The council is hailing the fact that just over one quarter of the slip lanes in the city centre have been removed over the last few years. This is excellent news for pedestrians as it will make many intersections much safer.

Pedestrian safety and access in the city centre has taken another step forward with the removal of three ‘free left turns’ at intersections as part of the upgrade of Beach Road.

More than a quarter of the turns (11 out of 40) have now been removed from the city centre since 2012, when the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) advocated their removal. A free left turn is one where traffic is regulated by lights when going straight or turning right, but vehicles can turn left without a signal.

Local Board chair Shale Chambers says: “These turns can make crossing a road unsafe and unpleasant for people on foot, especially for younger or vulnerable pedestrians, so it’s great to see this progress in such a short space of time.

“The city centre is rapidly becoming a much more pleasant place to walk, with these improvements adding to the creation of a laneway circuit. This helps the centre buzz, which in turn attracts people and – crucially – business investment. “

The completion of stage 2 of the Beach Road project removed the free left turns at the intersections with Britomart Place and Tangihua Street. The first stage of the Beach Road upgrade removed two others, while more have been removed along Mayoral Drive and at the bottom of Albert Street.

Council design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid says “Free left turns tend to create over-sized intersections that encourage vehicles to travel too fast, compromising pedestrian safety. Instead, the focus needs to be on creating a vibrant and pleasant walking, shopping or browsing environment, where people can walk with confidence.

“Rather than being anti-car, removing these slip lanes can be a win for everyone. If people can cross more quickly, this can also reduce waiting times for cars.”

The remaining 29 include four along Symonds Street, eight along the Grafton Gully and five surrounding Victoria Park.

Here’s a map of the status of all slip lanes in Auckland. It’s worth noting that this only includes ones where there is a free left turn, so situations like the intersection on Nelson St and Fanshawe St where the slip lanes are signalised are not counted.

City Centre Free Left Turns 2015

Here’s one example of slip lanes that have been removed. This is the intersection of Beach Rd and Tangihua St, and with the slip lanes traffic would travel at speed through the slip lanes.

Beach - Tangihua St slip lanes

And now that the Beach Rd project has removed the slip lanes.

Beach - Tangihua St slip lanes gone

One of the reasons slip lanes are so dangerous is that they can shift drivers’ focus away from what’s in front of them, and instead they focus on what traffic may be coming from the right to see if they can get through the lane without stopping. Depending on the situation, that could result in them speeding up to get ahead of approaching traffic or braking sharply to avoid a crash, but almost always the last thing on their mind will be the person on the left who may be trying to cross the road. This isn’t surprising, as if you’re in a metal box you’re much more at risk from other metal boxes than you are from squishy humans.

There are a few questions from this, including how long until we can get the rest of the slip lanes removed, why aren’t we removing them from suburbs all across Auckland, and why are we still letting engineers design them into projects?

Share this


  1. I do miss the one at Albert and Quay St though. It had a crossing and actually made it quicker for pedestrians to cross to the waterfront from the west side of Albert St. You used to be able to cross from the island beside the slip lane on the green phase for traffic coming down Albert St, because cars were either turning left behind you on the slip lane, or right on quay st. None crossed your path. Of course this was in addition to the pedestrian green man phase.

    Apart from inconveniencing motorists more, or a basic dislike of slip lanes in general, i can’t see any reason for removing it. It’s made it slower for everyone.

    Now there’s a Barnes dance which you have to wait longer for, and it has no benefit as there is no need to cross diagonally as it’s a T junction, not a crossroads.

    1. Yeah I agree. Where slip lanes have a zebra crossing they are generally more convenient for pedestrians than not. If they were using the space for decent cycling infrastructure I could see the point, but the value otherwise is not clear.

      1. Pedestrian crossings don’t make them safe. I cross the one on the corner of Queen St and K Rd several times a day, and although there’s a pedestrian crossing, cars frequently fail to give way as they’re looking right for traffic, not for pedestrians.

        1. All remaining slip lanes need zebra crossings on judder bars. The recently raised one on the corner of Symonds and Wyndham works well (temporary blindspot related to building construction activity notwithstanding).

        2. Once most slip lanes have zebra crossings, people will get used to giving way to pedestrians. The propblem now is consistency, most slip lanes don’t have a pedestrian crossing, and people expect a free left turn.

