Wow what a week. Here’s our weekly roundup
AT’s COVID-19 Response
Auckland Transport’s response to COVID-19 has evolved over the week since the first announcement on Tuesday.
On Wednesday they said that people paying cash on buses would be given a free HOP card in a bid to keep bus drivers safer by minimising physical contact between them and customers. To be honest, even though HOP has a fairly good penetration rate with 93% of bus users already using HOP, this is a strategy that should have been in place since HOP was introduced.
Yesterday they went a step further and announced that from Monday, buses won’t be accepting cash fares and so you’ll only be able to use them if you have a HOP card. Again this is a step they should have taken long ago in a bid to speed up boarding and is a practice used widely overseas. The previously mentioned free HOP card will still be available but only at AT’s 13 service centres.
I hope both measures will continue in the future once the current crisis has passed.
Lake Rd Consultation
Auckland Transport (AT) is seeking feedback from the community on proposals for a $47M upgrade of Lake Road, Esmonde Road and Bayswater Avenue.
The proposals include fully protected safer cycle lanes along the peninsula, targeted transit lanes (T2 lanes), other safety improvements and intersection upgrades as well as a new shared walking/cycling path on Bayswater Avenue.
These improvements will assist in giving people more opportunity to make shorter trips safely on foot or by bike, or by bus or carpooling, and will free up road space for people who need to drive.
This round of public feedback follows on from previous consultation in 2017, in which the public favoured finding ways to improve the corridor as soon as possible, as well as avoiding an expensive and disruptive road widening project.
The proposals, as well as using new roadside electronic signs to provide real-time traffic updates, will help people in the area make travel choices early to avoid joining the congestion along Lake Road.
The project involves mainly a bunch of cycleway improvements and some transit lanes – although one involves converting an existing bus lane. One of the things they’re trying to avoid is taking property to widen the corridor which is good as that would make the project both very expensive and much more disruptive.
On Esmonde Rd AT plan to convert the existing citybound bus only lane to a T2 lane. The lane is currently used by the frequent 82 route, which links Takapuna and Milford to the City Centre, and the peak only 802 route. I’m never a fan of downgrading existing bus priority as extra vehicles in the lane are likely to lead to buses being held up, possibly missing light phases at the likes of Barrys Point Rd and Fred Thomas Dr.
As I understand it, the big issue with the plans is how to get those T2 vehicles from the lane to the motorway onramp as they’re not able to use the bus onramp as that leads to the busway. Solutions could range from cheap ideas like taking an existing on-ramp lane through to having to build another whole lane, including bridge over the busway, so T2 cars don’t have to merge with the (stopped) traffic, because if that happens, that will quickly back up into the bus lane and hold up buses.
On Lake Rd itself it appears the biggest change will be making the cycleways safer by separating them from traffic while a few existing traffic lanes will be converted to T2 lanes.
I’ve been told that since renders were produced the design has been improved to add raised tables at intersections like the one above. If you’re submitting it would be worth reinforcing the need for them. What I’m not sure about is the reason for shifting to a two-way cycleway past the golf course. I certainly hope that’s not about trying to retain the existing on-street carparking.
The plans also involve a shared path on Bayswater Ave
It’s not like the road doesn’t have some significant width in places to provide proper safe cycling facilities but again it appears carparking is being prioritised.
The final part of the proposal is for upgrading of the Belmont town centre and is being driven by the council and local board. There are only high-level concept images but what they show is very concerning.
So we’ve got parked cars protected by squishy cyclists, hell the right image above even shows a car queuing over the cycleway – which is accurate I guess. It makes me wonder what century these designers live in because that’s certainly nowhere close to even good practice. This is made worse by the team that produced this appalling design being the one the Auckland Design Office is being sacrificed for and folded in to. It seems the wrong team is being chopped here. Feedback needs to be very clear this design is unacceptable.
Naturally even these plans are already being attacked by many usual suspects who are calling for the cycle lanes to be removed completely.
