The Lake Rd (Takapuna) cycle lanes are no longer under threat!

March 2010: Something to cheer about!

September 2009 update – Councillors review removal

The threat is reduced with the Esmonde/Hauraki decision

What’s the problem?

In a nutshell:

  • The Lake Rd cycle lanes were installed in late 2007
  • They won favour with cyclists as they increased cyclist safety and amenity, and cyclist numbers increased accordingly
  • A group of Devonport residents claimed the cycle lanes significantly increased motorist delay, and raised a 2,700 signature petition demanding their removal
  • Council studies proved there was no appreciable change in delay due to the cycle lanes, and recommended incremental safety and congestion improvements
  • The Devonport Community Board recommended retention of the cycle lanes
  • Rattled by the on-going controversy, in June 2008 the North Shore City Council Infrastructure & Engineering Committee decided to defer all cycle lane decisions pending a review of Council’s Strategic Cycle Plan ( SCP )
  • A sub-committee consisting of Councillors Chris Darby, Vivienne Keohane and Ken McKay are tasked with the review, and will report back to the I&E Committee (perhaps) in September
  • Cycle lanes and other initiatives for cyclists are possibly under threat.  A watering down of the SCP may allow the Council to remove the existing cycle lanes, and put other cycling initiatives on the back burner
  • Cycle Action calls on all cyclists who favour the retention and expansion of cycling infrastructure on the Shore, especially Lake Rd ’s on-road cycle lanes, to make their views known to Mayor Andrew Williams, the review sub-committee, local media, local MPs, and anyone else who will listen!  See here for details.

Exposing the petitioners’ arguments

Are the Lake Rd cycle lanes really unsafe?

What are the consequences if they are removed?

What’s the real solution to Lake Rd congestion?

Who supports the Lake Rd cycle lanes?

What about Lake Rd north of Hauraki Corner?

What’s wrong with the Green Route , and other off-road/share with care facilities?

What’s North Shore City ’s Strategic Cycle Plan?

A longer potted history

What can I do to help?

Exposing the petitioners’ arguments

The petitioners claim the cycle lanes have:

  1. Increased the amount of congestion
  2. Increased the level of pollution
  3. Decreased the level of safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles
  4. Decreased the traffic flow rate.

The petitioners have not supplied any data to support their arguments, which fail under scrutiny in light of real data and basic logic.  Quite simply:

  • Point 1 – Lake Rd has always been a congested arterial with only a single lane in each direction.  As per Council data, the cycle lanes have not significantly changed the level of congestion
  • Point 2 fails in light of Point 1.  In any case, motor vehicles cause pollution, not bicycles
  • Point 3 cannot be substantiated.  It’s clear the cycle lanes enhance cyclist safety due to physical separation from motor vehicles, which also improves motorist safety.  Where cyclists are directed onto the footpath, this is done with clear cycle markings, warning pedestrians of their presence.  Additionally, the cycle lane implementation has passed a formal safety audit.
  • Point 4 fails as per Point 1.

Are the Lake Rd cycle lanes really unsafe?

No – they have passed a formal safety audit.  They make cycling in Lake Rd much safer than it was before.  As to be expected on retrofitting cycle lanes, there are small areas where the cycle lanes disappear, however this does not make them unsafe.  It means that cyclists and motorists must take a little more care when sharing road space.

What are the consequences if they are removed?

  • It would become less safe and pleasant to cycle along Lake Road
  • Council would need to refund approximately $400,000 of Land Transport NZ subsidies
  • Council may have liability issues in the event of any cycling accidents.

What’s the real solution to Lake Rd congestion?

Congestion occurs when too many motor vehicles attempt to occupy limited road space at peak times.  There are many solutions to this problem that don’t require expensive road widening:

  • Improved public transport, such as regular buses between the Devonport, Takapuna and the Northern Busway
  • Improved vehicle occupancy rates.  Most of the vehicles using Lake Rd conform to the common peak hour profile of one occupant per vehicle
  • Spreading traffic peaks by encouraging workers and businesses to allow more flexible work hours
  • Expanding and promoting school travel plans, providing students with safe, non-vehicular methods of getting to and from school
  • Promoting and enhancing walking and cycling as healthy and sustainable transport modes
  • Reviewing safety and congestion trouble spots and making incremental improvements.

Who Supports the Lake Rd Cycle Lanes?

  • The increasing number of cyclists who use them!
  • Kit O’Halloran, NSCC Transport Corridor Specialist
  • Traffic Engineering Consultants GHD
  • Christine Rose, Chairperson – Land Transport Committee and Urban Design Committee, Auckland Regional Council
  • Simon Lamb, Principal Takapuna Grammar School , who is seeking funding to build a new bike shed due to increased numbers of students cycling to school
  • A majority of the Devonport Community Board, and its chairman Mike Cohen
  • Tim McBride, Chairman of the Devonport Community Board Works Committee
  • MPs Wayne Mapp and Jonathan Coleman, who favour incremental improvement
  • Teresa Stanley, Chairperson, ShoreSafe
  • Cycle Action Auckland
  • The Devonport Xpressos and the Pickled Pedallers (sports cycling groups)
  • A good number of North Shore City Councillors.

