Major Report: Turn Christchurch Into Cycling, Public Transport Heaven


A major report on Christchurch’s future today strong recommends a strong public transport network as an alternative to cars and pushes cycling as a desirable alternative mode of transport in the city.

Danish urban designer Jan Gehl and his team were asked to do the report looking at how people use Christchurch’s Central City spaces and streets and says Christchurch has potential to be a truly vibrant and liveable city.

The report’s just been released by Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.

It’s a great refreshing report that all mayors and civic officials should read, especially in Auckland.

The Mayor calls the report “a vital health check to ensure we get the best out of our natural and built assets, while providing great public spaces.”.

The report concludes: “It takes time to develop a good city and putting people first should be the core principle for any planning process.”

His team says that Christchurch’s street grid makes a rational, flexible and efficient urban structure; the flat wide streets provide the perfect setting for a culture of more walking and cycling in Christchurch city.

Here’s what the report says about cycling and public transport:

Traffic dominates Christchurch’s City Centre. The streets are dominated by car parking and relatively high traffic speeds contribute to the unpleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

The city lacks an attractive, safe pedestrian/cyclist network connecting important destinations.

The Central City suffers from heavy through traffic, resulting in a decline in the quality of public  space.

Cycling is all about opportunities. Cycling is an attractive alternative transport mode – cheap and an excellent way of exercising. In cities world wide, cyclists increase in numbers where conditions for cycling are safe and attractive.

Unfortunately, the cycle network in the Central City is incomplete, making it unsafe to bike, since a cyclist may be riding in a cycle lane for a couple of blocks and then find they are riding in between moving cars again.

The painted line denoting a cycle lane provides questionable security for cyclists. Cycle lanes separated from moving traffic with a kerb provide more security. A well organised public transport system can give people the ability to move around in the city without a car and provide seniors and children with a real alternative.

There are a number of positive features about the public transport system in Christchurch. The free bus service, the Shuttle, is especially good since it offers an easy and dependable way of getting around the Central City. With the current bus routes, too many buses run directly through the City Centre and several streets are suffering from high bus impact.

The high impact of buses and the lack of pedestrian crossings in Cathedral Square create an unpleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

Its overall recommendations:

  • Create a central high quality walking link along Colombo Street, connecting Victoria Square, Cathedral Square and the new Transport Interchange, while also linking in to the Central City South development.
  • Colombo Street becomes a combined public transport, walking and cycling street, removing private vehicles. •
  • Develop a dedicated cycle network with signage and cycle parking is established in the Central City, making cycling a desirable, alternative mode of transport.
  • Provide a strong public transport network as an alternative to cars. •
  • Introduce dedicated bus lanes to ensure the frequency and reliability of the bus service.

To provide that well integrated and well connected public transport network to provide an alternative to cars, its recommendations conclude:

  • First phase could be a simplified bus network in the city centre by turning Armagh St, Manchester St, Lichfield St., Cambridge Terrace into a bus ring around the heart of the city.
  • Reduce the high frequency of buses on Colombo Street and across Cathedral Square.
  • Let bus routes touch the periphery of the city centre.
  • Extend the existing tramway system, reduce the prices and let it be a part of the public transport network in the city centre in order to reduce traffic in the city centre.
  • In the long term reduce the number of bus routes to the city centre and gradually replace them with light rail
  • Investigate how a new bus exchange hub could work on the periphery of the city centre.
  • Develop Colombo Street into a public transport route with moderate traffic but with excellent links to a possible new bus exchange and the primary bus ring around the city centre.
  • Investigate how a more environmentally sustainable transport system can be developed.

There’s also good stuff on public spaces. After reading the report, I feel like moving south!





  1. Jon says:

    What until the Road Transport Forum boys and Steven Joyce get into this report.

    If it was pro roads those two would be crowing publicly about roads. As it is not they’ll be silent as mice but trying their best to bite holes in it.

    Light Rail and public transport are enemies of the current roading lobby funded Government.

  2. I am so with you there Jon! After listening to John Bank’s speech at the Go By Bike Breakfast I was appalled by his views (see post ), and then this morning I heard about this move to make fleuro gear compulsory for cyclists (see I was thinking of going to another country but Christchurch sounds promising if they put this stuff into action!

  3. It would be great to have Jan Gehl do a report on Auckland - Imagine … if Christchurch is New Zealand’s ‘cycling capital’ and the ‘garden city’, what would he make of New Zealand’s ‘city of cars and concrete’!

  4. Cambennett says:

    I think he already has. I think they consulted him/his company about the share streets concept. He also appeared on the Auckland City of Cars video series if i’m not mistaken.

  5. Brent C says:

    Jan Gehl has also done reports on Wellington, recommending ideas such as pedestrianizing the golden mile and limiting traffic movements along the Quays to enable better access between the waterfront and the city. Both of which were laughed at by council.

    Good luck in Chch in implementing some of these ideas!

  6. Jon C says:

    @Brent C The council considers it next week (25th) so that should be interesting!

  7. Jeremy Harris says:

    If you could post the result of that meeting it would be good…

  8. Jon C says:

    @Jeremy I will be. I am watching with much interest.

  9. Max says:

    Th fluro thing scares me, even though I do wear it half the time.

    It’s the classical case of putting all the onus on the cyclist, and of making cycling yet again more complicated instead of normal.

  10. Anthony says:

    hmmm… it would be hard for the cyclist if the trams become a public transport system, though i’ll doubt it’ll happen anytime soon.

  11. Mike says:

    If trams make it hard for cyclists, how come Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague have plenty of both?

  12. Anthony says:

    LOL never thought of that! maybe it’s just the whingers blowing thing out of porportions AGAIN!

  13. Max says:

    Why should trams be a problem? I come from a city in Germany with substantial tram lines left over from the early 20th century (which are now finally being extended again, huzzah) and it was never a problem.

    Sure, you need to be a little bit careful where ou ride near the rails, because your wheel could be caught in them, but really, I have not seen that happen to anyone in decades, and there’s lots of cyclists.

    If anything, trams are more predictable for cyclists, as they don’t suddenly swerve, like a bus can do.

  14. Scott says:

    The good news in Christchurch is the recommendations of the Gehl report discussed in this blog entry have been turned into an Action Plan as part of Project Central City, called “A City for People Action Plan”.

    It can be viewed via the council’s website, at

    Hopefully post-earthquake Christchurch will ensure this Action Plan is one of the foundations of rebuilding plans.


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