          I think the norm in Europe is that cars on slip lanes give way to both pedestrians and cyclists.

    2. Agree with Nick, islands with pedestrian crossings are a win:win for everyone.
      Win for the pedestrian as it makes their crossing faster (not having to wait so long for the lights/shorter distance to cross with the lights), win for the motorist as they aren’t stuck behind other cars that are going straight ahead. Wouldn’t be such an issue if left turns were allowed on a red (like other countries have) as this would result in less blockage.

  2. Unless the pressure is kept up to remove all slip lanes, the ones removed so far will be all that’s removed. Keep the pressure up people. Slip lanes are a real and present safety hazard for both pedestrians and vehicles.

    1. And some of them aren’t even a proper pedestrian crossing – like the one outside the library at Hall Corner. And yes I’ll email AT right now!

  3. I noticed walking along quay street the other day that I had to press the beg button to cross some pretty meaningless side streets and wait for an age for the green man (in the end I just crossed regardless as everyone else did). Why can’t these be green at all times except for when the side street has a green light?
    There aren’t that many signalised intersections in the city, couldn’t AT give some proper pedestrian priority in the city without too much cost?

    1. It’s worse, even when all conflicting traffic has red light, some pedestrian crossings still display a red man.

      A while ago I was waiting for the red light on this big on-ramp from Beaumont Street to SH1. There was also a pedestrian waiting to cross, but he had a red man. I still had red light for another minute, so it was perfectly safe for him to cross.

    2. I noticed the intersection of Pitt and Greys (or Vincent) they changed the lights so that if you pressed the crossing button while there was a green light for traffic going straight, it would instantly give you a ped green crossing light instead of waiting for the next cycle.

      This was about a year ago mind, and they may have changed it back since.

  4. Did AT do a study that found slip lanes to be less safe than combined lanes? I’d be interested in seeing it if they did, as I was under the impression that the literature was inconclusive.

      1. But if they are safer for pedestrians (which at least 1 study I’ve seen concluded) surely they should be considered in some situations.

  5. Thinking of slip lanes outside the city centre, one of the worst I can think of is where Gt Nth bends left into the Avondale shops at the Ash St intersection. It has a ped crossing but the speed cars travel coming round that bend make it dodgy as.

    1. Another one is the southbound off ramp /Northcote Rd intersection. The barrier is so high, that if you are trying to cross the slip lane from east to west, the cars basically can’t see you even if standing at the edge of the footpath when approaching, and you can’t see the cars, You have to lean forward off the curb to check if safe to cross.

  6. I am a student of traffic engineering so I’ll throw in my two cents. I don’t think AT has done any research into this, but there could be some internal documents floating around. I recall there was a study from Australia that suggested slip lanes without a zebra crossing are safer than those with them and that slip lanes are safer than not having slip lanes. This would be the standard crossing where left turning vehicles are turning in front of pedestrians. That study was based on the analysis of 200 LT vs pedestrian accidents at various intersections. From the stats apparently it was mainly male drivers running down mainly female pedestrians.

    Personally I think due to small sample size the study can’t conclusively prove slip lanes are safer, but I do think that it can be used to show that they are at least as safe as standard crossings which is surprising. It seems like heavy vehicles turning left had a hard time seeing pedestrians run out in front of them at a standard crossing. It is a blind spot for them and thus slip lanes are safer in that respect from a visibility point of view. There was a case like this a few years back in Auckland where a truck squashed a pedestrian who just walked in front of a truck that was turning. The ped was crossing on the flashing red and driver didn’t see them and ran them over and kept going. No prizes for guessing who was found to be at fault.

    I have yet to find any documented evidence to prove that removing the slip lane actually makes things safer. So until someone does the research to prove slip lanes are actually unsafe, then we will continue to see engineers putting them in. All we have is perception of safety which is not safety at all. It is a false sense of safety and it leads to more accidents. It’s not evidence, it’s just a belief without any data to back it up.

    Removing sliplanes does guarantee the intersection runs worse than before, more delays for everyone and probably more frustrated drivers running red lights. So while the pictures of Tangihua show how it looks nicer without the sliplanes, all those pedestrians will have to wait much longer to get across the road.

