This is a guest post from our friends at Bike Auckland

The quick version: Otahuhu Town Centre is getting a makeover – but there’s not much in it for people on bikes, and it could be a lot better for pedestrians.

Feedback closes very soon (Wednesday 6 September) – so we encourage you to go to the feedback link ASAP and answer Question 2 by asking for these 3 changes:

  • a protected cycleway on Station Road, between the town centre and the train/bus interchange, using one of Bike AKL’s options
  • more traffic calming through the village shops – by adding zebra crossings and raised tables to the intersections along Great South Road
  • a 30kmh speed limit for the town centre

Read on for more details, and our improvements on AT’s designs… 

Why does the inner isthmus have some of the highest rates of cycling in Auckland, and much of the cycling investment as well? The idea is: it’s a busy place, and lots of people means more people on bikes. So, the argument goes, if you want to persuade a car-centric city to embrace the joy and usefulness of bikes, you should target your investment centrally to start with.

But the same argument can also be made for much of South Auckland – equal in terms of vitality and density, and whose people have long missed out on good (or indeed, any) new cycleways. Our Bike Blueprint 2020 called strongly for more investment in the south of the city, and we’re glad to see some of this was confirmed in Auckland Transport’s cycling business case for the next decade.

So, when we heard that Auckland Transport will be giving Otahuhu Town Centre a major street make-over, we got excited…

Not much here for cycling – a shared path on Station Road, some traffic calming on Great South Rd.

…hmm. Maybe we shouldn’t have gotten so excited. Here’s the bike-friendly part of the plan:

  • A shared path on Station Road linking to the Otahuhu Transport Interchange.
  • And some traffic calming on Great South Road.

It’s not good enough – but it’s a huge opportunity. We reckon Otahuhu is the perfect test case for how Auckland can do better – and how AT can bring better cycleways to the South. We’re very glad to hear the Local Board is keen as well.

What’s the problem with shared paths?

A shared path – mixing bikes and pedestrians, in one of the busiest parts of our city? Why?

We’ve long held that sharing space doesn’t work so well between pedestrians and cyclists. Shared paths are “the Hunger Games of transport”, making people squabble over crumbs. You can’t ride at normal speeds when you constantly have to slow down to pass walkers. And, even a small number of fast riders discourage elderly or mobility-impaired people from walking. Nobody wins.

New shared paths work in pretty specialised cases only: for every Lightpath (super-wide, with no shop doorways and driveways) there are ten places where a shared path is the wrong choice. So why do our authorities keep proposing them? We’re not sure – although often, the argument is that there’s just not enough space for better solutions.

What’s proposed on Station Road?

AT clearly sees the need for better walking and biking links to the town centre, especially on Station Road. This important connection to the new bus/train station is currently very industrial for much of its length, home to a lot of truck traffic, and also seven (!) major bus routes. Not a welcoming place to ride on-road, even for brave cyclists.

AT is proposing a shared path on the southern side, 3.7m wide. (Note: that’s a wee bit wider than usual – maybe because it includes some ‘door zone’ buffer space for passengers emerging from parked cars. AT’s clearly thinking of bikes, if not quite in the way we would love to see!).

Here’s a sample cross-section:

The AT proposal with a shared path on the south side. Widths taken from the “Scheme plans” section of the consultation page, near 111 Station Rd).

To our eyes, this is barely adequate. Sure, it creates an off-road option, and yeah, it’s better than nothing – but it’s a long way from good. Dodging pedestrians will make for a slow and inconvenient ride, while making things less safe for people walking.

Could it be better?

Let’s assume AT is trying to preserve other typical requirements, like wide traffic lanes (for the buses and trucks), and on-street parking for businesses and residents. If we accept those as givens, can we still find a way to make things better for walking and biking along Station Rd?

Yes we can! In two different ways, in fact.

Bike AKL Option I: a protected two-way bike path!

Reduce the grass strips, add in a two-way cycle path!

As you can see, using the same width as AT’s design, we can fit a two-way protected bike path, with bikes separate from BOTH vehicles and pedestrians. Even better: it can be built without big squabbles about trade-offs, because it keeps the car parks and the wide bus/truck lanes. The only thing that’s significantly changed are the grass strips.

This option would give people on bikes their own route – no need to share with heavy, dangerous vehicles – and pedestrians also get their own bike-free space, wider than it is today. Win-win!

AT may hesitate at the idea of a two-way bike path crossing side streets – and, to be fair, this is a safety issue that would need to be managed, with dedicated crossing designs.

