The sad news yesterday of a cyclist being hit and critically injured on Cook St in central Auckland has once again rammed home the level of inaction and delay we experience from Auckland Transport.
To be clear, we don’t know the cause of the crash, or if AT’s plans would have prevented it. What we do know those plans have gone eerily quiet and that leaves cyclists and other non-car road users vulnerable. Let’s start with a little reminder of what they were.
The area surrounding Cook St has been rapidly changing over the past decade and will continue doing so over the coming decades. It is already home to thousands of residents, most of whom will work and/or study in or close to the City Centre and many more will live there as more apartments get built.
Cook St is an important connection for accessing the rest of the city yet it has remained unchanged since the time the motorway was built and the focus of it was on the movement of cars. Yet the number of cars using the motorway off-ramp dropped considerably once a direct motorway to motorway connection was completed between the North and West as well as to the port. From a peak in the early 2000’s of about 17k vehicles a day using the off-ramp, over the space of a few years it more than halved to about 8k and it has remained at that level for a decade.
Back in June 2018, Auckland Transport consulted on plans to make it safer for cyclists as well as pedestrians. Saying:
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.
“Safety is paramount. We’re committed to making our streets safer and easier for people to get around,” says Miss King.
The plans included adding a protected cycleway to the road, which would link in with the Nelson St cycleway. It also included plans to narrow the motorway off-ramp and put in some measures to help slow down vehicles exiting the motorway. A mid-block pedestrian and bike crossing were also included. Here are a few of the images for it.
There will always be improvements to be had but overall the plans were pretty good. They had “positive feedback” and said:
The project will proceed according to the original proposal, but with a number of minor changes based on public feedback.
But nearly two years on the project appears to have vanished with not even a mention of it on their projects page. The most recent mention of the project that has been found was in an August-2019 update to the Waitemata Local Board.
So we’ve got AT in 2018 saying it’s a high-risk corridor and needs to be prioritised but in 2019 saying it’s not a high-risk corridor and can’t be prioritised. This appears to have reverted to the “we’ll wait for people to die before deciding to act approach of old.
What’s perhaps more concerning in all of this is it isn’t the only cycleway project that has disappeared off the radar. For example:
- Remember the Gt North Rd project which would have put protected cycleways on the corridor between Crummer Rd and Ponsonby Rd and linked in with the Karangahape project currently under construction. That was one of the original Urban Cyclway Programme projects that meant to be completed by mid-2018. Although apparently we may finally hear something soon with a new consultation with downgraded design.
- What about another UCP project in Parnell that was meant to run along St Stephens Ave and Gladstone Rd – that died after AT decided it was too hard.
- There remain other urban cycleway projects that remain in the “who knows when” category.
Then of course there’s the 10-year cycling business case that was adopted by the AT Board in 2017. It came up with priority areas to invest in and would have delivered 150km of new safe cycleways.
It was expected to almost quadruple cycling modeshare and the entire programme had an economic benefit of up to $4 for ever $1 invested. Just over a year later the dedicated walking and cycling team were disbanded and the staff pretend it never existed.
What is most frustrating is that while this happens to cycling projects that return significant health, safety, environmental and economic benefits, AT continue to charge ahead with much bigger roading projects that don’t deliver as many benefits.
Time and time again advocates and communities have pointed out safety issues and time and time again AT dither. If they’re truly serious about road safety and of modeshift like they claim, they’re going to need to rapidly step up their delivery.