Who are you and what have you done with Auckland Transport?

For the third time in a week I find myself praising Auckland Transport for something related to walking and cycling. This time following the fantastic Open Streets on K Rd.

Image from Tina Plunkett
Image from Tina Plunkett

AT fixed the biggest issue from the last few years on Quay St when there simply wasn’t enough space for the tens of thousands of people out enjoying the day due to them leaving half of the road open to traffic. This time they closed off the entire street from Newton/Ponsonby Rd all the way through to Upper Queen St. The day also went longer than in the past with this year it opening to people from 12-7pm. The extra space and time were definitely needed with the event proving hugely popular and thousands flocking to the street. Given K Rd’s colourful history I suspect for many it might have been the first time in a long time – and what a way to see it.

AT worked with the K Rd business association to put on the day and I love that the organisers didn’t try to sanitise what makes K Rd unique, instead the event felt like a celebration of what K Rd is so wasn’t something else that was awkwardly shoehorned into it. From the music to street performers to the drag queens commenting on street football/limbo, the street’s culture and colour were vital in helping to make the event both interesting and also not feel manufactured.

Open Streets 2016 - drag queen limbo 2
Image from Christopher Dempsey

The very nature of the street also played a big role, the subtle twists and turns as K Rd makes its way along the ridge helped too in breaking up the street and creating some mystery. As you come around a corner and the street opens up ahead of you, you found something new to check out and a heap more people.

I think the day would have also been great for businesses along the street, some of which don’t normally even open on a Sunday. All of the cafe’s and bars I saw were humming with people and their presence meant there wasn’t a need for things like food trucks which also helped in allowing for more space for people.

Everyone that I talked to, both on the street and online afterwards was extremely positive about the event with many also saying:

  • It should happen every Sunday
  • It needs to happen in many other town centres around the region.

If the K Rd event did become a regular event and even if only half as many people turned up it would still be hugely successful and see a far greater number of people use the road than had it been open to cars.

Following the previous events on Quay St, it feels like Auckland is now starting to tap into the right vein of what is needed to make events like this successful in the future. This includes

  • Closing the whole street to give people enough the space to move about
  • Tapping into the local community and letting them put their own flavour on things.
  • Not over manufacturing things

And as successful as the day was, I also couldn’t help imagine what it would be like once the CRL is open and thousands of people an hour are pouring out of the K Rd station.

There are a heap of photos from the event on twitter and I’m sure other social media too.

As part of the event Auckland Transport were also talking about the options for upgrading the streetscape of K Rd which includes adding cycleways. The project covers the area from the Newton/Ponsonby Rd intersection through to Symonds St. AT are still working on the design for it but were asking for feedback on which kind of cycleway design people liked best.

For most of the street where there’s enough space they asked for people’s preferences between three different cycleway options.

K Rd open street consultation - 3 cycleway options

While for the central section between Pitt St and Upper Queen St there were two options suggested. For these AT also had the ideas shown in virtual reality which gave a different perspective and definitely influenced my preference.

K Rd open street consultation - central cycleway options

And as of about 5:15pm, here’s how the voting AT had set up was looking. As you can see they were hugely in favour of physical separation in both cases. In the central section, after looking at the VR version I actually preferred the kerbside option as the extra width was noticeable and there’s less likely to be people walking over the cycleway.

K Rd open street consultation - voting

Overall an excellent day that was enjoyed by tens of thousands. Well done to all involved in organising this.

Did you go to the event, if so what did you think?

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  1. Great to see such a diverse range of people enjoying the city. And great to see AT realizing that streets are, first and foremost, a public space that should be used for the benefit of people, not vehicles. I appreciate there’s some tricky tradeoffs involved but in my mind there’s no doubt that too much of our city’s public space is reserved for the movement of cars without a second thought being given to potential alternative uses of that space.

  2. Well, for the first time since the motorway destroyed the viability of this once thriving retail precinct there were wide smiles on the faces of those running K Rd business… and that’s a long time. Huge success.

  3. imagine if open streets was a regular Sunday event, held every week in a different town centre, with every place trying to better the other, showing what it can do best. An itinerant Palio di Siena without horses. One week in Ponsonby all about food and restaurant, one in Waitakere and the bush, one in Remuera and the Maseratis and fake lips. Also an occasion for Aucklanders to rediscover their city

    1. Perhaps a cycle race with an entrant from each suburb. Use a rough course with cobbles etc so a few go over and make sure it is a mass start – short dash so it doesn’t turn into the type of ‘teams all cheating’ that normal road races turn into. A big gold banner for the winner.

    2. +1

      Some place like queen st deserves pedrestrain only access on friday night and weekend.

      Then rent out spaces to food stalls and street performers, just like how the night market and sunday market operate.

