Posts about how badly Auckland treats pedestrians tend to generate a lot of really heated discussion – which is quite interesting and perhaps surprising at first glance. There’s seemingly quite a fundamental debate over how vehicles and pedestrians should interact with each other – how ‘legalistic’ the approach should be, whether cars should have a fundamental ‘right of way’ anywhere other than pedestrian crossings, whether we should structure our street design to encourage separation of uses or their mixing, and many other debates.

I think there are a number of reasons why this debate happens and why it gets so heated. From a pedestrian point of view, when we are treated badly through street design – particularly in the creation of very unsafe situations – we feel personally affronted because our lives are almost literally not being valued in the design of the street. Or we are forced to detour or wait forever to cross a road – taking far far longer than seems fair. On the other hand, I think as a driver many of the changes seemingly demanded by ‘pedestrian advocates’ seem quite scary: imagine if we were found at fault of running someone over if they darted out across a road randomly? The uncertainty of shared spaces is also extremely different to what we’re used to. To be slightly provocative, as drivers we’ve been molly-coddled by traffic engineers for so long in the design of streets that we’re used to being able to drive while only half paying attention. We also have a lot of money at stake when driving around (even with insurance you know you’ll end up paying for an accident through higher future premiums) plus of course our own lives and wellbeing.

Perhaps what this all means is that we’ve gone so far down the path of separating pedestrians from traffic, prioritising the through function of our streets and roads for vehicles and – bit by bit – making driving easier and easier that we’ve dumbed down our drivers, that it’s really hard to ‘turn the boat around’. Unless we’re extremely careful about how to push things back the other way: to mix things up a bit, give pedestrians the right of way over traffic or other seemingly ‘extreme’ changes, the problem is that we’ve made driving so easy chances there may well be safety issues.

However, this is a wholly unsatisfactory situation. Despite decades of focusing on achieving road safety through increased ‘separation’ of uses, we still see hundreds of people a year dying on our roads. We see huge chunks of our city dedicated to just shifting traffic around – land that makes up the vast bulk of ‘public’ space in our urban areas. Often the prioritisation of traffic degrades the land values around it and also makes life extremely unpleasant for anyone not in a car – even though we’re supposedly trying to encourage people onto modes other than driving. Despite the consequences of a pedestrian/car accident being far more severe for the pedestrian, we continue to give them no legal protections other than the extremely occasional pedestrian crossing (and half the time at traffic lights we make the pedestrian wait forever for a green man, then only give them about two and a half seconds of green man before flashing red at them forcing a mad scurry across the road to avoid the horror of horrors – a car having to wait a few more seconds).

I suppose the point of this post is to both highlight why I think issues of pedestrian safety generate so much angst, but also to ask some questions about what we should do about this. I have a few suggestions:

  • We need to stop treating drivers like idiots and start designing roads which force them to think more when they’re driving. This means narrower lanes, narrower streets generally and fewer signs everywhere.
  • Slower speed limits on non-arterial local roads. A 40 kph blanket limit would slowly get drivers used to travelling at slower speeds, which might get away from the “50 but actually 60” speed limit that seems to exist at the moment.
  • More pedestrian crossings. Lots more.
  • Giving pedestrians some legal protection. It’s mad that you’re legally at fault if you drive into the back of the car in front of you but not if you squash someone trying to cross the road.
  • Auditing every signalised intersection and ensuring there are pedestrian crossing legs on every single side.

I’m sure there are a few more…

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  1. We could take the approach of the US and make pedestrian right of way the default at intersections unless otherwise marked, rather than require markings…

    “At both signalized and unsignalized intersections, there is an implied (legal) crosswalk for pedestrians at each leg, whether or not the crosswalk is marked. The only time this is not true is when there is a sign clearly prohibiting pedestrians from crossing one or more of the legs. Midblock crossings that are marked may have other physical features and/or signs.” –

  2. Interesting post. I assume you’re not limiting your comments to the CBD, however as it happens I visited the CBD yesterday (Saturday) as my wife needed to urgently pick up a book at Whitcoulls. Now others on this blog have suggested that there are too many carparks in Auckland; well I can tell you there are very few 15min kerbside parks, in fact none that I could find. There were a few loading zones, all occupied by private cars! And bus stops. 100s of metres of empty bus stops.

    So I circled the Victoria St/Wellesley St block slowly 3 or 4 times, and for once was happy to be held up as long as possible! What intrigued me was that, contrary to your post, pedestrians were advantaged far more than car drivers. I’m pretty sure that there were sometimes two pedestrian phases for one vehicle phase, but I might have imagined that.

    Finally, not only were there few or no short-term parks, there were no drop-off zones either. My wife had to hop out at the lights, and I picked her up at the bus stop outside the National Bank. No surprises that we visit the CBD as infrequently as possible.

    1. The double pedestrian phasing on Queen was part of the last upgrade. And fair enough I think given that there’s about four times as many pedestrians as cars waiting at the lights!

      Note that this is the only part of the City Centre where double-pedestrian phasing has been implemented. And even then I heard that the Council traffic engineers apparently fought the initiative tooth and nail. With respect to the shortage of kerbside parking; Auckland Transport has recently consulted on some major changes to the management of on-street parking, which would basically allow them to set prices as low as possible while ensuring that some spaces were almost always available. Stated differently, set the price so that demand <= supply. In terms of your comment on visiting the city centre as infrequently as possible, each to their own but that seems like a bit of a "dig" to be honest. Or at least a feeling that is not backed up by pedestrian count data, which has (from what I know) shown significant increased in pedestrian volumes on streets over the last 5-10 years. My suggestion would be next time: Don't drive; catch the bus/train and you will find the experience much more pleasant.

      1. Oh absolutely the double pedestrian phasing was, and continues to be in some quarters, fought against tooth and nail.

        1. I find it amazing that it was even ever questioned. The double-phasing of pedestrian lights is the single best thing to happen to Queen Street in, oh, about 50 years. Best “bang for our buck” from the last upgrade IMO (although the “perches” are cool too).

