Beefed-up buffers – new protection for bike lanes

Beefed-up buffers – new protection for bike lanes

Bike Auckland

St Lukes Rd is getting its promised bike lane buffers at the moment, and the response has been instant and positive. ‘Upgrade to substandard St Lukes bike lane starts‘ was the headline in local papers.

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Here come the buffers…

The rubber bumpers and hit posts will run on both sides of the road, from just below the motorway interchange, to just after the garden centre. It stops just short of the railway bridge for now, as there is no money at the moment to widen the bridge (but future bridge widening will take bike safety into account).

There’ll be some ‘fresh kermit’ greening of the lanes, too… now those yellow dashed lines are superfluous!

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Feels safer already!

As well as general enthusiasm, there have been specific questions, like…

  • Can we please please have these on [insert painted bike lane here]? This particular project, which has been pushed for by the Albert-Eden Local Board and Bike Auckland for years, was covered by a new fund for minor cycling improvements. This year’s allocation is now spoken for, but the next financial year is just around the corner… and AT’s Kathryn King says: ‘We are also open to feedback from the community about where we can make smaller improvements to keep cyclists safe and increase the number of people who want to ride.’ If you want a bigger budget for these small things that make a huge difference, and/or want to nudge your Local Board to champion projects like this, be sure to speak up about the Auckland Council budget and priorities before Monday 25 March!
  • The protected lanes are great, but… how do we make right turns? There are gaps between the buffers – but are they quite wide enough to make a smooth exit from the bike lane into traffic? Or would it make sense to continue to the crossing and double back? This sort of manoeuvre will likely become a point of discussion as protected paths pop up on main streets around the city. Luckily, the buffers are modular, so modifications can be made as needed.
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Greening to come; the reflective posts have an almost anime effect from some angles!
  • Couldn’t the bike lanes be widened? Alas, not without eating into the central green island. As this is an ‘over-dimension’ vehicle route, the car lanes need to be wide enough for trucks. The protected bike lanes are on average 1.5m wide.
  • How many people on bikes use these lanes anyway? Perhaps the better question is, how many will use them once they’re protected? Per AT’s response to earlier feedback (see project page), between 100-150 people used the unprotected lanes on an average day. Permanent counters will be installed in the coming months to keep track of bike and vehicle movements.
  • Why not use the concrete lane separators as seen on Nelson St? Auckland Transport has judged these ones most suitable for the location. They tell us the tough plastic buffers are a third the cost of concrete ones, yet are solid enough to deflect cars, and much easier to replace if damaged or move as needed. They also say: “As cycle numbers grow in future years, we may review the need and look at concrete protectors again.”
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The power of plastic! Even the temporary cones put out to protect the works have an instant effect on driver behaviour.

Speaking of Nelson St – a similar style of separator is being installed to help protect the Nelson St cycleway against vehicle intrusions.

While we haven’t yet covered this issue on the blog, it’s been a long-running conversation on Facebook and Twitter, with regular reports of cars traveling through (or parking in) the cycleway.

Whether the car-in-the-bike-lane incidents are accidental, or deliberate shortcuts – or maybe a case of having committed, deciding the only way out is through – they’ve been endangering people on bikes. It’s genuinely frightening to encounter a vehicle heading towards you, with no way out.

The new hit posts on Nelson St have been installed at spots where the cycleway meets crossroads or major driveways, and are bright enough not to be missed.

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Where Nelson meets Victoria, cars loom from all angles! The separators should help.
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At a crossroads, and at a driveway, a reminder that cycleways are for cycles, not for cars.
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A bright yellow ‘nope’ reminder for vehicles exiting the driveway near the Cook St intersection.

We hear that a few more of these are coming at the intersections, to ward off drivers who might be making a last minute right turn onto Nelson St from a straight-ahead lane, for example.

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Reminders for turning vehicles to stay in their own lane (at the corner of Wellesley St).

The Quay St cycleway, where taxis like to linger, is another logical spot for this sort of treatment. Watch this space. And, while we dream of and work towards the day motorists don’t need wagging plastic fingers to remind them that bike lanes are for bikes, what are your thoughts on these improvements?

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