Everyone thinks cycling in Dutch and Danish cities is so good because it’s flat.

But perhaps it’s because you don’t have to stop and start so often?

After 10 years in New Zealand there’s one thing I still can’t get used to: having to stop and start to cross side streets while I’m out for a run. Where I used to live, England, this scenario is barely cause for a second thought: a casual glance over your shoulder maybe, but your reasonable expectation is that you can keep going at the same pace. Which is incredibly helpful for running after dark, when main roads are often your best bet for smooth pavements and decent street lighting.

It’s the same in the USA, Canada, other parts of Europe, even Australia. But not here: in Auckland, every side street has the potential to turn a steady run into an interval-training session.

So I was pleasantly surprised the other day heading along Great South Road, approaching one of several side streets, when I looked over my shoulder to see a car approaching and indicating to turn into the side street. Just as I was about to grind to a halt, the driver waved me across. One less unwanted stop, and very welcome with 5km still to go and rain threatening. If only every driver was so courteous!

What’s this got to do with cycling? Well, if it’s painful having to stop and start on a run, it’s ten times worse on a bike. And we’re building more and more shared paths around Auckland, every one of which requires us – whether on a bike or on foot – to stop at every side street and give way to turning vehicles, for no other reason than because the New Zealand Road Code has afforded them the priority.

This reality is sometimes reflected, without a hint of irony, in the accompanying signage. Take this example on Mt Wellington Highway: strictly speaking, you should stop (and ideally, dismount) at the sign, cycle very slowly (or walk) across the side street, and get back up to speed after the next sign, once you’ve crossed to the other side. Yeah, right!

MWH 2Why should people in cars (and on bicycles) traveling on Mt Wellington Highway itself get priority over turning vehicles – but not people on bicycles (or foot) traveling parallel on the shared path?

If it wasn’t for this bizarre rule, the shared path could simply run continuously, in a straight line, with no need for extra signs and chicanes.

Here’s another shared path, on Orakei Road. It doesn’t have the ironic signs, but does feature road markings that seem designed to keep any cyclists from getting ideas above their station. Here again, the shared path narrows and adds a sharp corner.

Orakei Boardwalk Kings Plant Barn 2

Despite the four-lane width, this is not a particularly busy side street, and may not even be a public street: it’s an entrance way to three or four commercial properties and few short-term car parks. Which begs the question: when is a side street not a side street?

This is an important consideration in New Zealand, because if it’s not a side street, but a ‘driveway that crosses a footpath’, then according to the Road Code, vehicles ‘must give way to people using the footpath’ (as well as vehicles using the road, of course). This also applies to shared paths, i.e. cyclists traveling legally off-road have priority when they cross driveways [By the way, legally driveways are ‘vehicle crossings’ – because it’s the vehicle crossing the footpath, and NOT vice versa].

Further up the road, there’s the entrance to the Orakei Station car park: is this a side street or a driveway? Probably a side street. As with the previous example, the stop lines are drawn right across the line of the path. And again, a chicane effect.

Orakei Station PnR 3

But what about this example, on Te Horata Road? This is surely a ‘driveway’. But are there any visual clues for vehicles (mostly articulated trucks) entering or leaving the yard to give way to cyclists?

Te Horata Road vehicle crossing2

There’s also an on-road cycle lane here, which the NZ Road Code treats very differently to shared paths: ‘If you [as a driver] are crossing a cycle lane, give way to cyclists before you cross’. But you don’t have to give way to pedestrians or cyclists on the shared path just beyond. It’s verging on Orwellian. Or maybe Kafka-esque (“Please consider Rulebook 15, subclause 27b for identification of appropriate rule set identifying priority when crossing – except on Tuesdays, when…”)

Te Horata Road vehicle crossingTake another striking (which is to say depressing) example: Greenlane East / West, close to Remuera Intermediate School. This is a route you might use if you want to cycle to Greenlane Train Station, or the business park, or Great South Road, or Cornwall Park at the weekend. It’s indicated on the AT cycling map as a shared path.

