The case of the disappearing cycleway. [Credit: Doug Gaylard]
The case of the disappearing cycleway. [Credit: Doug Gaylard]
As Sherlock Holmes was given to observing: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” A recent encounter of the almost criminal kind on the Shore has moved us to modify that famous sentence.

“Once you eliminate the possible, whatever remains, no matter how depressing, must be the continued dominance of cars.”

Consider, if you will, the recent work of Auckland Transport’s road corridor design team (apparently no real relation to their walking and cycling team) on the northern end of Milford’s main shopping street, where Shakespeare Road meets Kitchener Road.

This is a complicated four-leg intersection with a nearby fifth leg. This urbane corner of our fair city otherwise features a medley of several churches, shops, and a community centre – which means a fair amount of foot traffic, as well as people on bikes. And as always, there could be more people on bikes, if only…

Well. Here is the existing state of affairs: a veritable Celtic-knot of slip lanes and traffic lanes and pedestrian islands.

GooglemapsKitchener

There is a great deal of parking space in behind the shops and the mall, and along Kitchener St there are stretches of 30min parking (and bus stops) which becomes a clearway for peak bus travel. But not a shred of bike-friendly infrastructure along the main street, though. A street obviously intended only for the braver velocipedist, dear Watson…

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… naturally, some prefer to ride on the footpath…

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…which indeed becomes a shared path as it turns left into Shakespeare Rd.

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Someone must have realised that this simply wasn’t good enough for a town centre. So AT set out to do an intersection upgrade. In February 2015, plans were consulted on (see this electro-link, dear reader). For cyclists, the changes that the Crown proposed were relatively limited: a westbound-only cycle lane, and a short section of car parking removed at a tight spot. More fortunate were her Majesty’s loyal pedestrians: all the slip lanes were to be removed, except on one corner.

In other words, for pedestrians and the town centre overall, this looked pretty good, while for the two-wheeled citizenry, it would have been but a modest step forward. Accordingly, one submitted that one saw a modicum of merit, and asked for eastbound cycle lanes to be added, among other requests.

By September 2015, a new version was in hand (see this electro-link).

But somewhere along the way, a dreadful set of crimes had begun to occur.

The first victims were the pedestrians, because – gasp – those slip lanes were back!

Raised tables had been added to slow vehicles a fraction, but the clean vision of the first plan had disappeared into a murky hodgepodge of turning traffic. What could explain this turn of events? Had some sinister sort muttered to AT, “Nice intersection you have there… shame if anything were to happen to it”?

Our disappointment was compounded by the continued lack of eastbound cycle lanes. Could the ominous implication of this recalcitrance be that people on bikes are supposed to “Go West” – and never come back? We stood our ground and stated our case in this second round of consultation. In these modern times, everything must be consulted upon; one would not wish to commit to something without a paper trail.

In February 2016, one year on from the first feint at a more civilised main street, came the final (?) revision (see yet another electro-link).

We were aghast. The outcome of all that consultation, all those hours exchanging views in the best of good faith, was… essentially the original situation, albeit with a few raised tables for pedestrians.

The parking is back.

And the cycle lanes are GONE.

How did this happen? Observe the crime in slow(ish)-motion…

From so-so to no-no - the case of the disappearing will to change the status quo. [Animated].
From so-so to no-no – the case of the disappearing will to change the status quo. [Click to animate].
It will come as no surprise that this case has all the fingerprints and tell-tale flourishes of Auckland’s greatest nemesis, that dastardly villain, that Napoleon of Crime…

…the one we know as….

The Status Quo.

We confess ourselves troubled deeply, but not unsurprised that this monster is still at large in our city. In the discourse around the Unitary Plan over the last week, it was noted by more than one observer that in our great city, one out of four of us is born in Dominions overseas, and many of us have travelled widely on the steamships and even aboard the newfangled flying machines. But do we learn the lessons of other places? It seems not.

And so we are condemned to commit the same crimes of timidness, and of “balancing” – which is to say, preferring the needs of horseless carriages over those of the actual populace. We are party to a crime of utterly missing the point of what a great city is all about. Alas, Lord Auckland, your fair city seems stuck in stasis, like a curious insect preserved in slowest-flowing amber.

