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.

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58 comments

  1. But they’re not serious.

    Just like the govt isn’t serious about PT or reducing carbon omissions given they have Shane Jones leading the charge for more roads and Twyford playing the role of his poodle.

  2. So sad. GA, are you gonna try to make a list of all the people being hit in these areas that AT have delayed working on? It needs to include the people in areas that should’ve had lower speeds by now, too.

  3. I hate to say it, but this is more blood on Shane Ellison’s hand for dismantling the AT walking and cycling team.

  4. Related, and nearby, Boffa Miskell recently tweeted about a project they’d won an award for 5 years ago, which was part of the CCMP – from 2012!

    https://twitter.com/BoffaMiskell/status/1244352324954255361

    Looks from the picture like it included Fanshawe St; a piece of pseudo motorway infrastructure utterly unsuitable for the people using it, and where serious injuries are continuing to happen.

    Why is so much good work getting buried? We have a safety crisis. Design – Build. AT seems to Design – Consult – Redesign – Reconsult – Bury.

    AT has many, many designs that are far safer and nicer for people than what’s there at the moment, just sitting in drawers. These designs will save lives, but because AT has a management team who seem to think risk sits in change, whereas the data shows that risk sits in the status quo, the designs simply soak up ratepayer money and advocates’ time and energy, but go nowhere.

    The AT shake up required was urgent two years ago. Today, it’s a farce.

    1. Risk sits in the status quo. Exactly.

      AT needs to feel that risk, instead of the risk being felt by people just trying to live their lives.

      How do we pull those f**kers out from behind the shield they have?

  5. The last correspondence I had with the Engineer running the programme (was part of the walking and cycling team, not sure where exactly this person ended up) was that when the targeted funding pool (a ‘road safety’ bucket’) was reprioritised a year or so this one lost out because this was a pedestrian and cycling project, not a ‘road safety’ one. (I know….)

    The final hope for it was part of the safer speeds programme funding in the City Centre, but we’ll just be getting some red paint to ask people to maybe slow down and not kill anyone.

    In lieu of anything else happening, I raised a bunch of tickets to get AT to address some of the footpath issues, but that was over a year ago with no progress – a few more details here: https://rooves.net/2019/01/VQpart5/

    Cook Street has been this way for a long time:

    From where Sam Wrigley currently is: https://farm3.static.flickr.com/2931/33686465865_1e23d16313_c.jpg
    1928. Looking east along Cook Street from the vicinity of Morton Street towards Hobson Street (top right). (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-2214)

    From the top looking back towards the (now) motorway – city works depot on the right:
    https://farm3.static.flickr.com/2926/33686465685_71bbf1b631_c.jpg
    1928. Looking west from the vicinity of Nelson Street along Cook Street showing Morton Street (centre right). (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-2216)

    1. I’ve been pushing for this for a long long time now, we moved into the area 6 months ago.

      This ‘accident’ happened right next to our building and my wife and daughter had to walk passed the street covered in blood and scraps of clothing yesterday.

      It’s incredibly frustrating and upsetting.

      1. Kind thoughts to you and your family, dr. When I saw your tweet yesterday it made me so angry that your family had to experience this, probably along with many others, on top of the obvious tragedy for the cyclist and cyclist’s family.

        AT has had time to fix this.

        Meanwhile they’re making decisions like this: https://twitter.com/Grant_AAA/status/1244454149434929152

        Totally incompetent. I hope the new board chair uses these examples to sniff out the problem and demand change.

        1. Maybe not so much incompetence, but just a pathological level of disdain for ‘those people’.

          I’m not sure how far you can stretch Hanlon’s razor.

        2. Heidi, the AT board is unelected and unaccountable. In my view change will only come with board members being directly voted in by Auckland’s wards.

        3. @David B
          I’m not defending the AT board.

          But I am questioning; what would Auckland’s ward’s know about who’s best for the board of Auckland transport?
          What if Auckland’s ward’s voted in people totally useless or completely in the pocket of the road transport lobbyists??

