After some underwhelming plans for St Heliers recently, AT looks to be heading in a better direction with Mission Bay. Read on below for the background, the bits we like, and our ideas to make it even better – then help us by adding your voice in support with our handy submission guide!
For our Quick-Submit Guide, Click Here – Submit by 3 December!
Making a case for changing the status quo in Auckland’s town centres is always a challenge. These places mean a lot to local residents and to people who work or shop there – and even to many people who just pass through, or visit once in a blue moon. So you’re a lot more likely to succeed when the change comes with community support, quality design and good reasons.
Auckland Transport always had good reasons – Mission Bay, like many of our town centres, isn’t working that well, transport-wise. Safety issues – particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, congestion, a big barrier of moving and parked cars separating the cafes and the beach… things could be better, indeed.
When AT proposed changes for Mission Bay in 2019, better road safety was at the heart of their proposal. But missing from the design, as we noted at the time, was a bikeway – on Auckland’s busiest bike route. And as for community support – unanimous approval is always an unrealistic dream. But local opposition from some quarters was so fierce that the Mission Bay and St Heliers plans were put on hold for a rethink.
Over the last year AT worked with a small group of local stakeholders on a set of redesigned plans. In our recent blog on the updated St Heliers proposals, we highlighted a variety of issues with this process – including a starting priority of not losing car parking and avoiding “excessive” traffic calming. The lack of advance engagement with groups like ours or with youth representatives also meant excluding a good part of the wider community of Tamaki Drive. So much, so problematic.
The good news is that, at least for Mission Bay, things now look a lot better. To be blunt, this appears largely because extra road width available in Mission Bay allows improvements that were not possible for St Heliers without removing car parking.
So the good news is that Auckland Transport is now proposing a proper cycleway through Mission Bay.
The bad news for people biking is that the design has a glaring gap in the middle.
The ‘Bike Auckland news’ is that we have an idea on how to fix that!
What is being proposed?
- Three new raised pedestrian crossings to make it easier and safer for people to cross the road. One new crossing is proposed for Tamaki Drive near the fitness park, one on Atkin Avenue by Tamaki Drive and another on Patteson Avenue near Marau Crescent.
- Two new speed tables and upgrading the existing crossing on Tamaki Drive by Atkin Avenue to a raised platform to encourage safe vehicle speeds on Tamaki Drive. These will be gentle bumps, much like the ones by Kelly Tarlton’s, so that vehicles travelling at the 30km/h limit (confirmed to be in place in June 2021) will have no problems.
- Change a short section of the footpath on the shops side of Tamaki Drive to shared use from Marau Crescent (eastern end) to connect people on bikes with the new pedestrian/bike crossing proposed outside the park.
- An option to move the bus layover stop for service #781 from Patteson Avenue in the town centre to Selwyn Avenue by extending the existing layover space. The Patteson Avenue layover would then become a loading zone instead. This could be an improvement for visitors with fewer buses waiting outside local businesses.
If the bus layover change goes ahead, then a roundabout would need to be built at the Tamaki Drive / Atkin Avenue intersection. This would enable buses to more easily travel to the new layover in-between each service (2 per hour) through Tagalad Road, Atkin Avenue, and Tamaki Drive to the Selwyn Avenue layover, then back along Tamaki Drive to Patteson Avenue to start the service again.
- A new car parking area on Marau Crescent and amending parallel parking on Selwyn Avenue to angled.
- Remove the painted flush median and remark the road to make space for the widened shared path or on-road cycleway. This ensures carparking can be retained along both sides of Tamaki Drive.
- A new cycleway on the beach side of Tamaki Drive so that people walking and biking will have their own dedicated space. We would like feedback on two different options:
- Option A) Widen the existing shared path from 3 metres to 6 metres with a delineation between walking and cycling
- Option B) A new 3 metre on-road cycleway beside the shared path, protected from traffic using separators
[Note: The ordering above is different from the AT website, but otherwise a direct quote]
Raised crossings, speed tables & safer speeds
New raised zebra crossings are proposed at:
- the western centre of Tamaki Drive (both south & east of the Atkin Ave intersection),
- the eastern centre of Tamaki Drive, and
- the southern entry into the town centre.