You could get around that objection by switching our suggested two-way path to the northern side of the road, which has slightly fewer side roads – and in particular, doesn’t cross Mason Avenue, where the seven bus routes through Otahuhu turn in and out along their route.

Or… you could try Option 2.

Bike AKL Option II: two protected bike lanes!

This one’s a bit more ambitious, but also totally feasible in the space available: namely, replacing the off-road path idea with parking-protected cycle lanes.

The protected bike lane option, for the best solution!

This option removes the grass strips altogether (although as shown, there will still be trees, interspersed between sections of parking bays). In exchange, you get fully protected bike lanes, the safety gold standard for people on bikes, especially those nervous about biking. The bike lanes also create an extra buffer between traffic and pedestrians.

Our two options show there’s definitely room for better design – and Auckland Transport canfit protected and separated bike facilities on Station Road, creating a huge jump in quality for people walking and cycling in Otahuhu. Join us in calling for a better outcome here!


Meanwhile, on Great South Road, what’s happening for pedestrians?

The proposals for Great South Road focus on the pedestrian environment, with some very sensible changes for a busy shopping street that currently looks like this:

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The changes include, among other things:

  • building out kerbs and narrowing the traffic lanes to create much more footpath space. To achieve this, about 25 of the 100 existing parking spaces are to be removed.
  • changing the Great South Road / Princes St roundabout to traffic signals – not a bad move given the bike-unfriendly sweeping turns of the current design.

With the main north-south traffic route going around the town centre on Atkinson Ave and Princes Street, anything that helps lower traffic numbers and speeds while giving lots more space to pedestrians, whether they’re shopping or just hanging out, is a brilliant decision for this popular shopping street.

… but what’s in it for bikes?

The somewhat slower traffic environment is a start, but adding a cycleway of any real quality (protected & separated!) along here would be a much more massive ask than on Station Road. You’d need to borrow space from the footpath widening, which doesn’t really make sense on a shopping street! Or, you could trade some of the remaining 75 car parks – but that would also be a big ask.

Is there an option for safer bike travel on Great South Road?

Yes! AT’s proposed design puts the side road crossings on raised tables, making it safer for pedestrians to walk across. But we reckon the main road needs even more slowing; and now that most buses no longer travel along Great South Road, this is even more achievable.

The current plan for a “typical” Great South Road intersection in the town centre – see the raised table on the side street at the top…

So, to make things even safer for pedestrians and people on bicycles, we’d like to see:

  • more zebra crossings, especially at intersections, and
  • raised platforms for all (non-signalised) intersections

This way, through-traffic on Great South Road is also slowed down, with the raised tables and zebra crossings at all intersections clarifying that in the town centre, people come first.

… we want to see the above design improved by raising the whole intersection, and adding more zebra crossings!

By slowing down drivers, this will also make it a much nicer place to cycle. And, to ensure the formal changes match the visual cues, we are asking for the town centre to become a 30 km/h zone.

Speeding on local streets is a local concern: in 2016, Teau Aiturau and Mangere’s Triple Teez helped publicise a ‘Slow Down, Love Being a Local’ campaign. (Photo: Facebook)

Ready to change the world? Add your voice to make it happen!

To sum up: the current proposal for Otahuhu Town Centre has some good features for pedestrians – but could be much better, and lacks real grunt for bike improvements. We encourage you to ask Auckland Transport for the following things:

  1. A protected cycleway on Station Rd, separate from vehicles AND pedestrians, as suggested by Bike Auckland
  2. Better traffic calming on Great South Road with raised tables for every unsignalised intersection and zebra crossings at side streets.
  3. The town centre along Great South Road should be designed for – and officially limited to – 30 km/h.

So here’s the feedback link again – consultation closes on Wednesday 6 September, so get your comments in quick!

Header photo: Teau Aiturau’s Triple Teez kids at the 2015 Otahuhu Santa Parade, having biked from Mangere (Photo: Quciajay Sakaria)

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36 comments

  1. We can be more ambitious to make the street fully paved shared street – Like Fort St / Elliott street

    That ensures 30kmh vehicle speed and makes the environment much better for shoppers. That would also makes bikers safer as well.

    1. Station Rd has two frequent routes and four other bus routes running along it, it definitely needs to be more than a shared space.

      Given it’s importance to transport in the Otahuhu area, car storage (parking) seems like the luxury that could be reduced.

  2. I live in happily Otahuhu. I sent in a submission to AT.
    Unfortunately it is full of tired old buildings and wall to wall concrete and a few tired old palm trees.
    The best thing about it is the happy people but the businesses are struggling because it is not user friendly and that is true in many other declining suburbs such as Panmure, Elersllie, Papatoetoe, Hunters corner, Manurewa. It is easy to catch PT to Sylvia Park.
    I recommended a mall by closing down Gt South Rd, from Station Rd to Park Rd, to cars so as to encourage the many people living nearby to walk to town.
    I see about 2 cyclists riding about Otahuhu in a year so although I support a separate path on Station Rd I don’t think it would get much use.

