Made for speed - lets ensure it doesn't claim more victims.
Made for speed – let’s ensure it doesn’t claim more victims.

Another person on a bike has been injured at Auckland’s worst cycling blackspot, Tamaki Drive / Ngapipi Road. Details are sketchy so far, but it seems that despite the crash involving a truck – many a cyclist’s greatest crash nightmare – the cyclist came away with “only” minor injuries. We sincerely hope that the reporting is correct.

What frustrates us horribly is that this intersection has been in the spotlight for many years. As far back as 2011, it has featured in media reports, official safety audits raising concerns – and numerous cycle crashes, many of them more severe than today’s crash.

In fact, NZTA ranks it as Number 10 on the list of NZ’s 100 worst intersections!

Google knows.

We have been working with, cajoling – nay, even pleading! – with Auckland Transport to fix this intersection. And to be fair, some smaller things were done after the spate of big media attention in the early 2010s, such as the electronic warning sign. But overall, the intersection remains dangerous.

It would all be fixed when it gets signalised, we were told.

So we worked hard on getting a good signalisation scheme agreed (no multi-lane roundabouts on our prime cycle route please!). Yet that project – despite finally getting to a more or less agreed design – also slowly disappeared into quicksand, with no known timeframe for implementation.

As a result, as noted briefly in our recent blog here, we stepped up again and said if AT couldn’t do a permanent upgrade any time soon, they needed to move quickly to add temporary improvements. We again asked, nagged, requested, until we finally got a meeting to express our concerns.

Chief among the concerns is the left turn from Ngapipi Rd towards the city: drivers travelling round this corner aren’t obliged to give way to anybody, so they don’t tend to slow down, and regularly come into conflict with westbound cyclists (whose cycle lane disappears in the middle of the intersection).

Google Streetview shows the shape of the problem. Note the disappearing bike lane.

What we didn’t state as bluntly in our blog post the other day (but maybe should have) is how unimpressed we have been by Auckland Transport’s road safety team responses so far – some of which were just hand-sketched mark-ups on aerial photo printouts, showing fixes that we ourselves had proposed as early as 2011!

Sure, at this last meeting, AT promised us they would engage a consultant to look at this issue “soon”. But that usually tends to mean some more months, if not years, before action is taken. If action is taken.

Now, another cyclist has been hit, and we can only count ourselves lucky that he/she didn’t pay with his or her life for these delays.

While we don’t have the details of the crash yet, we urgently ask Auckland Transport to:

  • Slow traffic down – ideally with a raised table on the sweeping left turn. Slowing vehicle speeds is the “no fault” ACC insurance system of road safety. You don’t have ask who caused the crash, or what exactly contributed to the crash. Slower speeds help everyone involved, including car drivers and pedestrians. It’s as close to a road safety “silver bullet” as there can be.
  • More active signage – adding signs and markings alone won’t help. But active signs that only illuminate when a cyclist approaches on the westbound cycle lane might.
  • Fund the permanent upgrade – we are planning and building major roads all across Auckland. Why can’t we find the money to fix the 10th-worst intersection in New Zealand?
Cycling safety General News Tamaki Drive Traffic Calming
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19 responses to “Ngapipi Road, Tamaki Drive – Russian Roulette with delays!

  1. the whole cycle lane situation on Tamaki drive is an absolute joke. It really is appalling. There are so many incidences on the road and yet nothing happens. What can we do?

    1. I ride Tamaki most days and agree with all the above. Besides this junction, the deep sump drains are a major hazard, some have been leveled recently, but many have not, I don’t understand the logic (lack of), for this piecemeal approach to road maintenance.
      Does anyone here know what the recently repainted dotted lines and numbers are for on the section just before this junction?

  2. Can they not just signalise it as is? That would be so much safer

  3. Protest, anyone?

    Clearly this needs some serious attention brought to it.

  4. There are striking similarities (no pun intended) to the layout at Ferrymead bridge in Chch, which used to have a slip lane across a busy cycle route right next to a bridge. Much improved now with the new signalised intersection featuring no slip lane (plus you can also choose to stay off-road at the top of the T with the new section of Coastal Pathway there too). “Free turn” slip lanes are problematic for everyone, but especially when there is a cycle lane going across. Squaring up the lane to force side traffic to slow down before turning would be a good interim start – relatively quick to do by knocking off some of the splitter island and installing some kerb blocks or posts on the outside edge.

  5. Had a quick look at the NZTA Crash Analysis Database last night re crashes at this intersection.

    The majority of crashes appear be caused by motorists turning right onto Ngapipi Road failing to giveaway to cyclists travelling straight through west on Tamaki drive.

    I would suggest motorist are having difficulty finding a gap in traffic to turn right, taking unnecessary risk and wide lane on Ngapipi Road is encouraging excessive speed when turning.

    Clearly this intersection is screaming out for signalization and narrowing of lanes to sensible width!!!

    1. I agree 100% with this! ^ I had an accident at this very intersection in May of this year. I was the driver, turning right into Ngapipi Road as you say, and failed to see the cyclist travelling straight west along Tamaki Dr. It was dark, he was in my A pillar blindspot and I crashed right into him.

