UPDATE: Feedback is now closed on this consultation. Thank you for the overwhelming response – together, you submitted more than 400 individual points of view on how important it is to build this route right the first time! AT is now working through the feedback and we await further developments.
Bike Auckland and our staunch Shore ‘burb buddies Bike Kaipatiki are asking Auckland Transport to urgently lift its game on a key route in Northcote: Queen St, which is the present and future gateway to the ferry terminal, SkyPath, and SeaPath.
To paraphrase two of the more than 200 feedback comments submitted so far: it would be such a pity to have the amazing Skypath spilling onto an unprotected cycle path. So this is a great opportunity for AT to provide the finishing touch to what must a great cycling and walking adventure!
1. What was the original design?
When Auckland Transport first consulted on the Northcote Safe Cycle Route in 2014, it laid out a very important principle for road reserve design – which we’ve highlighted in bold, below:
Changes to parking
On-street parking is being removed in some locations to accommodate the proposed cycling facilities. The locations where parking is to be removed are shown on the proposal maps.
The loss of on-street parking is a common occurrence when new walking and cycling facilities are established. As the Road Controlling Authority, Auckland Transport is responsible for the road reserve which is the entire corridor between property boundaries (e.g. footpaths, berms, and road). When determining how to utilise this space, Auckland Transport gives priority to safety, pedestrian and cycle facilities, bus stops, bus lanes, loading zones and traffic flow over other uses.
On-street parking is only permitted when there is not an activity of greater priority that requires use of the space. As such the proposed walking and cycling facilities take priority over the use of these spaces for parking.
Here’s how this original design for lower Queen St would look, just south of King St (source: Map 4D, Section Z):
As you can see, there would be dedicated cycle lanes on both sides of Queen St, with clear separation between bikes and cars (including parked cars). The 0.5m painted ‘flush buffer’ would likely include plastic flexi-posts or other physical measures to keep drivers from encroaching on the cycle lanes.
This was a pretty good design, especially by the standards of a few years ago – and it certainly offers that all-important perception of safety so desperately sought and so enthusiastically embraced by the huge ‘interested but concerned’ demographic of Aucklanders who are keen to bike in the city.
2. So why did AT change the design?
In response to some Northcote Point residents’ objections to the loss of on-street parking, AT reduced the safety of the design by abandoning the bike lanes, obliging bikes and cars to share the same roadway. It has attempted to make the situation ‘safe’ by slowing motorists down via bump-outs added here and there along the roadway.
Three watered-down options are now being consulted on. Option 2, a one-way ‘choker’ with speed cushion, would be the most effective in slowing motorists – but in no way would this environment be considered truly safe or attractive for novices on bikes.
Here’s how this new speed-calming design would look just south of King St (source).
Note the way people on bikes will be right in the dreaded door zone as they approach the only protected blips of ‘safety’ on the street. Also think about where drivers will move to, when negotiating with oncoming cars.
Now take a moment to appreciate the irony of AT calling this design ‘safe’ in the light of their initial consultation notes above. With this design, AT now appears to be saying that, in lower Queen St, parked cars assume a higher priority than the safety of people on bikes and on foot.
3. Why do we need a better design?
It’s 2016! We know about best practice. We need leadership on this. And, for this project specifically:
- This is already the key link to the Northcote Ferry Terminal – and the option to ‘park and ride’ should actively welcome people on bikes, especially as e-bikes make this a more and more attractive option. Especially given the tidal flows of ferry traffic, this road needs to be safe for new bike commuters.
- Once SkyPath opens (as early as 2018), this route will have hundreds if not thousands of pedestrians and cyclists using it daily, of all ages and experience levels. It needs to be up to scratch from day one.
- It’s part of the Northcote Safe Cycle Route, which aims to link schools and sports facilities and encourage all-ages travel on bikes. This shot from the Nelson St cycleway (courtesy Transportblog) sums it up.
This really is what the issue is all about. When you provide good quality cycling infrastructure where people on bikes are physically separated from larger vehicles, then the most inexperienced and vulnerable of users feel safe. These are the people AT knows it should be designing for, not local residents who feel aggrieved because they’ll lose a bit of on-street parking.
Thanks for helping us help Auckland Transport get its priorities straight again!
[Feedback form removed as consultation is now closed]