Lots of people want to cross here on Upper Queen!
Lots of people want to cross here on Upper Queen!

As Auckland builds more inner-city cycleways, it’s crucial to link them up and make getting on and off as easily as possible.

A decade ago, it was pretty well “accepted” that to get to a “safe cycleway” (if there was one on your route at all) you had to run a gauntlet of streets and turns and intersections that could be anywhere from really inconvenient to utterly hair-rising. The last bits were often the worst. Many still are (I am looking at YOU, Newton Road! And YOU, Parnell Rise!).

One key area of our emerging network is at the southern end of the City Centre, on Upper Queen St – especially the bridge over the motorways. With Grafton Gully Cycleway, Nelson Street Cycleway, and the Northwestern Cycleway all meeting there, it’s turning into a real hub of our cycleway system. And that’s not even including all the riders who continue straight along Upper Queen Street to K Road, or up Alex Evans to Symonds Street.

Taking a closer look at the Upper Queen St bridge, there has been an awesome reshuffle of the space in recent years. In 2014, it had 6 (!) traffic lanes AND a parking lane. Now, it has a layout far more appropriate for a gateway to the city*, with 4 general lanes, no parking, and two very wide footpaths, each with separate cycle paths.

* Alas, the plans in one concept design for a fascinating bridge gateway feature – arching over and enfolding the bridge like a cocoon of branches – never happened.

Red are the missing pedestrian / cycle crossings. Note: Aerial photo is out of date - shows situation before road diets and cycleways.
Red lines show the missing pedestrian / cycle crossings. (Note: This aerial photo is out of date – it shows the situation before the road diet and added cycleways.)

But one big thing is missing on Upper Queen for cyclists (and to a degree also for pedestrians) – a straightforward way to conveniently get across Upper Queen Street. As you can see at the right, the placement of the traffic crossings means that unless you are willing to drop back onto the road in busy, fast traffic, you are being put through a real run-around with multiple signals before you can get where you want to go.

(In fact, we know AT have had complaints by drivers in the area that some cyclists aren’t using their new cycleways on the bridge section, preferring to ride on-road so they get through the intersection in one easy move instead of enduring two long waits and a dog-leg. What can we say – we’re shocked, shocked.)

Initially, it was mainly the off-road NW Cycleway / Ian McKinnon Drive cyclists heading to and from Grafton Gully who got the short end of the stick. For these travelers, riding on the road remains a good bit faster, if you can stomach going through the intersection with vehicular traffic.

But now, there’s a wave of people wanting to cross over the other way, to Lightpath and to Nelson Street. And once the new Ian McKinnon Drive Cycleway is added, even more will arrive.

So what to do? Well, since before Grafton Gully opened, we have been asking for better west-east connections here. This obviously hasn’t happened yet; adding those missing crossings will cost car capacity, and removing two traffic lanes AND a free slip lane must have already been a pretty big step for AT.

However, we have been hearing some rumblings that further improvement here MIGHT be possible. Nothing definite, mind. But it sounds like the most realistic change could be that the northernmost west-east crossing gets relocated to the southern side of the intersection (i.e. the upper horizontal blue line could be moved to the upper red dashed line).

This means many, if not most cyclists travelling west-east through this intersection would only need to wait for a single signal crossing, not two. It also confirms the desire line from the Canada St shared path to Grafton Gully.

People looking to do a loop ride up Grafton Gully and onto the Pink Path, for example, could ride from the top of the Grafton Gully across the road in one single movement to get to the Canada St path. It would also make life easier for those looking to connect to Ian McKinnon Drive and onto to the NW cycleway.

Shifting the crossing doesn’t come totally without cost – car capacity would drop at least a wee bit more, for example. And for local pedestrians especially, keeping both crossings would be the best deal. After all, for a properly walkable city, all City Centre intersections should have crossings on all arms, something we know the Local Board is keen on.

So what do you feel? Would it be worth moving the crossing to the south (bridge) side of the intersection? Or would you insist on adding a crossing, even if this may be harder to achieve?

And when should it happen? As part of the Ian McKinnon project, or as part of the K Road / Upper Queen St lanes? (Both projects are going to be designed and consulted on this year, but our guess is that Ian McKinnon Drive is likely to be built much earlier.)

