Category Archives: Safety

Post card from Osnabruck

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Osnabruck is a city of 164,374 people, with an area of 120 km2, a population density of 1,400 people per km2 (ppkm2) and an elevation of 63m. Hamilton is a city of 169,300 people, with an area of 110 km2, a population density of 1,500 ppkm2, and an elevation of 40m.

Altstadt (Old Town) Osnabruck covers an area of 1.71 km2 and houses nearly 9,000 people in apartments or houses in the city centre, giving a density of just over 5,000 people per km². Compare this to what the Hamilton Central City Transformation Plan tells us: the Hamilton central area is 1.29 km2, and is home to 3,000 people, giving a density of 2,325 people per km2. So like Altstadt Dusseldorf, the safety benefit of a 24-hour ‘eyes on the street’ population in Hamilton central is half that of Altstadt Osnabruck.

Osnabruck has a university (opened in 1974) with a population of 11,000 students and 1,858 staff. Waikato University (established in 1964) has 9,900 Students and 1,480 staff. In Osnabruck the distance between the city centre campus and suburban campus is 2 km. Waikato University to Garden Place is 4 km. I counted 10 schools in Altstadt Osnabruck. Hamilton has 4 in the central city area if you count Hamilton West School. Altstadt Osnabruck is lively during the day and well into the evening and feels like the living/dining room of the city, rather than a business centre.

During the Second World War, the inner city was badly hit by aerial bombardments, and 94% of it was destroyed. The northern part of the Altstadt still offers a historic view, partly through restorations, but the rest is a mix of post-WW2 building styles. Point to note: where there was more bike parking there were more people.

What I did not see here in the city centre was fields of car parking like in Hamilton, even though motor vehicles are seen in the city centre in the morning. It appears to me they need to have a reason to be there. It is also clear that people have the right to dominate centre city streets, and we can see the benefits of this ‘people first’ approach by looking at their improving travel mode split: 2010 (2008) Car 53 (55), PT 16 (15), Bike 12 (11), Walk 19 (19).

What helps the improving mode shift to biking is the use of good width cycle lanes. Also, many of the intersections are similar to the Dutch ‘sustainable Safety’ thinking: ‘Obstacle-free zones are the most important in this respect’. The evidence that this is working can be seen by the fact that parents allow their children to bike to school.

Osnabruck has also increased the number of people using public transport. The Osnabruck bus network is 425 km long, divided into 24 lines, with 151 scheduled and special vehicles, has more than 800 stops and is used by about 36 million passengers. Hamilton’s urban bus network* has 26 routes (p22*) (5 Satellite routes) (p25*) and an urban patronage of 4.6m (p26*) (Regional patronage 1.7m). Interestingly, Osnabruck uses these bus trailers. I do not know what to think of these; I have ridden in many types of bus and I should of try this but didn’t. From my observations, people were using them.

Hamilton’s bus service is good but under-performing. If has the potential to move 5 times the current number of people when benchmarked against Osnabruck. We have a praiseworthy network and a nice bus fleet in place; the key here is frequency. As you can see, Osnabruck and Hamilton are very similar in many ways, but to me Osnabruck feels like it is ahead of us. We need to change faster.

School Links: Davies Corner

Hukanui-Peachgrove Road is a popular route to many schools and workplaces, but has congestion, high crash rates and dangerous spots for cycling. Potential to increase active transport (and reduce congestion) is good. So HCC has embarked on a $20m “School Link” project to provide “a safe cycleway for almost 9,500 students who go to school within the Hukanui/Peachgrove corridor”.

One of the ‘pinch points’ for cyclists and pedestrians on this route is Davies Corner. This is a busy suburban-strip-type shopping centre and roundabout at the intersection of Peachgrove, Hukanui and Clarkin Roads and Snell Drive.

Davies Corner Roundabout

Ratings using the Angela Cummins’ BooYay scale:

Yay –

  • The roundabout keeps traffic flowing
  • The Majestic Ginkgo tree in the roundabout
  • Mature trees on surrounding islands/berms
  • Angle i.e. ‘easy’ parking right in front of shops
  • Parking at the back of medical centre
  • There are bike racks
  • Roundabout floral displays

Davies Corner shops

Boo –

  • The roundabout – Dangerous for cyclists, as many roundabouts are. Drivers often go in front of cyclists’ paths or sneak past them rather than slowing down behind them, resulting in ‘near-misses’
  • Drivers’ speed, plantings obscuring views, and drivers or walkers not looking carefully enough make it unsafe for drivers, pedestrians and footpath cyclists
  • Angle parks – Limited visibility backing out
  • Bus lanes end abruptly at the roundabout, not much room for cyclists
  • Limited space to footpath cycle in front of shops
  • Bike racks not the best design, people often leave bikes outside shops where they can be left unlocked within view
    Regular roundabout plantings maintenance reduces space/visibility for cyclists
  • Unsafe u-turns on Hukanui Road
  • Delivery trucks parking in the centre turning bay
  • Poor visibility and high-ish crash rates on Kensington Ave

Ideas for Improvements:

Cycle Paths

Making dedicated cycle paths on the eastern side of Hukanui Road (opposite the shops) could be relatively easy, as the footpath is extra wide and could be widened a little and marked for cyclists’ use. The bus lane could be removed, its value seems to be in making sure cars don’t create another lane, since it is so short that the time merging in and out of it may make up for any time saved by passing cars.

On the western (shops) side, parking could be changed to parallel parks which may slightly increase visibility and space for a cycle path, but business owners don’t want to reduce parking spaces. If the footpath was wCycle Pathsidened to include a separated cyclepath, both pedestrians and cyclists could travel in front of parked cars, whether angle or parallel-parked.

Davies Corner Roundabout:

Overpass – My if-there-were-no-fiscal-or-physical-limits ultimate dream solution. Perhaps all the funding should be spent on over or under-passes here and at Five Cross Roads. There is possibly enough length to get the height needed on the footpath along Snell Dr/Hukanui corner, maybe not quite enough on the other streets.

Underpass – These are awesome, the ones on Wairere Drive enable a raft of people to use active transport who would otherwise use a car. An example of retrofitting one is on Cobham Drive. Could be a tricky getting enough length for it to be a gradual slope. People may congregate under there, I’m not aware of this being a major issue in other spots, although graffiti is a constantly returning resident!

Dutch-style Roundabout –

Continue the cycle paths around the roundabout, well-marked, with contours which force drivers to reduce speed, and good signage. But these designs require cyclists and pedestrians to cross the path of the vehicles, which still seems rather scary to me, unless the motorists have been slowed down already and are willing to give way to a cyclist. The current recommendation to wait and cycle in the centre of the same lane as cars mean vehicles are usually behind you and can’t pass directly in front of you.

Kensington Place – Removing the final carparking space on Hukanui Road, or making it motorbike- or pushbike-only would improve visibility.

Signage –

“No u-turn” signs on Hukanui Road could reduce dangerours u-turns, but may increase u-turns on Kensington Ave.

HCC is currently in consultation mode for the whole Hukanui-Peachgrove Rd school link project, with recent workshops attracting a range of views. So if you have an opinion on how to improve these routes, even if it is just agreeing with this post, let them know; email bike.hamilton@hcc.govt.nz Community open days and tactical urbanism to trial ideas are planned for Feb/March 2019, presenting a narrowed list of options for input. If you are interested in ideas for improving other pinch points along this route, check out my previous posts on Stephanie Says (Hamilton, NZ) on Facebook.