We’ve been told that cycling (and thus, the safety of people on bikes) is now ‘embedded’ across the whole of Auckland Transport. So it came as a surprise when, in April, the Auckland City Centre Residents’ Group shared on Twitter a draft design for a rebuild of the Quay Street / Tangihua Street intersection – on Auckland’s busiest bike route – that seemed about to fly under the radar without much or any public input, including from us.
Steering traffic away from the water…
The image showed a proposed reconfiguration of the intersection at the Countdown supermarket corner opposite the Ports of Auckland entrance. The design followed the new intention to ‘de-tune’ traffic flows through Downtown and along the waterfront, by directing cars and trucks away from Quay Street and via Beach Road and Customs Street instead.
This is all part of the Downtown programme of works, designed to make the waterfront a ‘generous and welcoming’ people-friendly place during the upcoming America’s Cup and beyond. All good, right?
…and across the path of people on bikes
What was shown in that preliminary design for the Tangihua Street intersection was… scary. Not only were five traffic lanes proposed to arrive from the east into the City Centre – two of those lanes would now sweep left, across the path of the several hundred daily on-road riders.*
(*To our knowledge, current counts don’t distinguish road rider numbers, but even in 2015, manual counts showed westbound numbers of several hundred riders every morning, most of whom continue west rather than turning into Tangihua.)
What this meant was, instead of claiming the kerb lane to travel straight ahead as they currently do, hundreds of riders a day would now have to merge rightward across not just one but two busy lanes – with trucks and buses in the mix – just to continue on their main route into town.
This introduced a startling level of risk that we were concerned had not been on the design radar at all.
The fact that the draft design also cut back the northern footpath – making it very hard in future to upgrade this sub-standard section of Quay St’s off-road cycleway – well, that was barely a trifle at this stage.
Fast forward to some better news
AT’s team was quick to reassure us that the early design was indicative only, and thus was not destined to go outside internal discussions. It’s since been revised, and we have been provided with the new design and given opportunity to comment.
The revised design is of a smaller scale and much less radical. However, it still requires citybound road riders to merge across a left-turning lane just to keep going their way, which we still feel poses a serious safety issue.
Our comments to the design team, in a nutshell – you can also see them on the graphic below (click to enlarge).
- We’re glad to see the northern side of Quay Street is now not being modified. This future-proofs the layout so a best-practice separated bikeway can be added in the Plumer-Tinley gap at a later stage.
- Please, no more than one left-turn lane into Tangihua, and
- Please include a raised pedestrian crossing, for consistency with new safety approaches (a pedestrian crossing signal is not required as it’s a single lane crossing).
- Please also remove the westward-bound slip lane out of Tangihua, in line with discouraging traffic westwards on Quay St – and if not, please add a raised crossing there.
A safety audit of this new design is still to come. It would be good to think it would have caught all of the issues we’ve identified. Just to be sure, we’ve asked AT to ensure that at least 1-2 members of the safety audit team have good familiarity with cyclist safety, as befits a review of a major redesign on Auckland’s busiest cycle route.
Questions, lingering questions…
What would’ve happened if we and the City Centre Resident’s Group had not become aware of the process?
We understand that the consent for this work was (and is) to be non-notified, as all proposed changes will take place within the road reserve. And we can understand that everyone is under huge time pressures to sort things out – which puts pressure on consulting with stakeholders. But it remains a paradox that whenever AT proposes to, say, remove a parking space or two to make a piece of road safer, they’re required to consult – and yet not for something of this scale?
There’s also the question of the longer-term plan. We understand this intersection redesign is a quick fix, and the team is looking to make changes that shift traffic off Quay Street and support current use (e.g. 50% of port traffic uses the Tinley St entrance, and most of those trucks come and go via Tangihua).
Ultimately, Access for Everyone will cast this part of downtown in a very different light, as will any future developments with Ports of Auckland location and operation. Also set to transform this area: the growth of bike and scoot traffic that will be facilitated by the Parnell routes, the Tamaki Drive cycleway extending further east, and – when eventually completed – the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive path.
For now: we’d love to be confident that safe travel for people walking and cycling is not just embedded across AT, but baked into every project, and prioritised from the get-go in the design process. Are we there yet? Evidently, not quite.
We’ll keep you posted on the outcome here, and we’ll stay wide awake and working hard on your behalf.
Did you know: this post was made possible by our highly skilled technical team, who donate hours of professional expertise every week to make Auckland better for people on bikes.