Sharing spaces

by Greg Bodnar on September 6, 2011

Following Auckland’s lead, Wellington has opened Lower Cuba Street as a shared space. There wasn’t much celebration or fanfare beyond an article in the Dominion Post about letting cars back in. Technically, I’m not sure if the “shared space” has been officially opened, and I’m not really in the mood for celebrating.

The idea of developing Lower Cuba Street as a shared space was a reaction to public disapproval of changing the status of Manners Mall from a pedestrian mall to a bus route. A report to WCC Strategy and Policy Committee (PDF) highlighted that residents were upset at the loss of pedestrian space. An amended proposal was put forward and subsequently passed. The initial images looked encouraging. These were taken from the amended proposal:Unfortunately, the final design looks strikingly different. Councillors voted to include 20 car parks in the design, giving us this:

While it boasts wide footpaths and trees, I challenge anyone to point to the shared part of the shared space. Car parks are 2h pay-and-display parks, which doesn’t lend itself to sharing – except with other cars, and the road down the middle looks as unfriendly as any other. At least the signs say “please” when asking drivers not to run over pedestrians. I regularly walk up and down Cuba Street, swinging back and forth between anger and sadness for what we’ve been given as compensation for lost pedestrian space. Honestly, Lower Cuba St bears more resemblance to Blair Street and Allen Street than to any of Auckland’s new shared spaces.

Park(ing) Day first started in 2005 and aims to encourage thinking about urban spaces. The simple idea is to take a car park, pay for it and turn it into a park for people to enjoy. The first example was a 2h park in San Francisco. As word spread around, Rebar released the project to the public. The 2010 event hosted 850 parks in 30 countries and the idea is still spreading. Park(ing) Lower Cuba Street seems to be a perfect way to raise the issue to the public and to city council. The design fails to provide a shared space; by taking parking spaces and forcing them to be shared, we can illustrate how poorly the design fits the original stated goal.

So this post is a call to arms. We want you to be involved. We want your lawn chairs and your pot plants, we want your coffees and your books. We want people to share spaces with people. There are 18 parking spaces available for general use, each of which is an opportunity to be something more than it is. Park(ing) Day 2011 is Friday, September 16. If you have some time and want to come along, help out or buy an hour on a parking meter, leave a comment below.

Since my original off-handed tweet that started this whole thing, I’ve received offers of assistance and a fair bit of encouragement. Armed with the day off from work and some folding chairs, I’m looking to retake some space and have coffee with any Wellington City or Greater Wellington councillors who care to stop by for a friendly chat.



Kaye Reardon September 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm

We would love to be involved and with a little transporting help could supply a garden –
021 0690465 Thyanks Kaye

Robyn September 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Brilliant idea. I ought to be free that day to lend a hand, if needed. Let’s share that street!

pinkiep September 7, 2011 at 12:03 am

i make a point of walking up that in the middle of the road. it feels like a death-wish. shared space my arse. was in the lift at wcc a couple weeks ago hearing some office people congratulating each other on how awesome that project went. seethe.

Stephen Judd September 7, 2011 at 7:54 am

pinkiep: me too! In fact, I walked up the middle just yesterday. The lines of parked cars make it pretty clear to the walker that you are in a road, where you ought not to be, rather than a mall that cars can pootle through.

Alan September 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

Well, outside PARKing perhaps we also ought to make a point of walking up the middle of the street just to establish the supposed “shared” nature of the space.

Greg Bodnar September 7, 2011 at 9:04 am

Maybe we should ask Cheapskates to demo some skateboard tricks on the street.

pinkiep September 7, 2011 at 10:58 am

yes I actually felt as though I was at risk any minute of some driver barelling down and shouting at me to get the fuck out of the way :-/ not that this would EVER happen in cool creative wellington of course :-p

nice to see the speed-monitoring trailer in there at the moment, i guess they noticed people were ignoring the signs?

these ideas look good though

Alan September 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I had a wander up the middle today, only to end up playing chicken with a car steaming down at me (I moved, but it deliberately cut in quite close to me as I passed it).

