We welcome Auckland Transport’s recent media release last week, acknowledging the horrific increase since 2014 in deaths and serious injuries for people using AT’s road network (as laid out in the independent safety report commissioned by the AT board). It’s painful but necessary to have this out in the open, and Greater Auckland covered the topic well in a recent blog post. 

We especially welcome the proposed response, which is that AT will massively ramp up its spending to create safer roads, joining Minister Genter’s commitment to Vision Zero.

I’m keen to hear from you how the extra cycling safety dollars could be used most effectively.

While you think about it, I’d like to get your response on a safety issue that Bike Auckland and Bike Kaipatiki are discussing yet again with AT: the southern end of the Northcote Safe Cycle Route.

1. A troubling design

Back in October 2016, we explained our major concerns about the poor design of the Lower Queen St section of the NSCR project between the Bridgeway Theatre and the Ferry Terminal. Simply put, we noted that the planned cycle bypasses would direct people on bikes too close to parked cars and into a risk of dooring. We were also unconvinced the planned traffic humps would effectively slow traffic to consistently safe speeds.

When we’re unable to fully endorse a project, we work hard to suggest improvements so we can ‘endorse with minor changes’, or ‘endorse but please increase the scope later’. However, every now and then, we come up against proposed designs which deviate so far from sound engineering judgement (or are based on a poor analysis of data) that they have to be called out in the interests of both our members, the cycling community, and AT’s credibility. This was one of those times.

On the basis that this route needed a safer design and that it has future significance as a major access to and from SkyPath, we encouraged you to send your feedback in. (For efficiency’s sake, we used a quick feedback form on this website, then compiled and sent though the 400 individually written responses as one document. It’s worth noting that in the subsequent consultation report, your 400 individual comments were tallied as a single piece of feedback, and discussed and counted separately from the residents’ survey).

2. AT builds the design – and gets a negative safety audit

Construction of the whole project began last April; and is now almost finished, after remarkably slow delivery (the original delivery date was mid 2017). With the Lower Queen St section completed, we reminded AT that a safety audit had been promised. This was duly carried out, and we received a copy in October 2017.

We were unsurprised to hear that the safety audit classified the problems we identified in the design of the speed humps and cycle bypasses as serious safety risks.

3. AT stands by the design, says risk frequency is ‘vastly overstated’

In the past month, we’ve raised these concerns again with AT, but we remain frustrated by the failure to achieve any real change here.

The most recent reply from AT was quite lengthy, and clearly hoped to settle our minds. But I’m wondering whether our perceptions of safety are so vastly at odds that we occupy different worlds and speak different languages.

AT is happy for us to post the response, so here it is in full.

The post construction road safety audit identified a problem, near to the locations of cycle bypasses, from drivers opening car doors into the path of people on bikes. This problem was assessed as being of a serious nature, i.e. one that is likely to result in a death or serious injury (DSI) every couple of years or so. It was felt by AT that the problem had been correctly identified, however the severity of any collisions and their frequency in occurring has been vastly overstated. This could lead to solutions being developed that are disproportionate to the risk that they are trying to mitigate.

Following this, my Road Safety and Walking and Cycling teams worked with the project delivery team and undertook an assessment to verify the risk rating and consider mitigation options for the risk identified. A number of options were considered, which was also discussed with members of our ELT [Executive Leadership Team]. We ranked the risk as Minor, for the specific reasons outlined below. The problem does exist however, and a solution appropriate to the level of risk has been identified. This involves providing a road marking buffer that safely guides bike riders past parked cars in the vicinity of the cycle bypasses into the bypasses. If cycling numbers increase along Queen Street, which would increase the level of risk of this type of collision occurring in the future, then AT will re-examine the scheme and provide further mitigation as necessary. The buffer road markings will be installed early next week.

Risk Assessment

The independent road safety audit was undertaken using the NZTA guidelines including that for risk assessing hazards. The audit rated the dooring hazard as “Serious” using the NZTA risk assessment matrix. This means that a dooring incident would be a frequent occurrence (one crash in every year or two) and is likely or highly likely to result in death or serious injury.

