We’ve covered the proposed Great North Road bikeway; now let’s move on to another route in Auckland Transport’s current inner west consultation, for which feedback closes Friday 21 October: Richmond Road. To skip straight to the feedback suggestions, click here – or read on for the surprising history of this route.
This one is a bit of a ‘time warp’ for Bike Auckland. A few years ago, we were approached by an AT manager we’d worked with on a few smaller bike projects, who said that maintenance works were planned for Richmond Rd, and they were thinking about adding bike lanes while they were at it.
Of course we responded enthusiastically! We’ve long encouraged Auckland Transport to see road renewals as not just about gleaming new asphalt for cars, but also a chance to add bike improvements, with slowly increasing success.
So we sat down with AT to discuss cycle lanes, and soon hit on a major snag – the West Lynn shops, particularly the section between Castle Street and Warnock Street. Adding bike lanes through a town centre was (and still is?) a challenging task for Kiwi traffic designers and politicians. Why? Well, road width is often tighter… and then there’s the sacred car parking. It was going to be hard. Everyone at the table knew it.
One alternative – running the cycle lanes up to the edge of the shops, and then traffic-calming the heck out of the actual central part of the town centre – was likely to be opposed by Auckland Transport’s bus people, who prefer not to have raised speed tables etc on their bus routes.
But something had to be done, especially with all that angle parking, which is particularly dangerous for people on bikes when drivers reverse out. During one of the meetings I suggested, almost off-handedly, that they should look at running the bike lanes behind the angle parking.
I didn’t really expect much to come of it. (Remember, this was around 2013. These days, we have a whole department of cycling friends at AT, and other departments are getting the hang of how bikes fit in, but back then, our connections and supporters were a lot weaker and scarcer.)
Amazingly, at the following meeting, AT’s plans suddenly showed bike lanes BEHIND the angle parking. I had unexpectedly helped design my first protected cycleway!
We were ecstatic about the plans, even though they left much of the rest of Richmond Road with unprotected painted cycle lanes. But at least we had a design with:
- cycle lanes running all the way through the town centre, rather than skipping the hard part
- protected cycle lanes, no less – a first for AT!
- raised tables for slowing speeds
The project team worked hard to ensure that parking losses were reduced. In fact, they were able to fit more angle parking into the town centre, now that people on bikes had a safe way to travel past it. We heard that politicians and local businesses were more or less happy as well (some grudgingly, of course).
And then… the project ran out of steam. It turns out that getting everyone’s head around the changes took a bit too long. And, while not costing a mint, the changes were more expensive than just pouring a new coat of asphalt. The maintenance folks couldn’t shoulder the cost, and there wasn’t much dedicated bike budget in those days. Certainly not enough to cover a ‘surprise’ project.
Cue mothballs. But now, thanks to the Urban Cycleway Fund, this project has been resurrected as part of the current Inner West consultation.
So, how does the new design look? Below, we talk it through section by section. If you’re short on time, our suggested comments for feedback are in bold.
Although best-practice has moved along in the intervening years, the new plans for this stretch haven’t. For great lengths of the route, the cycle lanes remain unprotected. Not quite door-zone cycling – but close, literally. Hence our first ask: better protection along as much of the route as possible.
1 – We support the protected cycle lanes – and we want them extended, especially in the southern half of the route, by moving the cycle lane to between the parking and the kerb. We think this can be done with a narrower flush median and only a slight loss of parking, particularly in the section between Surrey Crescent and the Town Centre.
West Lynn Town Centre
Looking at the town centre section itself, we see some good stuff, like the raised tables and the protected cycle lanes. There’s also room for improvement. Which brings us to our next three requests:
2a – In the town centre, change the proposed raised table south of Wilton Street into a zebra crossing. This will help with traffic calming and make the centre more welcoming for people.
2b – In the town centre, soften the tight turns into and out of the parking protected cycle lanes. They don’t have to be designed for bike racing – but we shouldn’t have to slow down to a crawl to make the turn around a car bonnet.
2c – Make the southbound cycle lane into the town centre (opposite Warnock St) a raised Copenhagen cycle lane, to prevent drivers cutting across it. If this is built as an unprotected lane on this long sweeping turn into the town centre , we’re concerned drivers may cut this corner, or park in it. We suggest a short section of Copenhagen Lane.
A New Roundabout
North of the town centre – i.e. approaching Countdown and the other shops – the proposed painted on-street cycle lanes aren’t particularly advanced or best practice. The key improvement here is the proposed change to the Peel Street / Richmond Road / Kingsley Street intersection.
3a – We support the proposed Peel Street roundabout, as long as the design ensures slow speeds. We actually quite like the roundabout, which replaces the intimidating and confusing current layout. The speed cushions will also ensure that people are less likely to shoot through here.
3b – At the roundabout, consider slightly less shared path width and more landscaping, especially on the east side. Sure, wide paths make life easier for those who prefer to go off-road even at a slow-speed roundabout. But maybe we don’t need 5m wide (!) shared paths on the eastern side? Some planting, and generous root zones for the nearby trees would be a better deal for a nice residential area like this.
The last section – between Regina Street and Parawai and Crescent – passes through an area of ‘big box’ retail, including Countdown and Mitre 10, and ends near the Greenways Route crossing from Cox’s Bay. Our key concern with this section is the myriad movements that take place. Drivers are heading left and right in all directions, turning into and out of driveways, pedestrians are crossing the road, etc.
The proposed painted cycle lanes will not make this situation any simpler to understand. In this very short section, the proposed bike lane changes position and width, and the painted buffer appears and disappears. Hence our request:
4 – Provide a more consistent design between Regina Street and Parawai Crescent – with at least some buffer zone for the cycle lane on each side.Changing some of the kerbs slightly (e.g. near the zebra crossing to Countdown) would create space for a consistent painted buffer, ideally with added physical protection in the form of flexi-posts or riley kerbs.
And back to Surrey Crescent
Circling back to the beginning of this route: the intersection with Surrey Crescent is, frankly, going to be pretty scary for people wanting to turn right into or out of Richmond Road! This won’t be an easy fix – but if designed and built as shown, it will be a major weak point of the entire new set of routes.
Options for turning right from Richmond Road into Surrey Crescent could include an elaborate hook turn via a crossing point on Surrey. This would break the right turn out of Richmond Road into two steps (or a single one if it was a zebra – but sadly cycle zebras are still not legal in NZ). A crossing here would also help people get to the bus stop on the southern side of Surrey (bottom left of above image).
It’d be more of a cup-hook turn than a classic hook turn, involving a bit of doubling back – but other than traffic signals, this may well be the most realistic way of dealing with this intersection.
Unresolved question: how people on bikes will safely turn right from Surrey into Richmond. At the moment the design seems to expect them to take the right-turning lane, in the face of oncoming traffic approaching around a bend. It’s really not ideal, to put it kindly.
Also: extra traffic calming wouldn’t go amiss here, if AT can get it past the bus people (speed cushions which can be straddled by buses, maybe?).
5 – At the intersection of Richmond Road and Surrey Crescent, facilities are needed for safe right turning by people on bikes. Traffic calming measures would also be welcome.
We have other observations to add to our detailed submission on this route, but those are our suggestions in a nutshell. Short version? This proposal is a great step forward – but it’s not quite there yet.
Please make sure you add your voice in support of this bikeway, and any detailed design observations, here!