1 Mar 2019

Hopes Dunedin cycleway opening will ease road tensions

6:37 pm on 1 March 2019

Dunedin's deputy mayor hopes the opening of the city's separated cycleway marks the end of rising tensions between motorists and cyclists.

The $8 million separated cycleway project has driven a clear divide between cyclists and motorists.

Although neither group got exactly what they were after, authorities have been saying since 2017 that it's the only viable option.

The rising bitterness between the groups has even led to the coining of a new term - bikelash.

But at the official opening for the cycleway, which runs 2.5km between Queens Gardens and the Dunedin Botanic Garden, Dunedin deputy mayor Chris Staynes said he hoped today marked the beginning of the healing of the rift.

"Nobody likes change - whatever change you do it upsets people," he said.

"So now that the change is done, the system is in place, people will get used to it and that backlash will die down."

Motorists used to travelling across the city had benefit from the city's stagnation. But the ground had now moved in that regard.

"Maybe we've been lucky, we've been a backwater city where we never get held up at the lights, there's never any road works," Mr Staynes said.

"But now our economy is moving more quickly and we have some major project starting to move into the city. I think we just have to accept we are going to have some impediments to moving around the city from time to time.

"But the outcomes we get from those impediments are well worth having.

"Put the arguments that were there in the past and let's just move on now that we have a way of sharing the roads. The future will be better for it."

The push for change was sparked by the 2012 death of Dunedin doctor Li Hong "Chris" He, who was run over by a stock truck outside Dunedin Hospital.

Something drastic was needed, Mr Staynes said.

"When you look at the fact that we have had three deaths [of cyclists] on our state highway system within the city [in the past 15 years] and a number of serious accidents, there was only one sensible answer and that was to face up to the fact that we needed those separated lanes," he said.

"Many people have told us that they want to cycle but they simply don't feel safe hopping on a bike in the central city."

Dunedin North MP David Clark, who cut the ribbon at the opening, touted not only the safety benefits of the cycleways but also the boost it could bring to amenity and health for people.

But among the big projects destined for the central city is the billion-dollar Dunedin Hospital rebuild.

It would be straddled by the cycleways to the east and west, so questions remained about the fate of the new separated lanes.

Transport Agency South Island regional relationships director, Jim Harland, did not indicate ripping them up within five years was the plan. But he would not rule it out either.

"The crucial point is no decisions have been made," he said.

"We've got to look at that [roading design when the rebuild begins] from all the users' perspectives because in the centre of the city there are bus users, there's walking folk, there's cycling folk, there's car drivers. So any future design or re-design of the network needs to accommodate all those users."

But the most likely option currently on the table was the return of two-way traffic to the one-way system.

The cycleways design meant they were not fixed in place, Mr Harland said.

The detail of the future design of the road would be worked through later on, he said.

A review of the central city network was underway.

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