Super-sizing Lincoln Road, or: Trying to do everything?

Super-sizing Lincoln Road, or: Trying to do everything?

Bike Auckland

Thanks to a tip from our friends at Transport Blog, we were alerted to the fact that Auckland Transport has quietly uploaded a plan of their future design for Lincoln Road (general project website here) and they intend to proceed with the Notice of Requirement (basically the big-picture planning approval) as early as this week.

Lincoln Road is already something of a legend – a textbook “stroad“, says TransportBlog. “A magical kingdom of food and services,” counter-argues westie journalist Steve Braunias, who’s on a tongue-in-cheek mission to eat at every single one of its 55 food joints and en route, chronicle the way “Lincoln Rd gives life to Auckland. It nourishes, it provides.”

And man, this redesign will make it one ravening beast of a road. Transport Blog have discussed the wider implications – but in short, if you look at it, the main way in which this design is NOT motorway-sized is in its lack of fly-overs.

At the Triangle Rd intersection, the road 10 ten lanes wide (plus a median). Similarly, at the Pak N Save intersection (Universal Drive), we count 9 traffic lanes, which is 3 more than before. North of Pomaria Road, most of the new layout adds a lane each way (but a T3 lane – why not a bus lane?), making this already very wide road even wider.

It will get buses moving faster – but at what cost, both in money terms, and in terms of how it will affect an already very tarmac-dominated area? Our severe concerns about the strategic direction, expressed in a previous blog, haven’t changed. It seems Auckland is still trying madly to keep car traffic untouched, even while it starts making things better for other modes of travel.

Is there anything to celebrate in this design? Well, yes – contrary to earlier plans, there are now what strongly look like protected bike lanes. Woot! Except that for some reason, from halfway between Universal Drive to Pomaria Road, the cycle facilities disappear on the plan. Which is rather weird, especially as it looks like there is space to make them continuous.

Also, the plans don’t 100% confirm that the cycle lanes are physically protected. The design may just indicate painted buffers, while the project website specifically notes “Copenhagen-style” protected lanes (with said text above a cross-section still showing the old shared path design!). We’re not so worried about those inconsistencies, though. Once the space is allowed for, ensuring protected lanes is not that hard – and the NOR is mainly about fixing exactly the amount of space needed for the design, rather than the details. Still, it’s an important thing to watch.

Let’s have a quick look at the various sections, starting with the layout near the motorway interchange / Triangle Road:

Triangle Road at bottom, Central Park Drive at top, motorway interchange to the left.
Triangle Road at bottom, Central Park Drive at top, motorway interchange to the left.

You can see shared paths on both sides of the motorway interchange lanes to the left. Shared paths are fair enough here, seeing that there will be very few pedestrians here – and that the paths connect to the existing (but currently badly accessible) Northwestern Cycleway/shared path along the motorway, which will soon extend out towards Westgate as well as connecting to the CBD.

At the massive intersection, there are cycle crossings on all arms. More crucially, it appears that all four slip lanes have zebra crossings – but not all four seem to be on raised tables. We think raised tables should really be the standard on slip lanes, to ensure that if traffic is going to be allowed unsignalised free turns, it must slow down to safe speeds.

It’s crucial that the protected cycle lanes on Lincoln Road are also provided with safe crossings over slip lanes and intersections – so as not to discourage the very same wider public we are strongly encouraging onto bikes by providing protected lanes in the first place (albeit Triangle Road and Central Park Drive still have their older on-road cycle lanes, and right-turns are as fraught as ever).

Next up, here’s a mid-block section and the Universal Drive intersection, with the various big supermarkets and other big box stores around it:

The Universal Drive intersection.
The Universal Drive intersection.

That is one enormous intersection – a nightmare to cycle on-road, which thankfully is not assumed here. The cycle lanes on Universal Drive are retained, but there’s also signalised cycle crossings in all directions. Again, slip lanes, and again, not all seem intended to have raised crossings. Why not?

Interestingly, these plans may be the first time we have seen AT plans showing hook turns for cyclists (see diagram here for explanation). Until now, AT has been very reluctant to actually implement this, even if it makes right turns over large scary intersections a lot easier.

The mid-block section is interesting here. There are still lots of driveways crossing the cycle lane, but that was always going to be the case – and the solid median prevents vehicular right turns, which are the most dangerous to people on a cycle lane. There is one key gap in the median to allow access to Paramount Drive, top left of the image – but at least Paramount Drive is shown with a raised crossing table, which would help make things safer by slowing movements.

Also shown are the bus stops with a widened cycle buffer zone. Thankfully, the plan seems to indicate some sort of “bus boarding island” between the cycle lane and the bus stop in the T3 lane, rather than doing weird things like suddenly making the cycle lane a shared path. The bus shelters are also recessed further back from the road corridor, which again is useful, as this will provide sufficient space here for a fine-tuned solution that works for bus passengers and cyclists both.

The last section extends as far south as Pomaria Road, shortly after which the project (at least in this incarnation) seems to grind to a halt:

The last section to just south of Pomaria Road.
The last section, to just south of Pomaria Road.

This is the weird part – the protected cycle lanes stop just south of the Pak n Save / Mitre 10 signals. We wonder whether this is a drawing error, as the design seems to not clearly show any new footpaths either, nor transitions from road to cycle lane, etc… And yet at Pomaria Road, we see signalised cycle crossings across all four arms.

This apparent gap is definitely something we will chase up strongly with AT, and hopefully it will be clarified soon. There’s space in the proposed designation (always the most crucial thing), and no reason to cut out facilities halfway. And there are lots of further design stages to come.

So overall, strictly from a cycling perspective, the plans don’t look too bad. Sure, riding alongside a multi-lane road is not the most pleasant experience, but if you need to or want to make this journey, you would be able to do so in safety, and reasonable comfort. At the very least we should applaud AT for this – if Auckland has to do these sorts of super-sized super-expensive road rebuilds, good cycle facilities are a must. It’s great to see that the shared paths of earlier incarnations are gone.

That said, an NOR is a simply the planning approval process for an outline design, not a ‘we will build this exact thing, and we’ll build it now’. The projected timeline shows construction wouldn’t begin until 2023. But, really? Up to 10 lanes wide? Start saving up your rates money – it is going to cost a lot to keep those cars flowing as undisturbed by the rest of these changes as possible.

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