Looking forward to your thoughts…

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28 responses to “Time to get cross… on Upper Queen Street

  1. Without knowing stats of users for that northern most crossing, it appears that the desire line is now mostly the southern side of the intersection. It can always be added back in in the future if required.

  2. I started cycling to work only after the Lightpath was completed as my trip is off-road from St Heliers to Pitt Street – the only time I end up on-road is on Canada Street due to the noted lack of a cycle crossing to connect the Lightpath/Canada street with the Grafton Gully cycleway. I think there’s spare capacity at the northern Canada St / Upper Queen intersection to either put in a diagonal cycle only phase, or the cycle crossing shown in red on the photo. This would provide an option to connect all three cycleways.

  3. I get really frustrated with this crossing. Takes a very long time to change, lots of people using it, I want to go across diagonally (from NW cycleway over to Grafton gully cycleway) so technically need to wait for 2x sets of lights, feels very inefficient and traffic is sometimes so low that running that red light gets very tempting.

    Quite simply, there should be a shared pedestrian/cyclist barnes dance here!

    1. A Barnes Dance would be nice. Sadly, it’s currently not legal to share bikes and peds in a Barne’s Dance, as far as I know 🙁

      1. It may not be technically legal, but it doesn’t stop hundreds per week (if not day?) doing it at Symonds St / Grafton Bridge / K’Rd intersection from proving it’s perfectly safe if the riders take care to not hit the pedestrians… which then gives the advantage of time separation… I’ve never once been overtaken or harassed on Grafton bridge by a bus, taxi, or motorbike while headed east towards the hospital… because you are at least two thirds (if not all the way) across before they are even allowed to start following when you cross on the Barnes Dance…

  4. That would be a good change and any changes up there would be best done sooner rather than later.

    The big challenge in the mornings is getting to Grafton Gully. The phasing does not allow for a straight run – the crossing across Alex Evans goes before the crossing across Upper Queen and if you just miss the upper queen crossing it can take up to 5 minutes to get through that intersection by my watch.
    I try to be “well behaved” and use the crossings but I note that when I am up there I am in the minority with most crossing Ian McKinnon and joining traffic before turning right or joining traffic heading north and using their light phase to turn right.
    Btw, lots of excellent articles recently Max.

  5. Imagine if the traffic heading through spaghetti junction had to take the port exit to then turn around to head towards the NW motorway. That’s what these missing crossings feel like.

    I’m not sure exactly how but I’ll be coming and going between Lightpath and Alex Evans with some mixture of on-road and shared path use. Barnes dance would be the best but at least add the missing crossings, this is a central junction of Auckland’s cycling network!

  6. Definitely keen on moving that crossing to create direct link between gully cycleway and canada st shared path.

    not having a direct link between gully and lightpath is nuts – i often end up doing weird things like dodging traffic wrong way down canada in my impatience…..

    also once ian mckinnon lanes are open it’ll mean those going down the gully in the morning can do their crossing down queen st by canada st rather than at the major intersection.

    as for a bit of road dieting…..even with the reduction in lanes, this is still not that busy an intersection I don’t think. the cars’ll cope. And anyway, time for AT to just start saying to cars ‘nah, you’re not the priority anymore’ in ways both little (like this) and big (like banning them off lower queen st altogether).

    agree with Duncan too – lots of good reading and progress at the moment Max/Jolisa et al. thank you!

  7. A cycle lane on the west side of Ian McKinnon all the way to upper Queen would be very very helpful

  8. Guilty as charged – when I get to the top of Ian McKinnon, I currently hop on to the road at Upper Queen St so I can use the right-turn light phase, instead of waiting for two super-slow phases. I’ve tried to use the cycle crossings but it’s too frustrating.

    When the cycleway on the western side of Ian McKinnon is built (I come from Dominion Rd and I can’t wait not to have to cross to the shared path), we should definitely push for a crossing there (the southern red line) to facilitate popping up to Symonds St as well as getting to Grafton Gully. I have to agree with Ed that it’s not that busy and the cars can cope. Missing crossing legs on intersections are dreadful for walking amenity as well as annoying for us.

    Moving the northern red line would be an interim improvement for those moving between Grafton Gully and the pink path, but isn’t there also a desire line for people from the apartments on the corner of Canada St to cross over to the little shops on the other side of Upper Queen St?