      1. Parts of Granville Street in Vancouver close down to vehicles on certain nights. Could be a very similar vibe in Queen Street, close down from Wellesley to Beach road on Friday/Saturday after 7pm.

  4. Great Day. Lots of fun. Lovely to see so many families with children of all ages using the street walking and cycling. Had a fabulous time renewing acquaintance with some favourite shops and visiting new ones. Spent far too much!.

  5. Are there any estimates of the number of people who used the street over the course of the day? It would be interesting to compare to the average number of vehicles on a Sunday as a rough measure of what use provides the most public utility.

    1. No Frank I don’t think anyone counted because to use the term favoured by numpties it was just ‘induced demand’.

      1. Your criticism of the concept of induced demand doesn’t make sense. “Induced demand” doesn’t say there is anything wrong with people using things that are built / made available. It is a specific criticism of using congestion reducing benefits to justify expanding road capacity without taking into account the affect of that capacity on demand.

        1. agree.

          Nothing wrong with an investment that induces demand, unless the induced demand has the consequent effect of undermining the rationale for the investment in the first place!

      2. Oh come on that was funny. Induced demand is a term for regular demand but only applied to things that the person using the term doesn’t support. ie they have already made a value judgement. In that sense it is pseudo-science. That is why it is applied to roads as an argument against them but never applied to cycleways or trains.

        1. It is never applied to PT or cycle facilities because growing the number of people using those modes is nearly always one of the stated aims of those projects. Roads on the other hand are never justified on the basis of how many additional cars will be lured onto them. Quite the opposite – roads are usually justified in terms of reducing congestion, always with the assumption that the current level of traffic is fixed.

        2. I don’t think I have ever seen a road project that didn’t include a growth assumption. So in that sense you are quite wrong Frank. As for curing congestion that is a claim made by people pushing other modes. Pricing is the only way we will ever alleviate it.

        3. > I don’t think I have ever seen a road project that didn’t include a growth assumption

          Road projects always assume some growth. But the critical difference is that they tend to assume the growth will happen whether or not the project is built.

          To be fair, some road projects do have a specific aim of growing traffic – the Roads of National Significance are explicitly designed to facilitate growth, so induced demand isn’t a reasonable criticism of the RoNS. (The reasonable criticism is that they’re a disastrous waste of money, and perhaps that growing private vehicle traffic isn’t a great goal in the first place).

        4. Of course it’s induced demand. But worthwhile and valuable demand. It’s latent demand that’s there but is mostly unrealised because of structural auto-domination. This is the very point; the driving demand that is realised through multi-billion dollar highway projects is also latent, but the issue is about the value of incentivising the movement demand to take that form. Especially as it leads to solidification of not only the movement pattern but also the land-use into auto-dependancy more or less permanently. The argument has always been, and you are trying to perpetuate it, that this is the only form that anyone wants, or will use, so all the disbenefits of it just have to be put up with.

          Yet we know none of those things are true; when offered real choices for how to move, and how and where to live and work, Aucklanders now have a strong record of choosing these alternatives. So the old and discredited Traffic Engineering 101 of ‘predict and provide’ is fully outed as what it has always been; ‘decide and provide’. Well a lot of us no longer want only one mode and one pattern decided for us and forced on us with our money. While there’s some deciding going on, it’s long past time that only a monotonal, dispersed, and auto-centric world is decided for us by ‘experts’.

          Induce away; only induce better.

        5. No Pat all I am saying is if you close off another street more people will probably walk on it. To your credit you can see that ‘induced demand’ includes a value judgement. As for Frank’s claim that roads are justified on the basis of removing congestion, I dont think I have ever read a report claiming a new road would eliminate congestion for all time. Roads are justified on the same basis as rail and buses, they increase the number of people moving. Anyone who tells you congestion will be solved is either an idiot or a Mayor.

        6. “I dont think I have ever read a report claiming a new road would eliminate congestion……
          Roads are justified on the same basis as rail and buses, they increase the number of people moving.”

          bhahahahahahahahahahaha *deep breath* bhahahahahahahahahaha

          “As for curing congestion ….Pricing is the only way we will ever alleviate it.”

          I agree with you there.

        7. At least we have settled the induced demand nonsense. On the down side you will probably have to put up with me writing induced demand under every post for the next 6 months.

        8. Yeah, all for pricing, but pricing must come with alternatives. And the better urban form that spatially efficient transport also ‘induces’. Just pricing people off the roads with no or poor movement alternatives and on a wholly dispersed pattern would be highly regressive*.

