If there’s one thing that really annoys me about Auckland’s city centre it is how there are so many occasions when pedestrians get unnecessarily treated like rubbish. In the heart of New Zealand’s biggest city, with extremely high pedestrian flows and decreasing car numbers we still dedicate an enormous amount of space to cars. Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to do a series of posts highlighting situations where pedestrians are hated upon by whoever designed the road and footpath system once upon a time. The idea is to highlight situations where relatively small and cheap changes could be made to improve life for pedestrians and I’m more than happy for suggestions.

The first is just around the corner from where I work, at the corner of Victoria Street, Kitchener Street and Bowen Ave – and the complete lack of a pedestrian crossing for one pretty important leg of the intersection. A map of where I’m talking about is shown below: The red highlights where the pedestrian crossing is lacking. This is photographed below: Aside from being annoying, the lack of a crossing here is actually downright dangerous. It’s physically impossible to safely get over to the piece of land between Kitchener Street (which goes off to the left) and Bowen Ave (the street going up the hill straight ahead). Here’s what the intersection looks like from another angle: It would be cheap and simple to make this crossing safe for pedestrians. Just ahead at the corner of Kitchener and Victoria (which forms part of this larger intersection) all pedestrians cross at the same time so you just need to paint in pedestrian crossing, get rid of the left free turn (so all traffic gets stopped) and then pedestrians could cross this leg at the same time.

Why does it take so long for this kind of stuff to be fixed up? It’s probably been like this for decades – I wonder how many people have been injured by cars while crossing here?

Share this

49 comments

  1. Funny! I took photos of this intersection 2 years ago and sent it in to Auckland City. I told them that they had abandoned pedestrians completely.

    You know what they said? “We’re sorry but this intersection has recently been upgraded and so is not s priority at this time.”

    I don’t know what traffic engineers reviewed this intersection, but they should lose their job. Plain and simple.

    1. Upgraded only a few years ago and look at the surface in that last photo, looks like the utility companies have been having a field day there and left it looking pretty shabby.

      1. I think they meant “some douche-bag consultant traffic engineer looked at it and concluded that the intersection was properly optimised for traffic flow, so nothing needed to be done.” Meanwhile douche-bag consultant engineer walks away with $10k worth of public money, thank you very much. The public is paying traffic engineers and in return we get crap like this.

        1. The crazy thing is that you could provide a pedestrian crossing without having any impact on traffic flow – because of the Barnes Dance pedestrian phase.

  2. Also, why does the Victoria Street carpark needs its own entrance lane? That space would be very useful as extra footpath space or for a bus lane to help Sandringham and New North Road buses jump the queue.

    1. Again, a very good point. And the only answer is because traffic engineers in NZ have a fetish for vehicle capacity. No reason apart from that.

  3. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, but the Anzac Ave, Custom St/Beach Rd, Tangihua St intersections is awful. The biggest pedestrian generator there, Countdown, is essentially isolated from the student accomodation/bus stop side of lower Anzac Ave. Anyone who gets groceries who wants to get to the bus stop either offically has to wait then cross Tangihua, and then cross Custom St also adding about 100m on to their walk which is only about 250m long. Why can’t there be a crossing that goes between that block and the southbound side of Anzac Ave?

    Its not like its even an ‘old’ intersection, because how long has Tangihua St even been there for?

    1. Completely agree – that is a shocker of an intersection. I also emailed photos of that to Auckland City, with no response. The one that makes me laugh is the intersection of Symonds/Alfred/Grafton. There’s an all green ped phase, but no crossing has been marked on Symonds Street across the southern side of the intersection. So even in situations where a crossing would have absolutely zero, zilch, nada impact on vehicle capacity, it still gets dropped!

    2. Just what I have been thinking as I walk this way from work to Britomart daily now. I find that the ‘shared space’ mentality goes a long way in these situations – just step off the kerb looking purposeful while staring motorists straight in the face. They give way more often than you would expect – not that I recommend this for everyone in al situations for obvious reasons.