Acts of “provocation” aside, perhaps we all, pedestrians and drivers alike, need some education on whatever “Shared Space” means here in Wellington. What can pedestrians be expected to be able to use the centre space for? Who has right-of-way? How fast should drivers expect pedestrians to get out of the way? Should they expect that at all?

Does the Council actually know?

I didn’t notice the speed monitoring trailer. It will be getting a few pings though, because almost no car is staying below 10km/h I reckon.

Greg Bodnar September 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I’m not sure if the speed monitor recording anything or is just a visual indication. The comment from AA when the proposal first came out was that speedometers are inaccurate at 10km/h and it’s unsafe for drivers to be spending all their time watching their speed. Or something.

I’m hoping that council will eventually replace the seal with rough cobble, or at least put in decent speed humps. There’s no other obvious reason to drive slowly.

pinkiep September 15, 2011 at 4:05 pm

The text of the sign at each end (in unreadable-except-from-a-couple-of-feet-away font):

“This is now a slow speed area where pedestrians have priority.

Vehicle and cycle access is one-way – from Manners to Wakefield.

Drivers and cyclists must give way to pedestrians.

The speed limit is 10kph.

The angle parking has been replaced with two-hour parallel parking.

The wide areas adjacent to the shops are for pedestrians only.

Please take care at each end of the street where vehicles exit and enter. these crossing points are like others in the central city. If you are driving through, you should give way to pedestrians – even on a green light.”

Kinda supports the idea that this is a separate area from a “public roadway” where pedestrian activity is not appropriate.

Shame it is in such appallingly unreadable-from-a-car text, and the signs that cars can see just say “please give way to pedestrians”. Please, huh? Tell that to the delivery van that accelerrated at me at well over 10k, I would guess 25-30, cutting thru there from Manners st.

erentz September 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

hah, good one, me too. It’s an awkward feeling though, people look at you strange, and fortunately I haven’t had to come face-to-face with a car yet. Shared space this is not. Clearly the driver is given the expectation of right of way in the design of this street and will feel antagonised by any pedestrian challenging that. Compare this to a proper shared space design where the driver is the one that feels out of place. This street doesn’t do that. We knew it wouldn’t. This was obvious in the design and the Council knew it too. I’d argue it’s maybe a form of “green street”, but not a shared street.

Paula September 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I also make a point of walking up the middle. If lots of people do, it will help to overcome the mess WCC made of it. I’m also keen on the idea of regular chalk pictures along the black, to further reduce the impression that is just a road with some parked cars beside it, like all the other roads with parked cars.

Ruodnane September 7, 2011 at 8:16 am

One needs to be made into a beach party with sand, volleyball, and a BBQ, à la Mac’s carpark in Green Wing.

Greg Bodnar September 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

I just saw photos from parking in Seattle. Car-sized chess board.

Honey September 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

Beautiful idea, I would love to participate, but it’s a work day – so my ass is parked at my desk.

Greg Bodnar September 7, 2011 at 10:51 am

If you’re anywhere nearby, pop over for a coffee or lunch break. Or bring a laptop and work under the sun and the free wifi.

Stephen September 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

On re-reading — was in Auckland recently and investigated the famous Auckland shared spaces. Yes, they are doing it better up there. Which is reversing the natural order, friends. We should be ashamed.

Tom September 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I can’t comment too much, but I will point out one thing: there’s a space in the middle that’s currently being used by cars, but the concrete slab seats that are shown on the plan will be installed this week. That will reduce the car dominance just a little, and when construction is finished on the Cordon Bleu school the absence of construction vehicles will help, too. Also, the space is a little dead at the moment due to lack of retail, but there at least three of the empty spaces on the west side are currently being refitted and should reopen soon.

Robyn September 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

Yeah, I’ve wondered about the effect all the construction vehicles are having on the street. It’s unfortunate timing, and has started the shared space off with quite a different use from what I assume was intended.

