After two deaths on Oteha Valley Road earlier this year, members of neighbourhood bike burb Bike Albany started a petition for urgent safety improvements. The petition drew a powerful chorus of support: 3000 signatures and the backing of the bereaved families, local schools, the local MP, and the Upper Harbour Local Board.
(Read more here about the long-running push for safety on this road. In particular, the 2013 Corridor Management Plan (CMP) for Oteha Valley Road recommended comprehensive upgrades to protect people walking and cycling, but has been gathering dust ever since. As always, we invite AT to reread that CMP and Bike Auckland’s January 2014 submission in support, in which we stressed the urgent need to deliver walking and cycling safety on this corridor within the short-term three year timeframe.)
Bike Albany founding member Nicholas Carman reports on how the petition came about, how it was delivered to Auckland Transport – and what happens next.
On Thursday 6th December, members of Bike Albany presented the petition ‘Demand for a safe cycleway and pedestrian crossings along Oteha Valley Road’ to Andrew Allen (Executive General Manager Service Delivery) and Randhir Karma (Group Manager Network Management and Safety) at Auckland Transport headquarters at the Viaduct.
We were cordially received, and had a frank and useful discussion. As locals, both Andrew and Randhir acknowledged they have experienced the problems on Oteha Valley Road first-hand.
The Bike Albany team started the petition over the winter of 2018, in response to the deaths of two people, Christine Ovens and Nathan Kraatskow on Oteha Valley Road. Christine was killed crossing the road to catch a bus, and Nathan died on a motorway intersection while riding his bike home. Darryl Ovens, Christine’s husband, came to the presentation of the petition to offer us his support.
As locals, we already knew that this road was unsafe, and had included it in our Albany Bike Plan which we presented to the Upper Harbour Local Board in 2017.
Bike Albany decided to make this petition a winter project, but we didn’t anticipate that we would still be working hard on it going into Christmas! The petition required a considerable amount of coordination and correspondence – including with the bereaved families, who gave it their blessing – to bring it to the point where we could take it to Auckland Transport.
Andrew and Randhir informed us of Auckland Transport’s plans for the Oteha Valley Road, which mainly feature safety measures for pedestrians:
- Lowering the speed limit from 60kmh to 50kmh
- Signalising the Harrowglen Drive intersection, which includes new pedestrian crossings
- Works at Medallion Drive, including new lights, and addressing the problem of Fairview Drive by extending Medallion Drive.
- A new pedestrian crossing close to Oteha Valley School (possibly as part of the Medallion Drive work).
- A new signalised pedestrian crossing at Hooton Reserve (close to Mega Mitre 10)
- Removing the give way from the left-turn slip lane up at the intersection of East Coast Bays Road & OVR
Of course we are glad to hear these developments to make life safer for people walking along (or trying to cross) this four-lane road. The footpaths on OVR are not pleasant for walking: they’re narrow and often cracked, and the new bus stops will narrow them even further. In general – and especially as locals – we support any improvements for walking, and in hindsight we could also have suggested a further crossing down by the tennis club.
However, as Bike Albany – a group of locals dedicated to making our neighbourhood more bike-friendly – we’re disappointed there’s little on offer for those on bikes other than a general reduction in speed to 50kph for the length of Oteha Valley Rd.
Yes, 50kph is better than 60kph – but it’s still in the danger zone for mixed traffic. Even at 50km/h, people on bikes cannot safely co-exist with cars when sharing a four-lane road that (as was noted in the meeting) still looks and feels like a ‘mini-motorway’.
Without separated, dedicated safe space for those who wish to bike, the lower speed limit alone won’t encourage usage by people on bikes. We are Bike Albany, not Walk Albany.
And yet, cycle lanes for Oteha Valley Road – even painted on-road lanes – are not part of Auckland Transport’s current plans. The reason cited during the meeting was the circumscribed budget for cycling improvements, which currently prioritises other parts of Auckland.
To us, it’s unacceptable that a main arterial route like Oteha Valley Road doesn’t rate cycle lanes in the foreseeable future, even though the 2014 Corridor Management Plan recommended urgent improvements for both walking and cycling. That plan has been sitting on a shelf ever since.
It’s even more puzzling when we know that by 2021 the new Northern Corridor shared path will be complete, creating a powerful local connection along the motorway from Constellation Drive all the way up to Oteha Valley Road, where the new path will terminate. (See map here)
How on earth will people on bikes access this path from Albany when there are no bike lanes that link to it? In the meeting, Andrew Allen acknowledged this problem, but it isn’t clear how or when Auckland Transport will address it.
Overall, despite the good intentions of Andrew Allen and Randhir Karma, there is still a lack of commitment to bike safety on Oteha Valley Road by Auckland Transport. Unless the request for proper safe bike lanes is taken seriously by AT, people on bikes will continue to have to fend for themselves amongst this road’s heavy traffic, or sneak down the footpaths either side.
Bike Albany will thus continue to advocate for safe cycleways on Oteha Valley Road. Please join us – especially if you’re local – and help us make the case.
To find out more, visit Bike Albany’s Facebook page here.