      I can’t help but think of the nonsensical press release fronted by Matt Rednall from Auckland Council, as featured on this blog the other week. I especially makes me chuckle that there is a poster at the bus stop 100 yards from this intersection towards Parnell warning pedestrians to look before stepping out…. the irony of all these situations created by negligent highway engineers seems lost on Auckland Council.

  4. Oh, and I just saw something funny on Google Maps, that alleyway thing that runs from Countdown past The Scene apartments to Britomart is apparently called ‘Te Ara Tahuhu Walkway’ – if its a fricking walkway, why is 80% of the space dominated by cars?!

  5. Groan. We have these in Brisbane too. Traffic lights with no pedestrian crossings. “stripeless” Pedestrian crossings, “fend for yourself” crossings…

  6. But the answer to your question is simple: Our traffic engineers and extremely poorly educated. They don’t know how to design good intersections. Here in Amsterdam the attention to detail (for all transport modes) is by and large outstanding. “Dropping” pedestrian crossings is almost never done, and if it does occur there is always an alternative way to cross the street very close by (i.e. within 50m).

    1. Stu, as a traffic engineer, I can tell you it’s not all about “poorly educated”. You will find that the real decisions are made much higher. Those traffic engineers who try do to better are rebuffed by politicians (at all levels) in the Steven Joyce mode. Of course many of them give up eventually, and just design what they are told.

      The real curse in my opinion is that politicians and consent comissioners like to dump their responsibility into the lap of the traffic models. Every larger development has to do traffic modelling when it is built. And since traffic models never really capture pedestrians, from the word go it is favoruing them. You may see that as another engineering fault – but it is really up to the commissioners and pols to say “Oh so what if the cars get delayed a bit by a smaller or more pedestrian favourable intersection?” The fact is, they never do, and chose the solution which has been traffic-modelled for cars.

      1. Ingolfson, as a transport engineer in Auckland I can tell you that the majority of small design issues are all caused by engineers.

        Sure, decisions about where roads will go and what the transport priorities will be are made by politicians and commissioners. Politicians and commissioners dump their responsibility on the traffic engineers, who then rely on their kooky little models.

        But the design issues highlighted by this post are almost always attributable to traffic engineers. Our profession is in a slow-burning crisis; don’t even get me started on minimum parking requirements …

        1. Thanks for that, because it’s a good example of POLICY, not engineering.

          What I was saying is that even the good engineers are not encouraged by our politicians. In fact, they are left dangling when they propose solutions that are minimally more complex or costly.

    1. I say put every free left turn in the CBD on trial with a guilty till proven essential bias, taking them out would do wonders to shift the balance back to humans and away from machine movement….

      1. I actually like free left turns for the flexibility they offer for everyone IF they also have raised pedestrian crossings with zebras over them (like the left turn at Remuera Road into Broadway). A simple, peaceful “give way to pedestrians if there’s any, otherwise go with care” situation.

        1. In some cases left turns can work well. In this case I would get rid of it so that all traffic is absolutely stopped for the Barnes Dance pedestrian phase.

  7. What is funny is that the traffic island has been designed with lowered pieces presumably for people on bikes to use.

  8. Who are the appropriate contacts at the Auckland Council to speak to about all of this?

    Having recently moved to Auckland after being based overseas for sometime I simply can’t get over how hostile the whole city is to pedestrians getting to work each day is a battle with metal boxes – there are so many quick and easy changes the council could make that would be big improvements that they should be encouraged to make as soon as possible – even using the RWC as a catalyst.

    1. Traffic safety issues etc… go to Auckland Transport

      http://www.aucklandtransport.govt.nz/Pages/do-it-online.aspx?aid=5

      Be prepared for this to take a while though, as they seem pretty overworked. Knowing them from the inside, I *KNOW* that even the folks sympathetic to your wishes and complaints are overworked, so please request changes civilly, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

      The other option you have is to complain to the politicians – specifically to the Transport Committe (if your local ward councillor is NOT on the transport committee – many of them are – then mail it to Mike Lee, the head of the committee

      http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/MayorElectedRepresentatives/Pages/Home.aspx

      Also contactable are the local boards, though AT does keep them at arm’s length, unless the local board is very persistent.

