May Road SignalsRecently, 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!

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23 responses to “Intersecting the cyclist

  1. I had the same situation this morning on my way to work at an intersection in Birkenhead. Wasnt heavy enough to trigger the light phasing, and cars travelling straight through were passing me extremely closely. If only there was a positive solution to come from this!

      1. I didn’t read the link, so I’m not sure if it’s mentioned, but non-ferrous bikes will almost never trigger the sensor. Alloy, Carbon or Titanium frame? Pretty much wasting your time.

        1. Typically your bike has other metal in it (pedals, chain, etc), which may be enough if the sensor is set right. Not going work for everyone though (yes, we even covered plastic and cardboard bikes!)

  2. I tried to find the relevant piece of legislation, but in my opinion, I think the red light should be treated as if there is a faulty light, and so turning right is not illegal, as long as it is done safely.
    For the police to respond with “wait for a heavy vehicle” to turn up is unfortunately very gormless. What if the heavy vehicle doesn’t see the cyclist and flattens them. Or, as the case can also be, the driver is super polite and waits a full car length behind, thus also not activating the signal.

    1. Well, the cyclist could pull ahead of the limit line to let the driver behind him actuate the loop (of course also breaking the law to do that, by advancing forward of the limit line during a red – a real comedy 😉

      1. Exactly what I had to do at another intersection yesterday.. at the request of the car behind me which had just done a U turn and was stuck across the centre line.

    2. Sometimes I get very bossy and use aggressive hand signals to move a car forward so that it is sitting over the loop – putting on a serious face, waving it forward then putting up a big stop signal when it is in the right position, before giving a big thumbs up, and a big smile. I think of it as akin to training an animal really.

      1. Come on that is very unfair and patronising.

        I find animals quite easy to train. 🙂

      2. Snap! I use the exact same method between Symonds Street & Alex Evans Street, though I prefer enthusiastic, inviting signals (come on in, the water’s lovely!).

  3. Two lane roundabout going into a road which is also two lanes is also bad for the cyclist going further around the roundabout. Example is the one at the end of the northwestern motorway.

    I dont understand the holding up traffic part because if I was on a moped I would be in the same boat. Typically go a little forward and wait for a car to go or just go through the red when safe.

  4. Don’t worry Mayor Brown said at the end of the interview on Cambell live last week that he was going to address this immediately – that means we will definitely have resolution as soon as he is done waving his magic wand (young Asian interns watch out!)

    I posted on this site just a week or so ago detailing a near identical experience turning on to Carlton-Gore Rd from Mountain. On that occasion I obeyed the law and held up the traffic wanting to go straight till I got a green right turn light. Got an ear full of abuse for by obedience. Other times I just break the law. I’m so bad.

    As a kid I’d do stupid stuff and when asked by a parent would often reply by saying I was just doing what my mates/sister had done/suggested. In proper parental fashion my mother would reply ‘if they jumped off a cliff would you do that too?’ Point being that just because the police say to do one thing that doesn’t mean that you should do it – especially if the doing of it is going to endanger your life.

    Did B really expect the police to respond to the query by saying – I think you should break the law? I’m certain not but such a response/letter could certainly be helpful for creating leverage to support change.

  5. I live around the corner from this intersection and also use it to turn into May Rd. The supreme irony of this situation is that Richardson Road is single lane for virtually its entire length INCLUDING IMMEDIATELY BEFORE AND AFTER THESE LIGHTS!

    Go figure…

  6. I hate those 1-2-1 lanes dotted all around Auckland. They are there purely to move as many cars as possible and are good for nothing else. They also take up lots of otherwise useable road space that could be bike lanes.

    1. The crazy thing is they have the opposite effect – in rush hour cars get caught behind cars turning right and then try to force themselves into the left lane to go straight through -this causes all the traffic to slow and frustration on everyone. Just a dumb design that does not work on any level.

  7. Only when roads are made suitable for bicycles is it reasonable to treat bicycles as general road users.

    I suggest running the red light, when it is safe to do so.

    Perhaps also consider asking the police; “If I am in a vehicle at traffic lights, with traffic behind me preventing me leaving the intersection, and the light remains red, at what point is it reasonable to assume the light is malfunctioning and what course of action should I take?”
    If one rule applies to all in their eyes, this situation should apply to cyclists too. I would be interested in their response.

    Of course, just because something is written into law doesn’t mean it is right, good or morally defensible. Know why a law is put in place, but don’t be afraid to ignore it when it makes no sense.

  8. You can see the marks on the road where the sensor wires are. If you do a little bit of a snake so that you cross some of the wires it will trigger the light. Doing this I don’t have any trouble with lights not triggering.

  9. Jeez, if I had to go through there I think I’d definately just go on the footpath and use the pedestrian crossing. Not worth the risk, and an absolutely shocking road design especially as it goes back to single lane after the intersection! Why cant the lane be right turn only?

  10. The person responsible for this sort of nonsense must have concrete between the ears! Lucky for them we have ACC and they can not be sued for their poor design if it contributes to an accident. These markings have a similar effect to dual lane roundabouts that have exit roads with dual lanes for about fifty metres. The lanes have no purpose except to cause near misses and aggressive driving to flick back into lane.

    I remember years ago working for an architectural practice and the structural engineers were always taking the micky out of traffic engineers saying if you failed you did traffic engineering! Things don’t seem to have changed

    1. Well, the author of this blog article is a traffic engineer (cum civil engineer), who did okayish on his structural engineering exams 😉

      1. Sorry Max, my comment was a bit over the top but I think you will agree some of the roading we see is a little strange and dangerous when considering the total picture, this being a good example.

        Of course professional engineers only design what they are requested to design and good advice is often ignored by those in power who have the final say.

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