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.
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…
… naturally, some prefer to ride on the footpath…
…which indeed becomes a shared path as it turns left into Shakespeare Rd.
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…
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.