    2. Auckland Transport ARE doing some things for the benefit of pedestrians in advance of the RWC. Such as the shared spaces in Darby Street, Elliot Street and Fort Street, the improvements for walking and cycling along the red fence of the Ports of Auckland (near the Ferry Terminal), the new walking & cycling bridge to Wynyard Quarter, the new pedestrian links from Kingsland to Eden Park etc…

      There is stuff going on, but since none of these projects are “roads of National Significance”, the money pots are small (local road work is only partly paid for out of rates, the rest comes from national-level money, and thus is subject to the Ministry of Transport’s – currently very skewed – perspectives).

      And money for local roads – such things as footpaths! – is actually shrinking even more at the moment, because RONS are getting ANOTHER budget raise, while PT and others get reduced. You can’t make this up – National’s transport policises are big-time to blame for problems such as the ones discussed here. Not alone of course, but they are a big barrier to improvement.

  9. New to Auckland. Love the city, but absolutely overwhelmed by the congestion at rush hour traffic. Was surprised when I found out only around 22,000 people actually live within the city and the rest are commuters – accounting for some of this. Wild.

    1. Yes but the inner-city population has grown rapidly since 1996, when the council removed the rule that had prohibited new residential buildings in the CBD (don’t ask why this rule ever existed). Since then the CBD is one of the fastest growing parts of New Zealand. I also think the 22,000 was the 2006 census figure, it’s probably more like 30,000 now. And still going.

  10. I recall my disbelief when I moved to Auckland that the free turns didn’t have pedestrian crossings on them. Coming from Wellington it was an eye opener just how poorly pedestrians are treated here. Combined with the insanely long and convoluted traffic light cycles (do we really need cycles for every single possible turn at each intersection?) it can take ages to get around on foot. And everyone is a pedestrian at some point…

  11. The intersection of Federal and Wellesley Streets (crossing Wellesley) is the most dangerous place I know in the CBD for pedestrians. There are 4 lanes of through traffic plus many cars turning and absolutely no provision for pedestrians. Although I am very careful when I cross there, I’ve almost been hit by cars beginning to turn and then changing their minds and going straight on Wellesley. I am in no doubt that someone will be seriously injured there if the council doesn’t do something to improve the situation.

    Another place I’ve experienced problems is crossing Ayr Street at the roundabout with Bassett. Cars speed along Ayr and although there is an island it can be very difficult to get across in rush hour. Why isn’t there a zebra crossing at these roundabouts? There a parks surrounding the intersection but it is another hostile place for pedestrians to try to get to.

  12. Try crossing Cook Street from Sam Wrigley Drive up to the bottom of Union Street, to get to Placemakers – motorway offramp with no thought to pedestrians. It’s a numbers game.

  13. The wheels of public departments move slowly and at times seem to go backwards, just like in the movies. Just because complaints get rebuffed, it doesn’t mean they are being ignored. I study transport engineering and know some of the auckland council engineers, so I am somewhat aware of how things work (or don’t) in AT.

    Yes, Auckland is a hostile environment for pedestrians. There needs to be a law change to allow the type of 4-way stop crossing in the US. Somehow I don’t think NZTA will be doing that any time soon.

    Regarding Symonds/Grafton/K Rd, I think it’s a lack of budget this year for putting in crossings/pram ramps etc. It will probably be done eventually. People still cross anyway and it is relatively safe for them to do so.

    Regarding Kitchener/Bowen/Victoria, a crossing on the northern approach has been on the radar for some time and is being investigated but as far as I’m aware there are issues with crossing placement and crossing distance due to the parking entrance.

