Auckland Transport is consulting on plans to improve traffic on Lake Road, Esmonde Road and Bayswater Ave, and feedback closes on Sunday 26 April.
We’d have loved to get this blog post out sooner, but our own resources have been stretched during lockdown, just as consultation outreach has been stymied by Covid-19. Also, the rush to get the project in front of the public meant we missed out on the early opportunity we usually have to review and give feedback before consultation.
We’re glad the feedback deadline was extended, thankful to the project team for filling a few information gaps so we could bring you this overview, and grateful if you’re reading this in time to add your voice!
A Quick Overview and Feedback Guide
The public was first consulted about this project in 2017, and support was strong for a visionary long-term solution, with priority for alternative forms of transport, including cycling and walking.
Check out the project page, which has lots of helpful images and videos.
The proposed cycling improvements on Lake Road, Esmonde Road and Bayswater Ave are long overdue and very welcome. Experience across Auckland (and news that the Lake Road bike counters are tracking double the usual number of trips!) tells us the new lanes will be very popular. That said, the Takapuna and Devonport ends of Lake Rd need more design input, and we have concerns about the intersections.
The other proposal for alternative transport is new transit lanes for buses and T2 vehicles. While that’s not our main interest in the project, we question the limited extent of the transit lanes. We also want to see data on the benefit of mixing buses and private vehicles. More informed debate is needed on the merits of bus-only lanes vs. mixing buses with T2 vehicles before we can accept this as part of a visionary transport plan, or in keeping with Auckland’s climate action priorities.
The consultation also includes plans to upgrade the Belmont Town Centre. These were initiated by Auckland Council and the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, and developed late last year at a series of meetings with community representatives, including Bike Auckland. Note: these plans are outside the scope of the Lake Rd project, and thus not covered by its budget. But they’re in the mix for discussion.
The feedback form asks five questions. Here are our responses – feel free to borrow them!
1. What do you think of the proposed improvements for Lake Road, Esmonde Road and Bayswater Ave?
- This is not quite the visionary long-term solution the public called for.
- Strongly support the provision of dedicated and protected bike lanes on Lake Road. However, these need more and better design to connect to Takapuna and to Devonport at each end. The Seabreeze intersection needs redesigning.
- Strongly support the proposed cycleway on Bayswater Ave, which will be a vital link to the school. This should be separate from the footpath and protected from traffic.
- Support bus-priority lanes, but strongly doubt the benefit of T2 vehicles using bus lanes.
2. If the proposed cycle lanes are physically separated from traffic, will this improve your ability to cycle for some trips? If not, why not?
Yes. Protected lanes improve both safety and the perception of safety, and make going by bike easier and more attractive for people of all ages and abilities.
3. If transit lanes are implemented, would you consider taking the bus or car sharing for some of your trips? If not, why not?
Yes – but this question should spell out the assumptions, so feedback can be informed and reliable. Without comparative evidence on the merits of bus-priority lanes, bus/T2 lanes, and bus/T3 lanes, it’s impossible to judge the relative reliability of the journeys.
4. For the proposed transit lanes, what hours should they operate to avoid congestion? Weekday peak periods, longer periods or 24/7?
Again, this question obscures the bigger question: please explain the benefit of adding T2 vehicles to a bus lane?
5. For the Belmont Centre proposal, do you have any feedback on the changes proposed?
Please ensure the bike lanes are safe and continuous through the town centre and the intersection.
Please add plenty of good, well-located bike parking.
More greenery and shade is always welcome.
6. Is there anything you think we’ve missed in our proposals, or something else you’d like to see included?
We’d like to see better designing for the bike desire lines, as cycling access is a key goal of the project. The current proposal at each end of Lake Road falls far short of expectation and should be sent back to the drawing board.
A wider view: what do we want from this project?
The project budget is now $47m, so we need to be clear what people’s expectations were at the outset. AT first consulted with the public in mid-2017 on how Lake Rd could be improved. The area under investigation covered Lake Rd from Devonport to The Strand in Takapuna, and Esmonde Rd to the interchange with the Northern Motorway.
The consultation focused on ‘how to improve the people throughput, efficiency and reliability of travel along Lake Road, between Takapuna and the Devonport peninsula.’
Consultation attracted 1131 public submissions, eight key interest groups, and a petition. According to the feedback report, these were the key themes:
- 34% want a long-term or visionary solution to Lake Road congestion (384 submitters)
- 32% are concerned that the improvements will take too long or are overdue (363)
- 29% want better cycling infrastructure (325)
- 25% want alternative transport modes to be prioritised over cars (286)
- 20% suggest building an alternative route to Lake Road (229)
- 18% want Lake Road widened or the number of lanes increased (205 submitters)
The public was also consulted on three options for the budget: High, Medium or Low. It’s not surprising, given the desire for a ‘visionary, long-term solution’, that the high and medium budget options were far better supported than the low.
Fast forward to a month ago, when the public was presented with a plan of what AT describes as ‘emerging preferred options’. The Project overview tells us:
Around half of all Lake Road journeys are short trips that stay within the peninsula.* We want to help people making those short trips to have good alternatives to driving. This will help free up Lake Road for people making longer trips by car or who need to drive.