      2. Hi dr
        I remember you posting a video of the cars exiting the motorway onto Cook St as I just happened to be crossing the road at the same time. Always was a nightmare to cross Cook St in this area.
        My take on this is that cars exit the motorway at such speed they are still doing a dangerous speed for some distance.
        Solution: There is a gantry over Cook Street just up the road. Place speed cameras on this for each lane. Ticket at anything over 50km/hr
        Cameras will be paid off in a month then additional proceeds (heaps) used to fund suitable infrastructure in this area.

  6. With the government looking for quick projects to get the country’s economy running again after the COVID 19 lockdown there is a strong case for it to make a large amount of money available for the construction of cycleways.
    Remember key’s top to bottom cycleway during the 2008 GFC, that unfortunately died from a lack of political will as it didn’t fir with their supporters roads first mentality.
    If they had pushed ahead with that we could have had the beginnings of a great system.
    The COVID 19 crisis gives us a great opportunity for a major reset of the country’s priorities- Will the government have the will to accept the challenge.

  7. It has been disappointing that the Otahuhu to Sylvia Park bikeway has not gone ahead. Early last year they said work was to start mid 2019.
    Bikeways can be built cheaply and don’t need complete road rebuilding. Cylists just need simple separation and often simple barriers are ok.

    1. I’ve been chasing this one every few months and each time there’s a new reason for deferral… aligning with other road works, funding reallocated and so on… See the twitter post from GA about the Mt Wellington Highway interchange, I saw a family of presumably recent immigrants attempting to ride Onzo bikes through there (in the Onzo bike era) and had found their way up the on ramp, I genuinely feared for their lives as they were trying to cross. This should be such a no brainer considering the number of new dwellings going up in Mt Wellington south and Otahuhu

  8. Traffic coming off a motorway doesn’t slow until there is a terminal intersection. The plans shown above still provide for a continuous right turn from Cook St into Sam Wrigley Street.
    A better fix would be to remove the Union St to Cook St connection entirely by making Union st a cul-de-sac by the motorway. Then make Sam Wrigley a two-way street with a full traffic signal at Cook St so there are no continuous turns. Red paint and signs doesn’t slow traffic when the drivers know they dont have to stop or giveway.

    1. Miffy
      I thought that narrowing a road by putting barriers on the side has the psychological effect of reducing speed?
      I recommend decreasing the width to just slightly more than that of a Corolla.

      1. You need to squeeze the width as well to make that work. But this road still has two lanes eastbound and a cycle lane so it will always look wide. People slow from 80 to 50 or less when they know they may have to stop. The Cook St offramp itself will slow traffic a bit as it is a tight turn but it doesn’t have a deceleration area like other complying motorway exits do. Best thing I think is narrow all the lanes and make every turn controlled by lights and make every turn opposed by another turn so people know they may have to stop.

        1. You could also just use a speed platform. People aren’t going to do 80km/h over a ramp with a 30km/h recommended speed (and if they do, they won’t make it much further up the road). You’d probably put it right on the signalised crossing point to get speeds to their lowest at the point where conflict is greatest.

        2. Combine all of that:

          1. Change Cook St as in the proposal, so it doesn’t split into 2 lanes but just stays as one lane.
          2. Remove the Union St to Cook St connection, making Union St a cul-de-sac as recommended by miffy.
          3. Convert Sam Wrigley into a two way road with traffic signals at both ends, with no slip lanes, as recommended by miffy.
          4. Add speed bumps on the off ramp, as suggested by Sailor Boy, but much earlier, so that drivers are slowed before they get to the traffic lights at Sam Wrigley.

          Designed well, this could keep a cyclelane on the south side of Cook St all the way to the hardware store, serving city centre residents and workers who need to pick something up from there. It could actually go all the way to a new park beside the motorway where the carparks are, or meet a future cycling and walking bridge over the motorway to reduce the severance. This is possible because

          1. The single westbound lane on Cook St doesn’t need to have a right turn only lane for traffic turning into Morton St. One single lane can serve traffic turning right into Morton St and traffic turning left into Sam Wrigley.
          2. The new cul de sac end of Union St can be beside the motorway, freeing Union St where it is parallel to Cook St up to become the missing cyclelane.

