Mayhem marks start of Easter Break – St Lukes Rd /SH16 cycleway debacle

Part 1 – What the hell was going on last night at St Lukes Rd/SH 16?

For the past week the Transport Agency has been conscientiously sending us updates warning of major delays and disruption for motor vehicles using SH16 and St Lukes Rd, due to the Easter construction works at the bridge over the motorway. A key part of the message was that NW Cycleway cyclists would not be affected.

Jolisa picked up the ball to post to the blog. She, more than anyone I know, is aware of what a hot part of town this is, and how much it is valued by people on bikes. So she took care to double check with a few details with the NZTA. Finally she posted the blog under the reassuring title:

Easter closures along NW Motorway won’t affect cyclists

She reported “Easter will be a massive weekend for road works along the NW motorway, with closures at two key points. The St Lukes/Great North Road intersection and the Te Atatu city-bound onramps will be closed from 8pm on Thursday 2 April to 5am on Tuesday 7 April 2015.

But the good news: in both cases, bikes and pedestrian access will be uninterrupted.”

I was hugely relieved with this news, as the roadworks at St Lukes Rd/SH16 have been a trial for Cycle Action’s news room. Our problems reflect the frustration and concerns expressed by people using this section of the NW Cycleway.

Over 700 people a day ride the NW Cycleway. It’s the busiest cycle commuter route in the country – the bike equivalent of a Road of National Significance – and a vital neighbourhood connection, used by cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and kids travelling to and from schools either side of the motorway.

Already, the temporary works for the motorway widening at the St Lukes Rd/ SH16 on and off-ramps have seriously compromised people travelling along this route, particularly commuter cyclists. Orange barriers have closed off visibility to people trying to push their bikes across the road, taking their chances with fast traffic in the slip lanes. These same people then have to bunch up and teeter on inadequate traffic islands while waiting to get the green bike light or to use the pedestrian/bike crossing.

They have naturally begun asking why there’s no plan for a bike underpass here, like the one currently being constructed at Te Atatu. With the amount of money being spent to speed cars on their way, where are bikes in the picture?

BUT AT LEAST WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CROSS AND CONTINUE ON OUR WAY……..

Until last night.

St Lukes SH16 cycleway removal

Shock and outrage hit the social media networks after work last night as people cycling home or into town found the the cycle crossing on St Lukes Rd had been closed off. First reports via Twitter from about 4.30pm noted that orange barriers blocked both sides of the road, preventing through-access to the cycleway. (Meanwhile, the road itself was officially open, as planned, until 8pm).

Cycleway blocked by orange barriers. No warning, no diversion signage. Traffic runs unimpeded.
Cycleway blocked by orange barriers. No warning, no diversion signage. Traffic runs unimpeded.

In other words, without notice and without any safety signs, people on bikes were left to find their own way onto a 700m diversion, adding another 1.4km onto their journey.

Groups of people attempting to cross at Duncan McLean Link, the closest and most logical option (the nearest pedestrian crossing is 700m down the road and not visible)
Groups of people attempting to cross at Duncan McLean Link. This was the closest and most logical option, as the nearest pedestrian crossing is 700m down the road and not visible from a distance.

This would have been a bad thing to happen any time of day. But not only did it happen during rush hour for both cars and cyclists, it was the eve of a holiday weekend (Friday squared!). Worse, it was dusk, and as is evident in the photos, there were heavy bursts of rain through the evening. It was, as cycle champ and Campbell Live reporter Lachlan Forsyth said on Twitter, disgraceful!

We immediately conveyed to our colleagues in the NZTA the gathering outrage about the safety risks and serious inconvenience. They picked up the ball promptly, offering to meet us on site and assuring us it was an unplanned event.

Here’s the official story.

The St Lukes construction team would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused by the unplanned diversion of the crossing at St Lukes Road on Thursday evening, 2 April 2015.

This unplanned diversion was a result of unforeseen ground conditions in the cycleway crossing area. Unfortunately a decision was made to continue with the work and divert the path without appropriate consultation. The team worked quickly to reinstate the crossing and would like to thank the cycling community for their input and feedback to make this happen.

Leighton Contractors is committed to providing safe access through the project and recognise yesterdays actions did not adequately reflect this commitment. Moving forward the St Lukes management team will strengthen the management processes around footpaths and cycleways to ensure the project does not have a repeat occurrence.

The project team continues to be open to feedback and thanks the cycling community for their on-going support.

Regards
Ian Moffat
St Lukes Project Manager

It’s times like these that we appreciate our relationship with the NZTA.  In all other instances along the NW Cycleway we praise their collaboration and professional performance. They are there when we need them, respect the needs of people on bikes and react quickly.

It’s Good Friday. They’re on the job at St Lukes today, and they understand we’re had enough of the contractor’s mismanagement of this interchange.

Part 2 follows tomorrow : Report on our site meeting with AT and NZTA and Leightons on future work at this intersection.

 

 

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