Are we actually improving things for cycling, for road safety, for climate change in Auckland? Or do we double down on encasing the Status Quo in literal concrete?

New AT proposals make us wonder whether there really is any consistency – or any will  – in our transport agencies to change things for the better. And this disappointing path has to be stopped.

For several years now, within Auckland Transport, a project has been brewing to improve transport on Mt Albert Road, especially at the Three Kings town centre (where Dornwell Road and Hayr Road meet Mt Albert Road). Consultation started as far back as 2018 – with lots of you asking for cycle facilities to be part of the scheme.

Panoramic view of Three Kings town centre.
Panoramic view of Three Kings town centre.

Of course the comments back from AT in the consultation report summary basically said “Hey, we don’t have funding for cycle facilities all of Mt Albert Road, so we will just do nothing here. There might, maybe, be a greenways project on a parallel route though”.

We hear this kind of comment time and time again, and it just gets more unethical every time to say that because Rome can’t be built in a day, we won’t even start.

Since 2018, Auckland Transport has developed the TDM design guidance which significantly improved the designs that AT is (in theory) to use in its design. AT have committed to Vision Zero. And since last year, Auckland Transport has created the Future Connect network database which identifies, across Auckland, where existing networks (for buses, trucks, walking and cycling) should be improved.

And of course, when AT disbanded the cycling team, it claimed that cycling is now “embedded across the organisation”. Surely things have changed since that 2018 response?

If only. Maybe “entombed” would be a better word than “embedded” for AT’s cycle design capabilities?

Because the newest proposals – Mount Roskill Safer Communities Phase 2, three years later – proposes to rebuild two major intersections in Mt Roskill with signals. And has only insult for people on bikes.

A man riding his bike along Mount Albert Road.
Rolling along Mount Albert Road…

The main town centre design has no cycling facilities proposed at all, despite being rebuilt entirely for what will be several million in cost. And the brand new traffic signal at Frost Road and Mt Albert Road – a key link to several schools only some hundreds of meters away – gets a single painted bike lane in one direction.

“Cyclists, head this way and never come back”?

Mt Albert Rd looking east at the town centre. New traffic signals, up to four car lanes – and some pedestrian tables to slow turning traffic into Hayr/Dornwell at the right. But not a cycleway in sight (some green boxes don’t count).
At Frost Road, we get another brand new signal. And hey, look, a bike lane. In one direction, and without any protection. This would have been what we’d have expected to see ca 2015. If you are heading east, you are out of luck. If you are coming or going from Frost Road, watch out for that turning traffic side-swiping you. Why’d you want to bike to a school anyway?

It’s a farce. AT is proposing this with the old argument of “Eh, we have no money, and if we did something here, then there would be nothing for bikes at the next intersection“.

Proposing this in 2021 on a major rebuild project is nothing short of AT abandoning their responsibilities. It is nothing short of unethical.

Why? Let us count the ways

  1. It fails on pretty much all the relevant policies AT claims to subscribe to, from Active Mode development being an integral part across their organisation to Vision Zero requiring decisions to be made with safety at the top of everything. AT has to consider ALL road users – but particularly those badly provided for with the current layouts. The fact that this will help improve walking doesn’t get them off the hook.
  2. Mt Albert Road, as we mentioned above, is on the Future Connect network that AT has developed to guide its investment. More importantly, it is also, within that overall network, a “Major route” on the cycle network, is on the “First decade”  priority list for cycling, and is “First ranked” in the deficiency list (i.e. highest importance level for existing issues).
  3. Not providing cycle facilities here now is setting into stone the “no cycle facilities” for decades. Do you really think manylocals will not massively oppose these intersections being dug up again in a few years? Don’t you think that internal decision-makers will not look at these shiny new traffic signals and say “Nah, we are not going there again any time soon?”

So here you have it.

Auckland Transport is proposing something brutally wrong, perpetuating the bad decisions of the past.

But the worst – but also the most hopeful part – is that they don’t have to. Because we looked at those proposed designs – and you could relatively easily turn them from their current woeful state into something that is at least a solid beginning.

First we show what Auckland Transport proposes – and then at what we suggest instead:

Auckland Transport’s proposal – wonder how that single-direction, painted cycle lane snuck in there. Did they forget to delete it? Because it only highlights how bad it is, and how much it violates their own TDM design standards.
Our proposal – essentially, don’t move the kerb lines out, and instead fit in bike lanes on both sides, with narrow concrete protectors.

Now we don’t have all the relevant software to do vehicle tracking and so on, but we DO know intersection design, because we have been working in this space for decades. The intersection can do a lot better, and it doesn’t take much. You don’t have to take private property, and you don’t have to spend a huge amount of extra money. And as a result, you’d get basic protected facilities. Only at the intersection itself – but that is where the worst accidents happen.

Let’s move on to the main town centre.

Auckland Transport is suggesting to signal the town centre, simplify the southern part of the intersection, and add pedestrian crossings. Okay. But no bikes. Maybe the budget can spring for one of those “No bike riding in this town centre” signs? Because this is pretty unwelcoming (and potentially lethal). Three lanes on the west, four on the east. Except for the improved walking infra, this could be straight out of the 1970s.
Can AT do better? Sure can. Again, don’t just move the kerbs for their own sake. Use that space. Maybe locally move the kerbs the OTHER way (without narrowing the footpaths). Again, then fit in protected bike lanes with concrete separators – they keep pedestrians safer from adjacent traffic than some thin grass strips. Sure, if you want to make the bike lanes consistent all the way through the town centre you’d need to remove some extra parking and do some more work on the bus stops. But you could do it (and could do a lot even keeping the same amount of parking).

Again, these would be basic facilities. Narrow lanes, narrow separators. But they would fit with only a smidgen of extra work, and little to no extra parking loss. But it would show that AT are giving bikes at least a start – even when they are constrained by space and money. A start from which improvement can build in coming years, rather than creating a brand new roadblock for the future.

As we said, this proposal was a real shock to us, because it so bluntly puts the lie to Auckland Transport’s claims.

But it doesn’t have to. AT can upgrade this with only some limited changes, and some (in the overall scheme of this project, trifling) extra cost.

At a different project in the same area (Mays Road and Mt Smart Road), we recently managed to get AT to abandon their initial “cycle-less” design and they are now reconsidering it. We need to do it again here (except they don’t have to abandon the whole scheme, just upgrade it).

But to do that, they need to hear from you. Give your feedback here by 19 September.

We suggest you select either “support with changes” (second bullet) or “oppose” (third bullet)

In the text field that appears then, we would like you to:

  • Oppose the lack of consideration for the safety and amenity of people on bikes and scooters
  • Oppose the design ignoring AT’s own “Future Connect” network priorities for Mt Albert Road
  • Oppose cementing the status quo with new intersections that will not get rebuilt again for decades
  • Support Auckland Transport reviewing the designs in line with the Bike Auckland proposals for fitting in basic cycleways
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Cycling safety General News
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