Recent surveys have found that approximately 50 people on bikes travel along Queen Street in each direction, south of King Street, each day (approximately 100 per day both directions) and that the vast majority at speeds less than 25km/h. The number of vehicles using the road at this location varies between 1200 and 1800 (both directions) per day and the vast majority of speeds of these vehicles, at the cycle bypasses, has dropped to 36km/h and less, as a result of the traffic calming measures that were installed. National and international research has determined that the risk of pedestrians and people on bikes being killed or seriously injured in a collision substantially decreases at speeds lower than 40kph.

It is also noted that Auckland-wide there are on average two DSI’s [Deaths or Serious Injuries] per year across the entire network incurred by bike riders from dooring. We have almost 4 million recorded cycle trips per year and those are only where we have traffic counters. There are far more cycle journeys than this occurring on the Auckland road network. This would indicate that serious cycle crashes related to dooring are relatively uncommon across the network. [our emphasis]

Queen Street is a residential street with low parking turnover; therefore there is a very low potential for dooring. In light of the surveyed moderate to low traffic and cycling volumes and speed any dooring incident is highly unlikely to result in a DSI. The correct risk rating for this safety issue should have been Minor, not Serious.

4. We say: dooring is a clear and present danger, and a single death or injury will be too many

While we always value the chance to work closely with AT’s numerous departments involved in cycling design and delivery, we are frustrated by the time and resources that this Lower Queen St project is soaking up.

We dispute AT’s view of ‘the facts’, question their assessment of the impact of even near-misses on people who ride, and challenge their understanding of the need to make this section of road safer and more attractive for all people on bikes, aged 8-80.

I’ve replied to AT, saying:

  • AT is wrong to classify this section of the street as residential. It is home to a popular all-day café, a successful restaurant as well as the tavern and the picture theatre, and is also the only route to the Northcote ferry terminal. These commercial activities generate more frequent on-street parking turnover than is found on residential streets.
  • Vehicles travelling to ferries commonly include passengers who are running late and being driven to a ‘kiss and ride’ park. While they make up a small percentage of ferry traffic, they represent distracted drivers who are hazardous to people on bikes.
  • Severe injuries to those cycling and walking are acknowledged by all transport agencies including AT to be significantly under-reported (and minor injuries are very significantly under-reported: see FAQ here). So it’s unacceptable to rely on the official statistics to argue in favour of a road design that AT’s own consultant’s safety report rates as posing a ‘Serious’ risk. Indeed, this makes a farce of AT’s new safety approach based on Vision Zero.
  • Serious injuries are classified as those that require admission to hospital and may include “fractures, concussions, internal injuries, crushings, severe cuts and lacerations, severe general shock necessitating medical treatment and any other injury involving removal to and detention in hospital” (see fact sheet here).
    On top of these, we need to be cognisant of bruising, dental damage and other traumatic injuries that are disabling to the injured party – and are very common results of dooring incidents – but are counted as “minor” and/or frequently do not make it into official accident statistics at all. See here for just one story of the “minor” damage that dooring can do to a person.
  • Finally, I reminded AT that I was a witness at the Coroner’s Inquiry into the death of Jane Bishop, who died on Tamaki Drive after being doored and falling under the the wheels of a moving truck. It happened 6 years ago, and will resonate with me forever. It was a ghastly, avoidable death.
  • Bike Auckland refuses to accept unsafe biking infrastructure in any form. For us, Lower Queen St is an easy, cheap fix that needs to happen without further debate.

5. Where to from here?

AT hasn’t yet done the work it promised in early May to install buffer markings at the cycle bypasses – and aside from waiting for that, we appear to be at an impasse for any further improvements. We’re fed up.

We know from the experiences of many friends and whanau that AT is not talking our language on road safety on Lower Queen St – and on many other streets across Auckland. Help them to understand our reality of biking Auckland streets.

Please tell us your experiences of Northcote’s Lower Queen St: does this design pass muster as it stands, or do serious safety risks remain?

Also – help AT understand the impact of dooring incidents in particular, and near-misses in general. What are your experiences? 

Via Crash App, below are just some of the bicycle dooring incidents across Auckland that made it into the official record in 2017, including two severe injuries – and a whole lot of ‘minor’ ones. Were any of these you? How did it affect you?

