Car-centric carriageway clogging culture continues in Christchurch [3]: Accessible City sabotaged

Last time around we took a look at Christchurch’s replacement transport chapter for the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan (CCRP). This was put out for consultation and was eventually adopted and implementation began about 2014. CCC itself committed to the AAC plan several times, including  June 2015 when a budget setting meeting affirmed the value and merit of the projects, and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee was also sold on the concept. For a couple of years it rolled along with support from some of the CBD businesses but in 2016 there were increasing concerns being expressed by a section of the same community which crystalised along a familiar if well worn theme – the restriction on car movements in parts of the city, and removal of on-street car parking, would send businesses broke, etc, it was alleged.

From early 2016 through to December, prominent developers and businesspeople vehemently attacked the AAC projects. The reconstruction of Manchester Street that started mid-2016, plans put out for Victoria Street about the same time, and  work on St Asaph Street attracted heated criticism, and the Government, caught out by the strength of opposition to the changes, froze funding for some of the work unless changes were made. Only minor changes were made to St Asaph and Manchester Street was completed with its full time bus priority lanes but continues to be criticised for restrictions on other traffic. Councillors in the central ward largely fell spinelessly in line with the business concerns and have wholeheartedly supported the sabotage of the plan despite their earlier support for it. In March 2017 legal action was threatened if the plans were not changed.

What has happened since? The Council has now spinelessly caved into business demands and practically thrown away the remainder of the AAC plan. This means we will just see more and more pressure to get rid of all the work done to date whilst there will be no more bus or cycle priority measures. The High Street and Victoria Street redevelopment plans are essentially cramming all modes together into an already narrow streets, in the case of High Street that has double tram tracks down a section of it, making it extremely hazardous for cyclists. The consultation documents and responses by council staff whitewashed over these concerns. Victoria Street plans have no bus priority despite the large number of buses that pass along this street each day. Essentially a group of wealthy property owners and developers in the CBD have used their clout to force CCC to provide them with free on street parking for their businesses, instead of providing their own off street parking as should normally be the case, because there has been endless handouts to these people from both the government and CCC and they demanded more. However it is becoming clear that the general public and CCC are becoming tired of the constant hands-out attitude from the CBD people and considerable scepticism is being expressed over some of the demands, but it remains to be seen what will happen in respect of cycling, walking and public transport, because the prioritisation of these has more or less been thrown to the wind.

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