Last night we got the news about what’s in the Christmas stocking for people on bikes along Franklin Road, come next year’s full-scale upgrade of the whole road.

As you know, after an initial decision by Auckland Transport that left pretty much no cycling facilities in the redesign plans, we took a stand, and managed to get three options that all provided space for people on bikes back on the table.

Given the very tight timeline (with power and water work already scheduled for early next year), feedback was swift and strong, in the form of 139 submissions via our online form (you guys!) and 171 submissions from other quarters.

Last night at the Community Liaison Meeting, AT confirmed that they will be going with Option 1 – which is to say, on-road cycle lanes, buffered primarily with paint (or some kind of colour and texture delineation yet to be confirmed), with parking between the trees, people on bikes located between the parked cars and traffic, and the flush median retained.

Franklin Road Option_1

You could call Option 1 the ‘ho ho ho hum’ gift option. It provides dedicated space for cycling, and allows for some cycle growth, but is not really transformative. It’s not the kind of layout parents would let their children ride on unaccompanied. It’s definitely not the suburban ‘Christmas Lights Street’ version of Lightpath.

It’s a pair of socks. Still, it’s a big improvement on the no-bike-lanes-at-all option; at least we’re not going completely barefoot into the New Year.

Why did AT chose to go with this option, instead of the other two?

We’re told they tried to make Option 3 work, but reverted to Option 1 mainly because of the flush median. Their closer assessment concluded that they were happy with removing the flush median only along some 25% of the street – because along the rest, it was required for making right turns: into side roads, the supermarket driveway, and at either end of the street. (Although, it’s not as if roads without flush medians can’t allow for turning right – new Carlton Gore Road, anyone? And remember there was life and street design before flush medians, which take a huge bite out of our shared space; could there also be life after them?).

Effectively, this decision ruled out Options 2 and 3 at a stroke; AT concluded that Option 1 is a ‘balanced option’ that ‘caters for all road users.’

The other thing that kept worrying them, and may have been the final straw, is the bugbear of visibility for residents reversing out of driveways. Their conclusion was that reversing cars are more likely to interact dangerously with bikes travelling closer to the trees and footpath, than with bikes further out on the road. Why? We’re waiting for images and numbers on this, but apparently it’s because you can more easily see people on bikes over the parked cars once you’ve reversed further out onto the road. (We did register our concern about the relative outcomes of these two varieties of worst-case scenarios – is a person on a bike who’s knocked down next to a lane of active traffic at greater risk than one run into while crossing a driveway behind parked cars?).

The question of gradient came into it as well, with AT noting the 8% gradient and reiterating their concern about ‘high downhill speeds’ – of cyclists. AT’s auditors felt that cyclists in a narrow protected cycle lane between trees on one side and parked cars wouldn’t mix well going past driveways. Interestingly, while vehicle speed was noted as something that could be addressed via various measures, biking speed appears to be beyond anyone’s power to control. (Gravity: it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!).

Other factors at play: the root systems of the trees, which would have required substantial bridging to create a continuous raised cycle path, without guarantee that the path wouldn’t need redoing at some point if the roots came up again. And the trunks of the trees, which AT’s auditors felt lined up in such a way as to make occupants of the Option 3 bike lane harder to see.

Somewhat ironically, it was concluded at the meeting that ‘Franklin Rd is more set up for confident cyclists anyway’ (what with the gradient) – and it now looks likely to stay that way. Children on bikes and their accompanying parents  – whether Freemans Bay school kids, or weekend families linking their way between the ridge and the waterfront – will likely continue to prefer the 3m wide footpath, making it a de facto shared path. Although, if they do take to the on-road lanes en masse, that will be an interesting test of the design.

It was also noted in passing that ‘If you were prepared to lose pretty much all the parking, you could make it work’ – the ‘it’ being a flush median plus separated/off-road bike lanes. Losing pretty much all the parking was never going to happen – although, that said, Option 1 will involve removing parking near key driveways to improve visibility, and a residents’ parking scheme is being introduced to give locals priority over the free-parking commuters who currently occupy most of the on-street parking spaces during the day.

