After two deaths on Oteha Valley Road, time for real Vision Zero

Nov 08, 2018
After two deaths on Oteha Valley Road, time for real Vision Zero

Bike Auckland

After two tragic fatalities on Oteha Valley Road earlier this year, Auckland Transport is proposing to signalise the intersection of Oteha Valley Road and Harrowglen Drive in Northcross, including signal-controlled pedestrian crossings. [See design here]

Add your voice before Monday 12 November! Join Bike Auckland in urging AT to lift its game and deliver meaningful safety for people walking and biking on Oteha Valley Road. Click the button to give your feedback along the lines we suggest below.


  1. Please redesign this intersection in the light of the 2014 Corridor Management Plan for Oteha Valley Road and a comprehensive plan for walking and cycling safety along this corridor.
  2. Please remove the slip lane into Harrowglen Drive, as it serves no useful purpose and poses active dangers.
  3. Please do not widen the entrance to Harrowglen Drive – instead, please keep it to one exit lane and extend the kerb build-outs for better pedestrian safety.

Why we’re concerned

While we agree that signalising this intersection will improve safety for pedestrians at this location, we have serious concerns about the design of this intersection and how it fits into the wider context.

  • People on bikes aren’t in the picture at all! There is no acknowledgement of cyclists, nor any proposed cycling infrastructure in the design. Any treatment for the Harrowglen intersection needs to be integrated into a wider plan for cyclist improvements for OVR, and how they will link with the Northern Corridor path. Bike Auckland looks forward to engaging with AT on cycle infrastructure planning here, which we see as a high priority.
  • Why on earth keep the slip lane here? Just because a slip lane is there now doesn’t mean it needs to stay there – especially if you’re trying to make the intersection safer. Slip lanes are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists as they encourage higher motorist speeds, and a zebra on a raised table isn’t sufficient to mitigate the risk. Moreover, slip lanes make it more difficult to build best-practice bike lanes or shared paths in the future. We’d like to see this slip lane removed and replaced by a signalised left turn from the left-hand traffic lane.
  • Why widen the entry to Harrowglen? The design proposes widening the throat of Harrowglen to accommodate two turning lanes. This is not justified given the low traffic volumes (Harrowglen Drive only services a small number of no-exit streets) and the added risk the wider road poses to pedestrians. Better to keep a single exit lane and extend the kerb buildout, thus shortening the distance pedestrians need to cross.


The bigger picture

The whole of Oteha Valley Road is an extraordinarily hostile environment for both pedestrians and cyclists. The current proposal is a band-aid solution for a much wider and more systemic problem – and in the age of Vision Zero, which holds that no loss of life is acceptable on our roads, we now expect better.

Here’s the official reasoning on why this project is happening here, and why now:

A recent accident which resulted in the fatality of a person attempting to cross Oteha Valley Road has prompted investigations into pedestrian safety along this stretch of road. The proposed changes would significantly improve safety for the most vulnerable road users by providing formal, designated crossing points and introducing measures that would slow cars down and increase driver awareness. Intersection signalisation would also allow drivers to more easily turn right out of Harrowglen Drive, reducing risks of collisions with oncoming traffic.

We’d argue the fatality AT is referring to was not an ‘accident’. Rather, it’s the foreseeable and unnecessary outcome of conscious historical design decisions to provide a high-speed conduit for cars with minimal consideration for the safety, convenience, or comfort of pedestrians or cyclists.

This was made crystal clear in the 2013 Corridor Management Plan (CMP) for Oteha Valley Road, which recommended comprehensive upgrades to protect people walking and cycling but has been gathering dust ever since.

We invite AT to reread that CMP and our January 2014 submission in support, in which we stressed the need to deliver walking and cycling safety on this corridor within the short-term three year timeframe. Had AT acted on this, the deaths in 2018 of Christine Ovens (56), crossing the road to catch her bus, and Nathan Kraatskow (14), biking home from a friend’s house might have been avoided.

Auckland Transport needs to address the full picture of pedestrian and cyclist safety along the entire Oteha Valley Road corridor, so this fix becomes not a one-off reaction to a fatality, but the first step in a serious and strategic commitment to the safety and wellbeing of the local community.

If AT wants to avoid looking like it’s quickly ticking a box while failing to tackle a continuing danger, it needs to:

  • show it understands how Oteha Valley Road feels and functions for people on foot and on bikes
  • agree on a comprehensive plan to improve safety and ease for walking and cycling on Oteha Valley Road
  • and redesign this intersection in alignment with its plan.

We’d also remind AT that the Northern Corridor path and local links will soon lead to even more people walking and biking along Oteha Valley Road, so it’s absolutely critical to start addressing safety now.

The encouraging news is that in the awful wake of these two deaths, there is a powerful groundswell of support for a safer Oteha Valley Road. Over 2700 people have joined the call for safe cycleways and better crossings thanks to a petition started by Bike Albany.

Backed by local schools, the family of Christine Ovens, and with the support of the local MP and Local Board, this cry for safety comes from the community’s heart – and all eyes are firmly on AT’s response. It’s now Auckland Transport’s moment to show it truly understands what Vision Zero means.

Join us

Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better city. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

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