Christmas markets diary notes

This November and December my wife and I have been travelling, mainly in Germany and the Netherlands, but we did include a quick drive to Krakow and Prague. We will be back in New Zealand in time for Christmas at home with the family. This post is essentially a diary.

In mid-November we were in the Ruhr Rhine area and Osnabruck, where the markets, street lighting and building decorations were being put up. Point to note: Health and safety is about being ‘reasonable and practical’; Germans are not keen on hi-vis vests, cones and cordoned-off areas. Photo below from Wuppertal Von-der-Heydt-Platz

Back in the Netherlands, Christmas was more personal in terms of the displays, with the lighting of streets, houses and window displays.

Near the end of November we were in Berlin. The retail stalls were still being set up, but the drinking/eating areas of the markets were busy and crowded. We then moved on to Krakow, where the market was ready to open but waiting for the official opening date.

On 1 December we had a day in Prague. It snowed, and it was picture perfect. The photos below are from Namesti Miru square, where there are about 50 small stalls selling a mix of decorations, food and drinks. It was a really nice place to be, and stayed comfortably busy well into the night. Point to note: evening public transport that is reliable and frequent is a must if you want a lively city in the evening

In Rothenburg there was a fantastic Christmas market band playing; the setting was like being in a Disney movie.

Heidelberg had six markets along its main street, which added another reason to visit this beautiful city.

Baden Baden was different again; here the quality of the merchandise was above average. It felt a bit like Queenstown without the lake.

Then there is the Karlsruhe example. There are two Christmas markets, the larger in Friedrichsplatz and the smaller in Marktplatz. The photo below is of Marktplatz, where they do the opposite to what we have in Hamilton with its focus on a large tree; Marktplatz’s focus is on social activities, drinking and eating, without the large Christmas tree.

The advantage for Marktplatz is in having a frequent public transport network as part of the market, so no-one thinks they need to drive.

Something to think about: is there a link between public transport and social place – Boxing Day buses free in the Waikato – go shop, eat and drink.

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.