Dominion Rd revamp – it seems everyone deserves transport choice, except cyclists

Update – in case you missed it, Transport Blog dealt with other aspects of this debacle, which has attracted outrage about the cycling aspects as well. Check it out.

Today’s Herald story refers to concerns we have with the revamp planned for Dominion Rd.

AT’s drawing below shows how good the completed project will be. Interestingly, it has no cyclists anywhere in the frame. This is rare, when you consider how bikes and cyclists feature commonly in all sorts of promotional material (AT publications, retirement villages, health companies) to convey how ‘cool’ and ‘desirable’ the product is.

Dominion Rd Balmoral upgrade

The project has been in the pipeline for some years, dating from Auckland Council’s original plan to make generous provision for bus lanes and Copenhagen style cycle lanes. The $100m price tag and protest from local retailers over widening through the villages caused AT to go back to the drawing board. Major bus lane trimming and deleting the cycle lane widening brought the expected cost down to $47m.

Since then plans have evolved to move village car parking to the side streets and provide a $6.2m back roads traffic calming project to encourage inexperienced cyclists to ride parallel routes clear of Dominion Rd. AT says the back roads route connects with 16 schools, which is great to hear.

We have been working with AT on the parallel routes to try to make them less meandering and more practical. We have also made it clear that the back routes won’t cater for all cyclists, as more experienced riders will continue to use Dominion Rd because it provides such efficient direct access into the Central City.

When we presented to Auckland Council in February we were horrified to hear Councillor Christine Fletcher suggest that a by-law may be warranted to force all cyclists to use the parallel streets and exclude commuting cyclists from using Dominion Rd. She backed off when we reminded her that, while we accept the local benefits of the parallel routes, Cycle Action didn’t ask for them and respects the desire of cross-city cyclists for a more direct efficient route.

AT recently called for submissions on on the Dominion Rd project, with a closing date of last Thursday. Somewhat prematurely, it issued a media release on Friday before it had read the submissions. This told us the project cost has ballooned by $20m to move village parking to the side streets, village planting, seating etc. It also said “Cyclists have been given their own routes on side-streets paralleling Dominion Road where the traffic is light, inherent safety much greater and exhaust fumes almost non-existent.”

I regard this statement to be misleading, as back road routes with traffic calming are a far cry from the NW Cycleway or other dedicated cycleways. The back routes are still primarily designed for cars, so are not cyclists’ ‘own routes‘. While we don’t want to re-litigate the issue of providing cycle lanes on Dominion Rd or deny the local value of the back routes,  we ask AT to be honest and to respect the right of commuting cyclists to use Dominion Rd.

Our submission supports improvements to make the villages more pleasant places to visit. We also asked AT to reallocate road space by narrowing the relatively generous width of painted medians and car traffic lanes, so more space is available for buses and cycles to have safer and efficient travel. We’ve also asked for advance stop boxes to raise the profile of cyclists using Dominion Rd and threshold treatments at side roads to protect cyclists using Dominion Rd from drivers turning onto/off the arterial.

We’ll keep you posted on what success we have with these requests.

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