  9. I work right beside there and there is no way that the amount of car traffic justifies the auto priority. These are not busy streets.

    My preference is
    1. Barnes dance at both intersections.
    2. Adding the missing pedestrian crossings.
    3. Yes it would be much better if the canada street crossing was on the south but I only grudgingly accept moving it as it would be a waste of public money. Plus I fail to see how this will retain speedier traffic flow as most of the traffic turns right out of Canada. Allowing easy left turn out of Canada while delaying right turn is pointless. Barnes dance is the only sensible solution.

    And yes it absolutely has to happen at the same time as Ian McKinnon and not wait for K Road. After all, since Ian McKinnon will be going on a road diet it provides an opportunity. And presumably pretty soon now, traffic through Canada is going to drop due to CRL work?

  10. We have managed to make a flashy pink cycle path and, with a rather embarrassing missing crossing on either end. And adding that missing crossing on the Hobson Street end wouldn’t even impact [car] traffic flow at all.

    A Barnes dance is probably the most sensible thing to do at Canada Street.

    Maybe it’s worth having a look at how we want to manage car traffic in that entire corner between Karangahape Road and Canada Street. Canada Street always looked way oversized to me, with that absurd high speed turn from Mercury lane.

  11. Why the bias against ‘slightly reducing’ car capacity? Cycling and pedestrian capacity is severely reduced.
    Do a full intersection pedestrian phase (barn dance?). Simple.
    While we’re dreaming, how about just close the whole bridge to motor traffic?

    1. Why the bias? Because that’s the way Auckland has prioritised everything for the last 40 years. Changing that momentum takes a lot of work…

      Re cars on the bridge – probably won’t get closed, but if light rail comes, two lanes (one each way) may be all that’s left 😉

        1. Selfishly speaking, the first place I want a Barnes Dance that allows bikes is at K Road / Symonds Street / Grafton Bridge 😉

          1. In the meantime, to keep it legal, dismount, walk/run your bike through the barnes dance, remount on the other side and ride on. I’ve done that (pre GG cycleway) when rushing to make a ferry in time.

  12. I would tend to agree In the city centre all intersections should have all pedestrian legs.

  13. Crossings should be added to both missing legs, with priority to the one missing from the northern intersection, as it is the one where is is most useful due to the direct connection to lightpath.

    Removing any pedestrian crossings in the central city, even if it means putting another slightly more useful one in, would be a backwards step.

  14. Auckland cycle infrastructure is very piecemeal at present. Lots of good sections of path appearing but badly connected. This is another example, one where a single crossing would make all the difference. I was rather shocked when lightpath opened and there was no direct crossing at the top of GGC/Canada St. I’ve found the best way is to join the road at the top of GGC then “turn right” into Canada St. Just be careful joining the path at the bottom of the hill – I nearly witnessed a cyclist vs cyclist crash when one was coming down the hill on the path but one on the road wasn’t looking when joining the shared path! Coming up Canada St forget the path and take the road. A green signal takes you straight across the road and onto the shared path.

    While I’m on the topic of GGC, does anyone else find the barriers at each end annoying?

    I fully support a new crossing at Canada St. Whilst I probably wouldn’t use it, I think keeping the existing one is important for two reasons (already mentioned by others): pedestrians and local residents may want it, and we shouldn’t be removing pedestrian infrastructure in the CBD.

    Good work Max, thanks for striving to further improve our infrastructure!

    1. Yes the gully barriers are very annoying, and create congestion (the horrible thing we are so averse to for roads) when just two people meet. Same at Rosebank or Patiki road too I think.
      Understand we don’t want people flying out onto the street at the bottom, but with a bit of intersection design, I think we can trust people with brakes to achieve this without narrow gap barriers. (see: every other intersection ever)

  15. The Waitemata Local Board is on to this issue and other issues associated with safe connections to Lightpath at Canada St.
    In December we passed the following resolution (Auckland Transport’s response given at our Board meeting on 9 Feb provided in [ ])

    vi) Requests that NZTA and Auckland Transport urgently undertake measures (interim if necessary) to provide safe connections from K’rd, Grafton Gully Cycleway and Ian McKinnon Drive to the entrance of Te ara i whiti/Lightpath at Canada St including:

    1.Installation of an advance cycle box on K’rd at the intersection of Pitt St and Mercury Lane for the right hand turn on to Mercury Lane [ In the short term we are proposing to trial a cycle barnes dance at this intersection which will enable people on bikes to cross the road and access Mercury Lane without conflict with other vehicular traffic. In the longer term this movement will be improved further in the KRd Streetscape Upgrade project.]

