The Canada St bridge which will soon start to be lifted into place is going to be a fantastic addition to Auckland, opening up the old Nelson St motorway off-ramp to use by people walking and cycling to the western side of the city centre. Not only does it provide a useful function but it looks good too. The off-ramp might not have been a high priority route if it hadn’t been for the fact that the infrastructure was sitting there unused for around a decade. As such it represents part of the change Auckland is starting to experience, making better use of what’s available to get more out of our transport system.  What happens when those walkers and cyclists get to the off-ramp is going to a different story though.

The old off-ramp should mark a fantastic arrival to the city centre as people glide above the motorway below while able to admire the fantastic views out to the Harbour Bridge and the North Shore. It appears now though that this experience will be severely constrained thanks to massive 3m high barriers that will turn the off ramp into more of a trench. The barriers have only just started going up but thanks to the temporary construction walls it’s not hard to imagine what things will be like when finished.

The thick black poles are the part of the permanent barrier structure and will eventually hold glass panels. As you can see from the images below, due to their size,  on some angles they combine to create a solid wall, obscuring any view. They will also likely make the off-ramp feel narrower than it actually is.

Off Ramp Barrier 5

And on the southern of K Rd

Off Ramp Barrier 6

And this is where the cycleway joins the Pitt St/Nelson St intersection

Off Ramp Barrier 7

We first heard rumours about this a few months ago and tried to get the NZTA to change their mind but were told it was too late and that the barrier had already been ordered from Germany.

Just why we’ve ended up with such a disappointing outcome appears to be the result of some overzealous process following/box ticking with those working on the project scared about people throwing objects off or worse jumping off the bridge. I think there might be merit in that argument if it wasn’t for the presence of so many other bridges around from which the same thing could happen – many of which are higher above the motorway than the old off-ramp. So I took a little trip to highlight them.

The closest example and the one with the lowest barrier crosses right above the off-ramp and is where first photo above were taken from – Hopetoun St.

Hopetoun St barrier

Next up Wellington St is a bit higher and more bulky but doesn’t feel onerous or like it impedes.

Wellington St Barrier

And Upper Queen St which is a similar height and with a similar but slightly different design. Of note the bridge was recently upgraded when the cycleway was added so if there was some technical requirement to have higher barriers then surely they should have changed then.

Upper Queen St Barrier

Using the same design as Upper Queen St is Symonds St which is even higher above the motorway.

Symonds St Barrier

Probably the highest barrier (other than K Rd) was on one part of the Newton Rd Bridge. The first section below is the part that crosses over Ian McKinnon Dr and has an addition to the base barrier while the second image is over the motorway itself and doesn’t have the extra addition.

Newton Rd Barrier 1

Newton Rd Barrier 2

Lastly here’s Bond St and again what appears to be a pretty standard height barrier.

Bond St Barrier 1

All of the examples above are clearly been in place for some time. They seem to strike good balance between safety and not being too obstructive. Sure it’s entirely possible that something or someone could go over the barrier yet if I can only think of one example recently where there’s been an incident from any of these bridges. It’s a shame the NZTA has taken such an overcautious approach to the off-ramp, in the process removing some of the elements that would have made the route so special.

Here’s a couple of my favourite comments from twitter when I highlighted  this issue yesterday.

and

https://twitter.com/SirWB/status/635228368892395520

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74 comments

  1. Sorry to disagree but as a person a little nervous around heights (eg When I walk across the Upper Queen on Bond Street Bridges) I’d prefer something a bit higher.

    If I’m riding a bike I certainly don’t want my waist (and centre of gravity) to be higher than the barrier.

    1. I agree, and can imagine it’d be a bit uncomfortable for someone not used to heights, but I’m not quite sure why that requires NZTE to go straight from waist height to Jurassic Park.

      What exactly prevented them from just extending the Canada Street treatment? So much nicer.

    2. Best-practice design suggests a 1.4m railing height next to a cycleway; you’d be doing well to have your centre of gravity above that when riding. Some of the existing ones seem to be a more conventional 1.2m pedestrian walkway height though.

      The old off-ramp is ~4m wide though, so if you’re not keen on heights then ride down the middle of it.

      1. 1.4m is heaps. And anyway, please please can we have some engagement when you public servants set out to do things on our behalf?