        2. Yeah most of the pedestrian benefits from the Queen Street upgrade actually came from something which didn’t cost a cent. Ironic.

        3. Don’t rely on the double-phasing of pedestrian lights in Queen St. I have noticed that the lights can ‘cheat’ and not give an expected pedestrian crossing. I have noticed this at Wellesley St/Queen St a few times.This is most likely to happen when there is low vehicle traffic.

      2. Not a “dig” Stu, just an observation based on how difficult and inconvenient the CBD is to access. No-one has disputed my comment re shortage of short-term parking (it doesn’t have to be free, in fact I’d prefer to pay if it provided some certainty). Another aspect of using PT for a brief visit is the time value of money – not so much an issue on the weekend, but during the week it just isn’t cost-effective. Sure, it’s appropriate for regular commuting but not for random visits.

        There’s another aspect that affects me and some others which is personal mobility. Without going into detail, PT that involves walking any distance is simply not an option, unfortunately. Sure, this affects just a small percentage of the population, including some elderly, but it’s very real for those people who are totally ignored by the planners, eg mobility parks in the CBD – where are they? (I did see one in Kitchener St opposite the Art Gallery).

        1. Couple of comments:
          – I disagree with the suggestion that there is a shortage of short-term parking in Auckland. Melbourne, which is a city 3 times that of Auckland, has approximately the same number of car-parks. Stated differently, Auckland has three times the number of car-parks downtown per capita as Melbourne. My suggestion is that it’s a management issue, rather than a supply issue, and one that Auckland Transport is working hard to fix it. One of the proposed fixes is that prices will be used more readily to manage demand, which will in turn mean that there are more spaces available when you need it. This should get around the need for more mobility spaces.
          – Without wanting to be rude (but rather just cheeky ;)) I’d suggest that anyone who chaffeur drives someone else to the city centre to pick up a book has far too much time on their hands. Thus, I struggle to believe that you did not use public transport because you have a high value of time. But I do agree that the current PT system is very complex (stand-by for changes here!) and therefore a barrier to spontaneous use.

          But back to the topic at hand: What are you suggesting with regards to pedestrian/driver relationships off the back of your visit? That got lost somewhere … 🙂

        2. OK back on topic: I have no problem with pedestrian crossings having the advantage in the CBD (that surprised you didn’t it?). On the rare occasions that I drive to the city I expect to be inconvenienced, and am rarely disappointed.

          On the parking issue, I think we’re discussing two different things: long-term parking such as the Civic or Vic St carparks, vs short-term kerbside parking. Of the former there may well be sufficient, but as far as I can tell the latter is continually being encroached upon by widened footpaths, scruffy trees etc (same in Newmarket). There’s no commensurate benefit to pedestrians, so why do it? I have no problem with pricing being used to manage demand, provided it doesn’t become an excuse to reduce availability and/or increase revenue. BTW I recall the Vic St carpark sign indicating 22 spaces available, so yes I could have parked there, but 22 ain’t a lot. It also stated “Weekend charges apply” whatever that means (higher? or lower?).

          As for timing, I concede your point there, but a child’s birthday was involved so other factors came into play. And if SWMBO wishes to be driven into town, who am I to argue? 🙂

        3. Jonno1 you’re full of pleasant surprises – hope to meet you at our upcoming film night.

          On the short-term parking issue all I can really say is “we’re working on it.” But yes, I do agree that perhaps in the past on-street parking was removed without much commensurate benefit to pedestrians. In Newmarket, however, I don’t think that’s the case? The footpaths are horribly narrow even now in the wake of the recent upgrade, and the magnolia trees that were planted seem to be flowering nicely around this time of year. So not too sure what your beef is there … :). (I drove through there today so am guilty as sin).

          Fully appreciate the timing issue with public transport; personally I think it’s great you can still pop into the city centre to pick up a book. But yes we do have to improve the way we manage short-term parking so that people are not put off.

        4. Probably won’t make it to the film night, but yes, I was a bit hard on Newmarket, which is actually my “local”. The big problem in Newmarket is all the street furniture interfering with the pedestrian flow. But the new(ish) paving is a vast improvement over the old stuff it replaced.

      3. As someone who visited the central city today (using public transport) the experience reinforced why I never go into town unless I have a specific reason (work or an event). It was a depressing experience walking up Queen Street which seemed to be populated solely by tourists and people begging for change. The city has many wonderful amenities but few that (for me) require a frequent visit (possibly because I am just an old suburban housewife with kids and not a Grey Lynn dwelling hipster).

        However, to get more on topic with the post, I would love to see pedestrians treated with more respect on the road. Both of my kids walk to school so I have a vested interest in this topic. One of my kids has to cross a road with a lights controlled pedestrian crossing. I lost count of the number of cars that have gone through the red light and just about taken out someone crossing (including me). I have taken number plates when I could and made reports to the police but what I took most care with was educating my kids to make sure the cars had stopped before they step out, even if the green man was on. It is sad that it is necessary but I quite like my kids and want them to come home safely

        1. We can change the urban environment, but we can’t change the people – unless we find a way to wind back 30 years of neo-liberal socio-economic policies. Believe me I’d like to, but the reality is that NZ is a much more impoverished and inequal country now than it was 30 years ago and the result of that is poorer social services and more people begging for money. On a more cheery note, you should try visiting to the city during the week – it’s more of a balanced crowd methinks.

          I do have to challenge the suggestion that there were a lot of tourists: Are you basing that on observations of ethnicity? Because that’s a relatively poor indicator of whether people are tourists … :). In my experience there’s a very international mix downtown, but many of the people you see are international students if not permanent residents or even NZ citizens – they are just not of Pakeha ethnicity.