    1. There had been a plan for a while to upgrade Victoria Street and as part of that upgrade they were going to remove the lane that runs up there just for the parking building, this was canned in favour of the Shared Spaces. To be honest, it wa probably good as any upgrade would have merely been like shifting the deck chairs around on the titanic, I think there appears to be a bit of a seachange at Auckland Council with street upgrades being more and more aimed at pedestrians rather than just cars. It will take time for the council to go through and re-evaluate the roads, so many need to be massively reduced in size. To be honest, with local roading budgets being cut I wonder why the council doesn’t reduce it’s roading space and turn over a lane here and there to trees and grass, would green the city and at the same time cut down on maintenance costs by reducing the amount of tarseal in teh city.

      1. I would hope they hang off working on this till Queen St is sorted…. the need for turning lanes onto Queen will disappear meaning the whole road system can be rethought and rationalised for cars and humans..

  14. One of the most dangerous pedestrian crossings I’ve come across in Auckland (and, as everyone has pointed out, there are many) is the unmarked crossing at the Broadway end of Morrow Street in Newmarket. It’s a shocker with cars entering the street from Broadway in both directions. But given that it leads to the principal point of pedestrian access into the local Westfield it really doesn’t surprise me: apparently all Westfield customers are supposed to travel by car. For the worst traffic light cycles in Auckland you could try the New North Road/Blockhouse Bay Road/St Jude Street/ Crayford Street intersection: not only do pedestrians have to wait an age but it’s seriously dangerous with motorists going through red lights against the pedestrian cycle on a regular basis. Pedestrians have 12 seconds to cross and AT think that’s fine.

    1. Christopher, while I WILL agree with you that this crossing is UNPLEASANT (and not really up to scratch for a pedestrian-heavy area of Auckland), the fact is that I have (as part of my work) assessed NZTA crash records for this intersection over the last 5 years (I think I may also have looked at the 10 year past history, but can’t remember anymore).

      The result? This crossing is actually very, very safe. It surprised me too, but the only serious crashes were crossing Broadway, not Morrow Street. And since thousands of people cross Morrow daily, it’s not a matter of people just being discouraged to cross here and going somewhere else, or a lack of traffic reducing the sample size.

      It’s one of those weird cases where something looks much mroe dangerous than it is, probably exactly because it looks weird & a bit scary. Not necessarily the way we want to run our city, but an interesting case nonetheless.

    2. I think the issue is with drivers not giving way to pedestrians as they are legally obligated to. All crossings give ample time for pedestrians to cross. It is the red light runners and agressive left turners that make things dangerous. Drivers seem to think pedestrians only have the “green man” to cross and anyone still crossing in the “flashing red man” is ok to run down. To deal with this, many intersections now have these red left turn arrows to hold vehicles back. But this makes things worse with drivers thinking they have right of way if there isn’t any red turning arrows. On the flipside I’ve seen comments from other bloggers about all these red arrows everywhere and that engineers should not treat motorists like children and let them use their own “common sense”. Pity the poor traffic engineer. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.

      1. Thanks for understand 😉 That’s exactly the case. Everyone’s a traffic engineer, not only those of us who spent years studying. Sometime I feel like a (medical) doctor in these days of internet advice…

          1. It still does!

            Funny that in such a pedestrian heavy area that the larger group has to give way to the smaller group. Awesome! Especially as one group is changing direction and another isn’t.

            There should be a raised pedestrian crossing there IMHO.

  15. @ ingolfson

    Thanks for the response. I’m interested to hear that as a traffic engineer you think the Morrow Street ‘crossing’ while unpleasant is ‘safe’ and it’s good to hear that studies have been made. The problem lies in how you perceive safety. As a pedestrian I have to say I prefer crossing Piazza Venezia in Rome (which ‘looks’ really dangerous because Roman motorists are pretty volatile drivers) to crossing Morrow Street (a) because there is a clearly marked crossing on the former; and (b) because I can see what might potentially hit me as I cross and thus take necessary remedial action. I can’t do that at Morrow Street because, oddly enough, I can’t look both backwards at forwards simultaneously. While I take your point about the low level of crashes the very fact that the former council could justify failing to install a proper crossing in an area that you identify as ‘pedestrian heavy’ is symptomatic of a mindset that has implemented patterns of traffic management that actively discriminate against pedestrians.

