When we first saw the consultation for a roundabout upgrade at Blockhouse Bay Road (closing 11 DEC), we had a severe feeling of “Deja Vu”. Placing the zebra crossings on various approaches on raised tables for better pedestrian safety, but leaving everything else essentially untouched?

Blockhouse Bay roundabout upgrade - artist's impression
The current consultation for BLOCKHOUSE BAY ROAD – raising zebra crossings, but keeping the multi-lane roundabout unchanged. Missing the forest for the trees.

Didn’t this look very similar to another roundabout which is infamously unfriendly to people not in cars? Well yes – the proposals are pretty identical to what Auckland Transport proposed in September 2019 for Royal Oak Roundabout, and which we criticised for not going nearly far enough.

ROYAL OAK ROUNDABOUT – Same issues, same lack of responses going to the heart of the problem.

After being so disappointed with the Royal Oak proposals, we spent a good chunk of time advocating in late 2019 and early 2020 for the below proposal, or something similar – use of tactical urbanism to trial taking the roundabout down to a single lane on the circulatory. This would have made it much easier to walk and cycle here, and also freed up space for a small public plaza by limiting the Campbell Road approach. Bus lanes on the approaching arterial roads would ensure that public transport could keep flowing well (or possibly even better) during the trial.

Our Royal Oak proposal back from 2019 – Tactical Urbanism: an approach that remains totally against Auckland Transport’s DNA.

Despite our attempts to get this looked at seriously, our proposal (and our limited champions within AT) were ignored in favour of much more minor changes. AT came back with a proposal for trialling taking one single dual-lane approach down to a single lane, at only one road. We explicitly told AT this was not worth their time and the political pushback, as that wouldn’t move the dial with the roundabout itself staying multi-lane. In any case, it has now been a year and nearly a half since the consultation, and nothing has happened (we are told decisions are imminent, but are not hopeful).

So here we have, now, at Blockhouse Bay Road, an almost carbon-copy example of the same changes proposed. Essentially add raised tables / zebras, and call it a day.

Why? Because that doesn’t take away traffic lanes, and thus is sort of acceptable to the Status Quo defenders.

Do we think the changes AT are proposing are bad? Not at all – they would significantly improve pedestrian safety, including making it less likely that children are being hit by drivers, as has happened at the Blockhouse Bay roundabout before. So raised tables are great. But they still involve spending a good chunk of money, effort and political capital on improving one of the symptoms of car dominance, while leaving the core issue alone. This roundabout won’t be changed again for a decade or two afterwards. Well, that is is like putting out the fire on your roof while saying that dealing with the gaping holes in the roof can come at sometime later.

This is despite Vision Zero, despite the Climate Emergencies declared in Auckland and now New Zealand. This is despite tactical urbanism offering ways to trial such more substantial changes in a way that allows AT to take some of the heat out of the usual opposition.

Multi-lane roundabouts are some of the worst possible designs for people on bikes, for people on foot, for town centres, for Auckland. Until Auckland Transport acts to change that, all these tweaks are just doctoring around the edges. Positive, but also a bit like throwing crumbs at a hungry person and saying “sorry, we can’t spend more, but there’s long term plans which are much more ambitious, just you wait!”.

We appreciate this blog is not a message of positivity as we often try to convey – more one of concern, frustration and exhortation to do better. But we need you to keep telling AT this is not good enough.

Click HERE to submit and tell AT (before 11 DEC):

  1. The proposal doesn’t go far enough to make cycling and walking safe, because multi-lane roundabouts are inherently unsafe.
  2. AT should trial taking the roundabout down to a single circulatory lane with tactical urbanism approaches.
  3. The raised table zebras are supported, but should be across single lanes

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8 responses to “The Wheels of the Status Quo go round and round (on Auckland’s roundabouts)

  1. Stop hiding Bike Auckland. It is time for Stop de Kindermoord, and to make temporary improvements ourselves as a form of protest. Follow the Dutch. The clock is ticking to the next death and serious injury.

  2. Quite right, Bike Auckland. The changes we need aren’t happening, and won’t happen, until the blockage is cleared. What’s it going to take? A complete breakdown of the organisation? Defunding AT for not delivering what they need to deliver? A legal case or 7? Or just the removal of a key few people?

  3. This makes me so angry,when will we ever get change,l have often wondered about some tactical urbanism of my own ,,get 10 people to constantly cross/recross the pedestrian crossings at these roundabouts,until traffic gridlock ensues”,maybe then AT will take notice

  4. Bike Auckland, there are suggestions below to escalate your response. Please don’t do this.

    I know, I know — I’m just an internet stranger who has only attended a couple of events, and who’s opinion doesn’t mean much against the “real activists” who do the actual work — and if you want to take that opinion, I won’t blame you.