          But yes, I sympathize with your attitude to managing how your children act out on the street, it’s a dangerous world. As stated above, the number of vehicles in Auckland that run red lights is shocking and something that the NZ Police should be working harder to counter, IMO. Cameras at every intersection would be a good start …

        2. Umm – actually, no I was not basing my assumption on ethnicity at all (and as back in the day I used to work in Wakefield St, I am well aware of the student population in Auckland). I wasn’t always a middle aged housewife and I find it interesting that you have made some assumptions about me me based on that (presumably). Anyway, to me someone taking photos walking around town wearing a backpack looks like touristy to me and it was on this that I based my impression – of course that could also be totally incorrect.

        3. Hi SPT – I want my kids to come home safely as well; but I think the reasons why we feel we cannot let them out in the city are pretty complex. A great take on this is:

          Now – ignore the weblink title, because I think its not really a problem of paranoid parents (only). I’m certainly not preaching at you as a parent… I get the issue & concern. The wider generator is that adults don’t really respect the place of kids in our NZ society, and in cities especially, compared to other international societies – according to the article.

          There is no overnight fix for this, although improving pavement qualities would be a worthwhile start. It’s a huge attitude issue that will take years to change; at least the physical changes signal what is acceptable and what is not in terms of how driving adults engage with more vulnerable users.

        4. I do try not to be overly paranoid. Both of my children (8 & 12) walk to school by themselves, including crossing quite busy (traffic light monitored and regularly red-light run) roads. As a parent, it is my responsibility to ensure that they are educated on risks and how to manage them. That took a lot of modeling and talking about things they need to watch out for – not something every parent has the luxury to do. Personally, I think walking to school brings more than the obvious fitness benefits and it is well worth the investment in time. Both of them enjoy it [except when it is really pelting down – then I have been known to relent to pathetic pleading and drop them off] 🙂

    2. Jonno, parking in the Victoria St carpark is $2.50 per hour, and it is never full on a Saturday. Rather than circling the block three or four times, why not shell out a whole dollar to park right on the back door of Whitcoulls? Hell, make it two dollars and give yourself time to have a poke around in a few other shops or grab a bite to eat.

      But I do agree on the 15 min parking thing, personally I think every roadside parking space in the city should be either a short stay park, a mobility spot or a loading zone. People who want to do more than pop in to grab something quickly can park in a building. The rates are actually cheaper than pay and display on street, so it seems like some cultural thing actually (this idea that one should circle round and round looking for a street park but never go near a building).

      Auckland CBD has approximately 50,000 car parks (yes, the same as Melbourne despite being a third the size). That is miles more than enough, we just need to use them efficiently.

      1. You’re absolutely right Nick, I should have just popped into the carpark on the first circuit. You make a good point about culture (or habit perhaps). Must. Try. Harder. OTOH, I do rather enjoy cruising round in my car, and a 1km circuit x4 also cost only $1 in petrol. 🙂

        1. Except you mention you stopped in a bus stop. That is illegal and therefore you could have faced a $60 fine.

        2. Correct Louis. And that’s precisely my point: no drop-off/pick-up zones.

          Back on topic: of course, cyclists never run red lights either (yeah, right). As a pedestrian I’ve had far more near-misses with cyclists than I have had as a motorist, in fact none of the latter as I’m happy to give way even when not required. Example: when crossing on foot with the lights, and a cyclist has whizzed past the left side of a stationary car within centimetres of me – quite scary. This is quite common at T-intersections. An argument for some sort of cyclist registration perhaps (not necessarily paid registration, just an identification number). OTOH, those guys that can stay virtually stationary without putting a foot down – very impressive.

      2. Nick R, most of the car-parking buildings round up to the nearest time period. i.e. the with the council weekend fees 10mins or 55mins would cost $2.50, while 1hr 5 mins would cost $5.

        Atm there is often a financial incentive to park on the street (especially after 6pm!). Street parking is should be a premium service compared to building parking and should be priced as such

  3. Spot on with this post, reducing speed limits would be a great start. One further aspect I really don’t like is the amount of traffic lights we use. The way people accelerate to get through them is very dangerous.

    I guess you can argue about who is the right and who is the wrong blah blah, but the thing is, if one small moment of absent mindedness whilst walking could result in serious injury or death then it is a pretty crappy place to be! If it is not a nice place to be then it is not a good place to windowshop, spend money, and interact with other people.

    Seriously, Symonds Street needs to be sorted out.

  4. I’ve also wondering about different visualizations to highlight how our traffic engineering dominated approach has cut cities into little pieces. Imagine visualizing these streets as rivers say – since there are times of the day they might as well be. Here is an example of that approach applied to a political situation:

    In Palmerston North (where I live), there are long stretches of wide roads (15-20m between kerbs) with significant traffic counts (>8000 vpd) with no pedestrian crossings (signalized or zebra) for kilometers. In fact a 2002 transport study codified this islandization of suburbs: page 33 of describes how streets like Featherston (no crossings from Botanical to Central Normal School 1.4km, and PNBHS to Ruahine St 1.6km) should have ‘uninterrupted flow’ supporting 50-60 km/h traffic. This is in a fairly compact, grid based, flat city which should be ideal for walking.

    tldr: Our suburbs have come islands in the sea of traffic. Why not draw them that way?

    1. The phrase “uninterrupted flow” is engineering code for “we have identified the final solution.”

  5. How about ending the reshaping of footpaths into pseudo roads when developments take place? Stanley St tennis centre is a good example of this- the entrance to their carpark has taken a foothpath and turned it into a road.

    1. Oh boy is this a pet hate of mine. Take the vehicle crossing up to the footpath, not vice versa. Cars have suspension, pedestrians less so.

      Interestingly enough I was talking to a senior who used a mobility scooter to get around: He said the scooped vehicle crossings across the footpaths were a nightmare for scooters; made the whole experience extremely unpleasant for him. More like being on a roller coaster at that age methinks.

