…it’s Bruce here, to say: Horrible puns aside, whatever your name, could you all please come forward and support the good improvements in the newest Franklin Road cycleway design? This is your final opportunity to weigh in.

AT now has its foot flat to the floor: feedback for this last consultation closes at 4.00pm, Tuesday 10 May 2016.

As covered in our previous posts (1, 2, 3, 4), it’s been a rollicking ride. You will recall that AT made the decision to retain the flush median / not go for a parking-protected cycle lane, which eliminated our preferred option. We worried this might be the start of another slide down the slippery slope of compromised design, and that despite our best advocacy we would end up with an (ahem) mongrel solution.

Happily, after a lot of input from the local and wider cycling community, AT has settled on a design that’s looking pretty good – upping the game by adding features (such as the raised cycle lane with traversable kerb that we suggested) which should create a much improved environment for all road users, and particularly for people on foot and bikes.

In fact, our blog post on the new design is our most-read (and most shared) news story of the year so far, which gives a sense of both how noteworthy the outcome is – and how much we all love good news about cities making streets better for everyone!

Note: the current designs apply to the top portion of Franklin Road – where the majority of residents live. You’ve been with us so far – so it would be great to have ideas or issues that you’ve spotted on the top half – but please also use your imaginations and experience to raise any thoughts about the bottom half, so we can mention these on your behalf at the consultation.

(AT will schedule a Community Liaison meeting on the lower portion in a few weeks’ time. We don’t expect the overall cycle safety features will be much different there, but the supermarket and the big intersection with Victoria Street will need some added thinking.)

We encourage you to add your feedback here, and consider making these comments:

  • Support the raised cycle lane proposal – it’s a good compromise, and hopefully a template for locations where parking-protected lanes aren’t a goer (yet)
  • Ensure the roundabout gets strong traffic calming – make sure the ramped parts are not too gentle, so they actually slow down cars
  • Make the cycle paths around the edge of the roundabout wider and more consistent – and future-proofed for when cycling across zebra crossings becomes legal
  • Support raised tables on ALL side roads – including those lower down the road, and at the supermarket driveways
  • Make sure the upgrade includes the intersections with Victoria Street and Ponsonby Road as much as possible

Here’s some thoughts and details to chew on…

Visibility

Looking at the new design, a key area of concern from residents has been the risk of collecting a person on a bike when maneuvering in and out of their driveways. The clever team at MR Cagney researched the problem for Bike Auckland, and concluded that Franklin Road’s trees, although contributing to visibility challenges, were not the main culprits. Parked cars (and in reality, often randomly parked cars) were the main perpetrators of disrupted sight lines.

20FranklinRd
Visibility from 20 Franklin Rd (MRCagney)

The renewal project will treat the grand old trees to their own tree pits, which will also tidy up and reduce the amount of parking available by around a third. Fewer parked cars, parked properly, better sight lines. AT is also designing some wider driveways to allow flexibility for some specifically challenging situations. And a few carparks may actually be removed in the name of safety for the sake of people on bikes and the nerves of the residents.

The bottom line

In my experience – and I use Franklin Road six times on a normal week – I’ve never had a problem at the top.  I can see over the parked cars and keep an eye out for residents in their cars.  The danger comes at the bottom of the road, below Middle Street, and particularly around the driveways for the New World Supermarket. It’s more common to have a problem here than to breeze through.

I’m not sure what it is. People visiting the supermarket must be hungry or have a food emergency. It’s common to see ill-judged exits from Scotland Street and the supermarket driveways. It’s also common for drivers who seem to have been perfectly happy to stay behind you down Franklin, to pick this moment to overtake, then slam their brakes on and turn left in front of you into Scotland St or the supermarket. What could be done to make this safer?  Get back to us or AT with any suggestions.

Middle ground

Back to the top: traffic lanes here have been narrowed, calming traffic. The median has been retained as turning areas for side streets and driveways, which allows traffic to pass unimpeded. Other than ‘status quo bias’, another argument for retaining painted medians is as a pedestrian refuge (walking residents strongly value this amenity). However, when Franklin Road is really congested, cars tend to use the median as another lane.  We suggested to AT that strategically placed raised medians or barriers could help avoid this problem, and would put more shelter into the refuge.

