Recently, one of Auckland’s cyclists (we will call him B, after his first name) decided that he had enough of a certain intersection (Richardson Road / May Road) where he felt endangered by the layout and driver behaviour, and started to go to authorities about it to get it fixed.
Basically, B’s issue is one that many Auckland cyclists are faced with: Wanting to turn right from one major road (Richardson Road) into another (May Road), there’s a traffic lane that allows cars to go both straight through along Richardson Road OR turn right into May Road.
Not only does this mean that B may have to cross a traffic lane to get there in the first place – when sitting in the lane, he often has a right turn “red”, but the through movement along Richardson Road is green (just as in the photo!). This leads to all kinds of fun – as car drivers agressively push past you with no safety space if you try to get out of their way, by huddling in the middle of the road between the two traffic flows, trying to be as thin as possible (you are not a car, you have no right to hold up cars!). Or they abuse you from behind if you refuse to budge out of the way and half into the opposing lane. Furthermore, to top it off, the signal – and many others around Auckland – often seems to not respond to bicycles!
The editor of this blog had similar experiences at Grafton Road / Park Road – on my very first ride after a long break, I got sworn at by a car driver for obeying the red light right turn and NOT turning! So I can certainly understand B’s wish to change this screwed-up situation that gives you these fine choices:
- endanger your life by getting out of the way
- endanger your life (and your peace of mind) by staying IN the way
- break the law (and possibly endanger your life) by jumping the red light!
B first emailed the police (we don’t have his email TO the police, but it seems he was asking whether under these circumstances he was allowed to break the law). The police were… helpful… in pointing out things and in adding more options to the above three:
Thank you for your inquiry through the online from submission.
In answer to your query I can advise that cyclists are bound by the road transport laws and it is an offence carrying a $150.00 infringement fee to proceed against a red traffic signal.
Your options therefore, are to either wait for a heavier vehicle to trigger the light phase or to dismount and use the pedestrian options to get through the intersection.
B didn’t really think that solved things, responding back:
As it currently stands both options you have suggested are very dangerious to any cyclist wanting to turn right – it would only be a matter of time before someone got hit as there is no refuge point in the middle of the road and the right turn lane is also a through lane – I have had two cars abreast passing me on the left (usually less than 0.5m away from me) when sitting in the middle of the road . On your suggestion of crossing the traffic to get pedestrain lights this is equally dangerous – also if you were to ride on the left to get at the pedestrian button you would have to either ride on the footpath, which I understand is illegal or dismount in the traffic flow as there is no shoulder on the road and there is also a fence between the road and the footpath.
B then turned to us, and asked why it wasn’t possible to change the right lane into a right-turn-only lane. So basically if you are going west on Richardson Road, you keep left, and only use the right lane when turning right.
Eminently sensible, huh? It wouldn’t make the road great for a novice cyclist, but at least it will be a bit safer. And as B reckons, also a bit more efficient, as drivers know what to expect and which lane they should be in, to not be blocked by right turners (drivers OR cyclists) waiting.
Simple enough? Well yes, and we have encouraged B to go to AT and request this change, stating that he had CAA’s blessing in doing so, and that we would chase this up if he got a negative response. Will AT do the change, or will he get a response along the line of “Sorry, but because of the amount of traffic along Richardson Road, two westbound traffic lanes are required“? Please give us a positive surprise, AT!