    2. Is it likely that the design guidelines for vehicular crossings are actually requiring this sort of nonsense?

        1. Driveway guidelines across Auckland are a widely differing bunch, and I noticed that some places like High Street have totally deviated from them in the past (in that example, quite positively so, by reducing the sloped section to the minimum). As an engineer, over the last years I have seen an increasing tendency by Council to insist on keeping as much of the footpath level and continous as possible. In my experience, it is the architects (!) who keep designing driveways on their plans as if they were side roads.

        2. Hi Mike

          That standard, contrary to the District Plan-based Council standards, is non-mandatory. While it offers some very important key guidelines, if a Council officer insists on their standard, their standard it is, even though some of them are quite out of date! Hopefully, the new designs for the supercity will be much more progressive in emphasising pedestrian priority.

  6. My favourites (tongue in cheek) are those crossings where the green walk for pedestrians is given & green light for traffic turning ….. & they wonder why we dart across the road when it looks safer ???

    1. Yes they are fun those ones – I’ve many some left-turning drivers toot at pedestrians when you are crossing at these types of signals, because they assume that they have right of way over you – even with a green man of flashing red man.

      1. Absolutely, there’s a one-way road I cross nearly every day and I – and I’ve noticed many others too – have stopped crossing on the green light because it is actually more dangerous with red light runners and left-turning drivers assuming right of way. I now always dart across during the red pedestrian light when the car phase change takes place and have since never gotten into a dangerous situation again – even when there are red light runners…

  7. The reduction of speed limits would help but it is totally ineffective if not enforced.
    I walk daily up and down Queen St where the speed limit is 30kph on both Queen St and all of the cross roads. As a possible result of ‘pedestrian friendly’ light phasing I regularly see vehicles speeding in an attempt to get through the lights before they change. Especially bad is Victoria St where vehicles sweep down the hill, from both east & west, often at well over 50kph at times leaving the intersection after the cross now is on.

    As far as I can recall I have not seen any form of active enforcement on Queen St in the 20 or so years I have been walking this route.

    I also drive through the same intersection during the day and know how frustrating the combination of lights at Kitchener St / Lorne St / Queen St are. These are presumably biased to the pedestrian but in the process are totally infuriating to the motorist resulting in a level of risk taking. I do not have a solution to the situation at these intersections but think they are in need of detailed investigation.

    1. Fully support increased enforcement of traffic signals in the city centre, red light running is now at plague proportions (cameras at every intersection I say).

      As for the intersections you mention, I suspect (based on my experience of walking through there) that they are not biased towards pedestrians. They are however part of a complex network of closely-spaced signals which means they have to be coordinated with those around them. While this will lead to extra delays, it is certainly not to the benefit of pedestrians.

    2. I can never understand why it’s not standard practice to have red light cameras at each intersection. Is it cost prohibitive?

      1. Given how many drivers in Auckland readily run red lights I would have though it would be revenue positive? I can see John Roughan over at the Herald writing the headline now … “Council fining drivers to pay for City Rail Link.”

      2. Yeah I would have thought it’s revenue positive too. In which case I really can’t understand why red light cameras aren’t standard practice. Even the AA supports them!

        PS – and bonus if they can pay for the CRL!

      3. It’s a mystery to me – actually this is such an easy win why isn’t Len Brown onto it? Red light cameras that prevent cars from killing people would be easy step towards making Auckland the world’s most liveable city.

        1. I think red-light camera’s are the police’s territory, legally? Would explain an extra layer of approvals and permissions and bureacucracy why this hasn’t been proceeding beyond “trial” stage for years now in Auckland.

        2. I think the issue is that council would have to pay for the cameras but wouldnt receive the income from the fines as that woud go to the policem hence couldn’t use it to buy further cameras.

        3. With the demise of the various council traffic departments, councils lost all power to enforce moving-vehicle infringements. In the same way that a police officer cannot issue a ticket to an parked car that is breaking parking regulations (or, for that matter, is not displaying current WoF and registration), council enforcement officers cannot give tickets for illegal things done by moving cars. To change it so that councils could enforce red lights would require a legislation change at the national level; not happening with the current government or, I suspect, any future government given the possibility of issues such as a person getting ticketed twice for the same infringement.

    3. I walk up and down q street everyday and I can guarantee that the law is severely enforced: twice I’ve seen police give tickets to cyclists crossing traffic lights during the pedestrian phase…

  8. I love all these personal reflections of how bad it is out there. We should crowd source some problem areas in detail and propose some solutions. Hey, that sounds like something that should happen before we redesign the streets!

    1. Yeah would be good to pick a selection of intersections and then discuss possible solutions to them. Something I might do for a couple of my promised Guest Posts.

  9. What I hate is when you miss by a second or two pushing the button to cross as a pedestrian, then need to wait 3 minutes while the direction you want to cross has a green light. That’s normally when I just run across.

    1. There are a lot of crossings in more suburban areas where the ‘walk’ signal clearly waits until a gap in the traffic when you would be able to cross without the assistance of the crossing anyway. Seriously, what’s the point in that? In the UK, when you press the button on a crossing, you’ll get the go-ahead with 10 or 20 seconds. Here, more often than not, I see a useable gap in the traffic before the crossing does! The only upside is that I get to cross the road and then quietly enjoy the frustration of the drivers who have to stop with noone crossing… I know it’s wrong of me to feel that way, but heck… they’re the ones racing the reds…

  10. One crossing that red light running can virtually be assured at every red light is outside the ferry building in Quay St. This intersection is seldom policed however there was a police operation involving a camera in a parked vehicle a few years ago.

    On the other hand I wonder how intersections are chosen for red light cameras. I would have thought that the corner of Customs St East & Gore St (camera in Gore St) is not exactly a hotbed of red light light running!

    List of camera locations

  11. Another simple thing to do: repair cracked sidewalks. Potholes on roads aren’t tolerated for long, but sidewalks (pavements) can remain unpatched for months/years, making them especially dangerous for kids and seniors.

