After the high-profile cycle incidents (two fatalities and quite a number of serious injuries) of the last two years on Tamaki Drive, many of you have been asking us what, if anything, was really happening to make cycling safer on Auckland’s busiest cycle route.
Well – the gears of infrastructural change don’t tend to turn quickly, but some significant changes have already happened, and quite a few more are to come over this winter – while a few more larger-scale changes are mooted over the coming years.
Cycle Action has been closely involved in advocating for, developing, and pushing for the quick implementation of these changes (read an Auckland Transport report on the proposed changes here).
Works that have already occurred include (not exhaustive):
- An electronic “cyclist coming” warning signal at Ngapipi Road / Tamaki Drive, with some further cycling warning signage recently decided to be added. While ideally, you want 3-5 years of statistics, the changes and increased driver awareness have apparently already led to an approximately 50% decrease in cyclist-related crashes at this intersection in the last 1-2 years.
- Sections of new cycle lanes and clearways along Tamaki Drive, mostly westbound
- Improvements to the Solent Street / Tamaki Drive intersection, mainly for off-road cyclists
- Some new cycle kerb ramps to allow on-road cyclists to go off-road for a short section at some narrow bridges
- Some pinch point traffic islands and car parks have been removed at locations like Kelly Tarlton’s and Averill Avenue
- Various sections of badly maintained off-road path, especially west of Ngapipi Road, have since been patched / remarked etc…
- A variety of awareness and education campaigns were organised, from those targeting drivers opening car doors to bunch riding etiquette
However, a series of more significant works are about to be made available for public consultation, and then are to be constructed over winter. These are likely to include:
- Improvements at The Strand / Tamaki Drive, possibly to include a westbound cycle lane (a request strongly pushed for by CAA, as the many heavy trucks and many on-road cyclists in a tight environment creates a dangerous combination)
- Cycle lanes westbound over Okahu Street and Watene Crescent, possibly also with some changes to these side streets to make turns slower, and improve pedestrian crossing
- Significant changes to the Kelly Tarlton area, which are to include cycle lanes both directions, as well as changes to the pedestrian crossings, the bus parking and also the approaches into the area, to control speeds. A sketch is shown at the right – and don’t worry about the artist’s impression of the kerb build-outs! Both Auckland Transport and CAA will make very sure we are not building new cycle pinch points – they will be wide enough!
- A whole bundle of changes in Mission Bay, which are likely to include an eastbound cycle lane at Tamaki Drive / Patterson Ave, and improvements to various car park driveways. CAA also strongly asked for a westbound cycle lane approaching Patterson Ave. In the next weeks we will see if Auckland Transport managed to achieve such a design, despite the many competing demands in this area. We certainly hope this will occur – seeing the high number of on-road cycle crashes that occur in this town centre, and also how much more consistent the road design would be if the existing westbound cycle lane didn’t just stop at Marau Crescent as it does at the moment.
- Various other intersection improvements are planned further east, including at Kohimarama Road / Averill Avenue (implementation of the works consulted on earlier) / Long Drive / Auckland Road (likely to remove the current extremely wide “double” intersection that allows very high turn speeds for cars) and at Vale Road / Cliff Road (which was the site of one particularly severe cycle crash 2 years back, though admittedly one caused primarily by driver inattention, not intersection issues).
The above changes should go a good way to removing or reducing a number of hazards. Some other issues are not so localised, and thus a lot harder to resolve, like the tight on-road environment during peak hours west of Ngapipi Drive, the Ngapipi / Tamaki Drive intersection itself, or the narrow off-road path, especially from Kelly Tarlton to Mission Bay, where it is especially narrow and busy. To deal with some of these, Auckland Transport are proposing more major works, tentatively scheduled for the next 2-3 years:
- Major changes to Ngapipi Road / Tamaki Drive – either a signalisation, or a roundabout option (which CAA would really dislike, as roundabouts are bad news for cycle safety – but which is favoured by the Orakei Local Board for traffic capacity reasons…). However, unless the bridge just west of the intersection is also rebuilt (currently not planned, due to the significant extra costs) there remain some cycling issues in both options.
- Both intersections designs would include significant widening to the off-road path along the northern side – which would be in accordance with a Tamaki Drive design template that would provide approximately 5m width for pedestrians / off-road cyclists wherever Tamaki Drive is being reconstructed in a major fashion in the future.
- At Kelly Tarlton’s, further changes (in addition to those described above) would see some reclamation at the tightest point (near where Jane Bishop died, and where the off-road path currently narrows to about 1.5m, shared with pedestrians) to create enough space for a stair / seating area and a 5m minimum path.
- From there east to Mission Bay – one of the busiest areas with many pedestrians and parked cars – a new boardwalk would be constructed, to widen the space and provide the 5m combined area, making it easier for off-road recreational and less hurried commuter cyclists to share safely and amenably together with pedestrians. CAA however has some concerns if the boardwalk – estimated to cost over $10 million – should be a priority scheme for cycling, when numerous other worse issues remain across Auckland. But we can’t say we don’t like the idea as such!
It has been a long period of work and engagement. Among other things, we have read safety audit reports and other documents many hundreds of pages long, attended site-walkovers that lasted several days (it’s a long road!), attended numerous meetings – from high-level advocacy / strategy sessions to poring over plans and design together with AT’s engineers – and worked with stakeholders, from cycle groups to local community groups to the police.
We have made our own suggestions for change, argued internally about the most important priorities, and engaged with Auckland Transport on their proposed priorities. Overall, we are not unhappy with what is being achieved, and what AT are still proposing to do – though of course, for advocates, and for the cyclists facing these dangers on a daily basis, change always feels slow… but to be fair, that may be the way of the world, more than the way of Auckland.
In the next step, it will be your turn again, as public consultation occurs. CAA will continue being involved with improving Tamaki Drive, and will take the lessons from there to other popular cycle routes around the city.