Looking ahead

Where to now? Well, firstly it’s great to know that Option 3 is something AT has in its playbook, and we look forward to seeing versions of it trialled and deployed in other locations.

Secondly, the door is now wide open for improving the ‘bare’ version of Option 1 shown above. This design needs improvement so it’s as safe as it can be – and, ideally, beautiful too. We are in happy accord with the residents’ representatives on this. And it’s on those two interconnected points – safety and beauty – that we’d love your help again.

  • Safety-wise, it’s clear that paint alone won’t keep cars from drifting into the bike lane (or shamelessly double-laning as they do on St Lukes Rd in the evening). It’s also clear that gallons of white paint aren’t aesthetically thrilling, or conducive to the feel of a street that people actually live on. Some kind of physical delineation is needed, that still allows access to driveways and parking bays. A simple approach would be to use the raised rubber speed bumps as seen along the Beach Road and Nelson Street driveways, to edge the bike lanes for the full length of the street. What else can you suggest?
  • There’s also the potential for highlighting the bike lanes by using different surface colours and textures (i.e. not just “fresh kermit”). Lightpath’s ‘pink frost‘ has certainly got people excited about the possibilities, and along with the residents, we’re keen to see some creativity brought into play here.
  • Road speeds in general need to be lowered too – AT and the Local Board can address the speed limit once NZTA has worked its way through its current revisions; but there are other ways of sending signals to drivers to slow down and ‘drive as if you lived here’. Suggestions welcome.
  • It’s also worth emphasising that the ‘flush median’ isn’t just for vehicle use, and doesn’t have to be a street-length strip of white striping. It can also fulfil a safety function for pedestrians – although for now, the finer details of where pedestrian refuges would be placed, how they will function, and whether they will be part of formal pedestrian crossings (raised or otherwise) are still up in the air. But reshaping that central space as a series of right turn bays, interspersed with some kind of hardscaping, would help dampen the white-paint-motorway vibe of the design, and would discourage motorists from treating it as a bonus overtaking lane.
  • We’re also happy to report that the Wellington St intersection, originally slated to be a roundabout (not ideal for pedestrians or cyclists), is being looked at more closely with a view to better safety for vulnerable road users.
  • What else strikes you as important to carry through to the next stage of refining the design? Speak up and we’ll pass on your feedback – so that people on bikes have a voice in the Community Liaison Group.

In the end, it isn’t really quite what we wanted and what you virtually unanimously asked for. And it’s a shame that real protected lanes here will have to wait until the next time Franklin Rd is rebuilt – when our children are grown. But compared to a lump of coal in your stocking – or no stocking at all! – bike lanes on Franklin Rd are still a gift. Half a year ago, the road wasn’t even on the cycle network. We can all get some Christmas cheer out of that thought.

Franklin Road, by Ben Gracewood, via Flickr.
Franklin Road, by Ben Gracewood, via Flickr.

Header image by Francis Storr, also via Flickr

Categories
Central Auckland Cycle lanes Franklin Rd General News
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31 responses to “The Gift of the Magi: a decision on Franklin Road

  1. Keeping the flush median keeps vehicle speeds high. Well done Auckland Transport! So much for worrying about safety.

    1. Hi Bryce, yes I had the same reaction at the presentation. If the answer is flush medians, what is the problem exactly? The residents love them. We had very responsive feedback from AT that they say flush median but actually mean a series of discontinuous right turning bays and pedestrian refuges. Hopefully an unofficial 3rd lane for impatient drivers (or me on my bike for that matter) is off the menu. Narrow up the lanes will help and they are committed to exploring other methods of slowing traffic. So, not a great result seeing its a fresh slate, almost like we are reinstating the existing then improving it rather than a bold new plan which a refurb of this magnitude could have delivered.