Bike Auckland has been a fan of raised crossings for many years. Not just because the safety statistics for crossing people are so impressive, but also because they allow pedestrian safety improvement without automatically creating dangerous pinch points for bikes.
These three crossings will be significant improvements – making people slow down in the busier town centre (even outside of peak hours), and making it much easier to cross the road. This is a big change, particularly for older people, or for parents out and about with young kids wanting to head across to get an ice cream after having had your fun in the water!
And for those road cyclists who would prefer a smoother on-road ride with no raised tables? – well, AT’s statement that they’ll be ‘gentle bumps’ cuts both ways: they might not be as strong as they should be for optimum pedestrian safety, but they’ll be a little less bumpy for bikes in the meantime.
In between there are two more speed tables which aren’t crossings, but are intended to discourage drivers from speeding in between the crossings proper. All these lend some physical force to the new 30 kph speed limit, expected to be in place by June next year – some two years from the first announcement but very welcome nonetheless.
Are there any things to be improved? Well, the eastern-centre Tamaki Drive crossing is also intended as a bike crossing to get westbound road riders onto the new bikeway, about which we have some doubts – but more on this later. The most significant issue is really at the Patteson Ave design at the south entry to the town centre – the crossing design here suddenly pinches down the traffic lanes to a severe degree, even though with the table this isn’t necessary for a good and safe pedestrian crossing.
Designers need to remember that people on bikes use all roads – for example because they live south of Mission Bay and might ride along Patteson Ave to get to the town centre and the Tamaki Drive Route.
So our change request here is the Patteson Ave raised zebra crossing needs wider lanes, so it doesn’t become a dangerous pinch point for people on bikes.
Bus layovers and a roundabout
Basically, the proposal moves a current bus layover (where buses stop for a longer period between services) out of the Patteson Ave centre of Mission Bay to the edge, and provides an extra loading space near the shops instead. A small roundabout is proposed at Atkin Ave, which will be bypassed to the north by the new bikeway, so buses can circulate from the layover spaces back to the town centre.
It seems like a sensible change on the face of it, with limited impact on people on bikes. And of course, extra loading spaces help keep illegal servicing on nearby footpaths and bikeways a bit more under control.
We hear that some road cyclists would prefer there wasn’t a roundabout at Atkin Ave as part of these bus layover circulation changes, so Tamaki Drive keeps priority over the side road traffic – whether this feels important enough for you to prioritise over moving the bus layover out of the middle of the town centre, we’ll leave to your discretion.
The proposed bikeway!
Now we’re getting to the heart of the changes, at least for people on bikes and those who would love to be! For 600m through the heart of the town centre, Auckland Transport is proposing to remove the flush median – and use the space to provide the bikeway that the Tamaki Drive Master Plan has been promising for a decade!
Before we talk about the details, let’s just say first how pleased we are that this is finally in the official proposals. Together with many of you who submitted on the lack of a bikeway in 2019, we said this is not good enough for Mission Bay. This is not good enough for people on bikes. And it can easily be better! And we proposed this:
And now look at what AT is proposing officially:
Of course we didn’t invent this solution – bikeways like this have been around for decades, and are even assumed in the Tamaki Drive Masterplan. But all the same, there’s some nice karma here.
All of you who submitted at the time – give each other a “high five” for helping move this proposal into the official designs. And let’s thank AT as well, for listening to the people!
Of course there ARE still a couple of fish hooks in there – or maybe we should call them “twists in the line”? Let’s unravel them and get this landed…
Would you like A or B with that?
First off, there’s the “A or B?” question – basically AT asking whether the space for bikes should be either:
- Option A – a two-way cycleway at the same level as the footpath. Incorrectly described as a “shared path” despite separated sections for bikes and pedestrians – but the separation is paint only!
- Option B – this cycleway is at road carriageway level – with proper kerb separation between the footpath and bikeway on one side, and bikeway and door zone separator on the other.
