An article in the Herald over the weekend highlighted what has to be one of the city’s most dangerous intersections, the Symonds St motorway on-ramp.
An insurance company is seeking almost $3000 in repair costs from an elderly man who was hit by a car while crossing an Auckland road.
But his family say the 73-year-old has no means to pay, and the case against him is “unfair”.
On November 24 Shulin Guo was hit by a car as he crossed the motorway onramp on Symonds Street to get to a bus stop.
Many pedestrians use the route to cross as it is the only way to access the bus stop.
Guo was hit by a van, knocked unconscious and suffered injuries including broken ribs and cuts and bruises to his face and body.
Guo was taken to hospital, where he spent six days recovering.
Initially he could not remember the incident, but now says he can recall checking for traffic before he crossed.
However the driver of the van and an independent witness told police they saw the elderly man step out onto the road without looking.
Putting aside the issue of the insurance company and who was at fault, this is a a dangerous intersection due to its poor road design. Not including this one, there have been numerous serious injuries here in recent years. Further, the Karangahape Rd and Symonds St intersection, which I assume includes the motorway on-ramp, is currently listed in the top 100 high-risk intersections in the country at number 73. It’s not hard to see why it’s dangerous either.
The on-ramp is effectively an uncontrolled slip-lane attached to the intersection. Vehicles can access it from Symonds St (southbound), Karangahape Rd and from Grafton Bridge (outside of the bus only hours).
This is also a busy area for pedestrians. As well as people walking through the area, I understand that a few thousand people catch a bus from these stops daily and have to cross the on-ramp. It may only be a short distance but even for able bodied people it can create nervousness. This is in part because it’s not always clear when vehicles come around the corner if they’re heading for the motorway or not.
This is further not helped as this is right at the place a drivers focus and mindset tends to shift from city driving to motorway driving. As many people pass through the intersection they tend to think they’re free of city streets and already on the motorway so start to speed up and narrow their focus accordingly.
So what can be done about it. Below are a couple ideas but there may be others.
Improve the design
An improved design would aim to help to ensure that drivers are travelling slow enough and are ready to stop should a pedestrian cross. This could include some or all of the following, none of which should be very expensive to do.
- Formalising a zebra pedestrian crossing or at least make it more visual with some colour.
- The crossing may already seem fairly narrow but it could possibly be narrowed even further to help give a visual clue to slow down. This would also help to ensure there is a shorter distance for pedestrians to cross.
- Some sort of vertical change, such as a low speed table
Close the on-ramp
Many would think the on-ramp is far too busy to close but I was surprised at just how low usage of this on-ramp actually is. According to the NZTA, fewer than 7,000 vehicles a day use it. It used to be higher, at over 10,000, but usage dropped after the Grafton Gully motorway was built in the early 2000s.
Interestingly, that puts its usage at about the same as the Wellington St on-ramp which the NZTA wanted to close but backed down on. Like with Wellington St, it adds to a part of the motorway network that is already dense with connections and at each one, new connections mean more conflict from merging, often a source of congestion. Perhaps we could even re-purpose the on-ramp and use it as another connection to the Grafton Gully cycleway. Interestingly, Local Board chair Pippa Coom says it was meant to be closed years ago.
It is terrible. This on ramp was meant to be "temporary" & closed once the port on ramp opened but no one in @AklTransport or @NZTAAkl willing to do anything about it. I've been pushing for changes as part of K'rd upgrade
— Pippa Coom (@pippacoom) January 14, 2018
These are just a couple of thoughts but I’d be keen to hear others. Something really needs to be done here because this intersection is clearly dangerous in its current form. Positively, AT did reply on Twitter to Pippas tweet saying they’re looking at it.
Hi, AT & NZTA are aware of the safety issue for pedestrians crossing the Symonds St motorway onramp.We’re currently looking at options to make it safer for pedestrians & to slow traffic heading to the motorway. ^AH
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) January 14, 2018