Categories
Auckland Transport Cycling safety General News North Shore Project Feedback Traffic Calming
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14 responses to “Speaking the same language on safety

  1. Extraordinary. And so arrogant.

    Personal anecdata: We own two cars, but I choose to ride to and from work 3-5 days a week. I represent the “fearless” section of the cycling continuum, having been riding for 40+ years, as a racer, commuter, courier, young cocky bmxer. I am now dad to three young cocky bmxers.

    I have diarised my experiences as (a) coming close to being doored: bi-weekly, and (b) being clipped by, or swerving hard into traffic as a result of, car doors: three times in the last five years.

    The effect of this: our kids are not allowed to ride their bikes on the street, to school or sports or friends’ houses, for fear not of their skills letting them down, but of car doors opening into their paths.

    Outside of clinical engineering excuses, AT’s actions on Northcote’s Queen Street in designing biking infrastructure that ACTIVELY CHANNELS PEOPLE INTO THE DOOR ZONE is negligent in terms of specifically creating the perfect conditions for (a) people to be doored and (b) parents of children visualising this occurrence and stopping their children from riding. This is the very definition of the opposite of good work for the community.

    Worse still, AT’s active dismissal of being alerted to a safety issue is not only disgusting behaviour; it is the exact same exact behaviour that lead to Jane Bishop’s death.

  2. Such half-cooked biking infrastructure actually puts people off cycling. I wouldn’t allow my children cycle over there. It actually forces you into the door zone. Simply unacceptable.

  3. Lots of “dooring” risk on Great North Road in Avondale Town centre. There are lots of people popping in and out of cars to visit shops/take aways. Biking past them makes that you have to be VERY vigilant and every day I have to shout out to someone to stop opening their door as I approach. As a result I try to take a wide berth which then upsets the car traffic behind me. Car parking needs to be taken OFF the streets

  4. The ‘we know best’ best culture of AT need to change and they need to include cyclists to help consult and design what is being implemented. We’ve had a difficult time with them here on Waiheke in regards to the current upgrade of Putiki Road. They repeatedly choose to ignore both local advice and input from the local cycle advocacy group. Very frustrating.

  5. This is madness… Are there parking restrictions in those spots? If not, could install an old (registered) car here, as a brightly marked ‘Bike Auckland’ sponsored SAFETY CAR, permanently parked in those spaces, advertising the fact that its doors are bolted shut, alerting cyclists to the present dangers as well as AT’s ongoing failure. Keen to see some Vigilante tactical urbanism. Keep up the persistent good work.

  6. This really is a serious error of judgment by AT. At a time when our focus is on increasing safety for vulnerable road users, AT puts in and attempts to justify an appalling piece of cycling infrastructure which doesn’t even meet their own design standards (ref ATCOP & Austroads) as cars are allowed to park hard up against the bypasses. And why? Because AT thinks that on-road car and boat parking in Northcote Point is more important than cyclist safety.

    I’d really like the people in AT’s management to cycle this route in the morning or evening peak hour when cars are rushing to and from the ferry over the ineffectual speed bumps, and when car doors are being flung open at random just as cyclists are forced into the bypasses. Oh, and they should bring their children and grandchildren along too – this is supposed to be the Northcote SAFE Cycling Route after all, so surely by definition it must be safe? Then I want them to look me in the eye and say they’d be happy for children to bike between home and school along this route.

    This one really is a shocker that needs to be escalated to the highest levels of AT and Council.

  7. If as much effort, thought and imagination had gone into designing this project as defending it, then we wouldn’t be in this situation. Hostile community responses aimed at trying to stop cycling projects are being taken by AT as legitimate project feedback which is driving design compromises that in turn leads to these mongrel outcomes.

    Justifying compromised design based on perceived or exprapolated injury rates is insulting. People in cars don’t have to contend daily with the dangerous compromises foisted on people on bikes. And then moving straight on with the old argument that risks are lower because cycling numbers are lower. But of course cycling numbers are lower because everyone realises its too bloody dangerous, the very problem this project was supposed to address in the first place!