Both options appear to have effectively the same overall width, including a door zone of some 0.7m, so car doors don’t get smacked into your way as on the existing shared path.
Option B will be between kerbs – which might constrain it a bit. But the proposal is for a quite substantial 3.6m total width, suitable for a high-volume bikeway as we like to see on Auckland’s busiest bike route! Plus, we think in detailed design the kerbs could easily be designed to be angled bikeway kerbs (sloped rather than vertical), so less likely to create pedal strike risks.
Option A’s lack of kerbs might give you more space for avoidance manouevres in either direction, if someone steps into your way while you’re riding. But you’ll need that space far too often, because Option A doesn’t encourage pedestrians to walk on the footpath. And by the same token, it doesn’t give pedestrians the peace of mind that bikes will stay on the bikeway either!
Our big worry is that an Option A design will end up with distracted pedestrians walking all over the full space, markings or not. Cyclists and scooters meanwhile will need to weave around them in unpredictable ways too.
By contrast, Option B’s kerb gives a clear, strong sign saying “footpath ends here”, encouraging people to pay attention if they step off. And in turn, it also means people on bikes are predictable and out of the way of pedestrians – something that particularly the elderly and people with small kids prefer, for good reason.
So the clear and obvious call here is: Choose Option B, with sloped bikeway kerbs. Option A risks perpetuating similar bicycle – pedestrian conflicts that already exist.
The glaring gap…
But before we break out the bubbly – there’s a major flaw in the design of the bikeway as it stands. Right in the heart of Mission Bay, at the Patteson Ave intersection, for nearly 100m, the bikeway disappears, and all riders have to go back to riding on the same narrow shared path that is there now, with no improvement proposed.
Making it even worse is that this is literally the heart of the area – one of the busiest sections for pedestrians, and thus with the most potential for frustrating encounters with bikes (and vice versa). It’s also a bus stop area – with bus passengers getting on and off buses right in the shared path. It could hardly be a worse spot to not do any improvements.
If left as proposed, this gap will be a major negative for the whole bikeway.
It will mean fewer people on bikes will use the path – either they will keep riding on-road, or they will not ride Tamaki Drive at all (or at least a a lot less often).
It will mean that conflicts between people on bikes and pedestrians (and scooters) will continue as before.
And to be honest, it would be a real embarrassment, in one of the most visible parts of Mission Bay full stop. People will wonder “Did they FORGET to do this section?”
Sure, maybe it could be fixed later – after all, it is still 500m of proper new bikeway on the sides, right? That’s a good thing, isn’t it?!? Well, yes, but the thing is: We need to do bike infrastructure RIGHT, or we will keep getting anemic progress and weak uptake – which undermines the next project afterwards as well. A vicious circle, not a virtuous one.
And having looked at the area, we think we have a solution.
Closing the gap!
The two key constraints in this section are Selwyn Reserve on one side, and the bus bay on the other side, separated from the road by the clock pillar island.
It might be an obvious idea to take some width from the reserve – but that’s difficult legally, questionable ethically, and the path is also already pretty close to some of the root systems of those large beautiful trees. On the other hand, moving the bus stop area is also a bad choice if we want more people choosing the bus.
So we have to somehow square that circle – keep everything working, but find more space for bikes. Thankfully, Bike Auckland has people who’ve made a habit out of exactly those skills.
The possibility lies in narrowing the planted islands on each side of the clock pillar island (thankfully, there’s no trees to be chopped down there). Once you do that, you can then realign the bus stops like this:
By doing this, we can keep the stops. We get extra width for extending the bikeway through the gap section. We think it looks even possible to add bus “boarder” islands alongside the stops – between bikeway and bus stop (dark blue area in our sketch). So people getting off the bus – including tourists who don’t know the area – aren’t directly stepping into a bikeway, in danger of being hit.
While the two-way cycling space would need to narrow down from the generous 3.6m in the rest of the town centre, we consider this is still likely to be wide enough for a dedicated bikeway (maybe as much as 2.8m, like the new path being built from Quay Street to Ngapipi Road). And pedestrians won’t have to compete with bikes in their space anymore, and vice versa. Bus passengers also get on and off more safely. Literally everyone wins.