Unrelated to Lake Rd but AT are also consulting on the trial of changes at Matiatia on Waiheke.
Northwestern Path upgrade to go ahead
In some good news, AT announced the upgrade to 850m of the NW path between Eden Terrace and Kingsland will go ahead, starting sometime between July and September.
Improvements will see the Eden Terrace/ Kingsland section upgraded to become a separate cycleway and footpath between Central Road and Haslett Street. From Alexander St to Bright Street, it will be legally reclassified as a pedestrian only zone.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the upgrade responds to strong increases in the number of people using the cycleway.
“Over the past 12 months, the number of people cycling through the area has almost doubled. Close to 1000 bike trips are made per day through the Kingsland section, making it the second busiest cycleway in Auckland,” he says.
“This upgrade will improve safety for people using the cycleway and will encourage more people to cycle or walk to work—helping to reduce traffic congestion on the roads and bring down carbon emissions.”
The path is also a key route for children from Newton Central School, both on bikes and in Walking School Buses.
“The current shared path was built nearly 20 years ago and it’s no longer suitable for the number of people who use it every day” says AT’s Group Manager Network Management, Randhir Karma.
“Last year we committed to fixing this problem following concerns raised by Newton Central School and Bike Auckland. Having completed the investigation phase, it is pleasing to be able to get on with delivering this important upgrade on one of Auckland most strategic cycling links. The new design will mean there will no longer be a dangerous pinch point on the shared path and kids can get to school safely on bike or in a Walking School Bus.
“Infrastructure improvements will also address capacity to ensure the path meets the needs of people using it now and in years to come.”
We need to drive better around schools
A depressing article appeared last week about the issue we have with the state of parents driving around schools. It details a litany of poor and dangerous behaviours by parents just save walking a short distance.
Last week I tried to get out of my driveway at 8am to take my baby to a doctor’s appointment, only to be blocked by parents, making us late.
My husband now leaves for work 90 minutes earlier than he used to, just to avoid being held hostage by bolshy parents.
I decided I had had enough. So I contacted Auckland Transport and discovered the streets surrounding Auckland schools are teeming with Karen and Deb types.
Auckland Transport issued a whopping 11,432 infringements during school patrols in the past 12 months. And while it’s worth noting that this compares to a total of almost 500,000 tickets in the last full financial year, that’s still a Spark Arena-sized crowd of naughty mums and dads putting kids at risk and grinding the gears of residents like me.
I always found it notable that at the old office I used to work at, the most dangerous part of my ride to work was not intersection that dumps me between two lanes of potentially 70km/h traffic but the part where I rode past a primary school.
The article also reminds me of this cartoon.
The importance of priority for buses, bikes and feet
A great recent video on the Downs-Thomson Paradox and the importance of giving our public transport, walking and cycling journeys priority and how doing so is the best way to make cities better not just for the users of those modes, but for drivers too.
Do your buses get stuck in traffic? It’s amazing what a difference it makes to life the city when public transit is treated as a first-class alternative to driving, as it is in Amsterdam, and many other cities in the Netherlands.
Finally COVID-19 has already resulted in some significant changes to our cities as people stay home. Here’s an image from yesterday afternoon showing city streets empty in the afternoon peak.
Rush hour Auckland. pic.twitter.com/wbu9OSKhpi
— Richard Hills (@richardhills777) March 19, 2020
While in San Francisco, here’s the Bay Bridge
Bay Bridge in San Fran pic.twitter.com/2S86p9aPPa
— Craig Magee (@KiwiCraig74) March 19, 2020
We’re also seeing cities roll out some really great initiatives such as emergency bike networks
BREAKING: Mexico City is planning to follow Bogotá's lead and create an emergency bike network to promote social distancing in transportation. #covid19
Violet is the existing network, red indicates the new routes. pic.twitter.com/uSbrDytjU5
— Keep Hands Cleanways (@QAGreenways) March 18, 2020
Now’s surely the perfect time to close Queen St to cars with a few cones and barriers.