    The equivalent of building a road that cars can’t use and then turning around at the end and saying that no cars use the route so it doesn’t really matter. There is a big program of work ahead, AT and the consultants who produce these reports and designs need to do way better than this.

  8. I don’t ride Queen St. much, but I really hope this mess gets sorted out before Skypath opens, because I’ll be riding it most days then. At the moment, if I do go down there, I refuse to use the bike channels beside the speed tables if there are cars parked in the spaces immediately before or after each one; I just don’t go that close to parked cars if I can possibly help it. As a result, I don’t have too many close-shave dooring anecdotes. Sometimes things get tight at the top of Hinemoa St. and that’s where most of my incidents have happened, perhaps one every two weeks I’ll have to slow down as a door opens in front of me. I also watched a ute overtake myself and another cyclist in front of me, then pull into a parking space by the Rugby Rd / HInemoa St. junction and open his door right on the other cyclist who only avoided it by serving out into the lane – luckily no other cars were following the ute too closely. I’m sure I’d have had more incidents if the south side Mokoia Rd. in Highbury was parallel parks, but instead I just get cars reversing out of the angled parks at me instead.

  9. Bike Kaipatiki submitted on this dangerous implementation to AT back in October 2017, at the same time as GHD’s Road Safety Audit was carried out (yes, the same one highlighting serious safety concerns that AT has discounted. Are they saying GHD, a well-respected international engineering consultancy, is incompetent? Or does perhaps the incompetence lie elsewhere…).

    Here’s what Bike Kaipatiki’s members had to say at the time:

    Appendix 2 – Feedback from Bike Kaipatiki members
    The following are comments received by Bike Kaipatiki since the lower Queen St traffic calming works were completed. We also urge AT to revisit the submission made by Bike Kaipatiki in late 2016 when consulting on the traffic calming options for further feedback from ourselves and our members.

    I often cycle down to Northcote Point, and at quiet times too – usually mid-morning. These changes have in my opinion made it more dangerous. The cycle lanes past the speed bumps force you into a position where you would be car doored and unable to take evasive action. There are always cars parked far too close to these cycle lanes. It was better before they installed any of this. Not ideal, but better than this.

    This is a car door in the face waiting to happen! Don’t think they are really taking it seriously!

    The speed cushions in Northcote Point are ineffective, you can take them at 40 kph easily

    It’s a real shame that they have missed this opportunity to start the journey properly. These measures are unlikely to encourage better patronage and this will be used as an argument to extend the facilities to actually be safe…

    arrgh! forcing a cyclist right into the door opening zone, whose “smart” idea was that?

    What a joke

    Doesn’t look too safe to me… Just more annoying for drivers with the speed bumps. Not very wide for a bike even on the green bit let alone the cars sticking out

    Can anyone be held accountable for design work that puts users in harms way? somebody will get hurt because of the design or lack of it …..could work safe nz call on the people who design/oked this mess ?

    Embarrassing. Put that in your CV Mr Engineer?

    Wow. Massive fail.

    I would take the lane here rather than go through that gap of door death

    Decision-making based on ‘trying to get the widest consensus’ rather than ‘implementing a robust vision’ is the cause of so many problems round here..

    Nscr is shit. My daughter and I almost hit while riding it this morning. 2 other close shaves on the back streets. Had to slap the side of an SUV to stop driver wedging us against parked cars because they tried to pass when a car was coming other way
    Queen st fast, aggressive, bypasses still blocked with parked cars

    I don’t go down there often, but I wasn’t at all impressed with what I saw. Part of it must be the attitude of the mostly local drivers. The past few weeks I’ve been coming back up Hinemoa in thick traffic, and drivers mostly make an effort to leave room.

    The design does more than encourage riding in the door zone it basically requires it. Not good enough.

  10. Bike Kaipatiki submitted on this dangerous implementation to AT back in October 2017, at the same time as GHD’s Road Safety Audit was carried out (yes, the same one highlighting serious safety concerns that AT has discounted. Are they saying GHD, a well-respected international engineering consultancy, is incompetent? Or does perhaps the incompetence lie elsewhere…).

