A ‘safety-wash’ in East Auckland – or a chance for change?

A ‘safety-wash’ in East Auckland – or a chance for change?

Bike Auckland

Auckland Transport is proposing changes at a couple of intersections on Botany Road in East Auckland, to ‘alleviate traffic congestion and improve safety for road users and pedestrians.’ The problem is, while adding a couple of pedestrian improvements, the car-centric design mainly proposes widening the roads to ‘alleviate congestion’ (!)…

…while not improving safety at all for people on bikes, and in several ways making things more dangerous than they already are.

We say that’s not okay, especially in the light of AT’s new safety commitment. One might go so far as to say it’s unconscionable. Certainly, the word ‘safety-washing‘ has been applied. So let’s hold AT to a higher standard.

Feedback closes Friday 17 August, so get in quick!

Here’s the project page – and here’s the link for feedback.

We strongly encourage you to add your voice in support, joining our call for AT to make these intersections safe for people on bikes. Here’s how we’re asking AT to fix the situation:

1. Intersection of Cascades Road and Botany Road

  • Please add a protected bike lane between the footpath and the road, northbound on Botany Road
  • Signalise the crossings for bikes as well as pedestrians, so people on bikes can ride through safely
  • Merge the bike lane back onto the road after the intersection

2. Intersection of Millhouse Road and Botany Road

  • Add a bike lane on the golf course side of the road, to protect northbound riders and those turning right out of Millhouse onto Botany Road
  • At the absolute minimum, add a Copenhagen style approach line on Millhouse, turning southbound into Botany, PLUS
  • Add bike priority crossings alongside the pedestrian zebra over the slip lane and across Millhouse itself
  • For a better option, also add a bike lane on the north side of Millhouse (this can be managed inside the proposed reconfiguration by NOT adding a new right-turn traffic lane). 

Again: here’s the link for giving feedback, open until Friday 17 August

Perhaps this consultation feels a little theoretical, especially if you don’t live or bike in East Auckland? Then read on for a personal perspective from Jo Clements of our Bike East Auckland crew. In photos, video, and vivid personal stories, Jo shows us what this project means for the local community on wheels. You’ll see what a horrible missed opportunity it would be if AT proceeded as proposed – and how much better the whole neighbourhood could be for people on bikes.

How did a set of intersections at the end of a regular suburban road in my very suburban-looking East Auckland neighbourhood get me, just a regular working Mum, all revved up?

Well, these lucky intersections, Millhouse Road-Botany Road and Cascades Drive-Botany Road, are about to get a refresh, or to be more accurate and as Auckland Transport will have you believe, a safety upgrade that will see ‘roads widened to create new traffic lanes, improved traffic signals and road markings, high friction surfacing, a signalised pedestrian crossing and a raised zebra crossing.’

Sounds rather dull, but here’s the sentence that snapped me out of my kid-induced tiredness: ‘These changes have been designed with the local community in mind.’

Local community? Hey, that’s me! I’m that local community, and I use that intersection, a lot, and I’m generally not in a car when commuting through it. You’ll find me on a bike, squeezed somewhere between a curb and a line of cars on Millhouse Drive trying to take a left-hand turn onto Botany Road, as part of my treacherous journey to Panmure Train Station and the city (more on that later).

Or you’ll see me with my four-year-old daughter on her bike, and my two-year-old on the back of mine, all three of us crammed onto the tiny little platform that is meant to act as a safety zone while we wait for the green man to get us across Botany Road and onward to our local daycare.

The traffic island Jo perches on with her daughters.
Jo’s older daughter on the way to daycare.

These upgrades are definitely NOT designed with us, ‘the community’, in mind. I’d say – and others in Bike East Auckland agree – they are a feeble attempt to try to squeeze more cars onto an already congested road; a tiny plaster on a giant festering wound that is East Auckland traffic.

These intersections are a hopeless choke-point for a road network that hasn’t been ‘designed’ at all. East Auckland is an island. Population around 100,000. With 2 small bridges to get all those people on and off every day. Pakuranga Creek scythes through the centre of our island, cutting off one side from the other – with not enough bridges – limiting travel route options and forcing traffic through a couple of small channels.

These two intersections up for upgrade are one of those channels. And the proposed changes demonstrate a wider issue that we have in East Auckland – a lack of consideration for the safety of cyclists, and a long-term neglect of providing and upgrading what little local cycle infrastructure we have (just leisure pathways through parks, designated as shared paths).

Despite recent heartening words from AT, including at the recent inspiring Healthy Streets event, planning to widen roads to put more cars through isn’t exactly bike-friendly, healthy, or aimed at Vision Zero.

Nor am I convinced these proposed intersection changes will make a huge amount of difference to the car congestion caused by parents doing school runs to Elim College on Botany Road. They certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone who isn’t already on a bike to give it a try.

School traffic lined up along Botany Road; with Elim College on the right.