Starting at Peach Parade…

Greenlane East 1The Google Car whizzed through this section outside of peak hours, when it gets pretty crowded along this corridor. How many cars and trucks do you think wait for cyclists to cross before using the vehicle crossings? Either as they enter or exit the petrol station? How easy is it to turn and look behind you while you ride with your mates?

A little further west, the shared path peters out, squeezed between the traffic light and the ivy wall. There’s a two-stage dog leg crossing here, each with its own beg button: cyclists temporarily become pedestrians.

Greenlane East 2Well, at least they’re signalised.

But why must cyclists wait here, twice? Because left-turning cars into this short section of Ascot Ave get priority. As do right-turning cars out of this short section of Ascot Ave.  Further west, there’s another pedestrian crossing at Ellerslie Racecourse Drive, and an unsignalised slip lane to negotiate, where again cyclists (and walkers) get no priority.

Across the motorway, along a stretch of just 200 m between SH1 and Great South Road, there are at least six more similar vehicle crossings – and a side road with no signalised provision for cyclists.

Heading up Greenlane West, the going gets a little better because of the wide, tree planted berm which offers decent sightlines and a wider cycle path separate from the footpath, but the problem remains: each and every driveway is a potential hazard at which the cyclist is unprioritised and at risk, because the surface gives no visual clue to the prioritisation.

Greenlane West 3Then, crossing Wheturangi Road at the lights, cyclists become pedestrians again. After all of 300 m.

Finally, crossing Maugakiekie Road, westbound cyclists get to roll across… but only by using the narrow on-road cycle lane.

Greenlane West 4It’s less than 1.3 km from Peach Parade to Wheturangi Road. This is a key route: the shared cycling / walking motorway over-bridge is a vital link – alternative routes involve a significant detour north or south, and are themselves devoid of any cycling provision at all.

Using the shared paths, cyclists have to contend with at least 20 unprotected and unprioritised vehicle crossings and driveways along the way, as well as five pedestrian crossings and two unsignalised side roads / slipways.

That’s more than one give way or stop every 50 meters! Whereas general vehicular traffic along this stretch gets relatively plain sailing: three sets of lights and a roundabout.

Why must we either stop and start like a pedestrian, or use a narrow unprotected on-road lane mixing with the cars and trucks? Why can’t users of a shared path just roll on through? (And indeed, why must pedestrians stop and start as well?)

It’s different in the UK Highway Code. Here’s the introduction to their section on junctions:

Take extra care at junctions.

You should watch out for cyclists, motorcyclists, powered wheelchairs/mobility scooters and pedestrians as they are not always easy to see. Be aware that they may not have seen or heard you if you are approaching from behind.

Watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way.

Though custom and practice in the UK, in busy towns and cities at least, is that if you’re driving and turning you generally give the benefit of the doubt to the pedestrian (or the cyclist, on a shared path or cycle path) crossing the side street. The thing is, you worry that if it comes to it you’re going to have a tough time in court if you run someone down in a  car while turning. That doesn’t seem to be the case in New Zealand.

Of course, most drivers don’t carry the Rode Code around in their heads, let alone in their cars – which is where street design comes into it, as an ever-present reminder of what’s expected. In Germany last year and in Holland three years ago, I noticed how often the cycle path (between the footpath amd the road) is often surfaced continuously, so that anyone entering a side street or crossing the path in a vehicle has to cross a visual barrier.

Check out this side-road crossing in Utrecht. (NB the side road is to the left of the photo, in front of the yellow rubbish bin).

SideRoadPriority

The crossing is raised and continuous, and cars turning into the street have to mount a ramp. As the accompanying blog post says, ‘Even if a driver makes a mistake, it will happen at a slow speed.’

And here’s a simple example from Glasgow that, while not raised like the Dutch example, at least gives drivers a clue about relative priority.

