You may have heard of the decision to proceed with an $47 million upgrade of Dominion Road. What may not be obvious – especially when reading about how positively various groups reacted – is that this project is actually a significant cutback from an earlier proposal, which was costed at approximately $100 million.

Auckland Transport’s Board decided that due to the high costs (the extra $53 million) involved in relocating the kerbs and underground services, they will now leave widening of most of the corridor’s bus lanes to an unspecified future time.

This is a major disappointment for cycling, and also a concern for public transport, as buses and cyclists will be forced to coexist in a very tight corridor of 3m wide bus lanes – each hindering the other. Buses will also struggle more to get through congestion spots, around cars turning in and out of driveways etc…

You may remember that Cycle Action has in the past fought hard for dedicated cycle facilities – not just shared bus lanes – on Dominion Road. However, the necessary removal of parking was the lightning rod for a lot of fears about the project, especially by local shopkeers who still believe that most of their customers will drive from far away to park outside their shop, not seeing that a cycle friendly city actually benefits local shops (why drive far away to a big shop when you can cycle to your local cafe or dairy?).

Yet despite losing the fight for dedicated cycle lanes, we thought that at the very least, the 4.5m wide bus lanes would create a significant improvement for cyclists on Dominion Road.


Cycle Action was actively lobbying against the cutback proposal in recent weeks, working together with NZ Bus who shared our concern at moving this part of the upgrade to “maybe sometime in the future”. CAA discussed with the Dominion Road project team, met with NZ Bus, and wrote a position paper to Auckland Transport (some short excerpts below):

[… Research presented to a NZ transport conference has shown that the existing cycle crash record on the narrow Dominion Road bus lanes is twice that which would be expected, based on NZTA’s Economic Evaluation Manual – which the researchers consider to be likely due to them being the narrowest bus lanes in the study. ..]

[… In urban traffic, buses will often catch up with cyclists riding ahead of them – particularly if the cyclist is riding more casually, or has to negotiate an uphill section. To reduce delays in their often very tight schedules, bus drivers will often seek out any possible opportunity to overtake a cyclist. 

In a narrow lane, this leads to unsafe manoeuvres, where cyclists are squeezed against the kerb, or against cars in the adjacent general traffic lane. This particularly affects less confident cyclists who – intimidated by the presence of buses behind them – ride along the edge of the lane, even though it would be safer to claim the lane as long as necessary for their safety. …]

[… The knowledge that their very presence in a narrow bus lane frustrates bus drivers (and their passengers) when they cannot be overtaken is an additional psychological pressure for a cyclist on top of any safety fears. This leads to many people simply choosing not to ride bicycles – not only out of fear for their safety but also out fear of being seen as disruptive and uncaring.

This of course is an outcome that is totally undesirable for Auckland, and will also perpetuate stereotypes about cyclists – as only those few willing to boldly “stand their ground” will continue to cycle on the route, leading to false perceptions about the many Aucklanders who are interested in cycling more. …]

Our hope that this joint effort of the two affected groups, bus companies and cyclists, would make Auckland Transport’s Board reconsider has not come true – except for a short fully new section between SH20 and Mt Albert Road, the bus lanes will stay narrow.

Are there any silver linings to this depressing decision?

Sort of. The proposal retains funding (of approximately $1.5 million) for two alternative routes (map) for cyclists, which will run west and east of Dominion Road through the residential areas (on road mostly, with new traffic calming features, and new cycle-friendly traffic signals to cross Balmoral Road). Cycle Action will fight hard for these routes to be as good as they can be – though from Day 1 we had (and still have) concerns that they will not be suitable for faster commuter cyclists, or people visiting Dominion Road itself. They will still be a great benefit for local cyclists – it’s just that they don’t replace what has been lost in the design.

Another positive out of this process is that we have now forged much closer links with NZ Bus, including with their head office people, who are keen to work more with CAA on issues like driver behaviour and cyclist interaction. If we can’t find the space for cyclists on Dominon Road for another decade or two, we will have to work on sharing as best as we can.

