Auckland’s about to take a few significant new steps towards being a more cycle-friendly city. We’ve gotten the go-ahead for some major off-road cycleways, like Grafton Gully, Pinkpath, the Glen Innes to Tamaki cycleway, and (pending Environment Court appeals) Skypath. Investments to date are paying off nicely, with big jumps in cycle trips along the routes that have seen the biggest improvements in connectivity.
But the next steps for the city’s nascent cycling network are, in many senses, more important. In order to get the best use out of existing cycle routes, we need to connect them to things. This means making cycle improvements on local and arterial streets to make them safer and more comfortable for people on bikes.
Auckland Transport is currently running two consultations on cycle facility improvements in the inner west. Our friends at Bike Auckland have the details.
The first consultation is on cycle improvements in Grey Lynn, Arch Hill, and Westmere. This includes the potential for separated cycle lanes on a significant chunk of Great North Road. This consultation has now been extended to 21 October, so you’ve got a week to put in your views.
Here’s a run-down of the routes that they’re looking at:
Bike Auckland has a more in-depth run-down of the details that I’d recommend reading before submitting. Here’s their summary of the Great North Rd changes:
This changes everything, as you can see from the project page and the detailed plans! As well as the installation of protected bike lanes, there’s a big bus-stop shuffle, improvements for pedestrians, and safer intersections.
Of particular interest to the bike community:
1.5m-wide cycle lane, on-road for nearly the entire length of the route, on both sides of the road, inside the bus lane – separated from the bus lane by a 0.5m physical or painted buffer.
Due to lack of space on the road, a small section of raised off-road cycle path on the existing concrete berm (past the library) heading towards Grey Lynn shops, between Coleridge Street and Crummer Road.
Narrowing of the central median to 1.7-2.2m along the length of the route.
Bike Auckland member Max has also written a more in-depth guide to the design issues, concluding with some key recommendations:
Please ensure the cycle lane is physically separated – with a solid, durable divider!
We like the bus stop cycle bypasses – please provide as many as you can, and as much space for them as possible.
At intersections, please provide hook turns for safe right turns – we want this everyday movement to be stress-free.
Down the road slightly, there’s a lower-profile but nonetheless important consultation going on for the redesign of the Great North Rd / Bullock Track intersection. Bike Auckland has the details and the contact form for submissions. Submissions are open until 17 October – so get them done this weekend if you want to be heard:
…at some point – like when an intersection is officially listed as one of the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections in New Zealand” and “Third worst in Auckland” – you have to hope that something will finally get done.
That’s the case for the intersection of Great North Road / Bullock Track, west of Grey Lynn, which has a very long rap sheet: over fifty known crashes (including one fatality) over the last 10 years, among them one of our own close associates, who had a potentially very bad (but ultimately “lucky”) crash with an inattentive driver last year.
[…] Now, at last, Auckland Transport is proposing to provide traffic signals at this intersection to increase safety for all road users, which will also help cyclists.
Bike Auckland reviews the details of the project, and offers a verdict:
What’s good about it…
- The intersection is signalised, making it less likely for that Bullock Track driver focussed entirely on getting to the other side to suddenly shoot out and ram you as you pass through on your bike, as in the case of our friend who got hit here.
- A new pedestrian crossing over Great North Road replaces an old pedestrian refuge that obliged you to dash over multiple lanes. Better crossing options are good for a multi-modal city.
- A longer section of bus lane into town for those taking public transport (which also functions as a small improvement for very confident on-road riders).
- New zebra crossings around the motorway interchange to make those drivers pay more attention to pedestrians.
And what’s not so good…
No cycle facilities. A brand new traffic signal, just a wee ride away from the growing western cycleway network that is coming for Surrey Crescent and GNR (east of Grey Lynn into town). But no facilities for those riders, no protected lanes. And no connections westward, either – even though AT was going to look into this section after the Pohutukawa 6 were saved, and the design of GNR through the St Lukes Interchange was ‘to be rethought’, including improvements for people on bikes.
Those shared paths don’t count. Sorry, but they’re really just signs on a wide footpath (which is crowded with pedestrians when events are on). And the paths don’t lead anywhere, because directly west and east of these sections, it isn’t even legal to ride on the footpath. Sure, some people currently do – for example to get to MOTAT, Western Springs Park, or the Stadium, and the Northwestern Cycleway (and there’s a fair amount of school-age bike traffic to be spotted on the footpath morning and afternoon, an expression of how unfriendly the road space is for anyone other than very confident cyclists). But the fact that some 150m of this informal ‘heavy traffic avoidance route’ will now be legal doesn’t really change much.
Riding in the new eastbound bus lane may be better than having to claim a general lane, or riding in a narrower painted cycle lane between two lines of cars. But you’ll still have traffic to the left of you (turning into Bullock Track) and to the right of you (heading eastward on GNR) and of course, buses fore and aft. Rider beware. Would it be a better idea to allow cyclists to continue straight from the left turn lane, instead of making them use the bus lane? (NB this would only work if the footpath wasn’t built out on the northeast corner, so that riders could merge more gradually back into the bus lane once past the Bullock Track).
Some aspects of the new signal worry us a bit. Will we have motorists doing (illegal) right turns here? For example, will everyone who currently turns right out of Tuarangi obediently take the back way up the hill instead, to join GNR at the town centre? Or will some continue to risk turning right here, as is their habit? And consider the right turn into Tuarangi – it will still be allowed, but there is no dedicated right turn lane. Will people driving towards town suddenly swerve into the bus lane (where on-road cyclists will be) instead of waiting behind right turners? To be fair, we are bringing up some likely quite rare possibilities here – whereas right now, every single driver coming out of Bullock Track at peak hour is a potential hazard. But at minimum, AT will have to closely check whether such risky behaviour will happen.
Two of the three new zebra crossings around the interchange have no raised tables. How can people be sure that drivers off and onto a fast motorway will slow down and give way? Sadly, NZTA is very, very resistant to having raised tables on such lanes at their interchanges.
If you’re a regular (or aspiring) user of the cycle network in the inner west, I’d strongly encourage you to read up on the proposals and put in a submission!