    1. I’m not sure Ellerslie is declining, seems to have found a happy niche if anything. It benefits from being near the train station I think.

    2. “I see about 2 cyclists riding about Otahuhu in a year so although I support a separate path on Station Rd I don’t think it would get much use.”

      Have you ever wondered why that is?

      1. Its bad enough trying to drive a vehicle through there everyday amongst a large proportion of vehicle drivers that really don’t know the road rules…. hmmmmmmnnnnn

      2. There’s more cyclists than that. I work in the area. They are just invisible because of car domination and usually ride in the footpath

    3. I think it is a local economy thing.

      The areas you mention are filled with less affluent residence with little disposable income.

      Local shops are supported by local residence, however if the residence doesn’t have disposable income, the shops will find it hard to make money.

      Shops that are struggling do not have money to maintain the building, and cannot afford to stock decent quality item at higher price.

      And it forms a negative vicious cycle, making the shops more and more unattractive to regional and local customers.

      To really solve the problem, some gentrification needs to happen, which brings in higher income people to spend locally.

      It is better to have a mixed economy which can support more local business and jobs than a economy that only has high concentrate of poor people and everybody suffers.

  3. Meh. Waste of money.

    More rich white people telling the poor brown people to cycle. What is worse is that those rich white people are spending our combined rates money on infra that will be under-utilised because of a failure to understand the problem.

    Rich white people have the time and money to cycle, but don’t because of the lack of safe cycle ways. Build the cycle ways and they will come. We see this the world over.

    This logic does not work for South Auckland because the problem is not the same. It is not ONLY a lack of safe facilities. It goes beyond that with problems that cannot be address by fancy new infra. It is a poverty problem in some ways related to the transport network. But because of the lack of poor brown people involved in these decisions, these things go ahead. And then we get that Future Streets nonsense in Mangere. Cycle ways that no one uses. That project took like 3 years. Huge waste of money. Nice infra though!

    Most children walk to school in South Auckland, but don’t cycle because they can’t afford it. Bike theft is a huge problem when you can’t afford locks. When you have a family of 8, you can’t exactly go on a family trip to the shops. You take the van. You have to drop 2 other family members off at various jobs and it’s cheaper to carpool than to take PT. You work 2-3 part time jobs so are time poor and you can only go shopping once a week or less so you have big shopping trips. When you shop for your family, you can’t do it by Quaxing. Your brothers family was evicted because the landlord raised the rent so now they are living with you and you are sleeping on the floor in the living room. This is a common reality that few decision makers understand first hand.

    BUT DON”T WORRY! Now you get nice new footpaths so you can walk everywhere and your problems are solved! 😀

    For the record I support more cycling investment and do cycle through Otahuhu to the train station and did submit for protected cycle lanes. They have the space and are needed. If we are wasting our money, we should at least do it properly! 😀

      1. And yet, I can afford to own a car and drive everywhere, but I cannot afford a lifestyle based around bicycling. The cost of housing in areas where that would be feasible is simply too much.

        1. “The cost of housing in areas where that would be feasible is simply too much.”

          Indeed, if only there were some way to make cycling as the primary means of transport an option in less affluent areas…. Perhaps by building the cycle lanes that Ari castigates?

          1. +1, but to say that the cost of cycling is the cause is disingenuous. The cause is the spatial distribution of cycling facilities. Rich white people use cycling facilities because cycling facilities are located where rich white people can afford to live. Poor, non-white people cycle (largely on the footpath) because it is a cost effective means of transportation.

            Again, this is purely from anecdotal observation.

    1. You raise some good points but change takes time. Last time I looked a bike is cheaper to buy & maintain than a vehicle. These two projects are just as much, if not more, about walking than cycling anyway.

    2. Did I hear you say you’re going to set up a Bike Kitchen in Otahuhu, Ari? And organise a ‘donate the bike your child has grown out of’ scheme? Plus a corporate team building day of getting out and teaching the kids in Otahuhu to ride?

      That’s wonderful, Ari. Real game changing stuff. Because that will empower people to access their city in a sustainability affordable way.

    3. I’m still struggling to see how large families driving everyone everywhere is more affordable and equitable than having some of those family members able to ride themselves around on a $50 beater with zero running costs.

