In April last year Auckland Transport proposed a range of safety improvements to Tamaki Dr in both Mission Bay and St Heliers. This was done using the same process they’d used for similar changes in town centres in other parts of the region. The proposals certainly weren’t perfect, for example in places AT proposed removing an existing cycleway and there were many other aspects where AT ignored their own design rules.
But St Heliers was different. Even what was proposed was quickly opposed by locals furious at the idea of change and for not being treated specially by AT. The opposition quickly boiled up to anger and that was highlighted at a public meeting on the 15th of April where worried about the safety of their staff, AT didn’t show up. Though I also understand they were told not to show up by a local politician who then used that to rally against them.
Of course the locals claimed it was all a civil meeting and the reporter who helped fan the flames of opposition reported “One young man got up to speak in favour of the changes, saying he did not want to be living with the consequences of being hit by a car in future“. What he didn’t report was the abuse he suffered afterwards, especially from older residents. It all sounded more of a lynch mob than a public meeting.
But AT didn’t get much support from its owners either with Mayor Phil Goff shamefully throwing them under the bus, seemingly more worried about future electoral results than staff or public safety.
Subsequently AT withdrew it’s proposals and pledged to work through the issues with the locals.
Yesterday they finally announced the outcome of that work and frankly it’s embarrassing. It starts:
Auckland Transport (AT) will be releasing a new proposed safety plan for St Heliers Village.
Following the negative response from hundreds of St Heliers locals over a proposal to install 12 raised pedestrian crossings in the village, losing over 40 carparks in the St Heliers Business district, the plan has been revisited.
A key part of that change was to form a working group with the St Heliers Business Association and the St Heliers/Glendowie Residents’ Association representatives to deliver on improvements to the village that were evidence based.
This process included Councillor Desley Simpson and Colin Davis of the Ōrākei Local Board who have business improvement districts as part of their delegated responsibilities.
AT’s Group Manager Network Management, Randhir Karma, says “In working alongside these community representatives for a number of months, we have shaped a new proposal which we hope better reflects the needs of the local community, but which also meets our safety objectives.”
AT’s working group immediately raises red flags due to how limited it seems to be. Residents Associations in particular have time and again been shown to be far from representative of the views of all locals. But more importantly where are the other voices. Where was the youth representative (or anyone under about 60), or the representatives from the disability community or road safety advocates. Tamaki Dr is also our most popular cycling route, where were active mode representatives.
It seems AT not only did AT stack the court against themselves, they actively excluded segments of society who wanted to participate – as per the example below. That’s shameful from a public organisation.
After the creation of the working group I tried to get a Youth of Ōrākei representative (Ōrākei Youth Board) onto the group. This was strongly opposed from the St Heliers Residents/Business Associations. This is what happens when you close off discussions to fit your agenda.
The lack of perspectives can clearly be seen in the design AT are now consulting on. Councillor Desley Simpson praised the process that led to it calling it open and transparent. The process is so transparent you can see that when they created a list of constraints it started with “LEAVE ALL PARKING IN PLACE” and everything followed from there.
Back to the press release, they say:
The safety improvements now proposed include no loss of carparking in the area, and some small bus stop changes to make outdoor dining less affected by bus fumes.
Pedestrians benefit from four new zebra crossings at key points within the village and the resurfacing of footpaths as soon as funding is available.
While the seaside wooden boardwalk remains dedicated for pedestrians, cyclists benefit from a widened and lengthened shared path on the seaward side of Tamaki Drive (separate from the boardwalk).
It is envisaged that this shared path would be approximately four metres wide enabling sufficient space for cyclists but also allow for pedestrians and those exiting their vehicles, including those with push chairs and wheelchairs, to safely navigate their way without negatively impacting any carparking.
The usual white line will be painted down the middle of the shared path for the further protection of walkers and other vulnerable people.
Under the proposal there are also two new raised pedestrian crossings (similar to those outside Kelly Tarlton’s) to meet the 30 km/h speed reduction approved by the AT Board and due to be implemented in 2021.
THE USUAL WHITE LINE !!!!
AT claim to be a “Vision Zero organisation”, they even say it on the consultation page. Did no one in the organisation who signed off this press release or consultation stop to think about this. Afterall, this is what happens to ‘white lines’ painted on shared paths on Tamaki Dr – though granted that’s not a 4m wide path.
This is how that shared space works now. See any room for bikes there? pic.twitter.com/3Y4ZtBZHCb
— Caniwi (@caniwi_nz) October 11, 2020
The path will be widened to 4m but even then it means the cycleway half is still just 2m wide. That’s far to narrow for a bi-directional path. In fact in ATs own Transport Design Manual the section on cycling says:
4.4 Shared paths
A shared path is not a approved type and may only be used where numbers of cyclists and pedestrians are low enough to avoid frequent conflict.
A town centre on the busiest cycle route in the city is not a low volume area. It also goes on to say that the preferred width of a path is 4m and that it needs a preferred width of another 1m if the path is kerb side with parking alongside it. There is no buffer zone on the path above meaning the cycleway is in the door zone. This version from Carol Green would be a more accurate representation.
in the context of a wider parking plan for the Tāmaki Drive Masterplan area, reduce parking along and adjacent to Tāmaki Drive over time to improve people’s ability to safely cross the road and enjoy the coastal setting
It isn’t like there already isn’t a heap of parking in the town centre, as can be clearly seen on the plans now out for consultation – they’re even adding more in on Goldie St. With all that parking, AT also need to answer why they haven’t already implemented changes in parking management, including possibly charging for it, to ensure it’s being used efficiently.
On their consultation page AT say “The new proposal is based on evidence where speed data, crash data, pedestrian surveys, and best practice in road safety are well considered“. Considered but ignored it seems.
And of course all of this outcome is also coming out of AT’s limited safety budget, of any budget it’s the one that needs to be bold and evidence based.
I would say that AT should be giving this community what actually seem to want, nothing, spend the money in places that actually want change. However, at the same time I don’t think AT can just abandon areas with known safety issues.
What I think frustrates me about all of this is not so much the actual details but the processes and capitulations AT and the council have made. The Council tasked AT with improving road safety but then tried to do that based on the evidence, the council refused to back them. For their part, AT don’t always get designs right but there’s an element of “you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts” when it comes to designs. As a Vision Zero organisation they can’t just abdicate their responsibilities just because some locals don’t like them, especially when the changes will likely be in place for decades to come.
For some time now, AT have been able to deliver fantastic some plan and strategy documents but at some point they need to stop talking about the future and start designing for it.
Consultation on the plans is open till Monday 2 November.