The issue of car-transporters on Great North Road has been in the news recently, in this Metro article and this follow-up piece (including a quote from our chair, Barb Cuthbert. The story drew an overdue and somewhat tepid response from Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, and this great analysis of the wider situation from Greater Auckland.
In this guest post, Bike Auckland reader – and frequent Great North Road rider – Christina Bengtson shares her experiences.
Car deliveries on Great North Road have frustrated me for quite a while. The big trucks delivering cars to the sales yards continuously park on yellow no-parking lines, in bus stops or even in the median strip, blocking sight lines from side roads to Great North Road and compromising the safety of everyone who uses this stretch of road.
I’m not as affected as Tina Plunkett, who started the Twitter hashtag #cartruckparty and who has invested a lot of time and effort in this issue (although I’ve tagged her into some of my photo tweets). My kids don’t attend Newton School and I don’t live in the area. I do, however, bike along Great North Road quite frequently.
As anybody who rides a bike in Auckland will know, choosing a route is a constant dilemma between the fastest route and the safest, and rarely do the two overlap – even partially. Sometimes speed wins, and I brace myself for the car-trucks.
Great North Road is a very busy stretch of road. Coming from the K’ Rd end and heading towards Grey Lynn, there are the car yards, many car-related businesses (mechanics, tyre providers, spare parts…), and a number of other businesses tucked away in the side streets and back streets on both sides of Great North Road. Plus a significant number of private residences, both older houses and shiny new apartment buildings.
Great North Road is a busy bus connection as well, with a bus lane that appears, disappears and re-appears a number of times along the stretch to Grey Lynn. The road itself changes from two lanes to one, then back to two lanes at the intersection with Bond St, then back to one lane again.
Great North Road is a very direct route for many – and a scenic one too: sitting atop a ridgeline, it provides wonderful views across the city.
Marring these views and this access, however, are the car-trucks. When they park illegally, they create a huge hazard by making an already busy streetscape even more complex.
If you come from the K’ Rd end, the car delivery trucks will be either on your left or on the median strip, at a point where two lanes merge into one. This leads drivers to focus on other vehicles they need to merge with, and to miss people on bikes, which leaves me squeezed between parked and moving traffic. I have flashing lights front and rear, wear a high-viz vest, and my trailer has a flag as well as a bright yellow cover – but I am still not a car, and therefore often overlooked. Cars approaching from the side streets also suffer from reduced visibility, and are forced to take risks when moving onto Great North Road itself.
The delivery trucks are parked illegally. There’s a reason yellow lines are painted on the road at important areas like side-street junctions: so nobody parks there and limits visibility! In effect, the car yards – privately owned businesses – are allowed to operate the way they do here, despite being able to do so only by using the public road space illegally. Auckland Council and Auckland Transport (AT) seem to have accepted this situation for years and have done little or nothing to address it.
Part of my frustration with the situation is the (lack of) response from both the Council and AT.
Firstly, they have not insisted on and enforced safe delivery of cars to the yards. But there’s also lack of enforcement of the existing rules against parking on the yellow lines, bus stops, and median strips.
When I choose the fastest route over the safest, it’s usually because I have to be somewhere at a certain time. On those occasions, it’s a challenge to stop and call AT to ask them to send a traffic warden while a truck is actually off-loading cars. And even if a warden did get there on time, they can only issue a paltry fine.
Several times I have stopped to take pictures of the truck(s) and tweeted them later, including AT in the tweet. They sometimes respond, asking me to call their number when I see it happening and they’ll dispatch a warden. On the one occasion when I actually did stop and took the time to call AT, they eventually texted me a job number, and promised to get a warden there within an hour. Given that time-frame, the delivery truck would be long gone by the time the warden was to arrive and I had therefore wasted the time of both the AT operator and the parking warden – and I was late for my meeting.
That the Council and AT merely find the car deliveries ‘worrying’ is extremely concerning, and does not seem to fit with a vision zero or the alleged new focus on safety on our roads. Equally concerning is the slow delivery of safe cycling lanes along this stretch of road.
While I understand that the scope and format for planning these cycle lanes has changed in the last couple of years, the glacial speed of infrastructure delivery on such a key route is depressing and disheartening. We need safe, separated infrastructure along many of Auckland’s roads – and putting it in place here, along Great North Road, would truly indicate to all people on bikes that their safety is more important than the profits of a few private businesses.
— Christina Bengtson
A note from Bike Auckland: waaaay way back in 2015, Great North Road was set to have safe bikeways by 2018, as funded and scoped under the Urban Cycleway Programme.
That work obviously didn’t happen; and GNR has now been absorbed into the Integrated Corridor Programme. As described in this Greater Auckland blog post the programme aims to reshape key transport corridors around the city in order to streamline public transport and prioritise safety for active modes (walking, cycling, scooting).
This is promising – but it means it will likely be 2021 at the earliest before we see safer cycling on Great North Road. For now, we simply have to trust that the corridors will include safe, best-practice design for cycling (and scooting, and all the other forms of micromobility that are becoming increasingly popular and important as sustainable transport options).
Bike Auckland has sought a briefing from AT on the Integrated Corridor Programme, which should also give a clearer sense of the timeline for safe cycling facilities on Great North Road. We expect to hear more in June.