Indeed, the most monumental mystery, Watson, the conundrum that perplexes us night and day and almost sends us lurching for the sweet oblivion of the opium den or at least a one-way ticket to Amsterdam – is the enormous gulf between the mind and the hand.

Auckland says in one instant, “We want more people on bikes, we want more people on foot, we want public streets that are rich and delightful and safe and good…” and then delivers a result that says: “… one day. Not yet, though. Not here, and certainly, not now.”

Probably the most telling clue is hiding in broad daylight in the inked letter that accompanied the final plan:

The revised proposal will not install cycle lanes as part of this project, and will not remove parking on the northern side of Kitchener.

Please keep in mind that this is an interim solution designed to improve safety for all road users until the long-term corridor management plans are finalised.

Once again we shake our heads, left as we are with more questions than answers. ‘Interim solution’? ‘All road users’? A most confounding cliffhanger indeed.

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10 responses to “The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Cycleway

    1. I totally agree Scott. There is no place for this motorway on ramp style merging lane in the urban environment. As I recall at this intersection you are then immediately confronted by a pedestrian refuge in the centre of the road. Killarney St. as the minor road should be governed by a simple “Give Way” The sole idea of the present must be to pass as many CARS through the intersection with minimal delay as possible and to hell with the safety of anybody else.

      This layout from memory goes way back to the Takapuna City days and bikes / peds counted even less in those days than today.. The safest idea would be to turn the end of Killarney to as close to a right angle entry as possible and return it to a straight four way intersection with a GIVE WAY rather than a zip merge!!?! grrr This would allow entering traffic a better view right down Hurstmere Road. This seemed to be the practice before all this zipping came in and made right of way clear .

    2. Agree, I’ve had cars with boat trailers pull out there and drive over the top of me. I’ve also had two motorists attempt to merge like a zip along side each other with me on a bicycle in the middle of them. I’d say they’re all idiots but the design is also at fault.

  1. Maybe AT need to get really radical and far reaching with their proposals and then when they get cut back and watered down they manage to get what they wanted anyway.

  2. Well Sherlock, maybe you are mistaken in what constitutes a Great City. See, we are doing the populace a favour. Look at all those poor people on foot. This travesty has to stop. When the city is fixed, no person will ever be forced to travel to the shops without his horseless carriage ever again. After all people have a Sacred, God given Right to Drive and Park their carriage wherever they see fit.

    (Ugh. Even when trying it is just not possible to exaggerate)

    Let me guess. The shops Really Need that Parking™ and we Really Need Smooth Traffic Flow™ on that intersection.

    Oh and there are two schools on Shakespeare Road, so parents really Need to be able to drop their kids off at school.

  3. That whole Milford to Takapuna corridor is a death-trap. It’s a wide flat stretch of road only made dangerous by the intrusion of parked cars. An absolute sitter for a well-utilised separated cycleway, but there are A LOT of very rich, very influential citizens living on that stretch of real estate. It would take a brave city-planner to push that one through.

  4. I live in the area and actually wrote the Bike Akl submission for the Milford town centre draft plan. It featured absolutely no mention of bicycles at all in the initial draft.

    I think a major change that needs to be highlighted is that Fenwick Ave was meant to be made into a left turn only exit. It is a major hazard to cyclists due to its proximity to the intersection. Right turning traffic need to look everywhere at once and miss people on bikes filtering through the heavy traffic. Parents exiting complained that they shouldn’t be inconvenienced for the safety of others and the right turn / keep clear hatch is back in.

    We also often walk through this intersection and it features frequent red light running and zebra crossing failures by motorists.

    This is very disappointing.

    1. Parents, presumably on the disastrous school run should know the area well. Frankly a left turn exiting Fenwick is the only way to go and to make a right turn would be lunacy except at about 3.00am!! Just before the intersection there is a right turn into a public car park and I would right turn into the park and proceed up to Dodson Ave. Care required but no hassle.

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