    @ Ari

    The red arrow on the left turn New North Road to Blockhouse Bay is regularly ignored by motorists who, in many cases, nudge forward when the main New North Road to St Jude Street light turns green; a significant number think that they can cut across before the pedestrian crossing before any pedestrian reaches the left hand side of Blockhouse Bay Road because they’re in a car and a pedestrian is, well, just a pedestrian. AT recommends reporting transgressors to the police who will, of course, take every possible action to book them (Tui ad coming up).

    1. Hi Christopher – not sure why you feel you need to look two ways at the same time at Morrow. The crossing is in two stages. Do you mean because there is the odd person who goes into the wrong “throat” of the entry?

      Also, Council is aware that the crossing is in need of improvement, but with AT being totally overworked, and national government not offering any money for local road works beyond the bare minimum (check out the newest GPS), I can’t see this high on their list, owing to the lack of serious incidents, and low number of minor incidents that I recall when I looked at it 2 years ago.

      Totally agree with you on mindset. I mean just a decade back or so, Council was proposing to remove some of the last ‘barnes’ dances, and one of the Council’s traffic engineers actually had the cheek to say to people protesting that that the extra walking distance (up to three signals, instead of one) would do the lazy pedestrians good (got that chestnut from a Brian Rudman editorial).

      Auckland has 50 years of “cars first, cars only” – it’s in the city’s infrastructural and policy genes yet. But it’s changing slowly, no matter the resistance from dinosaurs in Wellington and elsewhere.

      1. @ingolfson – correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure it was proposed during Banks’ last term to ‘improve’ traffic flow on Queen Street by removing the Barnes Dance. I recall the council claiming it wouldn’t take pedestrians ‘much’ longer than before so what was all the fuss.

      2. Yes but wrong access is not the only reason you need to look front and back. Aside from access via the ‘wrong throat’, the other thing I recall is crossing from the south side of Morrow Street and being surprised by vehicles (as you’ll be aware, SUVs are popular in the precinct) entering through stalled traffic on the northward bound lane of Broadway; ie you aren’t exactly aware of them on the so-called second part of the crossing until they’re on top of you because you delude yourself into thinking you’re ‘protected’ by the stalled traffic.

  16. The unfortunate thing about all the red arrows is that in general the same terrible drivers that feel it’s fine to flatten pedestrians don’t seem to understand that you actually need to stop for them.

  17. A big gripe for me is how many streets have almost no pedestrian crossings along their lengths, such as College Hill (you have to dash through traffic to get to the bus stop on the other side), or Ponsonby Rd. One of the most insulting recent changes was the removal of the zebra crossing outside the Quad at Auckland uni on Princes street, it was replaced with traffic lights – apparently the tens of thousands of students crossing the street were holding up those poor car drivers driving up Princes Street from the motorway. In the same league is that the Grafton Gully overbridge was built without a footpath (I’ve seen students crossing it on a daily basis – having to walk huddled on the edge like the scum NZTA thinks they are). Or then there’s the fact that people wanting to get to the domain from Grafton Rd (a pretty common route) weren’t even given a pedestrian crossing to do it, instead the traffic designers gave car drivers a free left turn http://bit.ly/jXO3gK. The whole Grafton Gully project appears to have been developed with the intention of making it clear to pedestrians that they belong in cars not on their feet.

    1. I remember Rudman having a good go at them over the debarcle which is the gully years ago when they were building it.

    2. Wow RTC I could not agree more. Grafton Gully is the most pure expression of NZTA’s (and the various councils) utter hatred of pedestrians.

      You would think that having the city’s premier park next to its downtown would mean that a lot of effort went into enabling people to walk between the two – not in Auckland, we actually do everything we can to stop such things from happening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *