Here’s the weekly roundup and this one more than most feels like it has a bit of a theme to it.

Road Deaths update

If there are any silver linings to come out of the lockdown it’s that with fewer people travelling there’s been much less death and destruction on our roads. So far, as of the 15th, just four people have lost their lives on our roads whereas by the same time over the previous four years, 9,13, 15 and last year 27 had died.

This lower loss of live was highlighted by Easter where for only the second time we had no deaths over the long weekend. The only other time that’s happened was in 2012 and that April was the lowest ever number of deaths in a month at 11.

As we head to level 3 and with many of the restrictions remaining in place, hopefully we’ll at least see these numbers remain low.

Making people-friendly permanent

A great piece by Emma of Women in Urbanism in the Spinoff yesterday that’s well worth a read.

Our cities feel profoundly different these days. The whine and roar of traffic has been replaced with the chatter of birds, the squeals of delighted kids, and moments of welcome silence and stillness. For all its sadness, lockdown is allowing us to imagine how our streets could look, sound and even smell like, and it’s forced us to prioritise what’s actually important. Our streets are vital, and they deserve attention well beyond this crisis.

Whether people are social distancing, or simply on a tight budget, it’s critical that people be offered easy access to safer and more cost-effective transport alternatives such as walking and cycling.

We don’t have to go back to business as usual when lockdown ends. We don’t have to accept the traffic noises that have become the soundtrack of our city lives. We can build more resilient communities, where everyone has equitable access to public spaces, and people can move around our cities – in times of crisis and of normality – without it literally costing the earth.

Overseas we’re seeing similar calls, such as this article in Wired.

Will Auckland Transport deliver?

Speaking of our streets, in a press release about the government’s funding for emergency funding for temporary cycleways and footpaths, Auckland Transport says in some places they’re seeing a 100% increase in the number of people walking and cycling.

“In the past two weeks we’ve seen a surge of individuals and families in their bubbles heading outdoors and making the most of the walking and cycling in their neighbourhoods, with some locations seeing a 100% increase in use compared to the same period last year.

“This is a good opportunity to deliver more active transport infrastructure for recreation, to support physical and mental health and to ensure appropriate social distancing on cycleways and footpaths as we move out of the lock-down phase.

“It will also help to future-proof our active transport network of cycleways, shared paths and footpaths, meaning that as the restrictions eventually lift, more people will have an alternative, healthy means to get around the city without adding to traffic congestion and carbon emissions.”

AT Chief Executive Shane Ellison says, “Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have successfully trialled tactical urbanism treatments like planter boxes and paint, in the city centre to create new cycleways and wider footpaths.

“Additional funding would enable us to quickly widen more footpaths in busy areas and deliver more separated cycleways so people can enjoy their streets and keep a physical distance at the same time.”

The funding could speed up the delivery of major projects like Access for Everyone in the city centre and the Safe and Healthy Streets programme in south Auckland.

“We are seeing more and more people walking and cycling in the local neighbourhoods during the lockdown because the roads are quiet and safe,” he says.

“We want this to continue after the lockdown and delivering quick, low cost footpath widening and temporary cycle lanes will give people more transport choice.

“AT will be applying for funding for several projects that we can get underway shortly after the lockdown ends.”

I certainly hope they’re applying for more than “several“, at the least it should be in the multiple double digits and that doesn’t include what should be no-brainer changes of shutting off Queen St to private vehicles.

The positive spin from the top of the organisation also doesn’t gel with what we’ve been hearing that staff have been telling the likes of local board members. In essence it sounds like they could be talking a good game publicly but behind the scenes are pushing BAU/do little approach. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong though.

Richmond can do it, why can’t we?

One of the reasons we have concerns that AT will deliver is that there are a lot of potentially simple solutions they could be implementing immediately to help. An example of what they could easily be doing comes from Richmond where the Tasman District Council have put up temporary speed limit signs to help remind motorists about people being out.

Signs along Wensley Rd in Richmond temporarily lower the speed limit to 30kmh and warn of pedestrians who may have to step onto the road to maintain 2m of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The placement of the signs comes after Tasman District Council Richmond ward councillor Dana Wensley on Tuesday raised concern about the safety of those pedestrians who had to step off the footpath, particularly near a blind bend with no cycle lane.

Council community relations manager Chris Choat said the signs were in place to remind motorists to look out for pedestrians and drive appropriately on Wensley Rd, which was a major arterial route.

“People will be stepping out into the side of the road,” Choat said. “Practically and quickly, it’s all we could do at this stage.”

Why can’t AT do similar in Auckland?

Add Oakland to that question

In another example, Oakland California have closed 74 miles (119km) of streets to through traffic to enable people to walk and cycle more safely

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced Thursday that the city will be closing 10 percent of its roadways to vehicle traffic during the coronavirus lockdown in order to create more social-distancing space for people trying to stay fit and active. It’s an emergency measure called “”Oakland Slow Streets,” and will involve some 74 miles of streets — with enforcement efforts to be determined.

“Because of the reduction in car traffic we will be closing off a number of streets, so that bicyclists and pedestrians can spread out and exercise and take in fresh air safely,” Schaaf said Thursday evening during a virtual town hall, per the East Bay Times.

Here’s the mayor talking about it

Come on Phil Goff, how about the same thing here.

And how about this from France

Finally, this wouldn’t be allowed here but if we’re remaking our streets, why can’t we have some fun with it and incorporate art into our streets.

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  1. 100% increase in walking and cycling? AT have got it massively wrong, presumably because they’re counting in the wrong places. I walk for an hour every night. Pre-Covid I would see maybe a dozen people walking or cycling, now it would be well over a hundred.

    When I go for a ride I see far more bikes than cars and this on major arterial roads around the North Shore.

    It’s fantastic and needs to stay. I don’t think we need traffic signs though. My experience both in active mode and driving to and from work is traffic is self-regulating to around 40 kph and drivers are well aware that pedestrians could be on the roads. It’s all so civilised. Wonderful.

    1. I doubt they have many counters on suburban streets where the boom in walking is really happening.

      The signage and pop-up bike lanes will become more important in level 2 when traffic starts to really increase again, but distancing is still important.

    2. Agree dm, and I need to pull out some videos I took to help calibrate some monitoring equipment last year. On the northern part of Pt Chev Rd, mid afternoon, I would see 30 or 50 cars pass me before I’d see the first person walking or cycling. Whereas a couple of days ago I counted over 100 people walking or cycling (or sitting in a pram or child’s bicycle seat) for just 16 cars.

  2. Let’s put up some 30kmh signs without anything to explain to the inconsiderate driver why they are there. Let’s face it, most motorists don’t slow down for 30kmh traffic management signs anyway. Why would they do it when there’s no roadworks.
    Looks like a media attention seeking intervention that would have little effect.

    1. Because most people are good people, who wish to do the right thing for society. They drive according to cues, mainly visual. The roads have been built to assist traffic flow in congested conditions. In empty conditions, the built environment gives a visual cue to drivers that in recent times has been associated in their brains with higher speeds. This can be reset, however. NZers drive faster for particular street environments than people do overseas, entirely because our speed limits have been too high.

      Putting signs ups will remind drivers about the situation and give them the reason they need to slow down.

      1. I recall some studies done by Professor Sam Charlton on road signage and driver behaviour. In one of his trials, changing roadsigns into German and changing priority intersection had minimal effect on drivers who regularly drive a road. Copttm also talks about the need for side friction in TTM sites.
        What I’m saying is that council should be a lot bolder when doing something like this. The signs are better than nothing but simply gating some temporary speed limit signs isn’t enough.
        Must admit that drivers I’ve encountered on my walks have been great; had a bus give way to me the other day! However I now only walk in the late evening; it’s like playing chess trying to keep my bubble intact dodging all the walkers and cyclists during the day.

    2. We already have a temporary “!” hazard plate that says “WALKERS”, so if it concerns you we could always put those signs up as well as the temporary speed limit…

  3. Given the almost total lack of traffic, it’s surprising how many crashes are still happening, many of them single vehicle accidents. It show a small, irresponsible number of drivers are causing a disproportionate number of accidents.

    1. Average speeds of the crashing drivers are likely up significantly, owing to the lack of congestion on our massively over-width, empty roads…

  4. I’ve noticed large numbers of walkers and cyclists on my road. About nine out of ten cars have been driving slower despite the lack of vehicular traffic, presumably in consideration of the more vulnerable road users and an enhanced sense of society. Possibly a realisation that it’s even more serious than usual to send someone to the hospital at the moment. Often there’s a smile and/or wave. For the first time we’ve felt it safe enough for our 10-yr-old to ride his bike on the road (both parents making that judgement being reasonably experienced cyclists).

    But one out of ten drivers are driving like eggs. Water trucks in particular seem to be exceeding the speed limit (they are the only trucks on the road – maybe the others would be too). Total death machines under the circumstances (windy road with no footpath and families walking and cycling all over it).

