strips and a gateway treatment.
• Visual narrowing to create perception of a narrow carriageway without physically narrowing the road – additional street trees, lamp columns, street furniture, paving treatment and roadway markings.
Longer term options included:
• Address the crossing point issues –raised (dual/paired cycle) Zebra Crossing is the preferred option.
• Simplify the arrangement with the adjacent Matai Road intersection and reduce vehicle speeds – this could take the form of a raised give way or roundabout intersection.
While the report confirmed the danger of the crossing, there was no immediate action to undertake the changes recommended. So there was some further on-site campaigning by a small group of concerned individuals under the name Kāpiti Urban Repair Crew. This was supported by funding from a Givealittle campaign, from the Radical Action Grants group and Cycle Wellington.
Finally, in June 2022 it was announced some of the short term recommendations would be implemented and that funding was being sought for the longer term solutions. In July the plastic ‘hit posts’ were installed and paint applied to the road.
Kāpiti is lucky to have an active Walking, Cycleway and Bridleway group advising council on how to improve walking, cycling and horse riding in the district. This group has focussed in the past on recreational activities, but will now hopefully place modeshift for climate change higher on its priorities.
We are also lucky to have a good core spine of a cycleway linking our towns and villages. But if we are to reduce transport emission, we need to lift our cycling rates to those closer to seen in places like Holland. To do this we need to greatly improve the safety of cycling across our whole district.
The successful Poplar Avenue campaign is just the start of a wider push for safe, low emission travel. There are other crossings needing improvement, for example on the main cycleway crossing Otaihanga road.
While Low Carbon Kāpiti will continue to support safe cycling in our district a new Facebook group has also been set up.
This forum aims to help identify where key safety problems exist to help guide decision makers when they are considering solutions and improvements. Cyclists are also encouraged to join Kāpiti Cycling Action.