Consultation on speed limit changes at Hospital Corner, Christchurch.

CCC will hold a hearing November 21 concerning proposed speed limit changes on sections of St Asaph Street, Hagley Avenue, Riccarton Avenue, along with Oxford Terrace / Antigua Street (around Hospital Corner) in the southern central city. This is because significant opposition to these changes was received during the submission process.

This section of road is important as it provides for people accessing the hospital complex as well as pedestrian and cyclist traffic through Hagley Park and around the riverbanks. The important consideration is pedestrian and cyclist safety. But as usual we get motorists demanding they have priority over every other mode and someone has whipped up a pro-motorists campaign of opposition to these changes.
  1. Proposed reduction of the current 50km/h speed limit, to 30 km/h on St Asaph Street (from Madras Street to Hagley Avenue), Hagley Avenue from Selwyn Street to Riccarton Avenue, and Riccarton Avenue in front of Christchurch Hospital (and including the planned emergency vehicles entrance to the new acute services building).
    Responses: support 261 (35%), do not support 473 (64%) and 3 not indicated (0.4%)
  2.  Associated new speed threshold gateways to slow traffic approaching these routes and areas.
    Responses: support 251 (34%), do not support 474 (64%) and not indicated 12 (2%)
  3. Proposed 10 km/h (reduced from the current 30km/h) on small sections of Oxford Terrace and Antigua Street (north of Tuam Street) around the new Outpatients Building.
    Responses: support 296 (40%), do not support 421 (57%) and not indicated 20 (3%)

The full detail of the submissions has been released on the summary web page and it is a bit breathtaking to read the quality of the opposing submissions. It seems pretty clear to me that the submissions in favour, in most cases, were quite well thought out, whereas most of the opposition was either quite flippant, or selfish. Most people opposing were only concerned about maximising their speed of transfer across what is a fairly short distance, and therefore their negativity was quite disproportionate to the impact of these changes over a short section of roadway. The map below shows the affected sections which specifically are mentioned above, outlined in blue. I haven’t distinguished between the two different areas but as listed above, most of it is 30 km/h and only a small part of it is 10 km/h (the hooked part around Oxford Terrace / Antigua St). 

We have to keep these changes in context because as it turns out, most of the CBD is already restricted to 30 km/h so the new section of St Asaph St proposed for 30 km/h extends this area by just one block. The 10 km/h section is only extending off the rest of Oxford Terrace that is already limited to 10 km/h.
So as you can see there is a long piece of St Asaph St that is proposed for restriction at 30 km/h and this is one block south of the Bus Interchange which can be seen as a red rectangle centre right but it is only a one block extension of the existing 30 km/h area as mentioned above.
No doubt there will be a lot of vehement opposition from the usual sources in relation to St Asaph St in particular which has been very controversial with the installation of the cycle lane and reduction in parking. I can’t however see how this is going to majorly affect businesses but people will claim that it is a big deal for St Asaph Street as a through traffic route. However we are seeing a lot of pushback from motorists against the Accessible City and this could result in the Council caving in on the opposition just as they backed down on some of the original design of St Asaph St (which was found by traffic consultants to be properly designed and implemented but was changed by the council anyway, after they made sure to blame Otakaro and CERA for not caving in to the opposition in the first place). This is the pattern we now see in Manchester St as well, which was constructed to enable bus priority and also support pedestrian and cycling modes in support of the Accessible City plan, which is now being watered down to give through motor vehicle traffic more priority and will also disadvantage the City Tram.
Also of relevance is that a submission was made under the name of Bus Go Canterbury opposing the 30 km/h and 10 km/h speed limits but not opposing the gateways. The submission has claimed that it will slow down buses unnecessarily in the areas. However I think that this is nonsense because of the short distances involved and that the average speed of buses, due to having to service stops, will not be impacted by more than a small amount. The context also has to be seen because a lot of other bus route areas are already impacted by 30 km/h speed limits around the CBD already which I doubt has a major impact for the same reasons I mentioned above. The overall impact of the Accessible City is pro PT and therefore this has to be taken into consideration. I have noted that Bus Go Canterbury opposed the development of super stops and the Riccarton bus lounge, so whether they have the ability to understand an overall perspective of public transport needs in Christchurch is in question and is one reason I am not involved in their activities.
I would guess the rest of the opposition is coming from the same groups that made the most noise previously over the changes to St Asaph St like the local business associations including a new one that was formed around that time two years ago which specifically campaigned in relation to St Asaph St. The opposition caused the Council to back down that time when they consulted on reducing the speed limit in St Asaph St so it’s not immaterial to suggest there will be more craven caving this time either.

Here are some more specific details relating to the current consultation:

  • Submissions in favour included the following:
    • Call for the 30 km/h zone to be further extended such as more of Hagley Avenue and some side streets.
    • More active enforcement of lower speed limit needed
    • NZ Property Council suggests that the boundaries of the 30 km/h zone change in the other boundaries while incorporating St Asaph St as the southern boundary.
    • Submissions noting the opening of Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery School on the St Asaph / Colombo Corner referring to the speed limit to ensure the safety of students.
    • Some traffic signals are already set to a 30 km/h progression speed.
    • 10 km/h zone is very safe for disabled/injured hospital patients as well as being part of the river precinct.
  • Submissions in opposition included the following:
    • Slower speed limit would deter people coming into the central city (I guess this is the business associations submitting)
    • St Asaph St is a major east west traffic route and should remain at 50 km/h as should other one way routes.
    • The school zone around Ao Tawhiti should be 40 km/h like other school zones
    • 30 km/h is too slow
    • Would cause congestion and accessibility problems in the area
    • Would impact on journey times to the hospital. (Emergency services were consulted and felt this was irrelevant)
    • Car parking should not be removed at the gateway threshhold points
    • Spokes (cycling advocate group) does not support the Antigua St gateway and want more carparks removed to allow a separated cycle lane. They also asked for an extension of the 30 km/h area.
    • 10 km/h opposed by Spokes as too slow for cyclists. Also opposed by motorists.
    • Oxford Terrace proposed 10 km/h section should be completedly closed to motor vehicles.
    • Enforcement needed for 10 km/h limit to be valuable.
Much of the opposition to St Asaph Street being a 30 km/h speed area has revisited the changes made in the last two years and called for the changes made then with the installation of cycle lanes to be reversed.  This of course is part of vehement orchestrated motorist opposition to the Accessible City, in particular cycle lanes, bus priority and the 30 km/h limits. Spokes is about the only group who have claimed that the Accessible City didn’t go far enough and didn’t consider cyclists specifically. This is also a nonsense claim and I do not agree with it or believe it can be taken seriously. Property Council is a standout supporter of the proposals because there has been so much business opposition from other groups. CDHB is also a notable supporter and I believe their submission in favour of the 10 km/h limit is likely to carry considerable weight. The AA submission expressed concern about loss of the subway crossing under the streets (I personally used this subway in 2009 when we were visiting a family member who was in the hospital over a period). The subway was damaged in the quakes and apparently has not been reinstated for public use but only as an accessway for hospital services such as steam pipes. The AA is particularly concerned that there will be a lot of traffic going through the affected section of Oxford Terrace where there will also be pedestrians. AA evidently consulted with Spokes when making their submission.  
My personal view overall, apart from supporting the proposed speed limit changes,  is that piece of Oxford Terrace from Hospital Corner to Antigua St and Antigua St from Oxford Terrace to Tuam St be closed entirely. As there is an exit from the hospital into Oxford Terrace this should be preserved but only for the section of Oxford Terrace going from there to Montreal St, blocked off by kerbing to ensure the adjacent closed section remains safe for pedestrians. I have great concern about Spokes opposition to restrictions on cyclists moving through the area. There is risk to pedestrians if cyclists are unable to slow down to 10 km/h in the area and perhaps it should be closed off for cyclists as well and they should be limited to a separated cycle path alongside the traffic exit from the hospital.
Long term there are already grounds to be concerned about the pushback against the Accessible City, the caving from sections of Council already on parts of it, and the prospect of further attempts to downgrade it in the future. Most of this is very small minded about wanting to use convenient shortcuts along city streets for going through the city and not a lot has much or anything to do with people accessing parts of the CBD.
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