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16 responses to “The Dominion Road Decision

  1. I want to explore Dominion road on my bike- great shops, cafes, heritage – horrible in a car- scary on a bike. Not fair to make me share the bus lane- not so bad for me but makes the buses so slow! it’s meant to be an express lane for buses! To give Aucklanders a faster option than their cars.

  2. A pity. I commend the show of goodwill in setting out alternative routes, but these are sleepy suburban roads well suited for local cycling already – and too circuitous for anyone to really take as an alternative to Dominion Road.

    I guess hopefully if we can get enough local cyclists on the alternative routes, they’ll eventually ask why they can’t have a safe logical route along Dominion Road, and do so loudly enough to be noticed…

  3. Crossing Mount Albert road on the alternative routes is also a challenging experience for newer cyclists.

    1. The design for the alternate routes will take that into account, and intend to provide better crossing facilities. These things are also the least we expect from AT to get right, now that there isn’t any cycling facility on Dom Road.

  4. Major disappointment is an understatement. They have persisted with taking the so called cycle route up Monkey Hill which is entirely unsuitable for cycling. This convoluted back street route is laden with pinch points and dooring opportunities. Cyclists have been are being treated in a way that no other road user would be treated by council.

  5. This is a very unfortunate outcome. It’s a pity the area was not designed as a proper grid which would have enabled an easy route. Lessons to be learned for future greenfield or even brownfield developments.

    1. We asked for a cut-through between Burnley Terrace and King Edward Street (the worst detour on the western alternative route) – AT were willing to look at buying and removing one of the houses, but the heritage people said no! Apparently – cynicism on/ – only motorway projects are allowed to demolish older houses (note that this wasn’t talking about removing a specifically protected house – just a house in a character neighbourhood).

  6. All these are very valid points. The alternative routes are a bit silly – talk about heading round the houses … all those junctions / turns are places where distracted drivers and cyclists just pull out without noticing each other… Do you think we should send comments direct to AT?

  7. Was it the AC heritage people or the locals that were against the idea? I would think the locals would like it as it would provide a nice pedestrian path as well?

    1. Heck, they could probably have bought the property, moved the house 5m, create a 10m alley and resell the place for a profit. Personally, I would love to see AC take on more of this kind of commercial operation in order to create greenbelts for cycling, walking and community gardens.

      1. Heritage, not locals apparently. They said to us that the sites were too tight to do that (move a house), the house would be too close to the next door house. And for what it is worth, the three sites considered (at the top end of King Edward Street) ARE very close together. As are all the other houses elsewhere on this street – and at other locations you’d need 2 houses in one go…

        1. Yeah, I had a chance to look at street view an figured that. Still, removing a house would have made a pleasant walk / cycle path for the locals. Considering some of the other decisions that heritage have been making it is strange to for them to oppose removing a house for a common area.

  8. Don’t count on any of that $50 million saved being used on cycle lanes, it appears it’s already being eyed up for extending electrification:

    “Although the cost of electrifying rail to Papakura was estimated at $115 million in 2008, and would normally be seen as the Government’s responsibility, committee chairman Mike Lee noted that he and Mrs Fletcher had persuaded the transport board last month to save $50 million by scaling down the upgrade of Dominion Rd.”

  9. Furthermore, NZBus are using the fact that cyclists slow them down when they are in the bus lanes as logic to let in taxis into the bus lanes as well. An idiotic plan that will slow buses and make the lanes even more unpleasant for cyclists. How much do you think one could get for a bike as scrap metal? seems like a better use in Auckland than actually riding on one.

  10. Are they still going to have a median strip on Dominion Road? Get rid of it and you would have enough room for dedicated cycle lanes and bus lanes. Removing the media strip would help reduce speeds due to the percpetion of a narrower lane, although it won’t actually be any narrower, except at right turn bays, which would be another traffic calming measure, and it would make it easier for traffic turning out of side roads to enter the main road flow.

    1. The Dom Road scheme is dead. Now everything will be re-looked at again, for Light Rail.

      But yes, they were keeping the median strip. Felt they needed it for right turning.

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