Mission Bay and St Heliers are set to get safer streetscapes with raised pedestrian crossings. Which is great – but we say the designs must reflect the Tamaki Drive Master Plan and create separate spaces for people on bikes and people on foot. Luckily, we’ve worked out how to fit in quality bikeways and make the design work better for everyone.

Help us convince Auckland Transport to do it right the first time by adopting our future-proofed designs that work for all. Add your voice before 30 April! Use the feedback buttons and suggestions for what to say below… and scroll down for further details.

HAVE YOUR SAY ON MISSION BAY

I support Bike Auckland’s better design for Mission Bay!
We need a separated bikeway here, and pedestrians need their own safe space
Yes to the new zebra crossings on raised tables for better safety
Please don’t create new pinch points for road riders
Please future-proof the works, to allow for the Tamaki Drive Master Plan

HAVE YOUR SAY ON ST HELIERS

Yes to the new zebra crossings and raised tables for better safety
Please don’t create new pinch points for road riders
Please future-proof the works, to allow for the Tamaki Drive Master Plan


Setting the scene

Beloved by locals and visitors alike, Tamaki Drive offers five miles of famous beaches, gorgeous views, and lovely seaside villages attract people walk, run, scoot, or ride – little wonder it’s Auckland’s busiest bike route. As a jewel in the city’s crown, it needs to be safe and welcoming for all.

An April weekend at Mission Bay beach – grab a share bike and go go go! (Image: Bike Auckland)

In 2013, a Master Plan was adopted that establishes a longterm vision for this beautiful beachside boulevard. That plan is on our mind because two of Tamaki Drive’s town centres are getting a street makeover as part of Auckland Transport’s new push for safer streets.

Mission Bay and St Heliers have been chosen because they’re among Auckland’s worst village black spots, especially (but not only) for pedestrians and people on bikes being doored by people exiting parked cars. It’s tragic, but not surprising when you think about how bustling the streets are with both people, bikes, and cars.

The proposed designs feature a good number of raised zebra crossings, to create safe and convenient access on foot and reinforce the proposed 30kmh speed limit… which will also be good for people on bikes. Great, right?

An impression of AT’s Mission Bay safety proposal, eastern end of the town centre (Image: Auckland Transport)
An impression of AT’s safety proposal in St Heliers. (Image: Auckland Transport)

Not so fast!

Raised crossings are generally a quick, affordable, and effective fix we can get behind. But a closer look at the designs for Mission Bay and St Heliers reveals this isn’t just quick fixes to support a speed limit change. These proposals will shift kerbs, widen pavements, and rebuild intersections across a significant length of the centres.

So, even though this is a ‘road safety project’ rather than a full-on town centre upgrade (with budget to match), we’re talking major and permanent changes to the road layout. This means two things:

  • Whatever AT builds has to be future-proofed, so it doesn’t compromise longer-term plans for a proper cycleway the length of Tamaki Drive, as outlined in the Master Plan.
  • More than that: the designs must be present-proofed! Tamaki Drive needs safe and separate bikeways now – has done for decades, in fact – and that urgency is growing every day with the arrival of e-scooters, and more.

Frankly, AT’s proposed designs aren’t fit for purpose for yesterday or today, let alone for tomorrow! So now’s the time to get this right.


Let’s get wheel

Tamaki Drive is busy with people of all ages and stages running, jogging, walking, using mobility devices, pushchairs, and wheelchairs. It’s a magnet for locals and tourists on bikes and scooters – and Auckland’s busiest daily bike route.

A typical scene on Tamaki Drive, approaching St Heliers. Pedestrians on one half of the footpath, two-way bike (and scooter) traffic on the other. (Image: Bike Auckland)

Weekdays and weekends, the growing number of people on bikes (and commuters on scooters) face a bogus and dangerous choice.

  1. Dodge pedestrians on the bumpy, narrow footpath with a painted line down the middle, while looking out for people opening car doors, unloading gear, and crossing the path with children and beach toys and picnic stuff, etc.
  2. Take the road, where you either hug the door zone and risk becoming a statistic, or take the lane and risk becoming a hater’s headline. (We know some roadies and commuters don’t mind mixing it with traffic – but that’s not an attractive or safe option for new riders, families riding with children, tourists, and those who value style over speed).

The fact is, AT’s proposed town centre designs do very little to improve this situation, beyond widening the existing shared paths. In St Heliers, the widening is at least functional and consistent over pretty much the whole length. But in Mission Bay, it’s inconsistent and quickly pinches back down again. Safety crumbs, effectively.

For those who ride on the road, worse news. Yes, a 30kph environment will help you claim the lane more safely, and will lower the stakes if a collision happens. But AT’s proposal actually adds new pinch points, via widened side islands and new central islands. It also removes and disconnects some of the existing painted cycle lanes at the edges of Mission Bay. This will lead to risky situations in free-flowing traffic; and, during nose-to-tail times, you risk getting stuck in the very same congestion you’re trying to avoid by going by bike.

Remember, we’ve been assured that active modes are now a top priority for AT alongside safety and a vision for cycling is now ’embedded’ across the organisation. For a safety project, this just isn’t good enough.