        3. Great plan Heidi. Thinking about it a little more, especially in the context of A4E, I think the best solution would actually be to close Sam Wrigley Street and the access from Sale Street, reverse the one way on Union Street and make Cook Street one lane each way over the whole length (except for a separate left turn lane at the Nelson Street intersection. Then you can use that left lane westbound for some planting which will:
          a) be beautiful; and
          b) reduce traffic speeds through increased side friction.

        4. Sorry, the best solution is closing the off-ramp, closing the access from Sale Street, closing Sam Wrigley, and making all of Cook and Union one way anti-clockwise from Nelson Street to Wellington Street .

          If we aren’t allowed to close the off-ramp, then the best solution is probably the one above

        5. Yes, good. Plenty of options. At this stage A4E should determine which one. I wonder if AT have looked at that yet? :/

        6. Given that the Cook St exit doesn’t meet design standards, as there is practically no deceleration space after the diverge, then closure should be considered. Or maybe rebuild it as an exit to Union Street instead as that creates a bit more distance to slow traffic. It would still need a decent signalised intersection to really get traffic down to safe speeds. What ever the answer is, I think it is time for a broader look at the form and function of this exit. Everything else is probably just polishing a turd.

        7. Auckland Council’s ADO had a proposal to do exactly that in the City Centre Masterplan: Realign the off ramp to run up the hill on Union Street to a singnalised intersection with Sam Wrigley.

          NZTA blathered something about traffic flow and not being on their radar, then AT sold the middle part of the Union St road corridor to NZTA and they built an maintenance shed on it.

          It’s almost like they’re trying to keep it shit.

  9. I cant understand how those proposed plans don’t include anything at all for pedestrian movement to and from Union St. After the Change of the parking area in 2015 to the fenced-off first response unit made things worse https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2015/08/05/trouble-with-a-union-st-carpark/ pedestrians are forced to walk along the edge of the road for about 40m, then across a grass berm and then cross the offramp. There is no realistic alternative. Ive had to do it numerous times, and Street view shows a couple of guys doing the exact same thing. https://tinyurl.com/taeualc (if you pan left someone else is about to do it in the other direction too)
    The desire line on the grass in the newer street view shots also supports it.
    There’s also an area outside Placemakers that the plans don’t really address at all, that wouldn’t take a lot to tidy up. https://tinyurl.com/wr8ccob
    But the Union St section is a far greater issue.

  10. What a very sad outcome – the work to improve this area was completed over a year ago. AT have underspent so surely funding is not the issue – anyone living in the area will underline the urgent imperative to change Cook St from at least 2018 on when many new apartments were completed. So many have now moved out of this location due to the extreme delays – not the City Centre story hoped for in CCMP 2012. So hope we can see an end to these excuses & watch Auckland thrive with the new facilities it needs – this is an Auckland Council planning failure, AT is simply one of many CCOs who struggle to perform. This said without the detail who knows if the safety works would have helped this particular cycle – vehicle collision?

  11. Looking at what happend to ADO, this is to be expected.

    Regarding to the cook st cycleway, I think they should also make a connection via union st to pink path cycleway/pitt st.

    This allows people to cycle directly from victoria park to pink path to northwestern cycleway without having to do a L shape detour via cook st/nelson st.

  12. This is incredibly sad. Even in our rural areas families are now out using the roads, either walking or cycling. Unfortunately they are sharing them with drivers who think it is acceptable to drive at 100km/h plus and often don’t pass with enough distance between the vulnerable road user and themselves. I am loving seeing locals out and about, but it must be incredibly stressful at a time that they need this least. We really should be learning something from this experience!

    1. I see a cyclist has been killed today in a crash which must be near you. I’m so sorry, Lucinda.

      I have a resident on my street racing up and down our street and neighbouring streets, despite kids being out learning how to cycle on the road, and despite people stepping onto the road to pass each other safely. Often because cars are parked on the berms, too. Which is illegal.

      We deserved emergency safe speed limits. We deserved focus from the police on keeping traffic safe. We deserved a strong message to drivers to get their cars off the footpaths and berms.

      But what have we got? The police telling local people at our very safe upper harbour beach to get out of the water. Nothing like a pandemic to highlight our systemic folly.

