The Road User Rule (2004) and the supporting Traffic Control Devices Rule (2004) gave cycle lanes a legal status. A cycle lane was to be defined by marking a cycle symbol as specified in Schedule 2 of the TCD Rule to the lane. A result of this legal status is that the application of a cycle symbol to any traffic lane means that only cycles are legally permitted to use that lane from that point.
Although this is the intended consequence in the majority of situations, it also has the consequence that the symbol cannot legally be used for any other purpose. This legal definition of the symbol has limited road controlling authorities in responding to problem locations by using the cycle symbol to establish or mark shared lanes.
Road controlling authorities and transport planners have attempted to address problem locations by developing new symbols or by using the current symbol for purposes other than defing a cycle lane. There is an increasing risk of a multitude of well-intended, but nevertheless inconsistent and confusing, markings, symbols and signs on New Zealand roads.
The Traffic Control Devices Steering Group reviewed this increasing problem in 2010 and commissioned a review of current signs and markings, and the legal framework for these. This review reported in December 2011 with recommendations for a range of changes to the Road User Rule, Traffic Control Devices Rule and Traffic Control Devices Manual.
After considering these recommendations, the Traffic Control Devices Steering Group proposed that the RCA Forum should establish a working group to consider the recommendations and the wider issues. The Research and Guidelines Steering Group agreed to establish a national cycling signs and markings working group at its meeting on 9 August 2012. Go to working group page.
This new working group convened on 23 November 2012 to review the extensive research undertaken within New Zealand and overseas on markings for cycling facilities, the perceived issues and the perceived potential solutions. This meeting agreed that road controlling authorities consider the existing 'toolbox' inadequate for the increasingly complex interactions now being encountered, and began to look at potential new markings.
The group reviewed these on 23 March 2013 and agreed to undertake trials on a number of markings to define a cycle lane, a shared lane and the safest route for cyclists. Trials were approved by the TCD Steering Group on 21 November 2013 for at five locations around Auckland. Supporting trials were approved by the TCD Steering Group on 12 March 2014 in Dunedin, Nelson and Wellington and Palmerston North.
The trials at: Seacliffe Avenue, Belmont; Riddell Road, Glendowie; Point Chevalier Road, Point Chevalier; Riverside Avenue/Dunkirk Road, Point England; and Elstree Street/Taniwha Street intersection, Point England in Auckland and the supporting trials in Dunedin, Nelson, Wellington and Palmerston North were reported back to the working group on 5 March 2015. The trials showed a generally consistent positive effect on both the lateral position of cyclists within the lane and the average traffic speed, with no observed negative effect. View trial reports: Auckland, Dunedin, Nelson, Palmerston North. Perception surveys done with the trials suggested that the public could readily distinguish between the two symbols used to mark a cycling lane and to mark a shared lane (even with no education on the meaning of the latter symbol). A series of post-implementation surveys confirmed this finding: the markings were perceived to be distinct and different. Read final Summary Report.
A report on the trials and their outcomes was presented to the 2015 Trafinz Conference in Dunedin. Download presentation. More recently, in 2017 Christchurch City Council prepared an introduction to its urban cycling network that contains an explanation of the marking's use and meaning. Download video.
The group has continued to explore improvements for cycling infrastructure, especially where it intersects with infrastructure used by vehicles or pedestrians. One example is a new marking for cycle paths crossing vehicle entrances. A presentation was given at the Asian Pacific Cycling Congress in Christchurch in 2017 on trials of various interventions that revealed a version of a "green zebra" to be an effective marking. Download presentation.