The Christchurch City Council is developing a network of 13 Major Cycle Routes (MCR) to connect suburbs, shopping areas, commercial centres, schools and recreation destinations in Christchurch via an integrated 101 km network of cycle routes, designed to provide an increased level of cycle safety and encourage more road users to get on their bikes.
Aurecon has been appointed as a sub-consultant for ‘Velos’, one of two teams serving on the MCR Panel. Aurecon’s role on the project embraces route assessment through to construction management, stakeholder engagement, and detailed business case funding reports, as well as feasibility studies and risk identification.
Building the MCR within an existing transport network has required the Velos (Aurecon) team to provide smart retrofitting solutions, context-specific designs and modifications, while also considering the area’s geography and heritage value during planning and design.
The MCR are different from typical on-road cycle lanes in that they consist of either fully separated cycle paths or neighbourhood greenways (a unique slow and low traffic volume environment designed to allow cyclists and vehicles to safely share the road space), which are relatively new concepts for Christchurch.
These factors, combined with the challenge of working around existing infrastructure, multiple waterways, and other specific operational requirements of the site, were addressed by Aurecon through a timeous and effective stakeholder engagement and consent process.
During the various stages of design, Aurecon has undertaken consultation and engagement with the community, businesses and key stakeholders.
As a result of the complexities found in communicating the design plans, Aurecon explored innovative ways to convey the project to the community. One example of this is the development of a virtual reality (VR) bike, which allows the user to ride a stationary exercise bike while wearing a VR headset displaying the design space. The user is able to fully immerse themselves in the design, with 360 degree perspectives of the buildings, environment and other moving vehicles.
Aurecon developed a section of Heathcote MCR for the VR Bike for presentation purposes at the Asia Pacific Cycle Congress and NZ Cycle Expo, both held in Christchurch in October 2017.
A number of MCR routes have already been completed, providing a safer alternative mode of travel and, according to the “2017 Life in Christchurch Survey”, leading to a significant increase in road users opting to commute on their bikes.
According to the survey results:
The completed cycle route from the University of Canterbury to the Central City has already surpassed volume forecasts in its first year of operation, reaching over 1,400 users per day, (November 2017) and predicted to reach over 1,600 users per day by 2021.
Aurecon’s experts have been pivotal in coordinating specialist inputs relating to the optimisation of the design, which has been greatly influenced by key ecological, heritage and other sensitivities relating to the location of the routes.
While the MCR programme forms part of a much larger initiative to encourage residents to cycle, its early success indicates a positive response and step forward in terms of establishing Christchurch as an environmentally-friendly, future-ready city.