    Why didn’t the government introduce a blanket 30km/hr speed limit for previously 50km/hr roads during lockdown, given the implications of encouraging/requiring everyone to not drive unless essential and to take local exercise? (Well done Tasman District Council).

    1. Yes, Fraggle, this was a huge mistake.

      Going into Level 3 is going to highlight the problem. Some kids will be walking and cycling to school, the others will be needing to walk and cycle for exercise. As will adults. And we’ll still be walking onto the road to get around each other.

      Jacinda Ardern, wellbeing will be impossible without safe speeds. Bring in default safe speeds now.

      1. I have noticed this morning on our local roads a few more cars, mainly utes, than in the last week. I suspect some are in level 3 mode already. But people still walking/cycling on the road. So it has suddenly become a bit more dangerous. It would really help if the road had a speed limit of 30km during level 3.

      2. Opening schools is a massive mistake. The government hasn’t made many mistakes but this will probably be a biggie. Level 3 precludes face to face transactions but allows crowded school buses and full classrooms.
        It lifts once and for all the veil that schools are about education. Their primary purpose is to care for children while their parents do other things. Education is the makework schools use to occupy the incarcerated children.

        1. (While I agree with you in large part about schools being childcare, right now I see there’s a world of difference between how people in similar jobs are struggling with the restrictions, based on whether they have children or not. In-home childcare of just a few hours each day to create slightly-extended bubbles and provide work for people who are now underemployed would go a long way to fix this. But this is one time I think there good reasons for the childcare aspects of schools.)

          Opening schools is not the problem I’m discussing here, though.

          It’s the fact that children will be out and about walking and cycling, for weeks ahead, needing physical distance, and the speed limits aren’t even safe for normal conditions. They are very unsafe for these conditions of people walking on the road and more inexperienced people cycling.

          This is a major fail of responsibility.

        2. I agree with your point about making walking and cycling safer. But it is even more important to make those modes safe so the poor little buggers don’t have to rude in a bus during a pandemic. Anyone thinking of going into teaching should take note of this situation. Schools exist as a place to store children, not to educate them.
          Since mechanisation occurred our economy is no longer based on child labour. So the state built penitentiaries for young people and called them secondary schools. You can link the invention of the milking machine with the increase in school leaving age in this country. We should be a better country, but are not.

        3. Do you think the risks of Covid to children from taking a bus are larger than the risks on our transport network which AT is dragging its heels on making safer?

          I don’t.

        4. It’s not just the bus Heidi it is also the classroom. At the moment yes it is more dangerous. The Marist College cluster is 92 people. It shows how a virus can spread like wildfire in a school due to huge number of close contacts that occur. Schools belong in level 2. Teachers are being used as sacrificial lambs so people can go and make more money.

        5. These things ease my fears about the schools: The college cluster happened under ideal incubation conditions (normal secondary school practices): shuffling the kids and staff like a deck of cards at each change of period.

          In Level 3, most children will still be at home. At secondary school, years 11 to 13 won’t be there. And only a minority of students years 9 and 10 will be there. So they’ll have heaps of space, with very few kids. They’re working now, presumably, on finding ways to ensure there’s physical distancing even at lunch and morning tea. Some schools might keep the kids in core classes all day, ditch some of the option subjects, and have just the teachers rotate around.

          At primary and intermediate school, they’ll have children from all year levels, but they’ll be able to remain in class-sized bubbles. Hopefully, even if some teachers can’t work and some teachers are assigned distance learning roles, the class-sized bubbles will still be small.

        6. The Marist school cluster is mostly a group of adults who attended a school concert or something similar as far as I’m aware. It’s more an argument for eliminating events than anything else.

        7. I think it’s a fortnight too early to put schools back. Modern learning environments can mean big class sizes, hand washing isn’t well governed by teachers, and quite a few of the teachers at our primary would be immunocompromised by age or health.

        8. Jezza most of the 92 are now people who don’t go to the College at all. They are people who are family and friends of people who got it at the school. But the initial spread appears to be in the staffroom and classrooms with 12 students getting it (Stuff April 12).
          The point is that schools and weddings are the very things that should remain shutdown but hey nobody cares because the ‘economy’.

        9. You could be right, omnt.

          I’m imagining the older or immune compromised teachers will be tasked with the distance teaching, from their homes.

        10. Thanks for the info, looks like I was wrong with this one.

          A failing economy can of course have significant impacts on health as well, with rates of heart disease and mental health issues jumping quite dramatically with unemployment.

          I’m not sure it’s a good idea to open schools and daycares in L3 either, but without it Judith Collins is probably corrent, it’s just L4 with KFC. We’ve got two ECE age children, if L2 is say four weeks away we will probably just keep them home and take the hit on hours we can work.

