While reading a Wikipedia item last night about the history of NZ cycling awards, I noticed that the Lake Rd cycle lane was awarded New Zealand’s ‘Best Cycle Facility’ in 2008.
How things have changed – and how they remain the same!
I nominated the project back then. Lake Rd has always been the North Shore’s busiest cycle route, but before the cycle lane was installed it had the worst cycle crash records on the Shore – and highest number of vehicle ‘nose to tail’ crashes too. We had to battle to retain the cycle lane and new flush medians in the face of a well-managed public campaign to malign the cycle lane via claims that drivers were suddenly having to idle in queues at traffic lights (as they apparently never had before) and miss appointments due to unpredictable travel times (ditto).
It was such a gargantuan campaign. Looking back now, the whole thing feels like Island Bay on steroids.
We knew at the time that the cycle lane, while an improvement on nothing, was far from ideal. It was disjointed, stranding people on bikes at busy intersections while streams of cars poured past. Cars nudged bikes out of the picture as drivers squeezed their vehicles to make four lanes on a road designed for two. Talk about a size 16 lady squeezing into a size 10 dress!
I have to say, the Lake Road campaign taught me the value of pragmatism… and of staying the course. People who are new to commuter cycling still stop me in the street to say how grateful they are for the painted lanes, and it’s clear that for many of us they make the difference between cycling and no cycling.
But it’s time we had real improvements to make the lanes safer for all. Safer for families biking to soccer and kids biking to school. Safer from drivers parking in the lanes to take phone calls, and to those same drivers who believe it’s okay to re-engineer Lake Road into a 4-lane road by driving in the cycle lane with impunity.
Auckland Lake Rd. Not sure why more people don't use the cycle lanes. pic.twitter.com/9AhjPqi4Kb
— Richard (@akl_richard) July 12, 2015
Lake Road is top of my mind right now thanks to Sonali Geo who wrote to us last week with a first hand account —
Firstly I would like to thank the Transport wing of the Council for giving us cyclists a cycling lane on Lake Road, stretching from Devonport to Takapuna, albeit intermittently. I have been cycling from Belmont to my work in Takapuna and back for over 6 years and have been chuffed at the increase in the number of cyclists using the above mentioned Cycling lanes.
However, today I was shocked to see the cars encroaching on the cycling lanes, posing a definite hazard to the cyclists. A brave cyclist in front of me weaved in and out of the stalled cars, venturing even into the middle of the road. I was not brave enough to do this, so I got off my bike to take this picture.
I know that while driving, if we encroach upon the T2 and T3 and even Bus lanes, we get ticketed. Do the cars that encroach upon the cycling lanes get fined?
Also, is it legal to text and drive? Many of the drivers in the stalled cars were engrossed in texting, so I did not feel it safe to cycle on the allocated Cycling Lane.
Just as I mentioned at the start, I am eternally grateful to the Auckland Council for giving us green painted cycling lanes, but the question that arises is, when can we safely use them?
Some improvement is on its way. Auckland Transport promised us eight months ago that Lake Rd will be retrofitted with dashed yellow ‘no parking’ lines in May, to make it clear to drivers that it’s not OK to pull over into the cycle lane to take phone calls, or for tradies to block the lane while unloading gear for the next building job. It’s abundantly clear that without yellow dashed lines, motorists don’t understand that ‘bike lane’ means ‘no parking.’
That promise of yellow lines by May looks like it’s sliding into June… but we won’t grumble as long as it’s no more than June (remember that pragmatism I mentioned above?).
It’s also obvious we need to ask our AT friends to get those cameras out for some enforcement at peak hours. A similar campaign worked on drivers who’d developed the bad (and contagious!) habit of colonizing the bus lanes.
Of course, we’d like to think that road user behaviour can be modified with gentle reminders. But based on what we see in action (including the texting Sonali mentions above), ultimately we need physical separation of some kind to keep our share of the road space clear and safe for people cycling at all times, not just during peak hours.