What price safety in Devonport?

May 05, 2017
What price safety in Devonport?

Bike Auckland

It’s the gateway to Devonport; it’s a busy intersection traversed by people of all ages, on foot, on bikes, and in cars en route to school, work, shops and ferry; and it’s well overdue for fixing.

So why is the Victoria Rd and Calliope Rd improvement project suddenly attracting a bit of drama? What’s causing the Local Board to quibble over a major local street improvement that makes things safer for children and families en route to Devonport Primary and St Leo’s Primary or the same people and elderly people crossing Calliope Rd and Victoria Rd to reach the village and the ferry? It couldn’t just be that the design includes a bike lane… could it??

Here’s the intersection as it is…

The intersection of Victoria Rd & Calliope St. Cross here… if you dare. (Google Streetview)

And here’s another view taken at 8.45am today. (Can you see the school patrol on the crossing?)

Spot the school patrol.

The background

The challenge here is vehicle speeds and volumes. This intersection sees 15,025 traffic movements on an average weekday (and slightly fewer on weekends), as recorded by AT in October 2016. And at least a hundred people on bikes move through here in the morning peak, not to mention school children en route to Devonport Primary and St Leo’s.

Encouraged by the road design, drivers pour down the hill on Victoria Road without pausing at the zebra crossing. Those turning left into Calliope are given no reason to pause for pedestrians or those on bikes. School parents supervising the pedestrian crossing on Victoria Rd report that cars approach the crossing at speed, having turned through the ‘Stop’ sign at Calliope Rd without pausing.

The goal here is safety; for everyone, especially the most vulnerable. Walkers, cyclists, the very young, the very old. And safety for those in cars, too: there have been eight crashes here in the past five years. There’s been some muttering about the project’s cost… but what price getting home in one piece? We couldn’t put it better than local commentator David Slack:

You may recall that in 2015 AT proposed a roundabout here – and although those can be notoriously bad for people on bikes, we were cautiously optimistic on the grounds that at the very least it would slow traffic, which is the major danger at this intersection. However, AT’s own investigations led them to conclude a roundabout would be very difficult for buses to navigate, as well as dangerous for people on bikes.

The new design

NOTE: Bike Auckland is seeing this proposal at the same time as you are, and has had no design input so far. (Click below to enlarge, or see the PDF: victoria-road-and-calliope-road-intersection-revised-plans)

Design for Victoria Rd/ Calliope St intersection May 2017 (Auckland Transport)

On the whole, we endorse the broad thrust of the design, and are encouraged by the consideration that has thus far gone in to catering for pedestrians and people on bikes.

Bike safety is addressed with a stretch of separated on-road bike lanes as well as the shared path to provide options for confident and cautious riders of all ages and abilities.

Pedestrian safety is enhanced with two new raised crossings, plus raised tables, kerb buildouts, and bright red road markings aimed at slowing vehicles down.

We do have a few concerns, outlined below. But pending the following amendments, we see this design as a strong improvement on the existing situation.

Our concerns and suggestions

  • On the southbound cycle lane, the slow-speed ramp directing downhill cyclists off the road strikes us as unnecessary and dangerous. Confident on-road cyclists will generally prefer to keep the lane; and those two sharp turns could be especially dangerous in the wet. The solution is quite simple: remove the kink in the downhill cycle lane, and maintain a smooth corner transition for southbound cyclists.  The slow-speed ramp should lead from the shared path onto the cycle lane, not the opposite.  
  • We’d also like to see some bike-lane protection on that corner to stop motorists encroaching on the lane; and a non-slip treatment on the surface.
  • For northbound people on bikes, the cycle path offers no protection from being side-swiped by cars turning left into Calliope – which will be a significant risk with the change from the current Give Way situation. We suggest adding a narrow traffic island approaching Calliope Rd (more robust and cleaner looking than flexiposts) to emphasize the new layout and to remind left-turning drivers that they are leaving the main street and will need to slow down to give way at the new zebra crossing on Calliope.
  • The new zebra on Calliope should be moved back to make sure vehicles turning into Victoria don’t sit across the crossing while waiting. We also suggest AT add bike crossing markings, like the UK  design shown below for a ‘Toucan’ crossing (so-called because ‘two can’ cross at once).
  • The design directs northbound cyclists up onto the shared path and then back onto the road just before the zebra on Victoria Rd, in a zig-zag similar to the southbound one (albeit riders will be traveling more slowly). One possible solution: raise the cycle lane across the Calliope intersection. This would make for a smoother transition for cyclists, and would encourage motorists to cross the bike lane more slowly and give way accordingly.
  • We’d like to see lane protection added to the northbound bike lane opposite Kerr Road to discourage drivers from ducking into the bike lane to pass vehicles waiting to turn right into Kerr Road.
  • Likewise, we recommend extra measures at Kerr Road to protect walkers and people on bikes. Vehicles exiting Kerr Road will present an increased danger to southbound people on bikes, as cyclists will be approaching from a greater angle to the right than previously. Here, we suggest one or all of the following, plus additional analysis of pedestrian movements and the needs of Devonport Primary school pupils:  1. Replace the existing Give Way with a Stop sign; 2. Introduce traffic-calming measures, e.g. a ramp on approach, or raising the cycle lane as it crosses Kerr Rd; 3. Add a raised zebra on Kerr Rd a car length back from the intersection.

A longer-term view

Lastly, although the scope of this project is tightly focused on this one intersection, the increasingly attentive design highlights a couple of major opportunities for Auckland Transport and the Local Board in coming years:

  • the potential to create a continuous safe cycling connection between the village and Lake Road
  • the potential to create a much more people-focussed design through the village, which would ideally be traffic-calmed by design to ensure speeds of 30kph or less.

Now it’s your turn!

As noted in the newspaper article at the top of this post, at the local political level there’s still a bit of debate – and indeed, disbelief – about whether safety fixes here are important, necessary or widely desired. If you think they are, we warmly encourage you to speak up, especially if you’re a local or a regular visitor to Devonport.

Feedback is open until 15 May 2017 – click the big blue feedback button at the bottom of the project page to add your thoughts.

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