Just to really emphasise how people on bikes sit at the bottom of the neglected pile of East Auckland transport options, this tweet in reaction to a discussion of whether this consultation is a ‘safety-wash’ just about sums it up:

Yep, even the golfers have been considered in this safety upgrade. They are lucky enough to be getting an additional driveway lane – while we don’t even have one single bike lane in the whole of East Auckland.

The golf course driveway is already plenty wide, although you might need binoculars to make it out, across the wide intersection.

Which brings me back to the treacherous on-road commute I mentioned earlier – and the huge, untapped potential for so much better. My ride will improve somewhat when AMETI is completed, in eight years time. By 2026, we’ll finally get our long-awaited dedicated cycle paths built with a commuting focus, and locals will be able to ride the full length of Ti Rakau Drive to Pakuranga Plaza and onwards to Panmure Train station.

Currently, I travel this route by bike. It takes me about 30 minutes, a good amount of fresh air and exercise – but it’s not pleasant. Part of that unpleasantness begins on Millhouse Road, and it reaches peak nastiness at the intersection with Botany Road, a busy arterial route that has been identified as part of the Auckland Cycling Network, albeit its Cinderella transformation into quality bike infrastructure has yet to materialise.

Transformation of our arterials should be a priority for our part of Auckland, because of where we’re heading. Botany Road, like Pakuranga Road, feeds neatly into the starting points of AMETI, and both of these major arterials could be part of the solution, not the problem – helping to achieve a greater network effect by funneling more people on bikes from the wider area towards the world-class bikeways of the AMETI project.

But without safe routes for bikes on these connecting roads, AMETI will never serve a large portion of East Auckland – because people who bike will not be able to safely reach the dedicated cycle lanes that AMETI will bring. Indeed, AMETI will under-deliver on what it promises, by being isolated from the vast number of would-be active commuters of East Auckland.

What really gets me is that the two intersections up for upgrading in the current consultation (Millhouse and Botany Roads, plus Cascades Drive and Botany Road) are so close to the Botany end of the AMETI project, which begins about 1km from Millhouse Road. For that reason alone, surely, surely they can’t be overlooked in terms of cycling safety. Surely AT wouldn’t ‘upgrade’ them in 2018-2019 without thinking of people like me, who ride today, and thinking ahead to the hundreds or thousands more who’ll bike to AMETI in less than a decade.

And there is so much potential for safe connections around here! For example, on the southern side of Cascades Road, at the moment the footpath simply ends abruptly if you are walking westwards. (Bike East Auckland has asked the Local Board to connect this footpath down Cascades Road to the Cascades Walkway under the bridge, about 1km away, to ‘ungap the map’ for walking and biking, and they have this under consideration.)

In residential Auckland, in 2018: a disappearing footpath.

Frankly, the whole of Botany Road and Cascades Road needs a cycleway, and the sooner the better.  Even if AT were to complete and widen the existing footpaths into a shared pathway, that would be 1000% better than what we have now.

Boatloads of space on Botany Road for a simple shared path.
Squint, and it could almost already be a footpath and bike path beside each other.

AT could even remove some of the street parking along these arterials to make safe passage for bikes, a trade-off enshrined in its own Parking Strategy. Especially since a lot of the parking along Cascades Road is occupied semi-permanently by cars for sale. Is this the best use of our precious public realm?

Cars for sale, lined up along Cascades Road: a regular sight.

Meanwhile, our part of town has had a recent funding boost for transport, as reported in Our Auckland:

“Howick is set to receive a $201 million funding from the regional fuel tax to develop an integrated multi-modal transport system to support the population and economic growth in east Auckland as a result of Auckland Council’s newly agreed 10-year Budget.”

… but, ironically, a large chunk of that funding will go towards a park and ride, which will just add more traffic to the roads we’re discussing here. It’s ridiculous that a portion of that $201 million hasn’t been put aside to develop cycling infrastructure along roads like Pakuranga Road and Botany Road to allow people on bikes to reach AMETI as part of the promised ‘integrated multi-modal transport system’.

Upgrading the local network for people of all ages on bikes should be a major goal, as should developing roading options that benefit all of the local community – not just those who drive.

— Jo Clements

For more about the local powerhouse that is Bike East Auckland, drop them an email or visit their Facebook page. As well as speaking up for a more bike-friendly ‘hood, they organise fantastic group rides in pursuit of great eats, fresh air, and local adventures. And a reminder: if you’re reading Jo’s heartfelt story on or before Friday 17 August 2018, please jump back to the top of the page and add your voice in support of better bike-safe intersections on Botany Road!

Video footage

Watch these with your heart in your mouth – you’ll see how fearless Jo is on the road, but also how very exposed; and what enormous potential and need there is for safe local cycleways.
Botany Road to Cascades Road, featuring some hairy door zone riding, and cars parked for sale along the side of the road.
Entering Botany Road via Millhouse Road, and onwards to the future beginning point of AMETI, featuring 60kph traffic and some horribly exposed intersections.
Back the other way: Cascades to Botany to Millhouse, illustrating all of the points made by Jo.


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