    Here’s what Bike Kaipatiki’s members had to say at the time:

    Appendix 2 – Feedback from Bike Kaipatiki members
    The following are comments received by Bike Kaipatiki since the lower Queen St traffic calming works were completed. We also urge AT to revisit the submission made by Bike Kaipatiki in late 2016 when consulting on the traffic calming options for further feedback from ourselves and our members.

    I often cycle down to Northcote Point, and at quiet times too – usually mid-morning. These changes have in my opinion made it more dangerous. The cycle lanes past the speed bumps force you into a position where you would be car doored and unable to take evasive action. There are always cars parked far too close to these cycle lanes. It was better before they installed any of this. Not ideal, but better than this.

    This is a car door in the face waiting to happen! Don’t think they are really taking it seriously!

    The speed cushions in Northcote Point are ineffective, you can take them at 40 kph easily

    It’s a real shame that they have missed this opportunity to start the journey properly. These measures are unlikely to encourage better patronage and this will be used as an argument to extend the facilities to actually be safe…

    arrgh! forcing a cyclist right into the door opening zone, whose “smart” idea was that?

    What a joke

    Doesn’t look too safe to me… Just more annoying for drivers with the speed bumps. Not very wide for a bike even on the green bit let alone the cars sticking out

    Can anyone be held accountable for design work that puts users in harms way? somebody will get hurt because of the design or lack of it …..could work safe nz call on the people who design/oked this mess ?

    Embarrassing. Put that in your CV Mr Engineer?

    Wow. Massive fail.

    I would take the lane here rather than go through that gap of door death

    Decision-making based on ‘trying to get the widest consensus’ rather than ‘implementing a robust vision’ is the cause of so many problems round here..

    Nscr is shit. My daughter and I almost hit while riding it this morning. 2 other close shaves on the back streets. Had to slap the side of an SUV to stop driver wedging us against parked cars because they tried to pass when a car was coming other way
    Queen st fast, aggressive, bypasses still blocked with parked cars

    I don’t go down there often, but I wasn’t at all impressed with what I saw. Part of it must be the attitude of the mostly local drivers. The past few weeks I’ve been coming back up Hinemoa in thick traffic, and drivers mostly make an effort to leave room.

    The design does more than encourage riding in the door zone it basically requires it. Not good enough.

  11. I’ve ridden this stretch and, despite being a confident rider, don’t like the way that the design encourages you close to the parked cars. (This is often exacerbated by cars not being parked flush to the kerb – there is little margin to allow for ‘poor’ parking.) I use the dedicated ‘cycleway’ features, as it seems the ‘right’ thing to do, but would probably feel safer using the main road space designed for cars. AT is doing some great work with cycleways, but this stretch isn’t the best.

  12. I don’t have experience in this specific area, but I visited the upper end of Queen St and was shocked to see such a narrow footpath outside the shops (the cycle path is ok but appears to be at the expense of space for pedestrians entering/exiting the shop, therefore highly likely to walk in the cycle path!). Plenty of road space to allow people on bikes AND on foot suffucient space.
    Regarding “dooring”, my experience (and non-statistical analysis) is that parked car doors only get dangerously opened about 1 in a 1000 that I pass, but my REAL experience is that it REALLY hurts, cost ACC a lot of money, disrupts your life, disrupts your job, and leaves you with permanent damage and memories. In the long term it’s little things, like the bad circulation in my broken finger which goes numb in the cold weather that we are starting to experience

  13. Ironically, the original feedback report stated:

    > The road along lower Queen Street is quite wide, so people on bikes are
    not expected to ride too close to parked cars. ‘Dooring’ is not expected
    to be a significant hazard.

    …Right. Of course, the dooring issue with those bypasses was easy to identify even during that consultation. As a short term patch, maybe we should have a bit of no stopping lines just before and after those chokers.

    And also, “vast majority of speeds of these vehicles, at the cycle bypasses, has dropped to 36km/h and less”
    ? No. You have to hold off on that observation until drivers get used to those chokers. Unless those speed cushions are high enough, people will eventually drive exactly the same speed as before. (People can get used to anything — on my street I have cars passing each other at speed between 2 rows of parked cars, and that’s an 8.5m street.)

    And now what? That’s a good question. Are we in for another round of digging up Queen Street?

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