Safer crossings

Raised tables on the side roads should work brilliantly.  Rat-running through Pember Reeves, Wood and Arthur Streets is a problem, and maybe can’t be stopped altogether but let’s hope the tables calm the rats and maybe discourage a few. AT indicates that all side roads will have raised table crossings – this will be particularly useful in the lower section.

Swing-turns and roundabouts

Initially my heart dropped when I saw the roundabout – those are traditionally dangerous areas for people on bikes. On closer examination I realised the whole thing was raised, brilliant! Is this a first for Auckland, particularly in such a high vehicle-count environment? All entries and exits are narrow and single-lane, so the left turn lane from Wellington Street onto Franklin will go. This might frustrate some people in cars, but it is these details that make the whole redesign work… as long as the raised area is solid and high enough – it needs to be more than a gentle vibration if you hit it at speed. Let’s make sure it really is a SLOW speed table, not a ‘speed(ing) table’.

WellingtonStroundaboutApril2016

There are also pedestrian crossings on all four legs of the roundabout, giving walkers plenty of flexibility and putting drivers on notice that extra care is rightfully required. It’s features like this which hopefully will encourage more children and their parents to walk and ride to school and other local activities. Freeman’s Bay Primary School is a keen Bikewise School, and they have been a valued supporter through the consultation.

One item we’re not quite happy with yet is the inconsistent way the off-road cycle paths (dark green on the image above) take you onto the zebra crossings at the roundabout. In the current concept, every corner looks different, and some require some tight turns and narrower-than-necessary shared path sections! We appreciate that cyclists not wanting to ride through the roundabout on-road need to be slowed down a bit before going into the areas where they mix with pedestrians. But let’s do this right, so it’s a bit more understandable and generous.

Bike lanes with a difference

The actual bike lanes have been well debated. The vertical separation will be interesting for both bikes and cars.  The devil will be in the detail – no ‘lip’ at the edge please! (that could make someone hitting it at an angle fall down in a right mess). The plan is that bikes can enter or exit the cycle lane at any point safely, by choice or in case they need to suddenly avoid a hazard.

Obviously, this level of separation doesn’t stop a person in a car if they wish to get into a parking space… or ‘share’ our cycleway, and this could be a criticism of the design. But I think in general this separation will make it much less likely that drivers will enter the cycle lane at speed, or too casually.

Here are a couple of images from the US, showing a similar design (which we’ve flipped for you):

Raised 01 Raised 03

One part of our thinking all through the consultation was that the aesthetic of the street was vital to everyone – and let’s face it, some of the on street cycleway treatments in Auckland have been a bit industrial-looking. The hard ‘motorway-esque’ separators and lashings of green paint, well justified in circumstances such as Beach Road and Nelson Street, weren’t quite at home in the leafy burb of Freeman’s Bay. To our minds, if the street was dressed up with these ‘heavy’ treatments, people in cars would instinctively think ‘arterial road’ and increase their speed and we’d be back to square one.

What do you think of the lighter touch of the cycleway treatment?  Will the vertical separation and relatively lighter application of green paint be sufficient? It would be nice to think that we could get away with this minimalist approach.

FRdApril2016
Franklin Road design, artist’s impression (which doesn’t quite capture the way the cycle lanes will be raised and separated)

Keeping it light

I was also delighted that AT had put so much thought and care into the lighting and other details which aren’t the direct concern of this forum. Overall, this design seems to be highly refined and well thought-through and AT should be proud of what they’ve come up with.  I think Franklin Rd and Freeman’s Bay residents should be delighted with the end result, and I can’t wait to see it built.

As a local and someone who regularly bikes up this street, I’m very pleased that this important link will have a proper facility for people on bikes and that it will look beautiful, and hopefully set a high standard and inspiration for the hundreds of leafy avenues in our city – and streets that should be leafy avenues. I hope that the design works well for people who live there.

How far we've come... Franklin Rd, 1905, photo by Henry Winkelmann. Henry Winkelmann, 1905. 'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W213'
How far we’ve come… Franklin Rd in 1905, by Henry Winkelmann. (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W213)

Header image via Flickr

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