The Victoria Quarter in the western city centre is an area that is rapidly developing and will be home to thousands more residents in the coming years. Yet despite this, there had been little planned to improve the appalling state of the pedestrian environment to support those residents. This has all been taking place at the same time the council and transport agencies have been falling over themselves in a rush to spend billions on infrastructure to support greenfield growth on the fringes of the city. Much of the area remains unchanged from the time the motorway was built and the local roads are focused on the movement of car with little regard for the safety of pedestrians or those on bikes.
Late last year and earlier this year we hosted a number of guest posts from reader David R about this issue. He also spent a lot of time advocating for improvements to the local board and his efforts appear to have paid off with last week Auckland Transport announcing plans to improve the area with most of it focused on improving safety.
Auckland Transport is proposing a number of new safety measures, including crossings, shared paths, cycle paths and speed reduction on Cook Street and the surrounding area in the City Centre, to make it safer for people walking and cycling. Cook St is one of the high risk corridors in Auckland and is therefore a priority for safety investment.
AT is seeking feedback until 28 June 2018 on the changes, including improvements for the intersections of Sale Street, Union Street and Drake Street.
Kathryn King, AT’s Walking, Cycling and Road Safety Manager, says new and upgraded zebra crossings, pram crossings, speed tables and pedestrian refuge islands will make these city centre streets more pedestrian-friendly.
“Safety is paramount. We’re committed to making our streets safer and easier for people to get around,” says Miss King.
“A huge amount of people live in this part of the City Centre, and with more residential developments planned and under construction in the area, the volume of foot traffic and people travelling by bike is set to increase.”
“Cook Street currently feels very unsafe to navigate on foot and by bike. In the long term, Auckland Council has plans within the City Centre Masterplan to improve safety and connectivity of our roads but in the meantime this proposal serves as an effective interim measure to make this area safer, more convenient and better connected for people walking and cycling.”
Under the proposal, a network of on-road cycle lanes and shared paths are planned from the upcoming Victoria Street cycleway via Union Street to Sale Street, onto Cook Street then connecting to the Nelson Street cycleway.
At the intersection of Cook and Morton streets, electronic driver speed feedback signs will help to reduce traffic speeds while a new traffic island on the northern side of Cook Street will make it easier for pedestrians to cross.
The proposal also includes lowering high-traffic speeds exiting the Northern Motorway off-ramp onto Cook Street by reducing and narrowing road lanes. In addition, an extra lane would be added on Sam Wrigley Street to make the intersection with Cook Street safer for all road users, particularly for the Auckland Motorway Association whose heavy service vehicles currently have difficulty entering the street due to the fast-moving traffic exiting the motorway.
“We have spoken to key stakeholders and people living and working in the area to balance the demands of people travelling through the area and people staying to enjoy the area. The key focus is creating safe and healthy streets that work for everyone,” says Miss King.
“Some on-street parking will need to be removed to enable the introduction of these safety measures, which is necessary if the safety of these streets is to be improved.”
“We are keen to get feedback from local residents about the proposed improvements and how we can best implement them to improve safety in Cook Street.”
This is good news. So here’s what’s proposed.
Union St will get be narrowed to a single lane with a bi-directional cycle lane and wider footpath added. A speed table and pedestrian crossing will also be added. In addition, the gaping maw of Drake St will be narrowed with kerb build outs and a pedestrian island
The most will be where Union St joins both Sale St and Cook St. The southbound lane onto Cook St will be removed and the road network more squared up which will help lower speeds and therefore improve safety. The cycleway from Union St will fill some of this space. The lanes on Cook St will be reduced to reflect that there’s only a single lane on the off-ramp and road surface coloured to help slow vehicles from the motorway down. There is also a new shared path and a pedestrian crossing at the end of Sale St.
The bi-directional cycleway will continue along till it reaches a new pedestrian and bike crossing next to Morton St where the east and west directions are meant to separate.
The cycle lanes will continue up to Nelson St giving another safe option for getting between Nelson St and Victoria Park.
Finally, a one-directional cycleway will be added to the east of Nelson, but it is only a short section, as the image below shows. This is expanded upon in more detail below.
Overall the proposal is pretty good – although there are always places to improve something. One such example is in the right of the image above between Nelson and Hobson streets. AT are actually planning on adding on-street parking here, as with the exception of the two closest to Hobson St, the road has no stopping lines currently. Why not extend the cycleway all the way to Hobson St or are they still saying that a few carparks are more importing than the safety of those on bikes? If we’re going to the extent of putting a cycle lane here, then why not just do it properly.
Another thing seemingly missing is any attempt to fix up the atrocious footpaths in the area
The consultation on these plans closes on 28 June.
Great work David