One of the more hopeful trends in Auckland’s “three step forwards, two steps back” cycling world is that things do get better. You can often tell the quality of a cycling design from the date on the plans – or the other way around. Plans created 3 years ago but only now being built often already look rather dated. Whereas newer designs often (although sadly, by no means always) improve markedly over what was offered even just a year ago.
Carlton Gore Road – now announced to start construction on 2 April – is a classic example of this:
- In early 2014, CAA raised a ruckus (internally with AT only, so you didn’t hear it at the time) when we were given a plan set that showed only an uphill cycle lane (!)
- In mid 2014, in the next set, AT did find the space to have cycle lanes both ways after all – and even added painted buffers…
- And in early 2015, in the final iteration now about to be built, almost half the street will get physically protected cycle lanes. Plus some other great features like a new zebra crossing and a raised table on George Street, both of which will help to slow traffic in the speedy central section.
The project thus showed some of the best and worst of the current process.The frustrating parts are almost all connected to the fact that the whole (cycling part of the) project started too late, and then was delayed several times at design and decision stages. This ensured that over a year went by after the main roadworks were completed, without any cycle facilities being added – delaying a good deal for cyclists, and also preventing the protected lanes from being extended further east – at least for now, because that would involve digging up that street again, and there’s little appetite for that outside of the cycling community [Edit: Reconsidering this, it may be possible to in the future change at least the westbound cycle lane to protected parking for a good section further east without too much re-work of last year’s construction. Protecting the eastbound lane all the way would require cutting down some large trees or another substantial section of parking removal].
Among the best parts was AT’s willingness to several times improve on the original design, and their (in the end) decision to stick with removing over 30 car parks (against substantial opposition) so as not to compromise the design.
While we wait for the final time, here’s the design that will be constructed soon:
- Image 1: Western end. Cyclists from Park Road from the north going into CGR will have the choice whether to avoid signals by going onto a short section of shared path at the corner and then dropping back onto CGR. Westbound cyclists get a cycle lane to the intersection, but need to take care if they are going through or turning right, as the left-hand lane is a left-turn only lane. The decision was made by AT that putting a cycle lane between two car lanes was too hostile for less confident cyclists (something we agree with) – so these cyclists are expected to cross with the pedestrian lights, while more experienced cyclists can make their way over to the through-and-right lane at any point from where the last physical buffer stops.
- Image 2: Solid (Beach Road style) protection for eastbound cyclists in the top section of the street. This is where most of the car parks were removed. Westbound, the cycle lane is behind parking (the first example of this design in Auckland, as far as we are aware), with solid buffers protecting you from car dooring. Sadly, there are quite a few driveways and 90-degree off-street car parks that AT can do little about (private car parks that were permitted in this unsafe fashion long ago), so this section will feel more exposed than you’d want ideally. At George Street, a raised table and a new pedestrian crossing over CGR will slow everything down a lot more through here. Bonus for cyclists and pedestrians (and even the safety of drivers!).
- Image 3: The mid-section down the hill gets no physical protection, but painted buffers will hopefully help reduce close passes (or alternatively allow you to cycle a bit further away from car doors – the lanes themselves even without the buffer are also wider, again to avoid dooring). We’re a bit worried about taxis and delivery vans stopping in the cycle lanes though!
- Image 4: Near Davis Crescent, the cycle lane stops. We have asked AT to look at options of slowing down this intersection, which is sometimes quite fast – but that will be part of a new project. The need for further improvement of Auckland cycling conditions won’t stop anytime soon…