    1. The with and without crossings issue is clouded by the simple fact that when there is an accident the response is to go and mark a crossing. That means all the busier and dodgier intersections have a crossing. Finding cause and effect isn’t as simple as comparing two means.

      1. Like the Australian study which, from memory, found that ‘active’ rail level crossings – with booms and bells – on average have a safety record *worse* than those with signs only.

        Well, obviously – because the active crossings are the busiest ones. You have to adjust for the ‘risk exposure’. That’s the number of car movements *multiplied* by the number of train movements – so a crossing that is twice as busy (cars and trains) has *four* times as much risk exposure.

      1. The purpose of all transport technology is to facilitate the fastest and safest movement of modes
        Drivers, peds, and buses etc.
        So, “runs better” means the overall speed of all modes using the lane is higher than when set out separately
        A to B. Fast.

    2. That a traffic engineer in dead seriousness attempts to argue that Tangihua Street how it used to be is safer and better than what it is now, then one can’t help but think how broken that profession is in NZ. Sadly, it really demonstrates that it certainly won’t be within my lifetime (and I’m not old) that we actually see things built in NZ that value place and people over things ‘running better’ for cars.

      1. Agree. Especially worrying about HGV movements in the middle of our CBD being a potential reason to justify keeping the slip lanes. London is currently looking to ban HGV’s from undertaking any left-hand movements in the city to remove the blind spot issue with peds/ cyclists.

    3. if you did a study you will find that f1 tracks are the safest places for pedestrians. no pedestrian has ever been killed in 100 years while attempting to cross the track.
      i guess that’s what you get with the modern emphasis on technical studies over humanistic ones. mindless robots very good at doing the wrong thing.

      1. Although I agree with your substantive point, I can’t miss the opportunity to mention how dangerous motorsport is, because at least one pedestrian has been killed crossing a Formula One track. A race marshal, Jansen Van Vuuren, died in 1977 when struck by a car when while crossing the track to attend to a fire. The fire extinguisher he was carrying, in turn, struck the driver of the car, Tom Pryce, in the head and killed him too.

        And that’s just the one I know of – try looking for deaths in Formula One and you’ll have a hard time finding any list of the many accidents that killed marshals, pit crew, or spectators. This article is about a marshal killed in 2013, and makes mention that the last two fatal accidents before it were marshals killed in 2001 and 2000. (None of whom were “crossing” the track). But no details on anything before that…

    4. Have you ever tried to cross Tangihua street? I haven’t tried it since the crossing was put in but it was a nightmare before with vehicles taking the slip lane at speed you had to wait an age until there was a big enough gap in the traffic to walk across. I find it difficult to believe that it would be harder to cross now than before. What is your evidence that it takes longer to cross now?

  7. My daily experience of these ‘new’ Beach Rd intersections as a pedestrian indicate to me that it is much better/safer without the slip planes, BUT a much worse wait time for pedestrians, and really bad if you need to cross two roads. Traffic is flowing through this and Anzac/Beach much faster, with fewer back-ups, as pedestrian crossing cycles have been so de-prioritised, in favour of multiple turning vehicle cycles to one ped cycle (at least at Beach/Anzac) And just as unsafe in terms of vehicles turning into crossing pedestrians. The serious problems related to trucks turning into Tangihua from Beach have not been sorted. They get stuck in the middle of the intersection, across the ped crossings, or just completely drive through people who are already crossing.

  8. You may be interested to know that Canterbury University currently have a Masters student investigating “The Effect of Left Turn Slip Lanes on Safety and Operational Performance of Signalised Intersections”. Being based in Auckland, the student is using Auckland intersections for case study analysis. Final results due in Dec 2016 (it’s a 2-year part-time thesis).

    From initial investigations, there is surprisingly little quantitative evidence internationally about the safety effects of slip lanes (and even less about their impact on pedestrians). The biggest failing of most studies is that they haven’t considered traffic and pedestrian flows when looking at crashes, so it is hard to know whether (a) there are more crashes at some sites because there are more peds/vehs, and (b) whether sites that have slip lanes are more likely to have higher volumes anyway. No doubt there are also some notable differences in effect depending on whether we are talking about a sweeping “round the corner” slip lane, or a lower-speed “high-entry angle” slip lane, or a slip lane with a pedestrian platform.