  13. Yes the interchange may be difficult but the rest should be straightforward. Half of it is through quiet backstreets. Doesn’t need to cost $millions. Many of us ride our bikes along busy roads on a green strip and with no separation. Some plastic, water filled, colourful bollards or similar would work well in most places.

  14. I think someone suggested this idea before: can ACC get involved once the situation of this tragic crash is determined? The areas clearly unsafe, there’s clearly negligence involved in it remaining so. If AT’s delaying the project or delaying the speed limit changes are found to have contributed to the crash – and you’d have to be out on a limb to say they wouldn’t have – can ACC impose penalties or take them to court or whatever it is they do when organisations or employers are found to be at fault?

  15. I really hope the 10-year cycling biz case gets full funding post COVID-19.

    The more interested i become interested in urban design the more frustrated i get with AT. they are such a disapointment and source of frustration.

  16. Surely right now is the time to reorganise AT with a vastly increased “keep everything local” focus in keeping with the current Government all out strategy, and emphasis, on life saving measures above all other priorities.
    Up to now, our transport agencies and so many of our businesses have been let to get away with just more fluff PR statements of “Safety is always our number one priority” when responding to yet another needless fatality, instead of actually making the required changes to save lives.
    This down time should not be wasted, merely waiting for the return of bulk motorcars.
    Put those 30kph signs up right now, so when people return to motoring the new regime will be in place. If it needs a dispensation from Government, or Council just ask them for one. It will not be granted if they fail to just ask for it.
    Safety improvements are essential works, if the resources can be found, to do them, there is simply no excuse for not getting on with them.

  17. The upside from our no fault ACC system is the unfortunate victim of this accident will get free treatment from ACC. The downside is that this removes the opportunity for the victim or their supporters to sue AT for negligence. Having earlier approved funding due to safety risk then to pull the funding is a decision that should to be put before the courts for examination and not just the court of public opinion. People’s safety and lives are too valuable to be left to willy nilly decision making that is then not put up for public scrutiny.

  18. Another cyclist hit by a car story.

    I’m of the understanding that cars are not yet autonomous.

    The human riding their bike was seriously injured by a person deliberately choosing not to pay proper attention to the road they were driving their car on; despite the certain knowledge that if they hit anyone with their car they would seriously injure or even kill them.

    1. Amazing how you managed to glean fault from that story excerpt, given it did not mention the circumstances of the incident at all.

      1. Fault is largely irrelevant in road safety. All road users make mistakes, and many have disabilities that curtail their ability to remain faultless while on road space. A person with reduced sight may never achieve a faultless road crossing, given that signalised crossings are not everywhere.
        Our responsibility is to control what we can to make it as safe as is reasonably possible, and so markedly reduce the mortality and injury rates of simple mistakes and reduced faculties.
        As an aside the same measures will markedly improve our local environments at the small cost of a little extra time, and motoring enjoyment for some.

    2. Yes, the government made it really clear in one of the early afternoon announcements that each person has to take responsibility for their choices during Alert 4. So swimming, for example, isn’t banned, but people should ask themselves:

      “In choosing to do this, am I putting myself in a situation where I might need help from someone, and thus expose them to Covid risk” – paraphrased but that was the gist. It made sense. I just wish they had also asked New Zealanders to ask themselves every time they were considering driving anywhere:

      “In choosing to do this, I am putting other road users in a situation where they might be injured. If I must do this, how must I drive to minimise the risk to them?”

      The difference in the Cook St area is that the street design is systemically dangerous and institutionally negligent. It would be like Council had built a jetty to jump into the water from, but where the water hides a series of rocks which in most tides would be too dangerous to jump into.

  19. Educating all motorists, including by using more enforcement, camera gantries etc, of their responsibilities to take more care, is definitely desirable.
    But changing the local road configurations and speed limits will give a very much faster hazard reduction and less injury and death
    “More education” required as been a strategy promoted by the roading lobby to delay the implementation of the more “unpopular” but much more effective interventions.