          * note we already have a much more mixed urban form, while Auckland has pockets of high dispersal it also has quite broad areas of solid density and mixed use, especially in the old centre and tram-built suburbs. So it isn’t a case of waiting for some magic future ideal density, but rather choosing to grow the kinds of modes that simply incentivies it to deepen. Where possible, of course, given our out of date sprawl inducing planning regs….. [that’s another story though]

        9. mfwic – down in Wellington, NZTA and other proponents of the flyover always talk about the need to “solve congestion at the Basin Reserve”. In your opinion, is this a problem that is actually “solveable?”

    2. Haven’t seen any estimates yet but AT traffic data says Sundays get about 17-18k vehicles on the different sections. That was from counts in Oct-13.

      Heart of the city have a ped counter outside 150 K Rd. The previous Sunday it recorded 2.7k people, yesterday 5.3k but that will only be people on the footpath.

  6. Is there any value in asking people what sort of cycle lane they want? We don’t ask them what sort of material they want roads built out of, or what flight profile jets should fly… we need to focus on *functional* requirements not *technical* requirements

    1. “Does it feel safe to users?” is a functional requirement. People are much more likely to use cycling facilities that feel safe to them. In that context, it makes sense to ask the question.

      1. Why not say “How safe should you feel” and give them a 10 point likert… get them to also rank safety vs. other characteristics.
        This gives you a functional score. divide by cost. done

        1. If you do that the for goodness sake don’t average the results. It is ordinal data not cardinal numbers. Despite what marketing departments the world over teach students a mean or ordinal numbers has no basis.

        2. Likert data often assumed to be interval data. Psychologists treat it just like that way and compute means etc.

        3. Yes they claim Likert has even intervals but that is just BS. The people answering the question dont necesarily see it that way and usually are not told that an answer at one end of the scale will be assumed to be worth five times an answer at the other end. The data is ordinal – the very definition of ordinal, but twits assume it is cardinal after they have collected it and they calculate a mean. You can get a mode or even a median as they are ordinal measures. What is the mean of first second and third? There isnt one.

        4. That’s a meaningless approach. A cycle lane that people rated an average of 8 for safety and cost $8 million would come out with the same score as one that rated an average of 2 and cost $2 million.

          There’s nothing wrong with asking what people want. We don’t take that approach for roads, because it doesn’t really matter. There are clear standards around safe road design and anything that meets those will feel safe to people and will get used. People are so stupidly addicted to their cars they’ll use them on whatever horrible piece of crappy design you build anyway.

          Cycle lanes are a lot more variable and how safe they feel and how pleasant they are to use is absolutely critical to their success.

        5. Yes, because they are equivalent (well, if your BCR is about benefit ratio rather than net benefits)

        6. If you wanted a completely meaningless set of data, you *could* do that. Over in reality, we don’t have very robust model of perceived safety conditional on bike lane design. Context matters a lot. For example, sharrows feel very safe on low-speed, low-traffic roads, and very unsafe on busy streets. So even if we did measure people’s preference for perceived safety, it wouldn’t have any obvious implications for design.

          Sometimes it’s better to ask a simple question with a straightforward interpretation.

        7. The questions they asked seem reasonable enough to figure out what people actually want. From the text you can see that some urban designer didn’t like an option and now they can go back to that designer and say “we asked the people and they didn’t agree with you”

    2. We ask drivers a lot of things. We even ask them (constantly) things like “Do you feel it is okay to remove this single car park [that we have a safety audit showing it as unsafe]?”.

      So why not ask them about something that will affect them quite a lot more, and for which public acceptance and feeling makes a great difference in uptake?

      I agree with you though that it’s not a vote (despite things like the stickers maybe making it look like one) – but public input here seems more valuable than on various other things we regularly consult on.

      1. Ask them what they want, not how to do it

        E.g. removing the carpark “are you willing to accept a 0.2% decrease in probability of finding a park for a reduction of 1.6 injury accidents per year”?

        1. Hah. And there’s your fallacy (also alluded to above in the “there’s clear standards for roads”):

          The design on K Road – while ages ahead of what we used to build – will still not be as good for bikes as a normal standard road is for cars. Because we are still making compromises in terms of width we allocate etc. In short, the space given is not good enough to do everything perfectly. So asking prospective riders (and the K Road event crowd is a better cross-section for future riders than just asking current people on bikes) what is most important to them, is valuable information. They results are pretty clear: “Get those cars (and car doors) away from me, thanks”.

          In a way, its sobering – Aucklanders don’t believe Copenhagen lanes will work in Auckland (at least not at this time). And they may well be right. In busy areas with lots of parking and loading demand, we’d risk seeing lots of parking on the cycle lane otherwise.

        2. K Rd would be the idea place for the first inner city Copenhagen Lanes. Lot’s of traffic giving people a chance to try it. Or, see if AT can get a hold of some of Copenhagenize’s temporary track.