What about Lake Rd north of Hauraki Corner?

This is a real problem area, and is one of the key reasons why we’re only seeing a 50% increase in Lake Rd cyclists, rather than 100% or more.  To be fully functional, cycle lanes must link up.  At present, cyclists travelling Lake Rd between Takapuna/Esmonde Rd and Hauraki Corner must run the gauntlet of 500m of roadway carrying two heavily trafficked lanes in each direction.

With no cycle lanes, this is a hair-raising experience for cyclists as motorists attempt to overtake within the confines of the narrow lanes, and a major disincentive for any cyclist contemplating a Lake Rd trip due to the perceived danger.

While this stretch of road has been targeted for improvement, including the provision of essential on-road cycle lanes, it is delayed pending a review of the Strategic Cycle Plan, and of course, funding.

What’s wrong with the Green Route, and other off-road/share with care facilities?

The Green route is a combination of on-road, off-road and “share with care” paths that runs roughly parallel with Lake Rd to the west.  Those wishing to remove the Lake Rd cycle lanes suggest cyclists should use this route.  But there are major problems:

  • Its tortuous and hilly alignment makes it much slower than Lake Rd
  • Travel times are unpredictable – important for those cyclists wanting to make a ferry connection
  • Its narrow paths and bridges make conflict with pedestrians inevitable
  • It is unsealed or gravelled for some of its length, making it unsuitable for road bikes
  • It is mostly unlit at night.

In summary, the Green route appeals to recreational cyclists who have a mountain bike and plenty of day time on their hands, but it is not suited to commuter or sports cyclists.

Similarly any off-road or “share with care” facility presents real problems for high speed commuter and sports cyclists (travelling in excess of 10kph):

  • Vehicles entering and exiting driveways are a major hazard, as Posties will attest
  • Cyclists have no right of way at intersecting cross roads, as they would if on-road
  • Footpaths are the ultimate multi-modal carriageway, catering for walkers, runners, skate boarders, mobility scooters, and the elderly and others with limited speed and mobility.  While the footpath is suitable and accepted for low speed cyclists such as primary school children, introducing high speed cyclists into this mix is fraught with difficulty, and requires good width and special treatment for separation
  • Dedicated off-road cycle paths are excellent in principle, but very difficult to retrofit to existing alignments without expensive property acquisition to increase the road reserve.  They need to be carefully designed to reduce conflict with pedestrians at bus stops, and with motorists crossing the cycle path.  They have limited application, and should not be seen as “the solution” to issues with on-road cycle lanes.

In summary, on-road cycle lanes usually represent the best and most economical option for commuter and sports cyclists on arterial roads, and are the best option for Lake Rd.

What’s North Shore City’s Strategic Cycle Plan?

A visionary document, available for viewing at http://www.northshorecity.govt.nz/?src=/transport_and_roads/cycle-strategy/intro.htm

The Strategic Cycle Plan is used by cyclists lobbying for better cycling facilities, and resented by those who don’t want to implement them.  It is under threat, and needs your support.

What can I do to help?

Your voice is important, and when combined with others can make a compelling difference.  Our decision makers want to hear your reasoned and informed views.  In particular, keep your message positive and helpful, and don’t stoop to threats and intimidation as the Devonport CLARA petitioners have done.

Let people know that you support the Strategic Cycle Plan, that you want to see it strengthened, and you want to see it implemented sooner rather than later.  Promote Lake Rd ’s existing on-road cycle lanes, and recommend their extension further north.

Outline any concerns you have, how they can be addressed, and relay anecdotes about improved safety or increased numbers cycling.

Provide your own observations that there is no “one size fits all” solution to meeting the needs of cyclists.  For example, the needs of high speed commuter cyclists heading to the ferry terminal are vastly different from the needs of primary school children getting to and from school safely.

In essence, speak up in support of cycling, whether you’re a parent of a cycling child, a recreational cyclist, a commuter cyclist, a sports cyclist, or someone who wants to cycle but doesn’t because it’s perceived as too dangerous.

Send your message to:

Andrew Williams, Mayor          andrew.williams@northshorecity.govt.nz

Councillors reviewing the Strategic Cycle Plan:

Ken McKay                 ken.mckay@northshorecity.govt.nz

Vivienne Keohane        vivienne.keohane@northshorecity.govt.nz

Chris Darby                  chris.darby@northshorecity.govt.nz

Your local MP, eg

Wayne Mapp               wayne.mapp@parliament.govt.nz

Jonathan Coleman        Jonathan.Coleman@parliament.govt.nz

Media…

The North Shore Times            nsnews@snl.co.nz

The North Shore Aucklander    letters@theaucklander.co.nz

The New Zealand Herald          http://dynamic.nzherald.co.nz/feedback/letters/

Your family and friends on your email address book, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace etc.