It’s important to note that the same traffic study also found that more than half of the cars on Lake Road carry only one person. The overview goes on:
We want to improve the accessibility, reliability, and availability of travel choices to and from the Devonport peninsula, and make it easier and more convenient to travel to local shops, parks, beaches, and community centres.
We propose using a mix of new and re-purposed transit lanes (for higher occupancy vehicles and public transport), walking and cycling facilities, and technology solutions to improve available trip information.
And the final goal for the project is safety:
Safety is a major focus for AT, so the improvements aim to make people using Lake Road and Belmont safer, regardless of their mode of travel. With the high volumes of traffic, we need physically protected cycle lanes, safer pedestrian crossings and safer intersections. Of the 28 serious crashes in the area over the last 10 years, 10 of the casualties were pedestrians or cyclists.
And what are we getting from this project?
The main focus is on Lake Road, but changes are also proposed for Esmonde Road and Bayswater Ave. Let’s look at what these mean for cycling, from north to south. We’ll end with a brief look at the Belmont Centre plans.
Esmonde Road Cycling
Here’s what’s proposed:
- Separated cycle lanes, as well as new raised tables at side streets for safer cycling movements
- Improved shared path on the northern side from SH1 offramp to Harbourside Church
We support these changes, particularly the physically separated lanes on both sides of the road. It’s good to see links shown for the future bridge for Francis St, and the Northern Pathway. (In a few months we’ll know more about the northbound cycleway alongside the motorway, currently in fast-tracked planning to connect to Constellation Drive.)
With these new cycleways, Esmonde Road will be as busy with bikes as any big link along the Northwestern Cycleway, so the design needs to avoid the delays at side streets that plague the existing shared path. We also need to see more detailed plans to make sure they fix the long wait to cross Esmonde Road at the Harbourside Church lights.
Good news for people cycling through the Esmonde Road/Lake Road intersection and southbound from Takapuna: the current gap in the bike lane on the eastern side of Lake Rd will be filled by the new protected cycle lane (see inset image on the map above).
However, the same image is less reassuring if you’re biking northwards on Lake Rd.
Currently, you have to make the difficult and risky call of when to move from the safety of the kerbside bike lane into regular traffic, then cross two lanes where drivers are focused on joining queues to the motorway or to the north in order to access the short bus lane at the Lake Road/Esmonde Road lights. Even for experienced, faster cyclists, this is a seldom an easy manoeuvre.
The image above suggests you’ll veer left, then queue in the bike lane (or join pedestrians on the footpath) to make a 90 degree turn and cross the double slip lane to the small triangular traffic island, before proceeding into … a localised Bermuda triangle, in that there are no plans to connect bikes safely to Takapuna.
It’s surprising this northward bike desire line hasn’t received more attention in the project. Takapuna’s shops, workplaces, beach and hospitality are premier attractions for the lower North Shore. We asked the Project team for a better solution, but were told it was ‘out of scope’ to look beyond the lights to Takapuna. This situation locks in a serious safety deficiency of the existing bike lanes. We say it needs more design work, with safety top of mind.
Lake Road Cycling, Esmonde Road to Belmont Centre – good stuff, needs tweaks
The plans show ‘separated cycle lanes, as well as new raised tables at side streets for safer cycling movements’, for the whole length of Lake Road from Esmonde Road to the Belmont Centre.
We’re really pleased with both of these changes: a good response to the strong public call for safer cycling in the 2017 consultation. Let’s also recall that the existing, and very substandard, painted lanes installed in 2007 now attract up to 900 bike trips a day. With the growth of e-bikes, and more people taking to bikes for healthy, reliable commutes, we can expect numbers to continue to leap upward, as they have on other strategic routes where protected lanes connect with popular destinations.
We’re also pleased to see continuous protected cycle lanes replace the existing gaps in the northbound cycle lane south of the Jutland Road intersection and at the Belmont Centre.
However: the artist’s impression of the town centre is out of step with current design. It shows the bike lane outside parallel parking, with all the dooring and danger that entails. Shudder! We expect AT to apply up-to-date safety design here; the bike lane should run inside the parked cars. It’s worth mentioning this strongly in your feedback.
The same issue applies for the southbound cycle lane passing through the Centre. We support the removal of the planted median but any new trees should be placed to protect the cycle lane from the line of parallel parking spaces.
Finally, we support the removal of the slip lanes on the eastern and western sides of the Lake Road/ Bayswater Ave and Lake Road/Williamson Ave intersection as significant safety improvements for pedestrians and people on bikes.
Bayswater Ave Cycling – a bonus bikeway to school!
Bayswater Ave is set to get a proper cycling connection, which is a wonderful thing given the high rate of bike-to-school on the peninsula. It will be on the south side, to tie in with Bayswater School and the popular Bayswater Park.
Confusingly, however, the consultation material (and accompanying image) describe a shared path. Whereas, we understand from the project team that a separated two-way cycleway is preferred here, keeping the footpath free. We support that direction. See the contrasting images below – it’s worth mentioning this specifically in your feedback.