    1. Jacinda recently came out with the correct directive for reducing road user mistakes and it is; “Test, Test, Test”
      It is a by far the most effective means of finding the virus drivers in our midst but hugely unpopular especially amongst those who rate themselves as better than average!

      1. And how do you test, test, test, the less then able pedestrians? and the children, who still will be close to the high speed, high mass, portions of our roadway, just to get to school?
        Ok they should just be driven there if it is unsafe.

        1. Sorry my suggestion they should be driven there was in jest. A dig at the auto dependent mind set.

  20. This may be slightly off key , besides this person how many others have died in road accidents since the lock-down started ? And if if it’s low/low down then we should have this thing more often .

  21. That was an accident just waiting to happen.

    This off-ramp is unusual (one may say substandard) in a few ways. There is no auxiliary lane for slowing down. There is no distance between the exit and the point where you properly get on city streets. As seen from the motorway, the design of the off-ramp also has no hints that you have to slow down much earlier than usual.

    Should you be looking out for this? No. Drivers should expect they can slow down after entering the ramp. These expectations are the entire point of calling a road a “motorway”.

    One of the main oversights is on the motorway itself, there should be an exit speed sign before the off-ramp. If you’re still at 80 km/h when you reach the exit, and anything is in the way behind that bend, you, and anyone else present, are screwed.

    For many people in the area this point is on the most straight walking route to Victoria Park.

    1. We are the only people who slow to 50 (And then even less) and regularly nearly get rear ended as we pull into our garage (Right where the accident took place). Noone from sale or Union are looking forward as they pull out and you have 4 lanes of traffic merging all jockeying for Lane positions. Everything about the offramp is terrible and NZTA won’t let any real change happen In case it backs up traffic into the motorway (ignoring that queues from Wellington street heading north regularly back all the way down Union to cook and then blocking the southbound motorway – the snake eating its tail.)

  22. Will NZTA’s proposal of footpath cycling (for all ages, not just school children) mean there’s less pressure on AT to build new cycleways?

    1. and that would be a mistake. We need to follow the Dutch example; cycle lanes and slow streets for all users and footpaths.

    2. Does AT respond to pressure anyway, I wonder? Maybe pressure makes its systems haemorrhage. It all seems a bit abstract.

  23. I’m late to this comment section, but I wanted to add, if anyone is reading, that this is the second critically injured cyclist on this block in the last nine months.

    The previous was a hit-and-run, on 24 July 2019.
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12252601

    I am beside myself with anger and sadness that AT have let another person be seriously injured in the same spot, without doing anything. They have options to pursue safety measures here using NZTA funding, but are not just making it a priority.

  24. I’m not a great fan of this particular “intersection” of motorway offramp & roads in general.

    I used to work in a building that fronted onto Sale St but backed onto a short dead end street (Morton St). It was a depot building so had a large front entrance for service vehicles with a through underground garage with a not-as-large-but-still-large rear entrance. Morton St is the first left hand turn when you exit the motorway.

    We were forever getting private cars driving through the garage using it as a shortcut to Sale St. It got so bad that they permanently locked the rear entrance.

    What I surmise was happening was that people were exiting the motorway at Cook St and taking the first left turn as they were wanting to get to Sale St or thereabouts. Once they discovered that Morton St was a dead end street, rather than turn around, they’d drive through our garage.

    Looks like the road layout has changed a bit since I used to work in the area but that was only one of the issues down there.

    One day I saw an elderly lady driving westwards down Cook St. Where Cook St meets the motorway it swings to the left but she (again) wanted to go to Sale St so was signalling for a right turn into Morton St. She must have suddenly realised that Morton St was a dead end and instead made a sort-of zig-zaggy manoeuvre which saw her driving on the wrong side of the road heading for the off-ramp.

    Luckily she didn’t get far before being confronted by a car exiting the motorway at speed. She then promptly backed up and continued her journey on the correct side of the road by following Cook St as it swung left to avoid the motorway.

    So, from my experience, this particular road/motorway “intersection” is badly thought out and designed. The fact that there have been injuries associated with this area doesn’t surprise me. I’m not a roading engineer so couldn’t speculate on how it could be changed but I can say with conviction that it does need something done.

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