I have happy feet, they like to walk, so I often let them wander.
But when I walk around Auckland, dangerous situations are encountered with almost every step. I tell you now: It’s perilous out there. If Auckland wishes to become the “world’s most livable city“, then I’m quite serious when I say that we are going to need to blow things up.
Street by street, intersection by intersection, we are going to need to get out the dynamite and let ‘er rip. We need to do this because Auckland’s current pedestrian environment is the antithesis of “livable”: It is life-endangering. We’ve got five decades of auto-dominated designs to undo, and I don’t wanna wait that long for my home city to become somewhere that I can tolerate living for more than a few years at a time.
Over my next few posts I’m going to use a short (1.5km) walk to demonstrate some of the many ways in which Auckland fails its pedestrians, and by extension all of its people.
The walk takes us from our flat, in Grafton, to the verdant green slopes of Maungawhau (aka Mt Eden). This is, incidentally, a walk that I make quite regularly with my flatmates and our puppy (Princess Kuku has four very happy feet and would walk all day if she could). In fact I’m sure that many people make this walk, because Maungawhau is a simply stunning natural feature.
Our normal walking route (the most direct) is shown below.
For today let’s focus on the intersection of Normanby Road and Clive Road, because it’s a real doozy. The issues with this intersection should start to become apparent from the aerial below.
If you can’t see what’s wrong, then just imagine you are a pedestrian walking south along the eastern (right hand) side of Normanby Rd.
Now imagine that you want to cross Clive Rd, which intersects with Normanby from the bottom right of the photo. At which point you can will confront 32m of vehicle dominated junkspace in which the only pedestrian facilities are a couple of pram ramps located approximately 30m to the right of the natural pedestrian desire line. That’s a big detour.
Now if Clive Rd was somehow a major arterial leading onto a cloverleaf highway interchange in Florida that was frequently used to transport space ships, then you might be able to justify the geometry shown above, and perhaps even the deviation asked of pedestrians.
But it’s not: Clive Rd is a piddly little nothing road that disappears into sleepy residential suburbs.
By my calculations, the left turn slip lane from Normanby Rd into Clive Rd has a geometric design that could comfortably accommodate Tiger tanks travelling at Mach 3 speeds. But of course, pedestrians are not Tiger tanks and they don’t travel at Mach 3 speeds. If they were given a choice, pedestrians would amble, meander, and stroll while chatting about what they want to do with their lives – but in this environment you can’t do anything but scamper out of fear for your life.
This is what crossing Clive Rd looks like from Princess Kuku’s perspective: Pretty freakin’ freaky.
For those who don’t know the area, there’s a playground and off-leash dog area just over the other side, while the wider area is home to several schools. You know, the sorts of places that people, especially children, are likely to walk. You can just imagine the traffic engineers whispering “hush my sweet puppies, you are not welcome here.”
Aside from the heinous geometry, if you are one of the few pedestrians fortunate enough to make it across the other side of the intersection, then you will find there is no footpath. Nor even a bit of muddy ground where you can rest your feet.
I know what some of you are thinking: It is a bit rich to expect a footpath.
After all, the traffic engineers have had to work really hard to squeeze four vehicle lanes and a traffic island into that 32m. There’s not much room left once you accommodate Tiger tanks travelling at super-sonic speeds, as I’m sure you can appreciate.
A lack of a footpath is actually the least of my concerns, however. Because instead of a footpath, pedestrians actually encounter what is possibly the world’s most spiteful little wooden fence. A fence whose sole purpose in life seems to be to slow pedestrians down long enough to be hit by a car. Or at least trip them up and bruise their shins. As shown below.
You can see where the wooden railings have had to be replaced because people have walked into them so many times.
Of course I do understand why there’s a fence: We do need to stop little critters from wandering out of the park and onto the road. But by placing the fence hard up against the kerb we have created a real hazard for any pedestrians crossing the road. What’s more, the intersection is so wide you can’t readily see that there is not a footpath on the other side before you start crossing. It’s all so, so wrong.
I want to finish on a positive note. Despite it’s failings, as a perfectly rationale econo-bot I do acknowledge that the pay-off I receive at the end of this walk is sufficiently large to outweigh the menacing pedestrian environment encountered along the way.
And that pay-off is views like the one shown below, which is a simultaneous sunset/moonrise over Maungawhau’s spectacular crater in NZ’s gloriously sharp winter’s light.
There’s a few other things wrong with this walk that I will try and illustrate in future posts, assuming I survive tomorrow’s walk …