West St GlasgowContrast with this artist’s impression of a new development in Auckland, where the driveway design sends entirely the opposite message (actually, is that a driveway or a slide??). We appreciate that these are “just” artists images, and that the final may look different – but still, its clear that in NZ the default position is still stuck in “cars”. Full stop. Lots of full stops.

image-1As a positive development, we understand NZTA is currently looking into the matter of side-street priority for people traveling straight ahead on footpaths and on shared paths (and the still-rare ‘cycle only’ path / Copenhagen lane).

This is especially important for parking-protected bike lanes which run behind parked cars along major roads (adjacent to the berm or footpath). At the moment, in many cases designers have to consider whether to actually remove the protection (i.e. drop the cycle lane back to a paint-only solution) to ensure that cyclists are legally in the right to continue without interruption when it comes to intersections or signals!

As it turns out, we’ve written about this before (four years ago, in fact!), and we’re glad to hear this is being addressed at long last. Straight-through priority for people on foot and on bikes can’t come soon enough.

— Tim Duguid

PS The pedestrian advocacy group Living Streets Aotearoa is with us on this one: check out their campaign poster below, and more info here.

Give Way Law change A4

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30 responses to “Ride, Interrupted – the Stop-Start Bugbear

  1. Hear, hear! I didn’t realise how much of an obstacle this ridiculous rule is until I lived somewhere without it.

    Another thing I notice in the Utrecht and Glasgow photos is that engineers there don’t think that every single minor intersection needs enormous turning radii (just in case there’s a heavy goods vehicle turning out of a side street at the same time that a fire engine needs to get in?) and a special lane for every movement.

    1. That is SLOWLY improving in Auckland – but still can be an individual battle at every intersection before it is allowed to be built / changed to smaller radii.

      1. I hope you’re right Max. But only last month, for the first time, the dreaded “suburban racing lines” appeared in fresh white paint on Norman Lesser Drive and Grand Drive.. vast sweeping curves that you can take at 50 k, absurdly, into tiny side streets, sometimes short cul de sacs with no more than 20-30 houses on them. Over the last three or four years, these have appeared all over the Eastern Suburbs.

  2. Well written and on the money. I find the idea that cyclists dismount at pedestrian crossings particularly ludicrous. It never happens at Carrington Road, and I am certain that drivers appreciate the shorter time they are made to wait. Why the silly Cyclists Dismount sign? The day that cars are no longer considered the default urban transport will be a magical day indeed!

    1. I agree, I have probably never seen a cyclist dismount in these situations (I don’t!) and as you say, drivers generally appreciate it, and often make way so you can roll on through. “The law is an ass”, as they say.

      1. I see maybe 1 in 10 dismount there. I have heard that the signs are very much understood to be a “legal ***covering” by everyone. Time to change that rule and make it legal to cross at least at selected zebra crossings (those with good visibility and/or slow speeds).

    2. That crossing has a serious flaw which makes dismounting worthwhile.

      To a driver it appears to be a split crossing with a centre refuge, meaning they can continue through when somebody is using the other side.

      To a walker or rider it’s one continuous crossing at grade, so they should be able to expect to cross all the way with priority.

      Because riding is just that bit quicker than walking, drivers on the far side are rarely prepared to stop if you’re riding.

      More generally, a light controlled arrangement is already legal and would make sure riders didn’t expect to just blow straight over. Drivers would have unambiguous instruction to stop, time to see riders about to cross and we could avoid having a raised table.

      1. I tend to take care when crossing there, however I always remain on my bike. I still have reasonable balance from my long ago bike courier days so coming to a stop is not a problem. Where would you propose the light control? Directly from the road? If it cut out the dog leg it would make a little sense, although the St Lukes lack of underpass is annoying enough as far as traffic signals go. Slightly unrelated, have you noticed how fast it feels on that little detour after St Lukes (going West) that puts bikes on the motorwat surface. Why do cars get all the good stuff? Surely we deserve a nice, fast, smooth surface too?

        1. For Carrington Road, getting rid of the dogleg would be great. Maybe a beg button driving a crossing straight out from Sutherland Road. I’d want it more or less instant, with a cooling off period to allow motor traffic through.

          If bikes were led into a bidirectional path on Sutherland, it would make right turns for cars easier out of Sutherland, too. Always sell these things in terms of benefits to drivers, if there are any.