    1. Ooo yes. Another example of the vile and wicked ways in which we are prepared to treat pedestrians worse. And it does impact on people’s mobility, as you note.

        1. Kudos to AT. I reported all the rubbish, stones and glass left on the NW cycleway across the causeway and not long after got an email back saying it had been done.

    2. next time you have an issue, instead of walking past it, phone the Auckland Council Call Centre and report the problem. It will then be fixed. Footpaths within the CBD are classed as high priority and have quick response times.

  12. The council should also put up a shelter along the section of Symonds St (the bridge) that goes over the CMJ to make it a covered walkway. Many pedestrians find it a difficult walk on windy and rainy days.

    On another point: would it be possible to build over the CMJ, so that the highways become tunnels? Sounds like a pipe-dream, but doing so would link up K Road with the other half across the bridge. The shops on that side seem to exist in terminal decline, and I think a key reason is that if pedestrians on K Road and Symonds St want to visit them, they have to cross the long, busy, and windy bridge.

  13. In the Netherlands a common or garden four way intersection with roundabout, on a suburban minor arterial road, will routinely have zebra crossings and cycle lanes (arranged to give the cyclists right of way in the same way as pedestrians), on all four approaches. Eg google Lange Kerkdam & Prinsenweg, Wassenaar (sorry, don’t know how to do screen shots)

    These issues have been on the table for at least a generation. I think it’s time to be less polite to the dinosaur traffic engineers who think that their main job is to make it easier for cars to go faster.

      1. Now that is a mighty fine bloody roundabout. And that is why I will soon move back to the Netherlands.

  14. Even where pedestrians nominally have priority at places like crossings, the design of the environment and interaction rarely ever reflects it. Given context shapes behaviour, little surprise that some motorists flout the rules. A small-scale example is that we typically expect pedestrians to transition between grades and surfaces to “cross” an intersection, whereas the motorist can expect to merely “turn” or drive “through” a flat grade and consistent surface — it doesn’t matter what the sign, light or paint says, it remains favourable to motoring and contemptuous to pedestrians. Further, the pedestrian often has to walk in meandering, arbitrary but fixed paths to get along, dodging street furniture, bus stops and car storage indents, and sidestepping to reach the permission button to beg to cross a road, whereas the motorist can expect reasonably broad lanes, whose paths bend gently and smoothly, coasting up to lights that automatically expect them. Alex Buckley’s issue of turning traffic contesting a green light is an example of poor interaction dynamics — even if the signs say that pedestrians have priority, the experience remains incredibly hostile towards pedestrians (especially 8-to-80 and disabled users). I could vent about many more issues like these — street geometry, “driveways”, continuous shelter, noise, fumes, etc.

    There are isolated examples of Auckland implementing proper prioritisation. jonno1’s example of double phasing on Queen is one, the shared spaces may be another. And there are places like the Khyber Pass/Osborne (or was it York?) intersection in Newmarket, where motorists are expected to carefully cross a bump which maintains the pedestrian grade rather than the reverse. But these are so rare and fragmented that they become individually remarkable, which is not as it should be.

    Some of the failures in pedestrian infrastructure could be lessons for re-prioritising motoring amenities. Interrupting straight and smooth paths is one I’d add to Peter’s suggestion of narrower streets, with diversions, humps and other calming obstacles. It would obviously assist in managing speeds and keeping drivers from cruising inattentively.

  15. I think compromises can be reached. In Vancouver they have a flashing green, which becomes solid if a pedestrian pushes the button to cross. Otherwise the flashing green at an intersection indicates the cars on the cross road (at the intersection) are on a stop sign and so the flashing green gives drivers the heads up the someone may turn in front of them – and it is perfectly legal.
    These sort of innovations could be useful on those intersections where there are normally few cars and thus make the traffic more fluid.

  16. “There are isolated examples of Auckland implementing proper prioritisation. jonno1′s example of double phasing on Queen is one, the shared spaces may be another. And there are places like the Khyber Pass/Osborne (or was it York?) intersection in Newmarket, where motorists are expected to carefully cross a bump which maintains the pedestrian grade rather than the reverse. But these are so rare and fragmented that they become individually remarkable, which is not as it should be.”

    And yet they work so WELL, even with Auckland drivers, because they so clearly indicate to everyone what’s going on. The entry to Domain Drive off Park Road is another great example.

    I must admit that as a traffic engineer, I consider raised tables (that’s the technical term), to be the best thing since sliced bread (thankfully backed up by crash stats) and that I try to get them into all my intersection designs wherever possible. They even make Julie-Anne’s hated free slip turns bearable, I think (especially if combined with a zebra crossing, such as at Remuera Road into Broadway).

    As for getting pedestrian crossings on all four legs of an intersection – forget it until Council is willing to agree with Local Boards like Waitemata, and MANDATE this. The classical case during a project is that adding a crossing to all arms (instead of only, say 3) causes massive drops in car flows. In these situations it is often COUNCIL (not the developer, who couldn’t care less about “Level of Service” in many cases) who insists that we engineers “keep the intersection working” – which means we are either stuck with inconveniencing pedestrians, or making it even larger by adding more lanes to counteract the motorist delays from another pedestrian crossing. Seen it happen on so many projects.

    Would LOVE Council to come and tell me they prefer peds over cars, in a pinch, but that’s not what happens in reality. I think out of 30 or so projects in CBD-type areas, I have been asked by Council to traffic model pedestrian “level of service” ONCE (for a Newmarket project). On all the others, only cars counted.

    1. I remember quite a few years ago NZTA drawing up plans for Stanley Street and shopping these around the community. As part of their plans they did vehicle count. Mysteriously, there was no pedestrian count, even though one of the strongest and busiest pedestrian routes comes down/up Parnell Rise and across the Stanley Street intersection. I did ask at two public meetings if NZTA knew about this pedestrian route, but it was obviously a complete surprise to them.

