As Warkworth residents ponder a Structure Plan that will shape future development in the township, a local urban designer is pressing for cycling and walking to be given top priority.
Clynt White, of White Landscape + Urbanism, says even if we make things easier for cars – such as re-designing the notorious Hill Street intersection – the benefits will be strictly limited.
This is because of a phenomenon known as “induced demand”. As you make things more attractive for cars, motorists cannot resist taking advantage of the available roads with longer and more frequent journeys.
Soon, you are back where you started, with clogged roads and frustrated motorists unable to get to where they want to go.
For this reason, Clynt says we need to be thinking beyond the car, especially with Warkworth’s Structure Plan process underway, which will outline how the town’s urban areas will develop to accommodate a population that is expected to soar from 4500 to 24,500 over the next 15 years.
“Our focus should be providing walking and cycling options – it needs to be the backbone of how things develop,” he says.
“If it’s not in place to begin with then you must retro-fit, and that can be exceptionally difficult when you have constrained spaces.”
When it comes to cycling, Clynt says we need to appreciate that cycleways can be more than just for recreation.
The growing popularity of ebikes (electric bikes), which can travel up to 45kmh, means cycleways can function just as effectively as commuter corridors over relatively long distances.
For example, an ebike rider from Matakana travelling on a dedicated cycleway, could be in Warkworth within 15 minutes and, as a bonus, avoid a snarl up at the Hill Street intersection.
Of course, even with the advent of ebikes, cycleways and walkways function best when distances are kept small.
Clynt says ideally, developing areas should be kept reasonably compact so that residential areas remain within walking and cycling distance of services, so people don’t feel obliged to take the car when they want to do some shopping.
This, in turn, means a reduced need for carparks, already notoriously hard to come by in Warkworth.
As the car becomes less essential, Warkworth’s main streets could be designated primarily for pedestrians, making them more congenial to shoppers and allowing café owners to have more tables outdoors.
Clynt White says ebikes mean bicycles can commute over longer distances.
Clynt acknowledges Warkworth retailers tend to be fierce about having carparks available to customers right outside their businesses, but he believes having a more attractive public space will work better for them in the long run.
It’s not about cars coming in the door, it’s about people. People don’t necessarily want to sit next to parked cars or have cars driving past them when they are sitting outside enjoying a coffee,” he says.
The first consultation period on the Warkworth Structure Plan seeking initial feedback from the public ended on April 23. Further consultation will take place in June at community workshops. Input gathered at the workshops, along with additional technical research, will be used to formulate a draft Structure Plan.