        I tried to discuss this with NZTA and AC [Ludo? where were you on this?- I raised it with you before a single engineer had started on it] well before things were set in stone, or ordered from Germany.

        I get that I mightn’t be considered NZTA’s number one fanboy, but we’re all grown-ups here, can take a bit of straight talking…?

        I know you’re rushing to a deadline so the PM can cut a ribbon, but if the outcome is compromised the success of that may well be compromised too.

      2. The legal requirement is 1.1m for a pedestrian and 1.2m for a cycleway. NZTA and AT have their own standard of 1.4m for some reason.

  2. This does seem to be a rather bizarre addition to the bridge.

    A 3m high fence wont stop a determined person from throwing an object or themselves off the bridge.

    Seems pointless to me

  3. An over-arching problem here is that this militarised barrier, presumably chosen by someone only focussed on only one thing- extreme protection on a deadline to the exclusion of all else [including cost!] is that it works in complete contradiction of other strategic aims that the Agency apparently now has. Let me unpack this:

    This route, as Matt explains above, is not happening in reaction to current demand, indeed it is only really likely to be useful for some users of the NW cycleway heading to the western side of town. A handy but not urgent need, no it is being built cos it’s there. So its primary value is as a very public example of a possible change for the city. It is really an amazing, and amazingly public, marketing opportunity for the higher altitude goal of spreading the appeal and therefore growth of the Active modes. Or at least it was.

    As that is entirely dependent on it being visible especially to people in cars in the CMJ, and that it feels and looks appealing to use. This part of the network is, I reckon, more about marketing than utility. This treatment looks likely to both conceal it from car occupants and rid it of joy.

    Like in AT and the problem of getting its engineers to accept the importance of adding Active and Transit amenity to streets, better alignment is required at the execution level with big strategic policy shifts.

    Culture has trumped policy again. Some better process is required to fix this disconnect.

  4. Maybe this barrier is designed to push up the cost of this project so that any future overhead cycleway projects can be ruled out on grounds of costing too much. ^¿^

    1. One positive is that it will provide some protection from side wind gusts and reduce noise levels from the traffic below slightly. Otherwise it does seem to be overkill.

        1. Patrick and a few others who post here have actually been on the off ramp – when it was an open and windswept desolate place
          – they said the traffic noise problem was not very evident due to it being mostly above the traffic.

          Sounds to me that both you and the NZTA engineers are trying to “fix” a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

          But then that would not be a first for NZTA would it?

          1. Walk across K road overpass which has this style of barrier and then over the upper Queen overpass that doesn’t. There is a qualitative difference.

          2. Of course it will be different and not at all comparable – on Upper Q St you have nothing between you and the cars crossing below so you get a full noise from the vehicles below.

            On the Nelson St Off Ramp you have many feet of solid concrete road deck between you and the cars below – so thats more akin to standing in the middle of the Upper Q St bridge than at one side – try it some time, you’ll see how good that works too.

            As for under K’Rd where Patrick said it got quite noisy – thats because the K’Rd bridge is reflecting the traffic noise back down at you (bouncing off the “roof”) – those barriers won’t help solve that problem.

  5. Any figures out there outlining how much this barrier cost? Strikes me as a gross waste of limited funds — much better that money be spent on improving the city’s cycling infrastructure and creating a more expansive network overall.

    Also, IIRC there was an official online survey circulated some time back giving people the option to vote on this project — any word on what most people wanted?

    1. We were only asked about decoration. It seems these engineers completely confuse decoration with design.

      None would ever understand what makes Apple the world’s most valuable company; it’s a complete understanding of the power of design, and that design is the very core of the thing; not just its surface.

      Lipstick on a pig does not change it from being a pig [no insult intended for pigs!].

      1. Apple certainly didn’t get there through inventing anything. Since Steve Woz left their contribution to invention is the mini DisplayPort. The rest they copied or bought.

        1. mfwic – anyone who trots out the tired old argument that Apple hasn’t invented much is so clearly totally missing the plot that it is beyond belief. You clearly don’t agree with the general direction of TransportBlog, but making statements like this just make you out to be a prime wally. Give it up mate!

          1. Apple *haven’t* invented anything, they very cleverly market their product as a combination of other people’s novel ideas.