Where’s the big picture?

Perhaps what’s most surprising is the complete design disconnect between these works, and what’s busy happening at the city end of Tamaki Drive. It’s like they were designed by two different organisations.

The Quay St cycleway opened in 2015 with great political fanfare, and last year, was further extended all the way to The Strand. The next major extension, towards Ngapipi Road and involving a major bridge widening, is finally starting sometime this year.

The Quay Street extension (not an artist’s rendering – an actual photo!). Image: Bike Auckland.

In other words, a fit-for-purpose separated and protected two-way seaside bikeway is steadily inching eastwards – and at every step of the way, ridership has grown. Yet none of this context was included in AT’s road safety concepts for the seaside villages a few km to the east. So we have to ask: what’s the plan, man?

In this case, the plan is the Tamaki Drive Master Plan (Part 1, Part 2) – a visionary overview agreed by the Orakei Local Board in 2013 under the leadership of Desley Simpson, now Councillor for Orakei Ward. As we reported at the time, it includes… drum roll… a seaside two-way bikeway all the way along Tamaki Drive!

The vision in the 2013 Tamaki Drive Master Plan. Pictured: entering Mission Bay from the west.

Of course, threading a two-way cycleway through the town centres was always going to require some engineering. But the vision is clear: these areas must evolve to provide for all kinds of travel and to give pedestrians their footpaths back. And yet this plan seems to have been nowhere in the room when AT sat down to design changes for Mission Bay and St Heliers.


Rules are rules

Even without the Master Plan in mind, if these streets were being built afresh rather than tweaked, they wouldn’t even make it out of the gate – because the proposed designs break AT’s own rules.

AT’s design guides recommend protected bikeways when either traffic speed or traffic flows exceed a certain level. And while the speed limit here will drop to 30kmh, traffic volumes will remain miles above the 1,000- 2,000 deemed acceptable for mixing riders of all ages with traffic. West of Mission Bay sees about 16,000 vehicles per day, and even quiet St Heliers is still around 11,000!

As for the rules about off-road options: overseas guidance recommends shared paths shouldn’t exceed 50 bikes an hour or 100 pedestrians an hour. Have you visited Tamaki Drive on a weekend lately? Or even in the last few decades? Clearly, usage is well beyond that. The existing shared path, over 40 years old, is woefully insufficient for the conditions.

To sum up: AT’s proposed designs leave pedestrians to battle it out with wheeled travellers, are not great for people on bikes and scooters, and create fresh risks for road cyclists… and worst of all, lock in physical changes to the street that will make achieving the ultimate goal much harder.

AT really has to get this one right, because we probably won’t have another chance here for 10-20 years.


A better plan for Mission Bay – a beachside boulevard with bikeway!

We sat down to design a better cross-section for Mission Bay, with a proper bikeway, just to see if it could be done. The good news: it can! The even better news: our design is safer and more welcoming for everyone, starting with pedestrians.

A better design, including a two-way bikeway and buffer zones to protect pedestrians, people on bikes, and disembarking car passengers. Image: Bike Auckland. (Click to enlarge)

It helps that Tamaki Drive is a consistent 23m or more throughout Mission Bay, including both footpaths. We erred on the side of caution and designed for 23m width, and managed to include the following features:

The southern footpath stays wide. It’s not nice to steal space from pedestrians, especially in a town centre. And this is also the yummy, sunny side with the cafe seating. So the existing 4.5m width stays as is.

Why mess with success? The southern footpath in Mission Bay should stay nice and wide at 4.5m (Photo: Bike Auckland)

Wider pedestrian-specific space on the north side. We see no point in gaining a separated bikeway at the cost of a crowded footpath, so we’ve designated 2.5m for walking here. At the moment, the path is about 3m wide, but half of that is marked as a painted bike lane, and it’s no fun for Sunday strollers competing with Lime scooters and people on bikes trying to edge past.

For even more breathing space, we’ve suggested a 40cm buffer between the footpath (now 100% for pedestrians only) and the new bikeway.

The existing shared path on the north side of Mission Bay: pedestrians get 1.5m, which would widen to 2.5m in our plan.

A new 3m wide two-way bikeway on the north side. Yes! Dedicated space for people biking or scooting. While a wee bit more width would be nice, 3m is a great size, and we’ve added decent buffer spaces each side to make it feel less cramped.

As well as the 40cm buffer from pedestrians, we’ve added an 80cm buffer on the street side too, to make sure nobody gets collected by opening car doors, and so parents have space to load kids into and out of cars. Much better than the current situation, for all!

Another angle on how separate space would disentangle pedestrians and people on wheels.  (Image: Bike Auckland)

Car parking. We know removing parking is controversial, even when you’re making more efficient or safer use of the space. In this case, we’ve left parking on both sides. We’ve also added a buffer strip for those getting into and out of the driver’s side of the car, to keep them safer from passing traffic (which even at 30 kph can be scary!).

Traffic lanes still fit quite nicely, even with all these other features added in.

