One of the many upgrades happening along Tamaki Drive at the moment is a quick project to improve safety at the intersection with Watene Crescent, in Okahu Bay next to the Orakei Domain. Auckland Transport plans to install bicycle activated ‘smart studs’ here (small bright lights set into the road, as seen elsewhere in the city) with accompanying warning signs, to alert drivers to the presence of people on bikes.
Of course, this is just one small but crucial interim safety fix along what is Auckland’s (and maybe New Zealand’s) busiest bike route. We really hope to see delivery of better safety on this stretch of Tamaki Drive – flashing warning signs are just a band-aid.
The narrow T2 westbound lane means bikes have to compete with cars and buses – and there will be more buses more frequently along Tamaki Drive in the near future. Many commuters choose to use the footpath to avoid the morning peak traffic through Tamaki Drive’s T2 lanes – but the ‘shared path’ section through Okahu Bay is notoriously the most neglected and narrow part of the coastal shared path.
So, people on bikes really are between a rock and a hard place here. Clearly, the larger longterm vision remains a world-class corridor-wide treatment of Tamaki Drive that brings it up to scratch for everyone who uses this iconic waterfront promenade.
In the meantime, our hard-working infrastructure team has written a submission in general support of the plan for ‘smart studs’ – with specific observations from a bike perspective and suggestions to make this intersection even safer for people on bikes.
We’re delighted to report that most of our suggestions have been incorporated into AT’s design.
Our team this time: engineer Steve Southall; Duncan Laidlaw, who rides the route daily; and Kirsten Shouler and members of Bike Tamaki Drive, who advocate for better for this iconic route; building on previous work by Max Robitzsch. (How fortunate are we to have people of this calibre donating their time on behalf of Auckland’s cyclists!)
Read on for a sense of how our teamwork, our expertise, and our experience works to make your daily ride safer and to raise the bar for future changes.
And remember – this is just one of the many, many projects we provide AT with context and advice on, on a completely volunteer basis. If you support or benefit from this work, we’d love you to consider joining us as a member or making a donation to make sure we can do even more on your behalf.
Our feedback, and AT’s responses
We generally welcome safety improvements for cyclists on Tamaki Drive, as it’s Auckland’s busiest cycle route and intersections along here feature highly in crash statistics. And this plan definitely makes things safer through this intersection, and can be installed quickly with little disruption, so we supported it in general.
We also suggested a few additions to improve safety even further for more cyclists on this key route.
1. To address vehicles turning right from Tamaki Drive into Watene Crescent
We like the turning bay, the smart studs defining the boundary of the lane markings and limit line, and the warning signs on the corner of Watene Crescent. This combination will warn drivers approaching from the west and looking to turn into Watene Crescent that they should look out for oncoming cyclists when judging whether to make the turn.
We suggested adding KEEP CLEAR markings covering the westbound lanes in the intersection and a short distance to the east of the intersection. This should help turning traffic during the morning peak and increase visibility for turning traffic in general.
AT’s response: They’ll be installing white limit lines in a staggered manner, as shown in the figure below. This gives right-turning vehicles from Watene a clear view of traffic in both lanes, with the visibility of the second lane not blocked by the first. (We also learned that KEEP CLEAR markings wouldn’t work here, as AT policy generally reserves those markings for emergency driveways, e.g. ambulances and fire services, and using KEEP CLEAR more widely would reduce its effectiveness.)
2. To address vehicles turning left into Watene Crescent from Tamaki Drive
Left-turning vehicles are especially hazardous to cyclists – the dreaded ‘hook turn’ – and drivers report finding it difficult to spot cyclists in their mirror.
During the morning peak, some of the drivers intending to turn left into Watene Crescent will be using the T2 lanes, while others will need to move from the slow-moving general traffic lane into the free-flowing T2. To get a sense of the scale of the risk here: during the morning peak hour, approximately 250 cyclists a day head towards the city along Tamaki Drive – and during the same time, there are nearly 40 left turns into Watene Crescent.
Meanwhile, outside the operating hours of the T2 Lane, there are usually cars parked in front of Orakei Domain. This means cars can only cross into the T2 Lane once the NSAAT (yellow dashed no-stopping) markings start, about 50m from the intersection.
So, while the proposed changes will remind drivers to look for cyclists as they enter the intersection, they will not help with the hazard posed by vehicles moving into the T2 lane just in advance of the intersection.
(No specific response from AT on this point yet)
3. To address vehicles turning left into Tamaki Drive from Watene Crescent
The provision of smart studs along the limit line will provide some warning to vehicles approaching the intersection from Watene Crescent.
If these prove to be less effective than expected in reducing the crash rate, we recommend two further options for exploration:
- That Watene Crescent be controlled by a Stop sign where it meets Tamaki Drive. While visibility criteria does not warrant a Stop sign, an excessively high crash rate will.
AT’s response: agree that a Stop sign would be more appropriate here, and will replace the current Give Way with a Stop sign.
- That the intersection be slightly modified to provide marked left turn and right turn lanes that are at 90 degrees to the intersection with Tamaki Drive. At present, the flare on the left turn encourages both higher speeds and reduced visibility, requiring a greater head turn to check for approaching traffic from the right.
AT’s response: Happy to explore this option if the smart studs and warning signs prove to be insufficient.
4. To address vehicles turning right from Watene Crescent onto Tamaki Drive
During the morning peak there are more than 40 cyclists heading east on Tamaki Drive; and in the evening peak this increases to more than 150. During the morning peak, an average 20 vehicles attempting to turn right out of Watene Drive will have their view of eastbound cyclists obscured by traffic in the general traffic lanes; and in the evening cyclists will often be filtering through queued traffic as they head east.
People turning right out of Watene Crescent have to give way to all but left-turning traffic from Tamaki Drive, which means some of these drivers will be making risky decisions. It is in these moments that pedestrians and cyclists are most at risk. And unfortunately, the plan doesn’t provide for a bike-activated warning sign that cane be seen by right-turning traffic out of Watene.
We recommend the NSAAT lines (yellow dashes indicating no-stopping-at-all-times), which currently stop just short of the western edge of the intersection, be extended for 50 metres along the top of the T to the pedestrian islands to the east, in order to provide more space for cyclists to merge.
AT’s response: Happy to instal extra NSAAT lines here.
5. Tamaki Drive south-side at Orakei Domain: a footpath/ shared path?
Cyclists use Watene Crescent, too – and, at many times of day, turning right from Watene Crescent to head east on Tamaki Drive is not easy. Moreover, the pedestrian refugees provided near Watene Road do not fit a bicycle.
In order to improve the cycling experience for the 8 to 80 age range Bike Auckland requests a shared path along the boundary of Orakei Domain with Tamaki Drive, to connect Watene Crescent with the signalised pedestrian crossing on Tamaki Drive that links the playground to the beach.
AT’s response: Agree that an additional footpath here would be highly beneficial for the community; happy to explore this via further conversations with the landowner.
A note from Bike Auckland: We’re sensitive to this important cultural site, and conscious that Ngati Whatua o Orakei are important partners for better walking and cycling both here and across Auckland; we are very happy to engage with future planning in this area.