      1. Just last week a lady was seriously injured while using a flush median to cross the road. They are there for motorists only. Any ‘safety for pedestrian’ excuses rolled out by AT or NZTA are complete BS.

        1. Strange how its recognised that Pedestrian Crossings are dangerous because they create a false expectation of safety which does not exist in nature. A flush median is a pedestrian refuge for a pedestrian, an overtaking lane for a car and a truck park for trucks waiting to get into New World. Flexible but a recipe for misunderstanding.

  2. Bah humbug, I say. I’ll believe AT has really turned the corner on providing for cyclists when some of these harder decisions go in the direction of cyclists. Putting in things like the Grafton Gully cycleway or Nelson st, while cool is easy, they just take a few dollars out of giant budgets. Actually putting proper infrastructure on streets where space is contested is the hard part that needs leadership.

  3. If they’re not providing a safe route for children then they need to designate the footpath as a shared path. It’s unfair to expect children to break the law by riding on a footpath. We have this ridiculous nudge-nudge-wink-wink situation where AT are designing streets with the expectation that children will break the law. I was out with an AT engineer looking at our local streets and at one place he suggested we put a ramp to encourage children onto the footpath even though it is not a shared path. Even the police are telling children to break the law – our local community constable while escorting children on a practice ride from Devonport to Belmont Intermediate school told the children to always ride on the footpath.

    1. Too right, AT is encouraging people to risk a $55 fine by riding on the footpath. Also, the footpath is often not a safe place to ride (where there are car crossings).

      1. Even worse is that, by forcing kids to break the law, they are automatically at fault in case of a crash. That can have repercussions on insurance liability as well. But kids dont vote.

        1. The law mentions wheel size. Do most kids’ bikes fall under the limit and are therefore legal on footpaths?

          What’s up with that law anyway? Should it be scrapped?

          1. It needs to be amended. Most people think it’s legal to cycle on the footpath if youre on your way to school. The wheel size is for a bicycle is about a tricycle or very small childs bicycle. -355mm

          2. Law or not, until we provide safe infra to enable cycling to school, or work etc, people will continue to cycle on footpaths.

      2. I nearly killed a 12 year old who was riding on the footpath as I backed out of my drive. I had tooted and looked but as she said “I heard the too and I was going really fast”.

        1. Hum. If you looked and didn’t see her, you didn’t look well enough, it’s not her fault.

          1. This is a subtle one, it’s not easy to spot cyclists on the path when they are still some distance away.

            On Shakespeare Road, Milford, there is a quite narrow bidirectional shared path on one side. Many houses have high fences right up to that shared path.

            So if you’re backing out, you have to do so very slowly. Definitely never faster than walking pace. It’s a wise idea to stop and look when the back of your car is about to enter the path. You must give cyclists and pedestrians plenty of time to notice you before you cross the path.

            For cyclists it is a good idea to slow down if you see a car backing out, as often the driver can’t see you until his car is already partially blocking the path.

  4. Painting those bike lanes in a bright colour may make the street appear more narrow for drivers.

    If that meridian is not ‘needed’ for some of the length of the street, maybe the car lanes can move towards the centre in these stretches. That will introduce a few gentle bends and break the appearance of having a long straight stretch.

    Raised pedestrian crossings, maybe. There’s quite a few of them in Highbury town centre (Birkenhead) and as far as I can see the sky hasn’t fallen there. Mokoia Road doesn’t have a flush meridian either by the way.

    1. Raised pedestrian crossings are definitely something we’d love to see. Not a main bus route, so the typical AT reason why they can’t be considered shouldn’t be an issue here.

  5. “We’re also happy to report that the Wellington St intersection, originally slated to be a roundabout (not ideal for pedestrians or cyclists), is being looked at more closely with a view to better safety for vulnerable road users.”