So how did the magic happen? Simply by slightly narrowing the traffic lanes to a respectable 3.3m, and removing the painted median strip. Currently the painted median is used mainly as a refuge by people crossing the 50kmh road – whereas the new design gives pedestrians many more safe crossings, plus it’s much easier and safer to cross a 30 kph road.

Compare how the road looks now with our design:

Mission Bay just west of the shops. Google Streetview October 2018.
Our cross-section for the above stretch of road.

And here’s how it might look like from a bird’s eye view:

Our design, opposite Selwyn Reserve. (You can see how enormously wide the road is at the moment)

Next question: will our ‘Complete Street’ design work in other parts of the Mission Bay town centre, with different zebra styles? Sure will!

Of course there are a few sticky places where a few parking spaces will have to go. But overall, we say it’s totally feasible to achieve:

  • A town centre PLUS a proper, best practice bikeway separate from cars and pedestrians.
  • Preserving existing space for pedestrians PLUS freeing them from dodging bikes and scooters.
  • Car parking on both sides of the street, so retailers and those who still prefer to drive don’t have to worry – PLUS more new customers on bikes or scooters who can stop more easily for a coffee or icecream!
  • The same traffic lanes as before, turn lanes at intersections, etc – PLUS more safety for those in cars as well as outside.
  • A town centre that’s inviting to people travelling in all sorts of ways, PLUS fit for Auckland’s busiest bike route!

Simply by sticking to the vision and the rules, we’ve created a design that works for everyone. Truly, the sum is greater than the parts.


What does AT say?

Well, firstly, they apologised for skipping stakeholder engagement with us due to the road safety programme moving so fast (which we support!). They also acknowledged missing a trick by not taking into account the Tamaki Drive Master Plan, and the fact this is the busiest bikeway in Auckland.

The design team seemed sincere in promising they’ll take our proposal seriously and consider some changes.

But they weren’t keen to promise a bikeway, saying the road safety funding can’t stretch to build a bikeway through these town centres. We found this hard to accept, given safe bikeways are road safety too – and AT has a range of tools and examples at its disposal for building bikeways affordably.

It’s also alarming to see budget mentioned as an issue, when fixing this in future would require significant works again. Not for the first time, we’re thinking it’s time Auckland joined other smart cities in adopting a Complete Streets rule, mandating adding safe biking facilities whenever a road on the planned cycle network is dug up or given its regular ‘renewal’. When a road is dug up but not left safer and better than it was, it’s a colossal waste of money and time.

The team did promise to review a few aspects of the design for Mission Bay based on our discussions:

  • whether a westbound bike lane could start from roughly 29 Tamaki Drive citybound (without any further pinch points)
  • whether the proposed footpath widening could all be on the north side (which would create a better shared path space, albeit not enough for our bikeway proposal)
  • whether the general traffic lanes east of Patteson could be less constricted by the proposed long kerb buildout – this would make it easier for road riders in this section, and ensure more space is left for a future bikeway on the north side of the road.
  • for the roundabout at the eastern end of Mission Bay: AT is keen to keep this, to allow buses to U-turn, reduce the very wide pedestrian crossings, and slow traffic down as it enters the town centre. Overall, we didn’t have that many issues with the roundabout itself (single lane, with good raised crossings), except for the fact it doesn’t have a proper bikeway through it or past it. AT is considering whether it could preserve some width in the traffic lane leading towards the roundabout, so road riders could filter past queues during peak hours.

How about St Heliers?

Our road design would work there too, with one key caveat. The road corridor is 3-4m narrower than at Mission Bay, so our layout would fit only if car parking were removed on one side. We accept this may be an ambitious ask – even in 2019 with everyone aware of the urgency to think beyond cars. It seems there’s local opposition even to the mere idea of putting safety ahead of parking.

The good thing is, AT’s proposed shared path widening is more consistent here. Yes, it’s not a separated bikeway, so pedestrians will continue to mix with other wheeled folk, but given St Heliers is the end of Tamaki Drive, this may not be the end of the world, for now. We reckon Mission Bay gets the big vision. And once the bikeway love advances east, St Heliers can be upgraded in future decades.


The future is in your hands

Time to speak up! Please support the raised crossings in general – and Bike AKL’s better design for Mission Bay in particular. The more love for our design, the more likely Auckland Transport can get on track, embedding safety for walking AND cycling in all its work, and creating safe and healthy streets that work for everyone.

Here are the feedback links and suggestions again – feedback closes 30 April!

HAVE YOUR SAY ON MISSION BAY

I support Bike Auckland’s better design for Mission Bay!
We need a separated bikeway here, and pedestrians need their own safe space
Yes to the new zebra crossings on raised tables for better safety
Please don’t create new pinch points for road riders
Please future-proof the works, to allow for the Tamaki Drive Master Plan

HAVE YOUR SAY ON ST HELIERS

Yes to the new zebra crossings and raised tables for better safety
Please don’t create new pinch points for road riders
Please future-proof the works, to allow for the Tamaki Drive Master Plan

Pedestrians, scooters, people with bikes – time for the streetscape to catch up with the people using it.
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Tamaki Drive
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