Lake Road south of Belmont Centre to Albert Rd – back to the drawing board x2
This section provides for two very different cycle lane designs…
The existing Lake Road bike lanes will be physically separated, and this is a good thing.
Except on the hill south of the light at Bayswater Ave, and this is the bit that needs rethinking.
At present, if you’re heading north, this is a difficult pinch point. At the corner of Roberts Ave, the bike lane directs you to join the shared path which rises up above the road, atop a retaining wall. Students going to the three local schools are much more likely to choose the steeper shared path, as are less confident cyclists.
However, regular riders usually make the trade-off of joining traffic. It’s not pleasant, but it gets you through the lights. And you avoid the gradient issues on the shared path, which is steeper at the bottom end, before flattening out as it approaches Bayswater Ave next to McDonald’s.
The project proposes to send everyone onto the shared path (!) and to ‘improve’ it… by resurfacing, and removing vegetation (!!).
We say it’s time this pinch point was properly improved. Space on the road is limited here, so it seems a northbound shared path is needed in some form. We suggest upgrading it lowering it to match the gradient of the road, and rebuilding the retaining wall at the boundary between the roadway and the adjoining properties.
From Seabreeze Road to Albert Road
Major changes are proposed for cycling here. In our view, they are problematic and need comprehensive review.
The most worrying change is the proposal for a two-way cycle lane on the eastern side only, through the Memorial Drive section to Albert Road. This would replace the existing cycle lanes on both sides of Memorial Drive. Seabreeze Road would get a new set of cycle and pedestrian lights, so northbound cyclists could cross safely to the bike lane on the west side.
We do not support the proposed design for the Seabreeze Road intersection. Seabreeze Road joins Lake Rd at at an oblique angle, which encourages cars to veer into it at speed, posing a risk to southbound cyclists riding down the hill towards the intersection. The entry should be narrowed and reshaped to be perpendicular to Lake Road. Ideally, full traffic lights should replace the partial lights proposed by project team.
There’s also no reason to change to a two-way cycleway on one side of the road. The existing bike lanes on each side of Lake Rd between Mozeley Ave tand Seabreeze Road are spacious and easily upgraded to protected lanes. We also question the intention to retain the kerbside parking spaces in Memorial Drive, and ask that they are removed to prioritise the goals of the project for safe and convenient journeys by bike.
South of Mozeley Ave, Lake Road is narrower, on account of a walkway bank and a lower road access for properties on the eastern side of the road between Allenby Ave and the Albert Road roundabout. This restricts the scope for on-road cycle lanes. However, the two-way proposal is not a practical option for cycling movements to and from the Devonport ferry. We also note that the plans provide for a second traffic lane around the Albert Road roundabout, and question how this is safer for for cycling and walking.
This southern end of Lake Road and the roundabout is a sensitive location because of its significance as a ‘gateway’ to the heritage heart of Devonport and its relationship to Mt Victoria. There are a number of other options used by local cyclists to navigate the area, including the quieter routes from Abbotsford Ave for southbound travel and Mozeley Ave for northbound travel, both connecting to Victoria Road. They may be useful for improving cycling safety at this southern end of Lake Rd.
We suggest the design for this section needs closer scrutiny and consultation than is possible within the constraints imposed on this project.
Lastly: Transit Lanes vs Bus Lanes
The project proposes changing the existing Esmonde Rd bus lane (which serves the Northern Busway and connects to the motorway) into a transit lane.
The Esmonde Road transit lane heading to the motorway begins at the intersection beginning at Lake Rd and there another northbound section on Lake Rd but it does not apply to the heavily congested section down to Belmont. We have to ask why not? The very short section on the hill south of Belmont seems odd as well.
A fundamental concern is that the project plans propose the transit lanes will be used by high occupancy vehicles, i.e. buses and T2 vehicles. This needs to be questioned.
Where’s the data? What’s the effect of adding T2 (or T3) on the efficiency of the bus service?
In fact, the whole approach to T2 and T3 is remarkably casual: the the project brochure refers to the lanes as being for ‘vehicles with 2 or more passengers’, instead of the official definition of ‘vehicle occupants’. Even more remarkable is the explanation that the lanes will be converted to T3 at a later date ‘if they become too busy’.
This doesn’t match the original goals of the project for a ‘visionary, long-term solution’ – nor more recent urgent considerations. Since the 2017 consultation, public concern about climate change has grown dramatically, and Auckland Council has declared a climate emergency in order to take meaningful action.
In these lights, the proposal for transit lanes instead of proper bus-priority lanes is contrary to the public desire for ‘alternative transport modes to be prioritised over cars’, and warrants more scrutiny. We understand that moving people instead of vehicles could favour car-pooling, but it’s difficult to accept that a car with one passenger should have the same access to special lanes as a bus capable of carrying 30 or more passengers.
Remember, the people asked for a ‘visionary’ solution here, one for the long-term. It’s on the way, but AT needs your help to really sharpen up the vision. Have your say before the deadline!