      Not long before my accident I had been complaining to family about that very intersection and how nervous it made me as a driver travelling to work each day. When you’re in a situation like that, looking out for cyclists is inevitably pushed to the back of your mind as you struggle to find a gap in heavy traffic.

      Instead of chucking up a few “watch out for cyclists” signs as temporary fixes, NZTA should be seriously doing something about the cycle lane situation.

      1. Hi Damnian – Yes, the right turns were the focus of the initial concerns back in 2011. This may have gotten somewhat better with the illuminated sign (but clearly isn’t fixed yet, and agreed that a signal would be best for this). Re the propensity for such crashes since – I am not sure how long a period backwards you looked at CAS for regarding crash history?

        Hi Jess – that is a scary thing, and yes, I too sometimes worry that one day I am going to hit a cyclist myself when driving one of our dodgier intersections. “Cycle advocate hits cyclist”, wouldn’t that be a headline. I hope it never happens, and I hope I drive careful enough, but that’s kinda the point: we need safe infrastructure AND safe drivers.

        As a side note: The intersection is Auckland Transport’s responsibility though. We only mentioned NZTA because they keep the country-wide crash database.

        1. I ride to work along Tamaki Drive and also travel on the bus. In the morning peak, an additional hazard with Ngapipi Road right turns is cars heading West along Tamaki Drive slowing down or stopping to let cars turn right. Cyclist may not be aware that normal through traffic has ‘made a gap’ for the right turn and the car then turns into the cyclist. I don’t know for sure this has led to an accident, but I know it makes the intersection more hazardous.
          I think a simple interim step is for both right turns into and out of Ngapipi Road to be banned between 7am and 9am
          Monday to Friday. Alternative routes for traffic using this right turn are not overly longer. Trips to Shore road could go via The Strand and Kepa Road via Mission Bay lights.

          1. A very similar thing happened to me, albeit in Okahu Bay a few years ago. Riding in bus lane (now T2), someone leaves a gap for a car to turn right, me keeping an eye on the cars turning left out of the intersection in front didn’t see it coming and went straight into the side of the car. Ouch! I have no doubt this has happened to others as despite a lot of care it is very difficult to anticipate.

  6. An different issue, but related to safety along Tamaki Drive and this intersection – is the narrow T2 lanes heading west through Okahu Bay which make it difficult for buses and cars to share the lane with bicycles. Car drivers like to think of the T2 lanes as express lanes and the volume and speed of both buses and cars breathing down your neck as drivers try to get past makes morning peak traffic very unpleasant for cyclists. (No wonder surveys show that many weekday peak morning cycle commuters use the shared path/footpath into the CBD despite its shortcomings). The number of buses on Tamaki Drive is about to increase with the introduction of the New Network bus service 15min frequency. This is relevant to the Ngapipi Rd intersection as the proposed re-design/eventual signalisation of the intersection plans to extend the T2 lanes closer to the intersection. Tamaki Drive is still one of Auckland’s busiest cycling routes, and while the safety improvements 5 years ago did make a difference there are still major safety issues – Ngapipi Rd intersection is the most urgent

  7. I met with a bike tour operator recently through work, who emphasised the safety of the Tamaki Drive cycle paths – as long as you weren’t a “nutter in Lycra” who rode on the street. Says a lot about where we have gotten to with Tamaki Drive – anyone who wants to travel at a reasonable speed has to chance it in the (hideously designed) traffic lanes, and if you do you’re written off as a speed demon who deserves whatever’s coming to (at) them.

  8. Rather a radical idea might be to revert Tamaki Drive to what it was planned as, I suspect, a scenic drive and not a major arterial road. People going to the city centre from the eastern bays would go up the hill and along the ridge then down Ngapipi Road back to Tamaki Drive. From Ngapipi to the wharves the Drive should be widened to carry a proper 4 metre wide two way cycle path. East of Ngapipi the speed limit should drop to 30kph with only a narrow lane for cars to access places such as Kelly Tarltons and the yacht club. There would be a wide cycle path and the footpath widened into a promenade. The surplus left could be used for a proper busway or later a tramway.

    To do this no doubt the detour road would require major surgery but may be most would turn to the new tramway??

    Perhaps to add to this the ferry which goes to the far eastern suburbs could stop at St Helliers Bay again as they did early last century ?

  9. At what point, is the lack of attention to the dangers this intersection create, that it is neglect of duty of care?

  10. One of the biggest dangers for all users is the continued use of Tamaki Drive as a training venue for large packs of cyclists. The sooner dedicated cycle lanes are provided on Tamaki Drive the better. These should be compulsory for cyclists to use so that pedestrians, bikes and vehicles are completely separated from each other.
    Traffic lights at Ngapipi Rd is a no brainer, as is a lower speed limit e.g.: 40km and…Also an increase in the number of pedestrian crossings….. One out in front of the Kohimarama Yacht Club would be a good start.

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