      Also there is something of a tautology in the idea that nobody rides because all the bikes get stolen. Having bikes stolen is an indicator of strong demand for bikes. Why would anyone steal one if not to ride it themselves or sell it to someone who wants to ride.

      Also, what about community bikeshare, perhaps based at school. Why steal a bike if you can legitimately just take one home and ride it back the next day?

    4. Load of rubbish Ari,

      I live in Otahuhu and can’t afford 2 cars, so the missus has to rely on cycling or public transport to get anywhere.

      despite my best efforts, she isnt brave enough to ride along Mt Wellington Hway or Great South Road.

      The #32 bus is awesome, but not frequent enough. Otahuhu train station is awesome. Sylvia Park train station is awesome. There is bugger all way to get west or east on public transport.

      Cycle infrastructure in this part of town is non-existent. Its criminal.

      I see plenty of people cycling to work. They look like the type of person who cycle because they cant afford a car. No lycra in this part of town. No helmets either. Most of the cycling is done on the footpath and at a low speed. How else would you get around? Maybe they lost their licence? Maybe they have no alternative. Transport planners haven’t given a toss so far. If you don’t have a car you can get fucked right? Wankers.

      1. I’m fairly confident cyclist, but Mt Wellington Highway that way sure needs some love before I try that one apart from perhaps an early Sunday morning, path is terrible too.

      2. There was some semi decent cycle ways proposed on the southern part of Mt Wellington Highway in some of the EW link drawings but along with the Sylvia Park stage of AMETI they’re all on hold with that project… Such a shame to be waiting who knows how long for something completely unrelated.

    5. They should widen the station road footpath like the new walmsley road path. Plenty of people walk in the area.they just need to stop the car compliance/importers parking on the footpath and lazy drivers doing it too.

      Shared space/slow speed zone/ traffic calming needed near the otahuhu shops end of station rd where the doctors, school, church, boarding houses are. Divert through traffic too.

    6. Yeah, Penalosa should simply not have rolled out bikeways in Bogota either. People too poor for that to work, etc….

      Of course bike theft is a problem. So is car theft. People in poor parts of Auckland somehow still do own cars anyway (even if it breaks the bank, and even though it is a heck of a lot more expensive than a bike & a good lock). Give them options that are safe and convenient, and they will ride bikes more. Its as simple as that. For somebody who feels we shouldn’t be telling South Aucklanders what to do (a correct sentiment), you are very willing to say what they wont.

      1. Yes, car ownership for some people must be costing big time through finance they offer. Somehow ended up talking to someone (probably blabbing more than he should) and said operating a 2nd hand car yard in south Auckland (perhaps structured with their own finance company or something) and he said in effect that all the money they make is from the finance deals, cars themselves are just the side show or the “vehicle” (pardon the pun) to do the finance. This would definitely keep the poor poorer especially if you default on the payments etc

  4. The new combined community centre, library, sports complex at Otahuhu is very good and always busy.
    But the council also opened a large, free parking area next to it encouraging more cars to the area.
    It is not required as many people live close by and could walk.
    There is a big development with 400 apartments bing built near the library each with its outside parking space rather than the apartments being with an extra story and room for parking on the ground level
    The people of Otahuhu deserve parts of the town to be car free with quiet, social, green, communal areas and regular outdoor events.
    I call for Gt South road through Otauhu town to be a mall and car free.
    At lest the new plan will remove some cars from Gt South Rd which is a step in the right direction.

  5. How about building an east-west bike-way rather than a truck parking lot?
    Footpaths along all the roads around the Mt Wellington/ Southern Motorway area would provide greater safety for those footpath using cyclists getting to work.

  6. If you are worried about small shopping areas in poorer areas decaying, voting Green or Labour would be faster than waiting for gentrification. if the poorer members of our society have money in their pockets they just might spend more at the local shops. National have had 9 years to prove they aren’t interested in doing that.
    Rebuilding those shopping areas with a couple of floors of apartments above the shops would produce customers who can walk to the shops – captive market. Apartment dwellers are more likely to be cyclists. If you don’t have a front lawn or driveway to store your car a bicycle or electric bicycle is much more likely to be a reasonable transport choice.

    1. Otahuhu has plenty of cheap shops but is not declining or decaying. Very few empty shops. Often busy and bustling with people doing their regular shopping. It’s just a bit rough around the edges like k’d was.

      1. In that case, it looks like the landlord doesn’t contribute enough to maintain the buildings.

        Possibly because the shop’s tenant does not demand it, or has afraid to demand it (afraid of rent raise or not renewed)

        That is from the result of the customers not afford to spend more, so shops could not afford rent raise, in return of better maintained buildings.

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