    There are some good qualitative points being raised here about all this (although some may need to be tested for reality vs perception), so I will point the student in this direction…

    1. I hope they are only looking at intersections where slip lanes have been replaced with left turn red arrows during pedestrian phases. I personally cant see how any pedestrian can be run over if there is a red arrow, it can’t happen by ‘accident’. Personally I don’t need a study to state the obvious, a red left arrow will always work better than a ‘please give way if you happen to notice that pedestrian on your left while you are looking to your right’

  9. Interesting discussion, while there may be little (credible) evidence on safety of slip lanes vs normal intersections, I think there’s a more important strategic case to remove slip lanes. We all know pedestrian overbridges are the safest way to get pedestrians across a busy road, yet they have no place at all in a city (centre). It signals that you value car movements much higher than pedestrian movements. In a city centre, pedestrian movements are so much more important that all effort must be taken to prioritise these. Slip lanes prioritise and enable (fast!) car movements and thus have no place in the city centre. Walking should be the easiest and most enjoyable mode of transport, slip lanes don’t fit that goal.

    1. Nicely put. Indeed, the ‘safest’ road in Ari’s books would be one in which barriers all down the sides prevent any interaction between cars and people….

    2. Actually it suggests you value creating the maximum possible time saving for the investment. Facilitating car movement can save a lot more time than ped movement. Try walking 50km and tell me how long it takes
      Basically: roads are for cars. Footpaths are for pedestrians. As are berms. Which is why Auckland Transport should not remove slip lanes, but should also start automatically towing and crushing every single car parked on a footpath or berm. Teach each mode to behave.

  10. If there is a longer wait for pedestrians to cross without slip lanes this can result in pedestrians crossing when they shouldn’t. This can only be made worse in wet weather when, due to lack of shelter at the road edge, the pedestrian is more likely to make a ‘run for it’.
    As a pedestrian I prefer slip lanes but also feel that as a pedestrian I should pay attention when crossing and not expect everyone else to pay attention for me.

    1. I also note that the photos only show the intersections in full sunlight. A situation far from reality in Auckland ( or any other city for that matter).

    1. Well, the US, of course, has a free right-turn on red in most areas, which has a similar effect to a slip lane at most intersections as far as cars are concerned. For pedestrians, it’s a different sort of inconvenience and danger than slip lanes, but probably about the same magnitude.

      The worst part for me about slip lanes in urban areas isn’t how the slip lanes work so much as the effect on the feel of the area: it makes roads and intersections much wider, making the area subjectively more hostile to pedestrians, and encouraging drivers to go faster than they would otherwise.

      They also use up space, probably not a huge amount by the scale of the suburbs, but in the central city it’s a meaningful amount of land lost.

      1. The US is in no way an example to follow. Maybe we should look to countries with low road deaths and injuries, countries that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, and emulate them? Netherlands maybe?

        1. I was winding Kent up for his weaselly attempt to suggest that Australia and New Zealand are worse than the US (“Austroads-mangled cities”) for pedestrian priority 🙂

          That said, downtown areas in many major US cities give more pedestrian priority than NZ does anywhere… not that that’s hard. Of the countries I’ve been to, I think Japan is the most obvious to emulate for transport: safety through narrow streets, low speeds, and not having much traffic because most people use public transport.

          I haven’t unfortunately had the opportunity to visit the Netherlands yet, though, and get a feel for how well the much-hyped Dutch system works in practice. I’d very much like to.

          1. haha. The streets and road rules in the US, while far from perfect, are way more ped-friendly than NZ 🙂

          2. Also disagree with the comment about the US, I found the 3-4 states I’ve visited a few times (including some pretty rural ones) to be way more pedestrian friendly than here, and I would suggest that it’s for the wrong reason: drivers actually get sued and lose money to pedestrians that they’ve hit, and are afraid of that. In NZ, bullying pedestrians and even hitting them with a car is mostly free. No need for a lawyer, ACC takes care of everything. Bad drivers don’t end up paying much more insurance than good ones because the bulk of the cost (medical) is borne by ACC. if civil liability was a personal, mandatory cost (as it is in most western countries), there would be a strong incentive for bad drivers to be more careful, and for the very bad ones to stop driving altogether.