      I’m hoping that nowadays, things might have improved somewhat in terms of accounting for pedestrian routes and flows by traffic engineers, but suspect we still have a long way to go yet.

  17. There’s real need to get traffic to slow in town centres- a total mind set change is required and then for it to be enforced. Ponsonby Road traffic seems to largely ignore the reduced speed limit ( which should extend to Franklin Rd). Slowing traffic would be aided with more pedestrian crossings instead of the pedestrian refuges which are not comfortable for families with push chairs, older people & me with my bike trying to crosses to get back into the traffic.

    1. Birkenhead (Highbury) does this well. Relatively narrow streets, lots of explicit and implied pedestrian crossings, and a bypass for traffic not needing to travel directly through the town centre.

      1. Sadly, we don’t have that ability to fudge – the Isthmus is too narrow for places to have many options to build bypasses for traffic. We need to confront the issue head-on (so to speak).

        Some places like Newmarket, we may eventually have to bite the bullet and go for a car tunnel (between Khyber Pass and Remuera Road) if we ever want them to become pedestrian-friendly while still retaining our car addiction between the core of the city and the suburbs (and the route to Remuera is a particularly limited one for traffic, with not much bypass ability).

        I know of course (and agree!) with the bloggers here who would say that we have more important things to spend our money on than tunnelling cars under Newmarket. There’s that other tunnel we need much more urgently… – but in my hometown in Germany such a car tunnel allowed us to have a much more people-friendly city centre, so we shouldn’t dismiss the option totally.

        1. the real issue with that is that places that are congested with slow moving traffic are not too bad for pedestrians to handle.
          Its when we want to move vehicles quickly around the centre that we run into trouble. Whats the issue if people are held up for a few minutes driving through Newmarket. Plus there is already a bypass, its called the Southern Motorway and the Greenlane interchange. The only way to help increase mobility in areas like this is to get more people onto public transport.

        2. Exactly Luke, which simply means improving the provision of it. Expanding the roadspace does not increase safety for anyone. Max, thinking like an old school traffic engineer there….

        3. Luke, Patrick – you both wound / misunderstand me. Go to Newmarket, maybe, and smell the roses?

          I strongly dispute that that area is improved by congested traffic. Sure, it is “safer” and “better” to have thousands of idling cars sitting there, waiting to get through, compared to having thousands of cars speeding through at 50 km/h plus. But the difference for an urban place is like the difference between dung, and dung laced with poison – both smell, and one can also kill you (much faster).

          I argue that unless we take a lot of traffic OUT of places like Newmarket, they will never be really nice urban areas. Therefore, unless you can think of a way to wean Remuera and the whole eastern Auckland City of cars by a factor of, say 2/rds of the current traffic (good luck achieving that even with CRL and good, real bus priority), you are either stuck with floods of cars, or you need to look at ways to bypass them, and then road-diet what remains.

          Remember a very sage post by Joshua Arbury some time ago: Even in an intensified city with more PT, the car traffic is actually still quite likely to go up overall. Just the percentage will fall (and hopefully, it will get reduced priority).

        4. In short, if you want THIS:

          Rather than THIS:

          or this

          You may have to consider a bypass. The streets shown in the first image above were only able to become a quarter of extensive traffic-calmed-almost-no-vehicles-around shared spaces because all the through traffic was removed into a vehicle tunnel under the central city. Newmarket is in a quite similar situation. It will remain quite hard to build a route around it, so one day we may end up going under it.

        5. Oh, and by the way – ignore the “no cycling” signs in the German pedestrian zone image – in the same way the locals ignore it. An embarassing bureaucratic stupidity, but nobody enforces it, thankfully.

        6. You’re right Max. Newmarket is a very pedestrian unfriendly place. Just crossing Morrow St from 277 is a prime example.

        7. But Max I don’t share your ambition for de-caring Newmarket so completely; it is there because it is at the intersection of busy arterials. It is almost always a mistake to try to deny the essential nature of a place, especially commercially. As mentioned above the trans-regional road traffic through here has its bypass- which has now been built twice. The rail line needs to be connected to a better network and receive a better service, at least the later is on its way to some degree. Oh and the station approaches need sorting too.

          Then what should happen is a more aggressive defining of those arterials from the small side streets. Nuffield St, for example allows far too much traffic, this is the only way to improve the pedestrian experience in Newmarket; stop building parking down every little lane, and be clear about where you allow the cars to dominate and where you don’t.

          If you spend hundreds of millions on a diversion to allow people to drive under Newmarket you will just be flooding Parnell and Khyber Pass with too many cars too and you’ll have to do it again… this never ends. Restrictions are productive when it comes to cars. And in Auckland we just have to stop providing for them now, the car car amenity is in overshoot. Because we don’t, we then claim there is no money for better solutions….

          Newmarket ain’t that broke, it could improve a lot but not with another vast transport megastructure…. [I know they get you engineers excited, but…]

        8. Let me play devil’s advocate: You say “confine traffic to the arterials” by reducing usability of side streets for traffic. Apart from the discussion of HOW you do this*, this ends up with the same traffic crowding into less roadspace. Unless you can provide alternate opportunities (such as different routes or travel modes), then you only damage your city, by making it harder for people to get from A to B. People will simply stop travelling in the city, and suburban centres will flourish at the cost of the inner city.

          I am not advocating building additional car space. I am – in certain circumstances – advocating adding X capacity for cars in a better location (such as a tunnel between Khyber Pass and Remuera Road), and then taking the same X car capacity away from the existing routes, and allocating it to pedestrians, cyclists and PT. The crux is that you have to follow up the addition with a reduction (road diet, or whatever you call it in the local circumstances – or indeed you will just increase car traffic).