    2. 9 out of 10? Wow. Out in west Auckland near Henderson I would say its more like 1 of 10. Most people driving like maniacs at 60 or more in 50 areas as per normal, but with even less care than normal i.e. cutting around bends etc, rolling into pedestrian boxes on red signals etc.

      Given how terrible it is out here I would say we are probably in most dire need of temporary 30km/h, though I doubt most people would follow it. As usual police presence is also negligible out here. I have probably made 6 or 7 trips to the supermarket/pharmacy since lock-down, saw 2 police cars on one trip, none on all the rest, no police on foot etc.

      1. My experience of how motorists are behaving on the main arterial roads of Takapuna/Milford has not been a great one. Typically I only walk for an hour a day, but I have seen two near tragedies. On the first ocassion a young girl on a bike, eight perhaps, inexplicably swerved across her lane. The person following behind swerved around her, luckily perhaps, without attempting to slow.

        In the second incident, a perhaps three year old on her bike fell onto the footpath on which she was riding and then onto the road. Fortunately the coming vehicle was a bus driver and he easily negotiated around her.

        More and more I see the need for seperated bike lanes.

    3. “Why didn’t the government introduce a blanket 30km/hr speed limit for previously 50km/hr roads during lockdown, given the implications of encouraging/requiring everyone to not drive unless essential and to take local exercise? (Well done Tasman District Council).”


    4. Yeah. I think the slower driving might come from two factors. Firstly, consideration for others. Secondly less need to be rushing around with all our 21st century commitments. I know both those factors are playing out in my own more tempered driving.

      1. I know I couldn’t believe it either. I have know idea what Youtube thinks I am interested in or how it put that video up. I got rid of fibrolite in January and watched videos on safety procedures so maybe it is that. But at 1230 today I watched Norah Jones live from her living room and then youtube thought I wanted to see a video about putting asbestos into road pavements. Bizarre. Anyway have a great weekend.

        1. You too, miffy. I had to look up whether Asbestos, Quebec had changed its name since the substance became unfashionable. (The mine only closed in 2011 and even then nearly didn’t). According to wikipedia they haven’t changed their name because in French asbestos is amiante and so the French residents didn’t mind the name asbestos.

          Wasn’t there a Rons or two that could have done with a bit of asbestos added to it for strength? Better there than elsewhere, maybe? 🙂

        2. Fascinating, thanks Miffy. Any idea if NZ ever followed America and Canada’s lead and put asbestos into the asphalt mix?

          The company involved, Johns Manville, is still going strong in Canada, ( and is still big in insulation and roofing products, and is now owned by Berkshire Hathaway – i.e. Warren Buffett, the world’s second ? richest man. Must have had a need for the deep pockets to survive all those asbestos lawsuits.

          And Miff – not really a surprise that Youtube has figured out that you are interested in roading and transport. It has a good memory.

        3. I have never heard of asbestos in hot mix before so maybe it was a North American issue where it went into a huge array of products. Yes Youtube does seem to have a long memory. I got rid of some asbestos in January and watched some safety videos first and the algorithm has combined it with other interests as you say. BTW if you need to get rid of non-friable (solid) asbestos you can buy all the kit at an asbestos shop in Mt Wellington (ARENZ). If you have friable material then you should pay someone to do it for you.

  5. Once we reach level 2, it is going to be vital that public transport is free for at least a period of time otherwise we will have a permanent shift of PT users to private vehicles.
    This would happen for the following reasons:
    1) The roads are and will still be light of traffic until we reach level 1. Makes it more compelling for people to drive rather than take a bus or train (and be surrounded by other people).
    2) People have fallen out of the habit of using PT.
    3) PT is considered risky by most of the public since Covid-19 and could be that way going forward too.
    4) Even with things going back to normal, traffic is likely to be lighter due to more people working from home or being unemployed. This as mentioned further encourages people to drive. Now is the time to make a big PT push.
    GA needs to really get onboard with this. I’m sure AC can get some extra govt funding towards it.

    1. Or we could just charge and get some revenue from those who are using it so we don’t lump as much on the debt bill for future New Zealanders. I don’t think there is much evidence making it free has a massive impact on use.

      1. I’m talking about temporarily Jezza to get people back using it. Price absolutely has an impact on demand.

  6. I’m going slightly off key here but after viewing this video on youtube at the 13.51 mark there is a view of the old SA/SD’s my question is who is looking after them as some have had a lot of graffiti added to them and the rest look very tired . And this video was shot last November ;-

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