And finally, if you’re not a member already, you should join Cycle Action – a voice for Auckland cyclists.  We’d welcome your active involvement to help improve Auckland’s cycling conditions!

A longer potted history

In accordance with national, regional and Council’s own cycling strategy, North Shore City Council marked on-road cycle lanes down the length of Lake Rd from near the Albert Rd/Victoria Rd roundabout to Hauraki Corner in late 2007.

For those that don’t know it, Lake Rd runs the length of the narrow Devonport isthmus, and is the only arterial road allowing traffic to travel from Devonport to the Esmonde Rd motorway interchange, and to Takapuna.  It is heavily trafficked in both directions at peak-hour, with residents’ commuter trips being countered by those working in the naval and engineering facilities near Devonport.

It is also a popular cycling route, linking Takapuna and the northern bays with the ferries at Bayswater and Devonport.  Additionally, there are a number of schools along the route, the most significant being Takapuna Grammar.

Congestion has been a continuing problem for Lake Rd for many years, as it is constrained by its geography to being a single lane in each direction.  Even minor increases in demand, whether due to increased vehicles per household, infill housing, fewer occupants per vehicle, or even one-off special events, lead to increased congestion and significant variability in delay.

When adding the cycle lanes to Lake Rd , some changes and compromises had to be made.  Some car parks were lost, and the “double-stacking” at the Bardia St/Winscombe St intersection was lost.  This means that in the interests of safety, two “straight through” side by side lanes were reduced to a single straight through lane and a turning lane, in order to accommodate the cycle lanes.

Cyclists breathed a sigh of relief.  At last we had the sanctuary of our own dedicated piece of road space.  The cycle lanes were marked in green as they stretched across intersections to remind motorists to watch for bikes.  No longer were we pulling wide into the traffic stream to dodge parked cars and their errant door openers.  No longer were we bullied off the road as impatient motorists used the double stacking to muscle in front of a few more cars as they rejoined the single lane.

Quite simply, our safety was greatly enhanced.  We did raise an eyebrow at some of the compromises that had to be made retrofitting cycle lanes to a difficult alignment.  Travelling northbound the cycle lane diverts onto the footpath up a steep cutting to maintain double stacking at the busy Bayswater Rd intersection.  Some cyclists choose to use it, while faster and more experienced commuter and sports cyclists share the traffic lane with motorists.

On the northern side of the intersection by the Belmont shops there is no cycle lane as the removal of on-street parking would have significantly affected the livelihood of the businesses.  Cyclists share the merge zone with motorists, just as they did before the cycle lanes, and rejoin the cycle lane once past the shops.

Cyclists are pragmatic people.  We realise that compromises were necessary for the lanes to be installed at all, and expect motorists to take due care when cyclists need to share the road space with them.

But while cyclists were delighted by the cycle lanes, a few motorists weren’t.  Blaming the cycle lanes for increased delay when road works were in progress on Lake Rd , and traffic signal phasing wasn’t optimised, resident Dr John Reynolds started a petition demanding their removal, supplemented by a concerted letter writing campaign to local media.  Over 2,700 other locals bought in to his misguided arguments and signed the petition.  See commentary earlier on this page.

The first reasoned analysis and suggested resolution of the problems came at Devonport Community Board meetings in March and May 2008 (ref Minutes on NSCC website).  After receiving input from Council and external traffic engineers, the recommended solution was to retain the cycle lanes, and perform incremental modifications to improve traffic flow, particularly at the Bardia St intersection.

Unhappy with this outcome, the petitioners requested their petition be considered at the NSCC’s Infrastructure and Engineering committee meeting in June.  Many counter submissions were made in support of the cycle lanes, effectively refuting the petitioners arguments, including the presentation of quantitative data from bus transponders showing there had been no statistically significant increase to Lake Rd delay attributed to the cycle lanes.

More seriously, the petitioners threatened the Council with a Judicial Review if their requests were not met (ref I&E Committee Minutes). Subsequently, the outcome from this meeting item was “That no decisions be made on this issue until the review of the cycle strategy has been completed as previously resolved and such a report be expedited.”

A sub-committee consisting of Councillors Ken McKay, Vivienne Keohane and Chris Darby has been formed to review Council’s Strategic Cycle Plan, and as of July 2008 the sub-committee is drawing up its Terms of Reference, and Council officers are starting a comprehensive review.  In due course the revised draft SCP will be followed by public consultation and a formal review process.

On the positive side, the Lake Rd cycle lanes remain in place for now.  On the negative side, the implementation of any further cycling initiatives has been put on hold.  Shore cyclists are disadvantaged for as long as this situation continues.  More so if the Strategic Cycle Plan is watered down, or its initiatives deferred.