          * Seeing that Newmarket already IS congested and slow-moving during peak, even turning Nuffield Street into a narrow traffic calmed street / shared space etc… would not necessarily reduce it’s attractiveness as a rat run much at all. So what else can you do? Turn it into a cul-de sac? Sure, that would remove traffic from it big time. But we’d also actually be playing into the “road hierarchy” mindset, where some roads absolutely DWARF all others (in extremis becoming bona-fide motorways, yet serving local traffic) while your suburbs become disconnected mazes requring constant doubling-back from everyone. Suggest you re-read some of Joshua Arbury’s earlier posts about street networks.

        9. Yes your proposals would have some benefit to improving the environment of Newmarket, however they would not be worth the 100s of millions of dollar price tag. There are cheaper solutions than tunnels that could be looked at though.
          One crazy idea could be to close Broadway between Remuera Road and Carlton Gore Road, and Khyber Pass from Kingdon to Broadway. Build an overbridge at Kingdon and this would be through route, and direct everyone down Crowhurst. Could direct down Morrow and Mortimer, or keep those and side roads and send everyone down Gillies, Alpers and St Marks Road.
          Would be a number of negative effects though such as may need to widen Gillies St Marks and Alpers Ave, and do something funny/horrible at the Gillies on and off ramps. May still have to keep one lane open for vehicle access and, would have to think a lot about effects on bus services as could have serious effects on them and the need to make Newmarket station a bus interchange.

        10. I am just not confident that your bypass will work at all. It would do nothing to discourage the idea that this is a vehicle through route [Isn’t that why we built the viaduct? Twice.] It would almost certainly lead to a net increase in roadspace, because there is little to no chance that cars could be removed from Broadway. There is no way to reduce the impact of auto-domination than to reduce the appeal of driving in that area. Of course it is clever to also increase the appeal of alternatives as they did at CheongGyecheon, which means spending to significantly improve PT there. And in order to do that we need to stop spending every transport dollar on more roads. Again; we are in roading overshoot and the answer to too much of something is not more of it. I know it seems counterintuitive but traffic flow has been proven to often improve under increased restriction, if there is anywhere in Auckland where there are a high volume of needless car journeys it’s got to be Newmarket.

          I fear you have been in NZ for too long; you are exhibiting signs of thinking like a auto-priority obsessed local. May have to send to to back to Europe for a refresher!

        11. “One crazy idea could be to close Broadway between Remuera Road and Carlton Gore Road,”
          Why not just stop there, and let Gillies, Khyber, the northern part of Broadway, Alpers, Mortimer etc carry the traffic?

          You could probably close all (or perhaps most) of Remuera Rd between Broadway and Middleton too, most traffic would use St Marks at that point anyway.

        12. Patrick, Patrick… just because I discuss a car project in a country which needs other projects much more (which I don’t dispute), I need “re-education”? You sound a bit like those folks who say we shouldn’t talk about flying to the moon until we have solved poverty down here, or something 😉 It’s a car problem too, so let me talk about car solutions – I am not saying that NZTA should have built this instead of the Northern Busway, or that Council should re-apportion the CRL money to build this tunnel instead.

          And I strongly dispute the idea that it wouldn’t work (I am happy to entertain the idea that it wouldn’t be worth the money in the end). If you kept the tunnel at the same kind of capacity as the surface (lets say one lane each way only, with shoulders for safety) and then blocked off the surface streets in Newmarket for anything but PT and site access, the improvements to the public realm would be massive.

          I also note that you haven’t discussed my separate question how you would reduce traffic in the side roads, or how you would improve PT through Newmarket. If congestion is so great, how do we get the buses through it? [And before you take the easy answer: NOT by turning Remuera bus lanes into T3, obviously ;-)].

        13. Sorry Max I think we have hit the old ‘there is no tone in text’ problem, compounded I guess by my refusal to use smiley-faces; exclamation marks being as expressive as I like to get, and not even then much. That was fully a joke at the end…. and we’ed hate to lose you, more of a dig at the standards of NZ local practice….. I’m sorry that that wasn’t clearer.

          But I’m afraid I still don’t agree, we don’t have a car problem; we have a whole system problem. So the answer, under this analysis, can not be about one mode alone.

          As to the side streets I’m sorry but I think it’s as easy as restricting access for vehicles, both simply physically and in terms of destination. Which may mean things as radical as converting the odd car parking building to better uses. I know, hard to get to happen. But the key understanding is that traffic is much more like a gas than a liquid; it will expand to fill any space you allow it access to so the only way to remove it, shock, is to restrict its access.

          I know it’s unpopular [and generally shouldn’t be admitted] but I do actually believe in allowing frustration in both driving and parking and just letting it change behaviour a bit. And this is not because I’m some kind of anti-car fanatic but rather because I am a slightly reformed car-aholic; and completely understand the forces at work. Traffic is a junky for more roadspace and it does it no good by becoming a pusher, the external costs are just too high, especially in these older areas, but also for the health and welfare of the whole community.

          Talking of things unanswered, you haven’t explained why building an unpleasant to use and expensive tunnel won’t just move the problem to Khyber Pass and Parnell, and then what?, another tunnel, and then what?

          And there is only so much money, so if we insist on building more roadspace every time a driver gets annoyed, there will never be any money for the completely under supplied modes.

        14. Max, you probably recall the “road over rail” proposal from 2003.

          Maybe it wouldn’t have been feasible, but it had the same broad objective as your tunnel idea. As the Herald article says it was ultimately derailed by KiwiRail selling the air rights over the delta. I think another key issue was its proximity to apartments in Broadway Park and Khyber Pass Rd.

        15. Patrick, I assume you mean the road over rail idea was vile in which case I agree, in fact I opposed it at the time. And you’re dead right (in your reply to Max above) about Nuffield St, but what to do? It’s not only destination traffic with its associated parking issues, but the cross traffic to and from the Gillies Ave motorway connection that’s a problem, turning Nuffield St (as well as Morrow St and Mortimer Pass) into a rat run. Broadway itself isn’t so bad.