      2. Sorry but “more hostile to pedestrians” is absolute BS
        When I was working in the CBD I walked about 2-3km everyday between offices
        Now I work out west I walk 2-3km as well during the course of my workday
        So I am a pedestrian, and I definitely don’t find slip lanes threatening.
        I also don’t find fast cars a problem, sometime the faster the car the quicker I can run across a road. Lots of slow moving traffic can be impossible to cross the road with (forgive my grammar there)

  11. Hope the Khyber-Symonds slip lanes get removed, those are irritating, especially at peak as there is no way to cross them due to lack of zebra’s or pedestrian light phase, you just have to trust motorists will wait instead of mowing you over.

  12. My experience of downtown slip lanes in Wellington is as follows. They almost universally have ped crossings to island refuges. This makes a big difference. In high pedestrian areas in particular we peds treat them like driveways over footpaths ie eyeball the driver and stride out. Drivers generally stop anyway but the eye contact helps ensure. Contrast this with walking in Auckland (thinking of around mayoral drive), inexplicably no ped crossings, cars not expecting to stop, difficult for able bodied peds let alone children, older people or those with disabilities. It is possible to make slip lanes relatively safe but consistent treatment to set expectations seems really important. Ped crossings should be mandatory. Agree that raised tables are a good enhancement.

  13. I do wonder if a carefully constructed slip lane with well-marked cycle priority as well as a zebra ped-crossing could be safer for cyclists as well as pedestrians than a non-slip-lane intersection in some locations? For cyclists it moves the left-turning-car vs straight-through-cyclist conflict to a position where both participants have fewer distractions from the rest of the intersection and so are less likely to be make a mistake. The closest to an example of such a design that I have seen is from Symonds St into Mt Eden Rd, here’s a google street view link (you have to look on street view, the google maps satellite view for this location is out-of-date and does not show the cycle lane). Just imagine the cycle lane being a bit wider (maybe with a painted buffer strip between it and the traffic) and the zebra crossing on a raised table, and I think it would be a pretty good template to copy:,174.760702,3a,75y,188.84h,74.37t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1swnsdmKkPZKGzbdhTjwoDOg!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656

    Just imagine straight-though cyclists battling with the large number of buses (Mt Eden Rd routes and most Dominion Rd routes) turning left into Mt Eden Rd at the evening peak if there were no slip lane.

    Of course this design requires (a) well-marked lane implying priority for cyclists, (b) tight-ish turning radius for motor vehicles to discourage excess speed, and (c) zebra crossing for pedestrian. I can’t point to a single other example of a slip lane that has the cycle priority painted across it.

    It think this example (cycle lane painted across slip lane) is more suited to suburban locations, like the Lincoln Rd re-design, or a CBD-fringe location like where this example is. I tend to think in the core of the CBD, slip lanes are almost always best removed. For those comment-ers suggesting slip lanes without ped-crossings might be safer, I can speculate this is only based on number of ped vs vehicle accidents and probably only because pedestrians are put off from using the intersection?

    1. You’re thinking of cycling as a vehicular cyclist. Break through that. We need cycle lanes/paths with their own phases.

  14. Pedestrians’ attitudes to slip lanes, as suggested by some comments here, may vary according to who you are. The young and fit may not mind them – providing there is not too much turning traffic, you can nip out to the triangular refuge at your pleasure, where the remaining crossing and the wait for the green man may be shorter.

    The less fit or confident will probably prefer a single, fully protected crossing even if there’s a longer wait for the green man.

    But certainly, a light-controlled intersection with a free left slip lane with NO zebra crossing, so that there’s NO WAY safely to reach the beg button on the triangular refuge, is absurd. I am amazed that they’re allowed to exist. In Australia it’s standard that all free left slip lanes have zebra crossings.

  15. While we’re at it. Slip lanes also have a big impact downstream. Letting cars through intersections without stopping means the stream of cars continues uninterrupted. This makes it difficult for people to cross the street mid block. This is not good for town centres. This also is not good for people trying to access PT. Add this to the list of self-reinforcing designs that forces most people to drive everywhere even for the shortest trips.

  16. BBC, just because you read my words with your own biased viewpoint, doesn’t mean I wrote them the way you interpreted them.
    You don’t even know me, so don’t make idiotic assumptions about what I think. I never said Tangihua was safer or better previously.

