The death in 2017 of a person on a bike at a notoriously dangerous location on Te Atatū Road, near Cellarmans Street, should have prompted action by Auckland Transport.

It didn’t. Nearly three years on, pedestrians and cyclists are still having to use an unprotected median strip, between four lanes of fast, constant traffic when trying to cross Te Atatū Road.

Ever since the crash, Te Atatū resident and Bike Auckland and Bike Te Atatū member Carol Green has dedicated hours to working with AT, urging it to act. She has also contacted Minister of Transport and local MP Phil Twyford, City Councillor Shane Henderson and Local Board member Brooke Loader.

Carol has prepared a timeline to convey her utter disappointment and frustration about this experience:

Early December 2017: John Bonner is killed crossing Te Atatū Rd with his bicycle near Cellarmans Street.

John Bonner was a social worker at Auckland City Mission. He is dearly missed by his partner, Arna Hutton, and their three sons.

John Bonner

June 2018: Having heard nothing from AT about any safety changes or mitigation at this location, I asked to have a meeting with them about this.

After some attempt to brush me off, I met with project managers at AT’s headquarters. They seemed genuinely interested in my thoughts, but my distinct impression was that they hadn’t done a site visit. They didn’t realise there was a shared path in the park, and were surprised to learn that this was a logical desire line for people on bikes to cross Te Atatū Road.

The shared path in Harbourview Ōrangihina Park.

Below is a graphic contextualising where this shared path sits in relation to the crash location:

Graphic provided by Carol Green

As far as I recall the GIS was incorrect at this time – it showed on-road lanes instead of the Harbourview shared path. This might explain the confusion of AT staff. It also indicates they hadn’t done a site visit. At this time they told me that consultants had been engaged, and that surveyors would be starting work soon. I reiterated that we would be keen to be involved in any consultation or feedback.

October 2018: AT proposes a signalised crossing to replace the pedestrian refuge. Bike Te Atatū and Bike Auckland send feedback that this is not the right spot for it.

January 2019: AT finally meets with Bike Te Atatū and Bike Auckland, and they present an investigative report into the location of the proposed crossing. This was good – it indicated they had listened to our concerns about the crossing location.

Shortly after this, they added a speed readout sign on the northbound lanes, and painted a red threshold treatment on both approaches to Cellarmans Street.

The very narrow path, next to an inadequately highlighted cycle lane.

July 2019: AT proposes a new location for the crossing and invites feedback. Bike Te Atatū and Bike Auckland are largely supportive, suggesting only minor changes.

September 2019: AT says the project has been scheduled for the 19/20 financial year, and so would need to be completed by the end of July 2020.

March 2020: The nation enters Alert Level 4. Lockdown of course prompted me to query the project timeline.

AT said: “Due to some property issues at 484 Te Atatū Rd and the uncertainty around the COVID-19 shutdown, we will most likely start the construction on site from July 2020 at the earliest.”

May 2020: As part of Waka Kōtahi’s Innovating Streets for People fund, Bike Te Atatū sends ideas to make this stretch of road more people-friendly – narrowing the traffic lanes, widening the very narrow pavements and putting in hit posts to protect the southbound cycle lane. Narrowing the traffic lanes would also have made crossing here much easier and safer.

None of these ideas progressed.

August 2020: AT explained that “the design has been completed and the project is ready to be tendered for construction”, so I asked what that meant for construction dates.

September 2020: From AT: “It is still only at the start of the tender process for the construction contract, so the construction timeline is indicative and subject to the outcome of the tender process. It is likely to be built in the period between Feb 2021-May 2021.”

Assuming the latter date, this would mean 3 years between the fatality and any real safety improvement on this road.

Every day I cross here, and every day I see other people trying to cross safely. People trying to cross to or from the bus stop, “sheltering” in the central median in the very spot where John Bonner was killed. There’s plenty of school children crossing, and parents with small children stuck in the pedestrian refuge as they try to negotiate 4 lanes of busy traffic to or from the park.

Local people had been calling for a proper crossing in this location for several years prior to the fatality. They were told a crossing wasn’t warranted because there were not enough people trying to cross. That’s like saying a bridge is not necessary because no one is trying to swim across the alligator-infested river.

John Bonner’s death affected several advocates precisely because of this – they wonder if they had pushed harder, would the crash have happened?

The same is happening now – we’re dreading another crash with ghastly consequences. If only we could convey the sense of urgency we feel to AT.

Safety West Auckland
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6 responses to “Three Long Years: doing right by John Bonner

  1. Thanks for laying this timeline out. The delay is criminal and lethal, especially as lack of funding is no excuse. AT pushed other regressive projects – like the Matakana Link Rd – forward, committing to using funds on that when they could’ve used it on safety improvements.

    A change of guard was required in the restructure that happened a couple of weeks ago. But it didn’t happen. The deck chairs were simply shuffled again. The restructure simply placed more job insecurity on the poor old staff tasked with actually doing the work.

    What Carol is showing here is like in so many parts of Auckland: without an inherently good transport system, an engaged and feisty advocacy movement is not enough to provide us with a safe network. Working within the rules doesn’t work.

    1. +1 I cannot believe nothing has happened here. Other councils are mangaing to charge on with safety improvements!

      P.S. can you please change accident in the text to “crash” or “collision”. Accident implies that no one is at fault.

  2. Thanks Carol. I’m sitting here in a coffee shop in Singapore and I’ve just started crying. It’s so goddamned simple to fix, yet AT goes so far out of its way to not fix things. Please have a hug from afar (or a cuppa, or a wave, whatever you need) and let me know if you need me to get on the phone to anyone from here in Singapore and lose my shit for you. Quite happy to play the coldly angry person to deliver some impact.

  3. Action after 3 years is better than nothing. Take the win.

    I mean: wait until mid next year after it actually gets built, and then take the win.

    Note how people catching public transport will have to cross this road either in the morning or in the evening. You can cut the disdain for people who don’t drive a car with a knife. It is also notable that nobody will stop to let you cross, something that would happen in places where drivers are expected to have an ounce of common decency.

    This has a severe negative effect on anyone who cares about climate change. What are you going to tell people? They’re supposed to watch the bus drive by from the pedestrian jail if traffic is particularly thick? They’re supposed to cycle there? Good luck convincing people.

  4. Well said Carol, a vital message and you have been more than patient. If we can’t get timely action at this point, where John, completely unnecessarily lost his life, I can’t imagine the effort that people working like you have to put in to get action in the many other areas that need attention.
    This is shameful and I have to wonder how much money has been spent to get to this point. Everyone involved needs to take a hard look at their involvement and ask whether this is the standard that they set for themselves because it’s pathetic.
    John’s family and friends, the community who are still trying to live work and play in this traffic sewer deserve much better.

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