          There could be separation for pedestrians by taking them from the kerb at the corner whilst bikes go at grade. We’d get rid of the pinch point created by the refuge. There’s potential there to straighten the path into UNITEC.

          I was just thinking of swapping out the existing crossing, but your idea is much better!

          Love that M-way detour, helps that it’s got an easier grade.

      2. I usually stick to ‘on road’ there. The right turn out of Sutherland isn’t usually hard. zipping across eastwards is ok once you learn to time it, but even if you have to wait on the grass usually the cars back up from people using the ped crossing anyway 😉

        Very similar crossing issues at st lukes in the dark. I saw three cars breeze past stumbling pedestrians the other night as I approached with flashing lights to finally stop the fourth.

  3. There is a great example in nelson which is an off road cycle path where cyclists get right of way when it intersects with cross roads. Something to aspire to.

    1. That can be done because the Traffic Control Devices Rule allows you to specify at an intersection of a road and path who gets a STOP, GIVE WAY or signals. Interestingly the Road User Rule is actually silent about the requirement to have to *comply* with such a situation (except for signals), it only talks about ‘roadways’ again, but that little anomaly is currently being tidied up.

      I certainly agree that it would be great to see more of these priority crossings installed. They work best when (like Nelson) they have raised crossings and perhaps even diverters/chicanes to slow down approaching traffic.

  4. ‘Wheeled recreational devices’ are specifically included as vehicles in the glossary of the Land Transport Act, but ‘traffic’ is not defined, so idiom should surely apply, making pedestrians another form of traffic that must be yielded to by turning traffic.

    Where a road has no footpath adjacent, give way rules would have to apply to pedestrians too, as traffic using the roadway.

    Practically speaking, you’d have to assume all pedestrians were wearing heelies, thus qualifying as vehicles…

    1. The law (and I mean the actual Road User Rule, not the rough interpretation that is the Road Code) doesn’t refer to “traffic”, it refers to “vehicles” and “pedestrians”. But the issue of priority over turning vehicles isn’t about that; it’s about whether you are on the “roadway” or just the “road”. If that doesn’t make sense to you, have a read of this article: http://cyclingchristchurch.co.nz/2015/12/19/cycling-and-the-law-where-can-you-ride-your-bike/.

      With luck, a change to the relevant rules for walking and biking across side-roads might be with us in about a year; the relevant research to support it is just starting.

      1. Got it, but I can’t see how a pedestrian on a road without adjacent footpath can avoid being in the roadway, the place where vehicles may reasonably be operated.

        My point is that as of the invention of stealthy rollerskates, any pedestrian may in fact be a ‘vehicle’ as described by The Land Transport Act (Road User Rules) 2004 by virtue of using a wheeled recreational device. Since these ‘vehicles’ may be legally operated on the footpath, the footpath has de facto become a roadway, one which must also have priority over side roads.

        The term vehicle is not specific to motor vehicles when applied in the give-way rules, but I’m not sure which legislation we’re looking at, can you help?

        1. A roadway means “that portion of the road used or reasonably usable for the time being for vehicular traffic in general”. Practically speaking, that doesn’t include a footpath because motor vehicles can’t use them. So if you are on a footpath you aren’t on the roadway and hence don’t (currently) get right of way over turning traffic.

          If however you are rollerskating/skateboarding on the roadway, your “vehicle” now does have ROW. But alas, the Road Rules are completely silent about giving way to pedestrians at intersections (except at traffic signals), it only mentions vehicles…

          1. ‘Vehicular traffic in general’ is not necessarily motorized, that’s my point. The rules are not specific to motor vehicles.

            Just as bus lanes are not available for general motor traffic, neither is the footpath. That doesn’t make the bus lane any less a part of the roadway or any less subject to give way rules.

            I’m arguing that the wheeled recreational vehicle definition has made footpaths part of the roadway by allowing a specific category of explicitly vehicular use.

            Since a driver may not inspect every pedestrian’s footwear, they must assume all pedestrians to be vehicles and give way when turning across their path.