    All I pointed out was that there is little evidence to show slip lanes are more or less dangerous than standard crossings.
    I also said that sliplanes in many cases allow intersections to operate better. And by that I mean that they operate with lower delays for all road users, pedestrians included. This is the case at Tangihua. Pedestrians will now have a higher delay to cross Tangihua than they did previously. This is the direct consequence of removing one of the slip lanes.

    Somehow you read this as me saying I would advocate sliplanes anywhere and everywhere.

    What this discussion highlights is how many engineers view the world in general. They have to make decisions that affect the safety of all who use what they design. For traffic engineers, efficiency is secondary. They must rely on facts and evidence to make these decisions. No evidence to prove slip lanes are unsafe, thus they go in all over the place. Engineers also design for current demand and make guesses on future demand. This also leads to particular outcomes that may not be desirable (moar cars forever!!!!).

    Desirability is an entirely separate discussion(which may be part of the problem). This is about the type of environment you wish to create. Yes, an engineer’s design has a big impact on the environment, but deciding what type of impact is not the role of the engineer. This is the role of the people who are paying for the project, the urban planners, the politicians, the city managers. They will be the ones that have to front up to the mob and they must set the directives and priorities in design. Someone needs to make the decision on how much to spend (often the biggest factor) or to put in bus lanes at the cost of vehicle lanes or put in cycle lanes at the cost of a footpath, or to refuse any new slip lanes or to require a maximum pedestrian delay or require no trees to be cut down.

    Engineers design to meet requirements, within constraints set. If the constraints or requirements are lacking, then don’t blame the engineer. Having said that, there are many legal constraints on engineers to implement certain designs because alternatives are not legal. Their hands are tied and it is up to some other group of experts in Wellington to decide the road rules.

  17. The Beach Rd / Tangihua Intersection is still a pedestrian nightmare. I cross Beach Rd here between 2- 4 times daily. My observation is that 90% of the time at least 1 vehicle if not more travelling east on Beach Rd will run orange/red light phase. Just today the Ped X-ing singal had had sounded, yet we still had to wait for a 2 tonne truck to complete the traverse the intersection let alone be clear of the Ped X-ing lane. Vehicles released by the light phasing back toward Gore St/Britomart etc approach this intersection at full legal speed (often more) on a slight curve and with so much space it must feel like they’ve already reached a motorway. I fully expect a significant injury accident here over the next 6 months as pedestrian volumes increase with summer weather.

  18. Somone commented on the effect of litigation on the safety of pedestrians in the US.
    I wonder if our no fault ACC gives the motorists a sense of security and adds to the “She’ll be right attitude.
    I was knocked off my bike a couple of years ago and was attended by both Police and ambulance (who took me home) and bike was badly bent. The motorist was not even ticketed and did not contribute to reinstating my bike. He put off contributing for a while as he couldn’t afford it and eventually he faded out of contact. No consequence at all.

  19. I definitely had a moment of panic the other day when I realised that I used a slip lane with a pedestrian crossing without checking for pedestrians waiting to cross before driving over the crossing. I’m an infrequent driver, usually on foot/bike/train.

  20. I wonder if we are throwing the baby out with the bath water here? Just because some people think cars have had it ‘too good for too long’ at the expense of other transport modes ie walking and cycling, shouldn’t mean we should be racing to remove all slip lanes. As Ari has pointed out there are no meaningful studies to show if there is any tangible benefit to pedestrians or vehicles in doing so. Just because something ‘feels right’ doesn’t mean it is right.
    I would much rather see all left turn slip lanes converted to pedestrian crossings and raised tables first, as (say) a two year trial*. The raised table would force ALL vehicles to slow down before taking their ‘free’ left turn, and this, coupled with enforcement of the ‘give way to all pedestrians’ rule should improve pedestrian safely greatly. If these pedestrian crossings and raised tables were implemented city wide (and quickly) and became standard in every situation I’m sure both pedestrians and drivers alike would be able to move through intersections smoothly. Of course this idea is predicated on the idea that the agency in charge can develop a standardised plan that can be implemented quickly by an appropriate contractor – am I mad to think an organised team could get each one built in a day?
    *if at the end of the trial the pedestrian crossings and raised tables haven’t achieved the desired result the by all means move to the more expensive option of removing the slip lanes.

Leave a Reply

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