        3. I think that a better approach is to build Copenhagen lanes with delineation devices that are easy to remove. Culturally we aren’t ready for Copenhagen lanes in NZ but with a little bit of very obvious separation and enough traffic we can probably get there eventually.

          By far the biggest problem here will be taxis parking in the cycle lanes.

        4. So, do what the Dutch do: bollards. Cycle Lanes in Amsterdam are generally just at the same level as the road, but with a continuous line of bollards that separate cars from people and bikes. No taxis can ever get through the bollards. Car traffic may get congested and stop, but bike traffic just weaves past the bollards and continues…

        5. the allocation of space is a technical issue not a functional one

          What’s the right questions to ask local residents
          “How much would you like us to reduce crime?”
          “How big should our police station be and how many staff should it have?”

  7. Years ago my grandfather told me about the Spanish flu. He walked home along K-Road one evening after 5pm and he was the only person there. He was 12 and had been leaving meals on sick people’s verandahs. A jeweller in Queen St arrange the volunteers. Ladies to cook and boys to deliver and he would collect meals from that shop and drop them off then walk home to Grafton Rd.
    He would have been impressed with that first photo above.

    1. Yes, that’s a really interesting story! Older Aucklanders usually have some pretty interesting memories of how the city used to be. It can be surprising how much things change (and don’t change).

  8. After travelling around Europe, seeing how different cities do cycle lanes (Vienna vs. Copenhagen comes to mind), and also in Auckland with the newish Beach Rd Cycleway, you really need to make it extremely obvious that a cycle lane is for bicycles only. Because if it looks like a footpath, people are going to walk on it, whether it has a picture of a bicycle painted on it or not.

    1. Yes and why do we use the bright green and not that better redish/earthy brown? Bus lanes could be the green,bikes the brown complete full coverage perhaps needed more as it wouldn’t stand out as much for safety (perhaps this is the reason?)

      1. Enforce it. Enforce it. Enforce it. Every day. Publicly. Tow cars. Clamp cars. Crush cars. Arrest people noisily and violently

        You can’t assume obedience; it needs to be drilled in.

        I (on average) call AT about cars parked on footpaths at least once a week. And there are far more pro-pedestrian and pro-cyclist people on TB. If all of you picked up your phones and demanded action, we’d sort these problems in a jiffy.

        Obedience is a habit.

  9. The day was a great day.

    I agree with Matt on the kerbside option, if the indented option has a narrowed footpath pedestrians will use the cycleway. The footpaths are likely to get busier as K road has a number of new apartment blocks, with a new one due to be finished in the next 2 weeks, a conversion close to being finished with the old telecom conversion well underway. The number of people using the footpath will increase, as there is limited parking in these new buildings.

    In a number of locations the amount of room for pedestrians is too small for the current peak flows particularly when the school girls are going one way with commuters are going the other and the footpath being narrowed by street furniture and dining tables. So any reduction in the footpath will cause people to use the cycle way.

    1. I’d be cautious with what you wish for here with that.

      As while the wide footpath/cycleway design may sound great for all, what will happen over time is that local business will see the wider footpath as an opportunity to “reclaim” some of the footpath for their businesses, either with signage, tables and chairs (for which they pay a peppercorn rental to council for the space taken), or shop displays. All of which is great activation, but only if done is moderation.

      If overdone or randomly the overall effect is that the pedestrians are now crowded into the footpath, and many will now walk into the cyclists path [the only free space they see], causing the pedestrians to blame cyclists for being there. When the real culprit is elsewhere.

      1. I’d rather have tables and chairs on a wider but crowded footpath, than have more road space and a narrower but crowded footpath without tables and chairs.

        1. Which means the rich, who can afford cafe food/drinks, are privileged

        2. No it means the rich who can afford cars and parking on K Rd become less privileged, and humans getting around on foot have more space, less noise, less fumes and less chance of being run over.

  10. I asked Kathryn (AT) on how they were counting this year, she said with the numerous entries, they can’t just count people coming in at one end, so they had professional crowd number people there, just assessing from looking. Yup – apparently that’s a thing! So we will get an authoritive number head count.

    I agree with you matt, the big feed back was have open streets ‘all the time, everywhere’. Funnily enough the Albert-Eden LB attended for he first time, and were wildly enthusiastic about replicating it. Obviously waitemata are keen on the event – but do the other boards even know the format exist? It was news to Albert Eden when I told them, and it’s these local bodies who you want to work with local business associations etc in local townships, delivering a message to people at a local level.

  11. Dear Simon Bridges,

    Can you pass a law to allow electric cars at the next open streets? This will definitely help the environment. Thanks.

    The Sustainable Business Council

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