The new designs for Franklin Rd are in, and we are impressed. We knew that parking-protected bike lanes had been ruled out – but this round of design proposes the next best thing: separated lanes raised above the road, separated from traffic by a rounded kerb, and with buffer zones on both sides.
You may remember that after the disappointment of not getting parking-protection (in part because of a safety audit that questioned the safety in these specific circumstances, i.e. trees and lots of driveways and fast downhill cyclists – plus, one presumes, Auckland drivers), we raised this as an option to upgrade the ho-hum result. And, once they had a chance to get their heads around it, the team at AT were reportedly quite excited at the possibilities.
The fresh design features even more delightful surprises in the way of side street treatments, intersection management, and even lighting. But for starters, have a look at this:
Here are the bike lane features, in Auckland Transport’s own words:
- Slightly raised cycleway preferred – 50 to 70mm higher than adjacent road
- 1.5m wide
- 0.6m buffers each side
- Cycle symbols at 60m intervals
- Rounded kerb profile safer
- Greening limited to intersections and a thin line adjacent to buffer zone
Speaking of greening: we know a lot of work went into figuring out how to create raised bike lanes and retain parking bays while also protecting Franklin Road’s greatest treasure, the massive London plane trees. Looks like the parking bays will have permeable surfaces, with timber wheel-stops to keep cars away from the trees. And the drainage around the tree pits is a thing of beauty:
Side streets are a major issue on many cycle routes – and cars darting in and out are dangerous not only for people on bikes. So we’re very pleased that this design follows in the steps of other recent proposals, by suggesting raised table crossings on these side streets. This will make things much safer for pedestrians, as well as giving drivers pause before they cross the cycleway.
There are lots of challenges here. Hills, for one – it’s all downhill from Ponsonby Rd, and even more downhill on Wellington St, encouraging a motorway mindset for drivers at speed. There’s also a regular stream of pedestrians and people on bikes, including kids from Freeman’s Bay School who need to cross twice; families headed to the daycare on the corner; and weekend flows between Ponsonby Road and Victoria Park – not to mention the annual Christmas crowds.
No wonder this intersection is pretty dodgy right now, even for drivers trying to get out of side streets.
Once again, good thinking to the rescue! Overall, this may be one of the best NZ roundabouts for cyclists and pedestrians we have seen so far.
- Note how the corners of the intersection have been drawn inwards, to slow traffic down, creating a much smaller intersection than currently exists.
- There’s also only one traffic lane for each direction, and because it’s a roundabout, all traffic has to give way, which will reduce hooning through the intersection on the straight.
- Each leg of the intersection features a pedestrian crossing, set just behind the start of a raised section.
- Yes – in fact the entire intersection is raised, to help manage speed. The central island is ‘mountable’, in case larger vehicles need to pass through – which helps keep the overall intersection size down.
- The roundabout design promises to achieve both slow and flow: AT says this intersection design will be ‘significantly better at managing queuing during peak times’.
How will this work for people on bikes? You have two options:
- If you are reasonably confident then you can stay on-road, as many will. And hopefully this should be very different in practice from your usually speedy Auckland roundabout.
- If you’d rather take it slow and even more safely, then you can head off onto a short section of cycle path / shared path, and cross at the zebras. (Note: for the near future, you will not have right of way on those zebras as a person on a bike – hopefully, this will change once this becomes an accepted measure in NZ in a few years; official trials are currently underway).
The devil is still in the detail, of course. The raised table needs to be strong enough to slow traffic, and the central island needs to be raised enough to not just be driven straight over by everyone. Hopefully this is achievable, with it not being a main bus route.
Also, we think the cycle paths / shared paths around the edges for those riders who prefer to still not go through the roundabout with traffic also need a bit more consistency – currently, they are bitsy and narrow/ too wriggly in parts. Luckily, there’s still room (literally) for tweaking.
Lastly, street lighting is one of those things we all take for granted, but even here AT has pushed the boat out. Given the complexity of maintaining traditional street lighting in amongst the grand old trees, they’re investigating not just the standard light poles, but also some bespoke options:
- catenary lighting suspended over the street, which allows for exciting possibilities around Christmas.
- and bollard lighting for the footpaths, designed to illuminate the way without spilling light into residents’ bedrooms.
What else is yet to come? Details, details. And we’re interested to see what happens at the supermarket/ Victoria Park end of Franklin Road, which is currently quite perilous for foot and bike traffic.
For now, though, we’re stoked by the alacrity with which AT’s design team picked up on the possibilities here.
Sure, Franklin Road invites the royal treatment in part because of its age and beauty, and the way its residents have made space for an annual shared celebration. But it can also stand as a example of better streets, everywhere, for everyone.
Maybe the light is finally dawning that Auckland can shine – not just in dramatic creations like Lightpath and on signature boulevards like Franklin Rd – but all over town.