            I suspect nobody with proper motivation has tested this in court…

  5. Great article thanks. Just a bit further south down Gt South Rd at the intersection with Station Rd (Penrose), north-bound cyclists using the marked cycle lane/footpath need to wait for THREE cross lights/beg buttons just to continue straight ahead along Gt South Rd.

    1. I work in Penrose just off Station Road and use that intersection from time to time (I mostly try to avoid it).. it’s not only a stop-start cycle lane it’s a now you see it now you don’t cycle lane. It could really benefit from continuing at least up to Greenway Park, and ideally all the way up past the roundabout to One Tree Hill College (OK.. actually, all the way up to Newmarket, why not? ..one day?).

  6. I was flabbergasted the first time I saw the shared path/cycleway on Central Park Drive in Henderson. It’s appalling. That kind of design is exactly what you’re talking about , and is a perfect recipe for the cycleway to be underutilised. I only used it once with kids, all the other times I use the road. It was a bit safer with kids, but it’s an perfect example of bad implementation.

  7. Unfortunately the above petition is closed, and had very few supporters. It is the most boneheaded traffic rule at the moment, because it makes motorists believe they have ALWAYS right-of way over pedestrians. Too many times do I see cars turning into or out of driveways without regard for anyone. I was nearly hit once when jogging on the footpath by someone driving onto a driveway to turn around, he yelled at me to get a high vis vest! And as long as roads are designed and approved by people who rarely use any other mode of transport, progress will be slow and painful. The situation for cyclists is quite schizophrenic as discussed in this article.

    1. I actually didn’t get the idea of vehicles entering and exiting the driveways would possibly apply to what they were asking for. I use some of Living Streets Aotearoa “don’t park on footpath” posters ( http://www.livingstreets.org.nz/reclaiming_footpaths ), but they have been openly anti-bike in the past in terms that they don’t like bikes on footpaths and shared paths. Perhaps working with them to create some clear rules for how to differentiate and how to behave on footpaths, shared paths and cycleways for both cyclists and pedestrians might remove some of their anti-bike stigma… just a thought…

  8. Awesome article Tim. Franklin Road consultation has struggled with the same issues. Another reason why we have been so delighted with AT’s work there, they have tackled the problem and lets hope this is the start of a broader change in policy and focus. Of course we are still to see what they are thinking for the lower half.
    A related gripe I have is signs warning cyclists to watch for cars exiting driveways etc. Often great advice but I go and look for the equivalent sign warning the person in a car to watch for bikes and nope, it isn’t there. An important part of flipping the hierarchy in Auckland’s public realm.

    1. Totally agree: the equivalent warning sign for cars exiting driveways is simply not there. Wiping out pedestrians or children cycling on the footpath is not even covered in the driveway safety ads. If we had the same approach to street safety as the latest workplace safety thinking, an awful lot of driveways would probably have to get closed off.

      1. I know a few “give way to pedestrians” type of sign locations, but at as a general rule, it is true. At least the Council have come around in some degree. Those buzzer / lights “car coming” type arrangements aren’t being accepted anymore.

  9. Add the new Onewa Road shared path to that list. I still can’t get used to how incredibly stupid it looks with all those start/end signs.

    The signalized ones are the worst—they always give a green left arrow by default, and pedestrians and cyclists going straight have to press the beg button and wait for who knows how long for a green light.

    To think that when I did my driving license test in Belgium, turning without checking your mirrors was an automatic fail.

  10. yes yes yes. The main reason for me NOT using some of the new cycle lanes (Beach Rd, I’m looking at you) is that it is slower than sticking to the road! Extending cycle lanes across intersection (minor roads) and giving them the right of way IS such a good idea.

    1. For Beach Road, it wouldn’t help (because all signalised side roads – the only non-signalised side road got closed!), but this law would make it easier to build one-way-each-side designs in the first place.

      1. True, Beach Road gets a choc fish.. at last Stage 1 does (the eastern bit); Stage 2 has to cross a couple of side streets.

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