    But if you do any of the suggestions below, it won’t get you what you want. You’ll just annoy a great proportion of the population, destroy any political capital — making it harder for your agents inside AT to achieve change. This battle isn’t won in the streets, it’s won in hearts and minds.

    I know incrementalism sucks — we only have a limited time to act and I’m advocating for a slow approach. I want everything now too! But guerilla warfare will take longer — costing _more_ lives, more time and more carbon..

    1. My view is that Bike Auckland is following Alan Lee’s slow approach e.g. the Harbour Bridge has been in place since 1959 and there is still no pedestrian or cycleway – that’s about two and a half generations. That’s slow for me but perhaps fast for Alan Lee. There’s always another side to that story though – don’t forget that Bike Auckland is still going and Critical Mass has disappeared into the depths of the Wayback machine.

      I think that Bike Auckland’s strategies and business development over the last 5 – 10 years has given some resilience to the organisation – perhaps at the expense of some short term gains. However, my perception is that the loss of people like Ludo Campbell Reid and Kathryn King, together with the restructuring of parts of AT and AC has made it difficult for Bike Auckland to make much progress – arguably the ability to make progress is about teaming and influence as much as rattling cages. Certainly the benefits of the work done 5 – 15 years ago by Max, Barb, Steve and others can be seen clearly now (for example look at the bike paths around and across Waterview Tunnel) – and I’m sure Max and Barb (and others) are doing work now that will reap cycling nirvana in the future.

      If I could just persuade Bike Auckland that replacing traffic lanes with cycle and walking lanes is better than widening roads and motorways then I’d be a happy person, but there’s some heavyweight opposition (e.g. the car parking lobby and the AA to name a few) to that idea and it’s just easier to agree to widen and extend roads.

      Examples of the way to generate change (e.g. 1981 Tour, Northern Ireland “Troubles”) is to have a political and a military arm. The political arm (e.g. Bike Auckland) can be sweetness and light and show how its way is an incredibly reasonable middle ground. But having a military arm (think the 1981 tour demonstrations) meant that a later Tour (1984?) didn’t go ahead. I think a way to make some more rapid progress may be to have a military-type arm to show how reasonable Bike Auckland is.

      A better alternative is for Waka Kotahi and AT to re-instate their cycling/walking teams and prioritise those works rapidly, rather than road building. Something for people like Shane Ellison, George Wood, Alan Lee, and others to consider for more rapid progress. Better to get to cycling nirvana now than wait years for something to happen. Time to lean hard on your local MP.

      1. Haha fair play, that was a good parody! I’ve never been compared to George Wood before, I’ll need to reconsider my life choices…

        > If I could just persuade Bike Auckland that replacing traffic lanes with cycle and walking lanes is better than widening roads and motorways then I’d be a happy person, but there’s some heavyweight opposition (e.g. the car parking lobby and the AA to name a few) to that idea and it’s just easier to agree to widen and extend roads.

        I suspect many people in Bike Auckland (and me too of course) agree with you! It’s not that we think widening roads is the best option, it’s that replacing road space is much harder. It’s better to get some progress now, than die on Principle Hill and risk achieving nothing.

        You can of course agree/disagree with this approach, but it’s a deliberate choice. The disagreement isn’t over “Is widening roads a good diet”, it’s “Should we get a sub-optimal solution, faster”.

        Of course, if an admin wants to chime in (I’m not at all qualified to speak for Bike Auckland) — it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts!

        > Examples of the way to generate change (e.g. 1981 Tour, Northern Ireland “Troubles”) is to have a political and a military arm.
        Yeah, good call. I thought Critical Mass would become the Military Arm, but as you mentioned, they faded away. In any event, this suggests Bike Auckland definitely _shouldn’t_ do the militant actions suggested below (my original point). They should be a good political arm.

        > Time to lean hard on your local MP.

        Good idea, but kinda unfair — but this isn’t the action I said a political arm should avoid. Write all the letters you want/attend hearings/lobby for change in NZTA. I was quite clearly referring to illegal road works/blocking roads/deliberately causing gridlock/defunding AT (all of such was suggested below). I hardly think not wanting to illegally block roads makes someone George Wood…

  5. I don’t think any of us would mind this as a change, we should be putting every zebra in the country on a raised platform tomorrow. But it’s ridiculous that this is the proposal for a town centre safety upgrade. If you’re going in there and spending a couple of hundred thousand you should be fixing the problem, not applying a bigger band aid.

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