        16. I do indeed. Keep the bulk of the traffic to the arterials… traffic is currently directed down Nuffield, not doubt to keep up a high LOS, lol, this and that little street connecting to Broadway should be narrowed and made useless for through traffic. Of course the multi story carpark should never have been built there…. If traffic is restricted people will find other ways…. including not driving. I repeat we can not de-car by building more roadspace for cars. The contradiction in that is surely apparent, whatever is taught in Traf Eng 101.

  18. One of the worst intersections for pedestrians is the Blockhouse Bay Road/New North Road/St Jude Street/Crayford Road East intersection. Pedestrians are allocated 12 seconds to cross each part of the road and the phasing is such that pedestrians are usually required to wait for an entire cycle in order to cross the diagonal. So, you car speeds through but pedestrians wait and wait. As well, pedestrian safety on the New North Road over Blockhouse Bay Road is dependent on drivers actually observing the red arrow; it’s more often than not ignored. So, a couple of years back I raised this matter with the then ACC and received the following response:

    Further to our email dated 3 September 2010, we are now writing with our response regarding the signal phasing for pedestrians at the intersection of Blockhouse Bay and New North roads.

    We have assessed the time settings at this site and found that time allocated on each approach is adequate to allow pedestrians to cross safely. We also checked the activation buttons and found these to be responsive.

    Red arrow controls at this intersection ensure that the vehicles stay stationary while pedestrians complete their crossing movement. There is also signage in place to instruct motorists to give way to pedestrians crossing the road. Motorists breaching the red arrow control is a behavioural issue, so if you observe any motorists who do not comply with this restriction, we encourage you to report such activity to the police.

    Whilst we appreciate your concerns, our assessment of this site has revealed that any changes to the operation of this intersection are unfortunately unwarranted at this stage.

    Thank you for your patience while we looked into this matter for you.

    Yours sincerely

    Ben Hutchison
    Customer management team
    Auckland City Council

    So, breaching a red arrow control is merely a ‘behavioural issue’ which has nothing to do with traffic engineers and, once again, pedestrians are endangered by this perverse mindset.

  19. When I lived in Canada, drivers were allowed to make right-hand turns (the equivalent of our left turns) on red lights if there was no oncoming traffic. It might have improved traffic flow, but the rule was downright hostile to pedestrians. Cars would tend to edge halfway round the corner, with the drivers eyes firmly looking for the break in traffic would allow them to turn. When they got the break, they’d start to turn and then, at the very last minute, remember to check whether they were about to bulldoze any pedestrians trying to cross the street with the green light.

    1. @Icebird – were you in Toronto? I’m currently living in Calgary and rarely find what you’re talking about an issue. Drivers here (and Alberta ranks as one of the worst provinces for quality of drivers) give way to pedestrians at all uncontrolled intersections where pedestrians are crossing one of the legs and I’ve had far fewer issues than in Auckland where there are shared traffic lights (crossing at uncontrolled intersections in Auckland, drivers always assume they have right of way).

  20. I find it interesting that most responses to this post immediately referred to the CBD, many AUcklanders never go there, so we need to look at driver behaviour across the urban area

    these two have universal application:

    We need to stop treating drivers like idiots and start designing roads which force them to think more when they’re driving. This means narrower lanes, narrower streets generally and fewer signs everywhere.
    Slower speed limits on non-arterial local roads. A 40 kph blanket limit would slowly get drivers used to travelling at slower speeds, which might get away from the “50 but actually 60″ speed limit that seems to exist at the moment.

    more pedestrian crossings? not so sure, they’re good for the ends of the age spectrum, but pretty limiting for many walkers and the two above would contribute to a more pedestrian friendly environment

    better legal protection for peds? absolutely

    1. Fair point, Steve (though the “peds per area” volumes ARE highest in the CBD-type areas, so the fact that even there we don’t do it right shows how skewed the system is).

      Similarly, the less site-specific changes proposed work everywhere (and in case of legal or rules changes, work pretty much automatically everywhere).

      1. Yes I would have to second Max here – the fact that we don’t provide an adequate level of pedestrian priority even in the city centre (where pedestrians are often in the majority) is the key point, Of course, initiatives that improve pedestrian safety across the wider city/country are also important.

  21. I looked at the 2002 Palmerston North Transportation Management Plan that axio linked to.

    The dominant preoccupation is creating a hierarchy of roads to segregate road users to expedite the flow of traffic.

    Cyclists should be discouraged from using the proposed ‘principal’ roads – roughly speaking, those that run right through the town and create the basic 800 metre square grid. This leaves cyclists to thread their way through minor roads inside the main grid squares, many of which don’t run straight for very far.

    Cyclists AND buses should be discouraged from using, and developments like shops and schools that might generate those pesky pedestrians should be discouraged from locating on, the proposed ‘arterial’ roads (‘high standard, limited access roads… traffic flow needs to be unimpeded…’).

    The arterial roads are proposed to be, roughly speaking, each second principal road – thus being about 1.6 km apart. They may be clearways in peak periods. Median trees should be removed.

    In effect, the arterial roads become officially anointed traffic sewers (the report doesn’t put it quite like that).

    No comment on the crossability of roads, except in the pedestrianised city centre. No comment on how taking buses off the arterial roads would affect the bus service. Clearly it would prevent planning a efficient grid of routes with the ideal 800m separation (to give up to 400m walking distance), but the report doesn’t notice that.

    We have some way to go.

  22. Red light cameras were installed in the top 10 worst intersections in Auckland(old ACC) based on crashes related to red light running. A study showed a significant reduction in accidents at these sites. From what I understand the police are the only ones that can issue the tickets and collect the revenue. Council wants some of the revenue to pay for more cameras etc but they want the police to keep issuing/processing tickets. Police don’t want to share revenue as they have their own administrative overheads that they need to pay for. It’s been a back and forth argument with Wellingtion for years now. The RLR system can be quite expensive to administer.

    1. Argggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh bureaucratic bollox. Thanks for the info but that’s not an excuse! C’mon Police, c’mon Auckland get yourself sorted.

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