All with just some some limited amounts of kerb work.
Sure, details will have to be worked out. How wide everything can be, exactly. And maybe through part of this section, the bikeway will need to be a painted “Option A” equivalent on the same level as the footpath and the bus boarder, if space is too tight. But even in that case there would be several metres more width for everyone to get past one another more safely, and without such hassles as in the existing layout!
We think this is a winner. Let’s close that gap!
Before we close…
…we need to talk about that combined walk / cycle crossing in the eastern centre of Mission Bay. This one:
And then approaching this crossing from the east there’s this bike lane on the footpath side of parked cars. What the heck?
Now why this has been designed is pretty clear: The designers wanted to give road cyclists coming from the east the ability to cross here (with priority, thank you) to get onto the two-way cycleway and head west.
But – at least for now, and in this fashion – this is both unrealistic and unsafe.
Well, the kind of rider who heads into Mission Bay on-road – and there’s thousands each week, these are not rare species – is someone who prefers speed and hassle-free connections. Most – we’d bet 90% or more – won’t cross to the northern side just for a 500m long bikeway. Especially when at the western end they’d have to cross back again (without priority, to boot).
Maybe once such a two-way bikeway continues onwards along the coast, linking up seamlessly to the bikeway currently being built on the north side from west of Ngapipi – well then, that bikeway would lead all the way to the City Centre. Suddenly it’s 6km on the same side, not 600m.
Even then not all would use it – but many more roadies would. But for the time being, while there’s still a gap between Mission Bay and Ngapipi – forget it. This will be a bike crossing with no riders using it.
Well, that bike lane on the footpath is… really making us wonder about that “cycle skills are now embedded across the organisation” statement from AT, because its hard to see how you can create a more obvious “ride in the door zone!” design than this. Sure, the marked zone is proposed to be 2m wide. But in practice, even if you avoid a door by riding further out, you are then riding in the pedestrian space. And of course the space that you are supposed to be riding in is also exactly where people stand when getting in and out of cars.
It’s creating exactly the same “sharing” issues we are just proposing to stop on the north side by adding a dedicated bikeway. No.
To make it worse, the design adds several angle car parks at the eastern end. Angle car parks that reverse right into what is also… Auckland’s busiest on-road riding route! No.
Thankfully, the ask here is quite simple. Remove the footpath cycle lane, and change the angled car parks back to parallel (keep the pedestrian crossing, though – it’s quite useful for people walking).
How likely is this all?
You are allowed to be skeptical – after all, many good (or even just adequate) bike projects and road safety schemes around Auckland have been cancelled over the years. Or deferred to who-knows-when. And there’s bound to be some opposition to this one too.
But we feel this one is very likely to happen.
Why? Well, as we have found over the last couple years, even in safety projects, car parks strangely seem to be the most important thing. And whatever you think of this sad fact, AT is making a big point that the scheme is car park neutral. So that will negate one of the biggest criticisms.
And from the sounds of it, this latest scheme has the support from the local business and political community, or at least a good part of it. Add to that the reputational cost for AT of going away and doing nothing again after the second consultation in a row, and it seems pretty likely that the scheme will be built largely as proposed. And hopefully with those key changes we are proposing – because they too, can be implemented without much extra cost or car parks.
Should the changes we are asking for NOT be implemented, this would be very frustrating – but unlike at St Heliers, the proposal would still be positive, as it could be improved by fixing the central part later, without having to rebuild the whole road and bikeway itself.
Overall, we’re looking at either a partial win, with flaws that can be remedied later, or a big win that will help to transform Tamaki Drive. Together with a dedicated bikeway from the City Centre to Ngapipi, a bikeway right in the heart of Mission Bay will make it even more obvious that the remaining shared path sections are decades past their use-by-date.
So let’s make this more than “a bit better” – let’s make those tweaks, fill that gap, and create something special for Auckland, something fit for Tamaki Drive!
For our Quick-Submit Guide, Click Here – Submit by 3 December!