          2. Remember how they claimed Microsoft copied they graphical user interface and lost in court because it turned out they both copied it from Xerox- just too funny.

      2. My favourite quote from NZTA, taken from a project meeting with some particularly enlightened engineers: “the allowance for urban design on this project is 50mm.”

        Apparently they had learnt from the early CMJ work that “urban design” equated to decorative patterns in concrete panels, for which an extra cost allowance was allocated against the increased thickness required.

        There are some great people pushing for change in NZTA, but clearly there’s a few who still don’t get it as this farcical barrier indicates.

  6. This is a motorway off-ramp after all – we don’t want people stopping to take photos or admire the view, that would be dangerous!

  7. Maybe the reason why none of the other bridges have such a high barrier is because it would obstruct the view of motorists?

  8. http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2015/02/02/celebrating-recent-auckland-cycling-and-walking-projects/

    Wherein this is written:

    ‘Those elegant cuffed wrists holding the phone belong to city Urban Design Champion Ludo Campbell-Reid who will be very important in making sure that NZTA’s traffic engineers don’t get away with insisting on some sort of massive cage along the sides of this route out of panic about what humans might do in their motorway corridor.’

    Disappointing Ludo that you didn’t get involved. And disappointed that this sentence may have been why NZTA resisted all my approaches through this process.

  9. I’d say this is falling foul of basic CPTED principles that Council is normally so hot on. With a gently curving shape, you cannot see who is around the corner, and there is no alternative escape route once you are on the path. The high sides make views IN to the cycle path very difficult, so there is very little surveillance from adjacent streets/sites that could see what was going on in this space. Quite daunting to enter!

  10. Needs a coordinated response from cyclists to bring potted plants, paint etc to brighten it up once it has been opened, or during the opening perhaps? 😉

  11. Did the barrier have to be imported from Germany? Can’t we make a suitable barrier in this country, at least at the same price or better?

  12. Even this earlier effort by NZTA alongside the St Marys Bay walkway is preferable to that clunky design – its glass and uses concrete blocks to anchor the glass, without using gulag-style supports.

    Much better idea. Shame on you NZTA.

  13. I think there are far more important things to moan about than this. The point about it protecting you from the wind that somebody else made is quite a good one – I certainly hate head/cross winds when on my bike. It might also somewhat shelter the noise from the traffic below and may make it more of its own mini eco-system rather than feeling you are in the middle of the CMJ.

    Also re safety. The whole “other bridge don’t have this level of safety” argument is somewhat flawed. If you took the same approach to tunnel safety new tunnels would not have monitoring systems, regular escape paths or smoke controlling ventilation systems, they would all just be made like rail tunnels from the last 100 years (narrow with no emergency provisions). Retro-fitting old tunnels/brigdes with latest level of safety systems may not make financial sense (i.e. no body wants to pay!) but when doing something new those responsible have a duty of care to reduce risks as far as practicably possible. If they don’t they are potentially liable should an accident occur there in the future – the excuse of “that is how we have always done it” does not count for much.

    Don’t get me wrong, I work for a company that employees far too many Health and Safety “experts” who daily wonder if they could get employees to wear two hard hats to further improve their statistics and enhance their gravy train… but there is a sensible middle ground.

    1. I agree pretty much. The CMJ is ugly anyway and this trail could potentially have really high volumes of users on it so would of been a factor too?

    2. Along the same lines of questioning why are NZTA replacing almost the entire North Western motorway central barrier with something bigger, stronger and beefer than what’s there currently. I’m not aware of recent examples of vehicles crashing through the existing barrier. meaning it is not fit for purpose. Vaguely in the back of my mind there is an image of a vehicle half over the barrier, that’s all. So what’s the justification for the additional spend and time waste?

    3. Except that 3m high barriers isn’t a standard for newly designed bridges. This is an ad hoc desicion, not based on implementing current standards.

      1. Most new ped bridges I have seen around the world in last few years have some kind of barrier to above head height to stop both suicide and objects being thrown. I think it is quite normal these days.

        1. We’ll certainly not in NZ. I have been involved in several bridge designs over the last few years including ped bridges over motorways, and this ain’t standard, and is therefore ad hoc. I don’t ever recall seeing this in my years in Europe a few short years ago.

