First there was green-washing, where organisations will spin initiatives or market products as being more environmentally friendly than they are. In the transport space that morphed into PT-washing, where even the tiniest amount of improvement to public transport as part of a mega roading project became promoted as one of the main benefits of the project. Then there was bike-washing, the same thing but for bikes.
Now with the government and council focused on improving road safety, are we now starting to see safety-washing?
Safety improvements in the Albany area
A long awaited roading project in Albany has been given the go-ahead.
Property negotiations have been sorted out allowing the work to start shortly on Medallion Link Road, completion is due by the middle of 2021. The Link road will relieve congestion and improve safety in the area, which has recently seen hundreds of new houses built.
As part of a package of other projects, AT is also considering a footpath extension at Gills Road and traffic signals at the intersection of Dairy Flat Highway and The Avenue.
Portfolio Delivery Director (Projects), David Nelson says these three projects were first identified by the then North Shore City Council.
The Medallion Drive Link will be two lanes, approximately 170 metres long and will include a new bridge, footpaths and bike riding facilities linking Fairview Avenue with Oteha Valley Road. Signals will be put in at Oteha Valley Road and a roundabout at Fairview Avenue.
“The link road will improve travel times, walking and cycling and provide a safer crossing on the very busy Oteha Valley Road for local school children in particular”, says Mr Nelson.
Medallion Link Road is budgeted to cost $33.9 million and will mean AT and Auckland Council can deliver essential infrastructure to support the growth of approximately 4,600 households in the Fairview Heights and Albany Heights area.
The Medallion Drive Link is a bypass of a part of part of the existing Fairview Ave containing an old one-lane bridge serving local farms – now farming thousands of auto-dependent homes. It has been discussed for about the last decade or so, having originally been started by the former North Shore City Council.
Now I’m not going to suggest there aren’t safety benefits from the project and the suggestion that the Oteha Valley Rd intersection will be signalised might help slow down that death-trap mini-motorway, something even more important given the school on the south-eastern corner of it. It just feels disingenuous to proclaim the safety benefits so much when they could easily have been dealt with separately when it’s really about building a new road. Note, that existing section of Fairview Rd has about 4.5-5k vehicles a day using it.
While on the topic of the Medallion Drive Link, why are we still building shared paths on brand new infrastructure in 2019.
If you want to see more about the project, as well as why it will now cost $33.9 million and not the $20.9 million in previous plans, the previously confidential paper to the most recent AT board meeting has been published.
This isn’t the first time AT have ‘safety-washed’ a project, another good example was a year ago when they consulted on changes to Botany Rd in East Auckland that they promoted as being about safety but was really just road widening and making things worse for pedestrians.
All of this may seem a little pedantic but I do worry that if we over sell the safety benefits on projects that aren’t directly about improving safety, it devalues the projects that are actually about improving safety and that could make it harder to implement those in the future.