When thinking about how we get around, walking should form the foundation of the transport pyramid, the thing that we make the easiest and enable the most of. It’s something that we all do (without feet or with a mobility aid) and yet our built environment can be downright hostile to people not in a car. There are many ways this manifests itself and with this post I want to focus on just one of these, missing pedestrian crossing legs.
So what is a missing pedestrian crossing leg?
An example is at Morningside. Say you’ve just got off the train (bottom left of image below) and want to get to one of the shops on the northern side of New North Rd, or perhaps to Western Springs Rd via Inwood St. Instead of just walking up to New North Rd and then crossing to the northern side you first have to wait to cross Morningside Dr and then wait again to cross New North Rd, as shown in blue.
These missing pedestrian crossing legs exist all over Auckland and can create a number of issues. On some intersections this can add a significant amount of time to a walking trip and therefore make walking a much less attractive option. For public transport users it can also sometimes be the difference between whether you make a bus or not. It can also create safety issues because it encourages some people to cross at less safe locations.
As for why these crossings are missing, there’s a simple answer – traffic flow. Our transport engineers and planners have decided that the movement of cars is more important than people on foot or their safety. By removing pedestrian crossings their flawed models say they can squeeze a few more cars through an intersection.
But just how prevalent is this issue?
To find out I thought I’d map out just how many ‘missing’ crossings there were. To do this I’ve scoured over Google maps and streetview to mark out every intersection I can find controlled by traffic lights – this only counts traffic lights on road intersections, so mid-block crossings are not included. To keep it simple, at those intersections if there is a pedestrian leg missing then it is red and if not, it is green.
However, just because an intersection is green it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily friendly to pedestrians. For example, even to get across one side of the Te Irirangi Dr and Ti Rakau Dr intersection requires crossing at least two slip lanes (one of the four of which is also signalised) and up to nine traffic lanes (about 30m). The thought of crossing that intersection on foot is not appealing and I imagine the prospect of doing it would be even less so for those that are less able bodied than myself or trying to cross with children.
Also not counted as red are intersections with mid road pedestrian islands meaning you have to wait in the middle of the road for a second set of lights.
Of course, there are also many other types of intersections that can be hostile to pedestrians (and cyclists), such as roundabouts, but I haven’t included those in this, again to keep it simple.
After scouring the maps, here’s what the result looks like (if you think I’ve missed any then please let me know)
Overall across the entire urban area the numbers are almost exactly 50:50 with 329 red crossings and 327 green ones. However, as you can see there are very different results if we break those down by area.
- City Centre: defined as the area within the bounds of the motorway noose. Unsurprisingly the city centre comes out the best with 73% of the 64 controlled intersections having crossings on all sides.
- West: includes Avondale and comes in second with 60% of the 95 intersections in the green – this is in part due to large numbers of controlled intersections the town centres such as Henderson, New Lynn and Westgate.
- Isthmus: not including the city centre and as far south as Otahuhu. Claims third place with 52% of the 222 intersections showing as green. There are some notable patches of red, such as around Sylvia Park
- North Shore: sits in the middle of the pack with 49% of its 86 intersections green.
- East: for the purposes of this includes Howick, Pakuranga, Botany, East Tamaki and Flatbush. This is very red thanks to the major corridors such as Pakuranga Rd and Ti Rakau Dr. Just 40% of 60 intersections show as green and as mentioned earlier, many of those are not that friendly to pedestrians.
- South: is even more dire, of the 112 intersections, just 36% have all crossings. Things are particularly bad in and around Manukau and Wiri
- Hibiscus Coast: The smallest of the areas covered with just 17 controlled intersections however only two of them (12%) have all pedestrian legs.
While there are many other factors involved, it is notable that many of the areas with higher numbers of red intersections also tend to have higher levels of car use.
Auckland Transport should have a programme to fix all the red intersections on the map but here a few (dis)honourable mentions to kick things off.
Gt North Rd / Lincoln Rd / Swanson Rd / Buscomb Rd / Mt Lebanon Ln
This giant intersection has it all possibly the most potential crossings needed to get across a single road. Say you were coming from Corbans Estate, just to the south of the image below, and wanted to cross to the corner on the other side of Gt North Rd. You would have to cross two uncontrolled slip lanes and five light controlled crossings walking a total of about 90m to cross a 30m road.
Taharoto Rd / Karaka St
There is nothing remarkable about this intersection but it is possibly the most recent to go in with a missing pedestrian leg with the traffic lights having only been completed just over a month ago showing that these poor designs are still prevalent. The traffic lights were in part the response to the death of an elderly lady trying to cross the road – although it still took nearly three years and as I understand it, was opposed by some of the engineers and local board worried it would slow traffic going to the motorway.
Anzac St / Lake Pupuke Dr / Barrys Point Rd
This intersection is only a few hundred metres from the one above and shows as green on the map above. This is despite it missing a painted crossing marks on the Lake Pupuke Dr arm of the intersection. It also misses the pedestrian signals which I understand means you can cross with the traffic but overall this fees inconsistent with most crossings. I wonder if anyone has followed the three signalised crossings to continue walking straight ahead?
Mt Wellington Hwy / Sylvia Park Rd
This intersection has not a single pedestrian crossing on it
There are many more that could be mentioned.