          1. Doesn’t the foot bridge over the motorway at Southern end of Newmarket viaduct have some kind of meshing/netting for this purpose. Problem with CMJ path is nowhere to hang netting from (skyhooks?)

  14. Might be to create a more sheltered and quieter location, rather than windy and exposed/noisy? The artist impressions show they want to encourage people to take a stroll, and sit down on benches etc. If it’s really windy and exposed people won’t do that as much.

  15. Those steel ribs could cause some nasty injuries if a cyclist gets pushed to the side. The glass panels should be near-flush with their steel supports in the inside, with the ribs protruding on the outside.

    1. No, it’s a disaster. A disaster I say. The absolute worst thing to happen to cycling in the history of the world. But seriously, I ride a bike, I’m very much in favour of increased infrastructure for cycling and a decline in car dependency, but this sort of unnecessary whining just plays into the hands of those on the “other side”. It’ll be fine. It’ll take about 30 seconds to cycle along it. It’s all very well to fixate on design because it’s your hobby or what you’re personally interested in, but it’s not the most important thing.

  16. This all makes perfect sense when you figure out the unspoken assumptions. Non-vehicular bridges are uncomfortably comfortable for pedestrians and risk attracting antisocial behaviour such as moving slowly or (gasp) even being stationary! Time and motion modelling predicts that this will result in an avalanche of hats blowing onto the motorway and affecting the precious flow. The best way to address this is to make the bridge feel as much like a high speed corridor as possible

  17. Dear Matt L. .. I think lack of barrier height is a problem. I live near waima overbridge which is an entry on to the NW cycleway about 2 mins bike from where you took the photos. It has a primary school next door and a barrier at 1.15 m high compared to the 1.4 recommended by NZTA. I think this bridge probably has about 100 primary school age kids crossing per day amongst many other cyclists and pedestrians. The BOT, residents assoc, local MP and Councillor have complained about height and safety and we even got an NZTA risk assessment (but no herald article) which said it had no rust so no intention of replacing. Unfortunately I have watched McDonald’s containers thrown onto the motorway and my 5 year old son had a very close call with a basketball. When something happens kids at the school get lectured. So while I too am appalled by 3m barriers it is because I would hope they would be applying their own safety standards to issues highlighted before creating show off projects.
    I don’t believe you can have a perfect one fit policy for these barriers but at our bridge it is a problem and if you want to check have a look at the rubbish below in the ‘green area’.

  18. ‘Might not look so bad…until it gets graffitied, covered with bill posters and starts to smell a bit like a urinal. Hope I’m wrong.

    1. Actually, i really like the sound of it – no matter what height the barriers are – at least you have a separated cycleway. Hopefully it has been thought through as to what it connects up to etc, and it is part of an overall larger cycle plan – to be honest it seems fairly pointless to me looking at a plan, but no doubt the route must make sense to some. I would have thought that what would be useful to cyclists in Auckland was if it could connect from one side of the motorway to the other – i.e. stitch the city back together over the gash in the flesh left by the scars of the motorway.

      Will I be allowed to walk that route? Or skateboard it?Or will it be cycles only?

  19. I thought this was going to have a great view, until I saw these walls added, it turns it into more of an elevated trench than a cycle overbridge, what a waste! Up to 1.5M I can understand, anything beyond is just ridiculous though.

    As for those “afraid of heights”, I assume you won’t be using the Skypath then? Since that goes a lot higher and doesn’t block out the view.

      1. Bleh they will probably get covered with scratches in no time. When you are moving even at a slow cycling pace you won’t be able to see through the glass bits thanks to all the black posts closely put together which is disappointing. With skypath it appears to be mostly see-through along the way.

  20. There is a real irony in them being so worried about a (say) 1 to 20kg object striking a car, but in the last 12 months we have 33 pedestrians and 7 cyclists killed usually because a 1000 to 40,000kg object comes into contact with them.
    Real problem staring them in the face, people dying, but no, let’s stick with the theoretical one.

    1. It’s not theoretical. It happens often. Same with suicides. It happens a lot more often than most people realise, but in NZ we have a policy not to report on it at all so we don’t realise it.

      I agree the fence is overkill but I don’t think it will be a problem. It will reduce sound, wind, maybe rain. Stops people jumping, throwing things. And it will probably keep out wildlings too.

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