    As a pedestrian I’m all in favour of a roundabout. That intersection is a death trap for pedestrians right now. There needs to be a way to slow cyclists down when coming to the intersection, especially if there are no lights. I’ve been hit once by a bike there and see cyclists crashing the crossing (when cars have stopped for me to cross) on quite a few occasions.

    Now it isn’t every cyclist but enough to really worry about my kids when crossing there.

    1. We had some mixed feelings here in BikeAKL on that roundabout – some good and some bad aspects. Agree that speed needs to be controlled better for everyone.

  6. There needs to be some physical form of barrier to stop cars creating a second queuing lane. Paint will not work. Also it is going to be very tempting to park on the cycle lane itself, although illegal, very few people know or care about not doing so.

    1. We’re hoping to get them to prevent that with design at intersections and mid-block crossings (i.e. it wont profit drivers to queue in second lane).

      Re parking in cycle lane – yes, that is a concern. Though as we see on Carlton Gore Road, even the protected cycle lanes get parked on/in. Needs more enforcement.

      1. Interesting to contemplate how the dashed yellow lines might apply here – while not visually attractive, they do remind drivers there’s no parking in bike lanes.

  7. “Some kind of physical delineation is needed, that still allows access to driveways and parking bays. A simple approach would be to use the raised rubber speed bumps as seen along the Beach Road and Nelson Street driveways, to edge the bike lanes for the full length of the street.”

    I agree some sort of physical delineation would be nice, but that might also create a hazard for cyclists taking evasive action if a car door does swing open or a car pulls out. When I ride down the section of Carlton Gore where the cars are parked on my left I naturally ride just inside the diagonally painted section (i.e. outside the bike lane) as that feels most suitable given the speed I’m travelling (~40 km/h) – this is right where the likes of the rubber speed bumps would be placed.

    1. Good point, Dave – would rumble strips or differentiated surface treatment cause the same issue, do you think?

      1. Hi Dave – yes, that of course is one of the factors that would need to come into the discussion. But one might, for example, use 200-300mm wide speed humps rather than ones that take up the whole buffer. Or maybe AT could actuatlly integrate some sort of minor vertical or material / texture dirfference right into the design, rather than less fancy-looking paint & bumps…

        1. In order to give the necessary clearance though, that median has to go. Which apparently is too hard.

      2. Those are good ideas – rumble strips would be good at sending a tactile reminder to motorists as they cross, but might still be a bit tricky to navigate on a road bike. A suitably rough surface treatment would be easier to ride over but might not provide enough of an impediment to cars.

        Maybe some kind of slightly raised and textured 500mm wide hump would do the trick, although it would have water runoff implications among other things, and I don’t know if that sort of thing is best practice.

  8. Re: Wellington St. Given the traffic volumes, signalisation seems to be logical in my opinion.

    1. I wasn’t at the meeting myself, so not sure whether that was mooted. Presumably, that decision was less crucial to the timeframes of the power line and sewer works than matters like the main mid-blocks etc were.

  9. Pedestrian Refuges? Is it so dangerous that you have to provide refuges for pedestrians? And how about parking? Look pretty dangerous too. Does one hold up all the traffic while the string of cyclists pass or does one toot and hope the cyclists stop for you. Some hope.

  10. “or conducive to the feel of a street that people actually live on.”

    Hang on. Are you implying people don’t live on most streets?

    I know this is a bit of a flagship street (lovely trees), but all the great suggestions and level of thought should go into any street right? 🙂

    Cars backing out across (inny or outy) cycle lanes isn’t unique to Franklin.
    Lovely appealing colours and other design features are great ideas, but aren’t really unique either.

    I wish my street had pedestrian refuges and traffic calming instead of a median strip. (There’s a shared path across the road but it’s really inconvenient to get to.)
    When I’m reversing my car out I have to watch out for cyclists, and pedestrians, cars, buses and trucks too, on a low speed motorway no less (great north road)! Why was this one minor issue given so much weight on Franklin rd?

    1. I guess I should move off such a horrible main road… but someone has to live here right?

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