AT taxi trial for Grafton Bridge… tell us what you think!

A couple of months ago AT told me their staff were working on a trial to allow taxis to use the Grafton Bridge bus lanes. I was pretty shocked, as I know how much cyclists value the traffic- free environment of the Bridge on weekdays. I know many of us ‘specially enjoy the ‘B’ lights as well.

I told AT I didn’t see the justification to give taxis access to the bridge during the bus lane hours, and didn’t support the trial. I was also  interested to know how the bus companies have responded.
Grafton Bridge

 

Taxi drivers give me grief in the Central City. Numerous times they’ve ‘u’ turned across my path without warning, and overtaken me on my bike so close and fast that I’ve felt threatened. I seldom have these experiences with other car drivers.

Other cyclists report similar problems with taxi driver’s behaviour towards cyclists on Auckland’s streets – particularly those in the Central City.

The taxi trial stems from AT’s scheme a couple of years ago to give taxis access to bus lanes in the City. We were horrified and cried ‘foul’ when the idea was mooted then. I suggested to AT that before giving taxis special rights beyond other motorists, it was essential to invest in a road user programme along the lines of the current work with bus companies, (NZ Bus in Auckland)  to improve road sharing with bikes. The programme gives bus drivers personal experience of life on a bike in Auckland by taking them out riding busy streets like Dominion Rd. Cyclists are on hand to learn about life from the bus driver’s perspective, particularly seeing the blind spots that drivers have which prevent them from seeing bikes behind and on the left hand side of the bus.

With this background I was disappointed to see the Grafton Bridge taxi trial reported to the February Board meeting in this manner –
‘Grafton Bridge Taxi Trial

The plan to trial providing taxis 24 hour access to Grafton Bridge in order to improve travel times for taxi passengers will be introduced in late March (as a 12 month trial). Monitoring will be undertaken to assess the impact on bus journey times, cyclist safety and amenity as well as the number of bus lane infringements on the bridge. The trial can be stopped at anytime if significant issues arise.
The proposal has been discussed with the Waitemata Local Board . While some reservations were identified, the Board were supportive of the planned monitoring regime. The Taxi industry and Cycle Action Auckland have also been involved in the development of the proposal and discussions will continue with them towards the end of February to communicate the monitoring methodology and Auckland Transport’s expectations of driver behaviour.’
I’m glad the Waitemata Local Board has expressed reservations about the trial. Good work, WLB! My concerns appear to have been overlooked, as  Cycle Action was lumped in with the Taxi Federation, which is an odd thing to do.

AT recently sent me more information about the trial –

‘Auckland Transport is proposing to allow taxis 24 hour access to Grafton Bridge on a trial basis to determine whether their presence will adversely affect other users of the bridge. This will improve access for taxi passengers travelling to or from Auckland City Hospital and Starship Children’s Hospital. In order to allow taxis to use the bridge during the hours of operation of the existing bus lanes, these lanes will be converted to ‘bus and taxi’ lanes and the corresponding signage and road marking will be updated. The trial will be open only to taxis, not to private hire vehicles. Individual taxi companies may have their permission to use the bridge retracted if ongoing poor driver behaviour is observed. Extensive monitoring including CCTV footage, stakeholder feedback and lane productivity will be carried out before and during the trial period and a review of data will be conducted every three months. If adverse effects on safety, compliance or lane productivity occur the trial may be stopped. If results from the trial show no major negative impacts, the new special vehicle lanes will be adopted on a permanent basis.

A draft poster has been given to me to share with you for this blog.It will be used to inform taxi drivers how they are expected to behave on Grafton Bridge.

5353_Grafton_Bridge_Panorama_Auckland_Feb15 (3)_1
Handing a poster to a taxi driver is pretty low level commitment from AT to improving drivers’ behaviour. It’s a far cry from the programmes run for bus drivers to share the road more safely with cyclists. Why isn’t AT taking this opportunity to improve road safety across the network?

I’m surprised AT management sees this as a priority. It is soaking up staff time in reports and meetings and will continue to do so over the next year. Cyclists time will be needed to help report incidents and follow up to make sure they are dealt with properly.

Why is this trial more important than clearing the huge backlog of vitally important projects that AT cycling staff have been unable to get off the ground since AT was formed, (eg bike parking at transport terminals, safe design for cycling at intersection upgrades, improving the deficiencies in the existing ‘completed’ Auckland Cycle Network etc).

AT’s new cycling manager is tackling these issues by focusing on much needed and long-overdue collaboration within the business, honesty and commitment. We’re extremely pleased with and grateful for her appointment. I also acknowledge that canning the taxi trial would not mean the business will necessarily go faster on delivering key cycling projects. However, like the Board’s recent decision on St Lukes Rd interchange, it would demonstrate the business is 100% committed and will not be distracted from delivering wider transport choice, including faster bus travel and safer and more pleasant cycling conditions, across the network.

I’m waiting to hear why taxis deserve this special access to the Bridge, when emergency vehicles can use the bridge at any time. It’s a bit simplistic to think taxis travelling from the north to Auckland Hospital are full of people suffering from heart attacks, broken legs etc needing crisis /emergency care. I suspect they’re more often carrying visitors and staff, who may be equally well served by buses- especially once the city has more dedicated bus lanes.

I’m also keen to hear why my suggestion to AT has not been taken up to incentivise the Taxi Federation to engage in a version of the very successful, 2014 national award winner, bus/bike Share the Road workshops. I understand there are plans afoot from the NZTA to extend the programme to taxis. This would be a good chance to get it of the ground in Auckland and have higher public value than the taxi trial.

  •  Please tell us about your experience of sharing the road with taxis.
  •   We also want to hear from regular riders on Grafton Bridge what particular concerns you may have if taxis are given a ticket to use this valuable short stretch of road space.

Please add your comments below.

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