But I’m intrigued about the news shops. Walking past yesterday, it looks like the grotty old borded-up old book exchange building is getting a fancy fit-out inside. Crikey! The old Lara Parker shop has been leased, so all we need is the old Cash Convertors to get a new tenant and Lower Cuba will start to get its groove back.

Tom September 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Yes: word is that the book exchange will be some sort of beauty salon or spa. The Cordon Bleu ground floor is divided into three: a lobby and two retail spaces, one of which will be a bar, but I haven’t heard about the other. It can only be better than the Downtown Local, but the fact that they’re proposing a pokies room doesn’t bode all that well.

Christina September 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Kia ora koutou
Sustainability Trust participated in Park(ing) Day 2 years ago.. I had quite a lengthy conversation/argument with a parking warden who subsequently gave me a ticket of forced removal. I totally get the intention behind the day and support the need for better urban planning around shared spaces (and was AMAZED at how huge a car park actually is! We fit a whole tether ball game in one and an entire lounge set in another!)
Anyway, he did give us written permission to have 2 spaces on Courtney Place, 2 up Cuba Street and a couple on Lambton Quay. I know sometimes the point is to defy the law and make the point but he assured me that Council would probably grant us spaces in future years if we requested them beforehand.

Just a suggestion you might want to consider prior to bringing your whole living room and plants down only to be made to pack most of it back up (or be fined) which was what we had to do.


James Shaw September 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm

*Great* idea Greg and an excellent way of pointing out how the Council hasn’t delivered on its promise.

I’ve got another commitment that day but depending on when you do it I might be able to fit it in. I would be happy to pay for a park and I think we could probably get a number of Wellington Central Greens involved.

Keep me in the loop and I’ll be happy to raise as much of a crowd as I can.

My number 021 337 675.

M Dog September 8, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Classic case of ‘public consultation’ being pointless when the council can simply play sim city with parking spaces and have the last input. The current design should have been reviewed again by the public?!

Share the love

Paul September 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

Backyard style cricket game in the middle of the Cuba Street ‘shared space’ anyone? I’m thinking hit-and-roll or bat-down with a tennis ball. We used to do this in the middle of the road when I was a kid. Every now and then a car would come and we would drag the wickets out of the way, give them a wave and then start up again.

Stephen September 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

That strikes me as a great idea for the Parking Day, especially since it wouldn’t involve tangling with parking officials.

noizyboy September 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm

And some frisbee action, methinks.

Stephen September 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Or touch rugby. What a terrible PR move it would be to shut down a spontaneous expression of RWC-related joie de vivre.

Joanna September 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Don’t be ridiculous Stephen. One may only enjoy rugby in spaces where the marketers can get at you.

Alan September 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm

How about a touch-rugby team competition, played over lunchtimes in the street? Players could make a bit of space when a car comes through, but otherwise, it would be all on.

We need to make sure people know that they can use that particular space; that it’s not just for cars.

noizyboy September 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

It’s probably a bit narrow for a decent game of touch, anyway.

Futsal, maybe?

Julia September 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Hi Greg,

We are keen to come down, take over a space and talk to people to encourage them to join us for Moving Planet (the next day!). Check out what our crew in Brazil just did for a park(ing) space! What time are you thinking? Maybe get in touch via email at 🙂


Ric November 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm

PLEASE – Close Manners Mall to all traffic between Victoria and Taranaki, especially BUSES. You’d have to be an idiot to think that this is ever going to work. Its the Council that needs the psychologists, not the public.

Joanna November 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

And where will the buses be driving then?

Robyn November 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Yeah, where do the buses go? Move them to Dixon Street and you’re just shifting the “problem” over one block.

As far as I can see, Manners Street seems to be working well as a bus and occasional car street.

Groggy November 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Stop, look, listen.

It used to be taught at kindy, just cos people are grown ups now doesn’t mean the buses are any softer when they hit you.

Not really the councils fault that people are idiots

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: