Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade – how do bikes fit in?

Mt Albert Town Centre Upgrade – how do bikes fit in?

Jolisa

Auckland Council is currently seeking your thoughts on designs for an upgrade to the Mt Albert Town Centre – feedback closes 4pm, Friday 27 November.  You can see the proposed plans here; note that most of what you see in the images is hypothetical, as the only part that’s funded for completion in 2016/17 is the part outlined in red.

The main access to the train station; might as well be a tightrope.
The main access to the train station; might as well be a tightrope.

It’s great to hear of a long-awaited upgrade for this part of town, which has been ushered through a few ups and downs by the dedicated folk of the Albert-Eden Local Board. This part of town is well overdue for some love.

Pick a corner, any corner, of the intersection of Carrington Rd, New North Rd, and Mt Albert Rd and stand there for a while. It’s almost exactly the opposite of what a town centre should feel like. A vortex of vehicles pours through the intersection and shears around corners, while pedestrians perch on narrow footpaths with precipitously high curbs. At times of peak foot traffic – both ends of the school day, for example – the disproportion between people-space and road-space is just bonkers.

There are some great shops along the main road… but very little sense of connection or gathering. There’s a train station tucked in behind, and new electric trains whoosh through on the regular… but you have to elbow your way along a perilously skinny footpath to get to them. Meanwhile, even though Auckland’s first official bike lane decorates the eastern side of Carrington Rd and there are painted lanes along Mt Albert Rd, when it comes to New North Rd, people on bikes are left to take their chances in regular traffic.

MtAlbertcorner3

MtAlbertcorner

Our pals over at Transportblog have been discussing the new designs. For starters, it’s good to see designs that put pedestrians back into the picture, in particular by dramatically widening the footpath along both sides of the western approach of New North Rd.

When it comes to provisions for people on bikes… it’s a mixed bag

On the positive side, Carrington Rd fares well – the western footpath (which will remain the primary entrance to the railway station) is widened by 600mm, and there’s a greened and raised bike lane on the western side of the road. This is a win! It’s a dicey stretch, so the raised bike path will help keep cars in their place. (A northbound lane of traffic is removed to make this possible, by the way).

(NB although both sides of the road are shown in the images, the eastern side is neither funded nor scheduled yet.)

CarringtonRd1

You may well wonder how people on bikes will turn into that new lane, especially give the way cars hug the curb when turning from New North Rd into Carrington Rd…

CarringtonRd2

And there’s the rub. New North Rd draws the short straw… a couple of stop-boxes for the brave at heart, but no dedicated bike lanes. Fair enough. I mean, where on earth would you put them? Sigh.

NewNorthRd

 

Worth noting here: as described in Part 2 of the accompanying report, the 2015 Mt Albert Town Centre Stakeholder meeting requested enhanced cycling access and paths. Not only that,

Both the [2014] New North Rd Corridor Management Plan and the Carrington Rd/Mt Albert Rd Corridor Management Plan recommend a higher priority given to pedestrians and cyclists. Further, it is clearly defined that on-street car parking is the lowest priority in the future management. Both plans suggested widening of pedestrian footpath and adding cycling paths to both sides of the road.

Here’s what that CMP suggested for New North Rd. Spot the difference.

NNRCMP

 

Still, tucked away on page 40 of that same report are a bunch of recommendations that include this glimmer of hope:

Upgrade Railway Lane (AT): pedestrian promenade and cycle lane from Rocket Park to Oakley Green Walkway

And there it is on the map: a railside shared path along the southern side of the line. Will this path – which would link Oakley Park to Rocket Park – obviate the need for bike lanes on New North Rd? If that’s the implicit trade-off here, it’d be very useful to spell it out. And what’s the timeline on the railside trail?

MtAlbertRecommendationsp40

Another thing to note: with bikes increasing the catchment of every train station to an easy 3km, we’re in an era of increasing park’n’ride. Part 1 of the accompanying report notes that 9500 people live within 10 minutes walk of the town centre, and that’s not counting future housing developments on the Unitec Campus. So, how many more live within a 10 minute bike ride? (Don’t make us post this next image again! Oh whoops, we did. We love this image.)

So, returning to the immediate improvements, given the number of people within biking radius of the station, our next simple question here is… where’s the beefed-up bike parking?

cyclingcatchmentstrains

Lastly, looking at the parts of the design which are not yet funded or scheduled, two things stand out:

Firstly, it’s good to see a vision of a proper town square built on the existing “plaza” which is currently an expanse of tarmac used for carparking. This will connect to the train station via the proposed overbridge in a more natural and much safer way. (Alas, current lease arrangements mean it can’t be built for some years… post-2022 seems an awfully long time to wait for a town square!)

Secondly, over on the Mt Albert Rd side of the intersection, the existing bike lanes look set for significant widening (to 2.2m) with continuous greening…

MtAlbertRd1

MtAlbertRd2

…but note that the ‘fresh kermit’ lanes are still shown doing that crazy wiggle around on-road car parking and bus-stops. Surely there’s an opportunity here for parking-protected lanes like the ones recently mooted as a possibility for Franklin Rd? (Meanwhile, Wellington’s cracking ahead with these in Island Bay, including Dutch-style bus stop bypasses).

Perhaps we should be grateful this section is some time away – design thinking might just catch up in the meantime.

So, to sum up, these are our thoughts:

  • Great to see pedestrians taken seriously
  • New Carrington Rd bike lane is great
  • Nothing for people on bikes along New North Rd. Zip, zilch, nada. (Still, rail trail? But when?)
  • More bike parking is always good
  • Mt Albert Rd… your future awaits!

Provide your feedback here (online form at bottom) – and remember,  feedback closes 4pm Friday 27 November.

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