    2.. Traffic calming on Mercury Lane [We are including traffic calming on Mercury Lane in the reference design for the street once the CRL works are complete. We will investigate ways of better enabling this movement in the short term.]

    3. Treatment to provide for riders moving across the traffic lane to enter the right hand slip lane on Mercury lane to cross over Canada St to the entrance to the Canada St bridge [ In the longer term access to the Light Path from Mercury Lane will be addressed in the upgrade of Mercury Lane as part of the CRL works.]

    4. Traffic calming on the approach to the Canada St give way sign at the intersection with Mercury Lane [An improvement to this section of Mercury Lane will be included in the reference design for the street as part of the CRL works. We will investigate opportunities for temporary measures before the CRL works commence.]

    5. Installation of a cycle facility from Upper Queen St bridge to the K’rd intersection on the western side of Upper Queen St [ We plan to upgrade this section of Upper Queen Street as part of the KRd Streetscape Upgrade project]

    6. Wayfinding signage on K’rd [We have included the requirement for wayfinding signage as part of the KRd Streetscape Upgrade project. We will investigate opportunities for temporary signs in the meantime]

    7. Appropriate kerb ramps for riders wishing to enter the Canada St shared path from Mercury Lane [The New Zealand Transport Agency are investigating this request as part of the final safety audit.]

    8 Signalised crossing from Grafton Gully to the southern side of Canada Street across Upper Queen St.[ This movement is currently catered for as a two part crossing over Upper Queen Street and Canada Street. As part of the KRd Streetscape Upgrade project we will look for opportunities to improve the level of service for people walking and cycling.]

    vii) Requests NZTA and Auckland Transport to report back to the February 2016 meeting of the Waitemata Local Board on the actions taken

    More details here
    http://www.pippacoom.co.nz/news/creating-safe-connections-to-lightpath/

    1. Great news on point 1 “…trial a cycle barnes dance at this intersection…”
      A shame most of the rest are effectively ‘we’ll see what we can do…’
      Still hope though.

  16. Is there a possibility of an underpass for cycles to go from the lightpath to the GG cycleway underneath Upper Queen along the northern side of the motorway?

    1. I think an underpass would be the best solution.
      Even better if there was also a more direct connection from the lightpath to Newton Rd

  17. I ride the Grafton Gully up to Ian McKinnon Drive, and back, every day and have stopped following the cyclist crossing lights 90% of the time. I often thought that the engineer responsible had organised this intersection intentionally to annoy as many cyclists and pedestrians as possible. But then one day I was there in the car and realised that the light sequences are just as idiotic for drivers. The timing and sequence is hopeless, leaving long gaps with no cars, pedestrians or cyclists moving in ANY direction. This is why it is so tempting, and easy, for cyclists to ignore the lights. If all the cars are stopped, you have time to safely get across.

    Any argument from Auckland Transport that an extra crossing would slow traffic down could easily be countered by a suggestion that a few small improvements to the lights would more than compensate and make this crossing better for everyone.

  18. “But it sounds like the most realistic change could be that the northernmost west-east crossing gets relocated to the southern side of the intersection … So what do you feel? Would it be worth moving the crossing to the south (bridge) side of the intersection? Or would you insist on adding a crossing, even if this may be harder to achieve?”– From often being at this intersection in the evening peak, it seems the vast majority of the motor traffic coming out of Canada St is turning right on to Upper Queen, and very little is turning left. Which means the northernmost west-east crossing probably has very little effect on traffic capacity of the intersection, there is plenty of timing for left turning traffic coming out of Canada St during the right-turning phase. No doubt AT must have their own survey/modelling capability to confirm or disprove this.

    So I’d suggest AT is best to keep the old crossing, even if/when the new crossing is added. Reasons (a) better ped/cycle capacity and experience, (b) money saved by eliminating the part of the design / physical works that would be needed to remove the crossing, (c) all achieved with minimal impact on traffic capacity.

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