TL:DR – Auckland Transport proposes making it legal for people to cycle across Carrington Road on the Northwestern Cycleway. We suggest you support this by giving your feedback here.
The crossing where the Northwestern Cycleway meets Carrington Road at Unitec has long been an example of the complicated rules around bikes. Neither fish nor fowl, people on bikes fall into the grey area between ‘vehicles’ and ‘pedestrians’, with many problematic outcomes.
When the Northwestern Cycleway was connected through here in the early 2000s, perhaps planners thought the pre-existing pedestrian crossing would suffice, or perhaps they didn’t have any reasonable options in their then very limited legal toolkit. Either way, since then cyclists at this crossing have been in an uneasy situation.
Technically, the crossing isn’t for people on bikes – but riding directly out of Sutherland and across Carrington Road, although shorter, and perfectly legal, can be very unsafe at busy times. So it’s no wonder most riders take the logical route via the zebra crossing.
They slow down as they approach the crossing, but then expect traffic to give way (as it is obliged to for pedestrians) – and many don’t dismount to cross. Unfortunately, this riles some motorists, who slot the cyclists into a handy ‘scofflaw’ stereotype. Meanwhile, cyclists can’t see the logic of pedestrians having right of way at crossings, but not themselves. And they especially can’t fathom the point of dismounting, given it takes longer to cross, delaying both themselves and drivers longer than needed.
Until very recently, there were signs at the crossing saying ‘Cyclists Dismount’ – and, to complicate things further, we’ve been told by experts that before those signs went up, cyclists could indeed legally ride across if they chose to… but drivers weren’t obliged to give way to them if they did. Confusing and dangerous for everyone.
It seems that safety engineers in New Zealand consider it unsafe to bike across a zebra crossing (why? because bikes move faster than, say… small children running out?). But zebra-style bike crossings are typical in many other countries, and seem to work fine. Admittedly, these countries usually make things safer for people on bikes by placing the cycle crossings on raised platforms, or making the whole area a 30 km/h zone. Meanwhile, on Carrington Road, traffic volumes have dipped due to the Waterview Tunnel opening, adding more gaps in traffic – but also making drivers a lot faster at more times of the day.
Now Auckland Transport proposes making this crossing the second Auckland dual zebra crossing. (The second you say? Yep, Quay Street’s cycle path has given riders priority over Plumer Street since last year, permitted by changes in the relevant regulations.)
So what is proposed for Carrington Road?
People on bikes using the crossing, just like pedestrians, will have priority over vehicles (and cyclists) travelling on Carrington Road. This is predominantly a legal change, achieved with markings and signs, but includes associated features, detailed here by Auckland Transport:
- New signs (saying ‘give way to cyclists’) and markings (a green cross-stripe next to the zebra) will indicate the changed legal situation
- The northbound bus stop and shelter are moved further south, to give better visibility to riders approaching the crossing
- Speed cushions are being added on each side, to slow drivers down without making bus rides bumpy (buses can straddle the cushions)
- The central island is being modified to provide enough space for a short section of protected cycle lane approaching the crossing. This is so cars don’t swerve into the on-road cycle lanes to avoid the cushions.
- Two small ramps are being added to make it easier for riders who might arrive from those cycle lanes to cross at right angles. This is safer and clearer than suddenly swerving at the last moment.
Overall, we think the proposals are great, and it’s pretty awesome to see this finally happen on our second-busiest cycle route.
If you support the proposal, or if you would like to see it modified, please add your voice here by the end of the month!