As a society we are facing many challenges we need to address and transport sits at the heart of a number of those. For example, we know that we need to respond to climate change, to improve road safety and to improve urban mobility and we need to improve public health. We also know, and with plenty of evidence to back it up, that many of these issues share common solutions, such as making it easier to walk and cycle.

Yet despite knowing all of this and having both political and policies that support changing our urban environment to provide for more walking and cycling, it is still incredibly hard to make progress. Many of the gatekeepers within our transport agencies often still struggle to accept the need for such projects, both by ignoring the evidence and in seeming to favour the views of a single person complaining about project over hundreds who might support it. Getting projects over the line is made even harder when media stoke fears and amplify the voices of those opposed to change.

On the weekend we saw a classic case of the media stoking fear. This time about the improvements currently underway on Tamaki Dr.

Tamaki Dr is one of Auckland’s most iconic streets and is also one that needs to be changed for all the reasons mentioned at the start of the post. It increasingly sees tidal flooding, something that will only get more frequent. It is also Auckland’s busiest bike route, both for those wanting to enjoy the waterfront and as a critical link to those living in the eastern suburbs. Likewise, for the same reasons it is popular with people walking and running. However the walkers and cyclists who don’t want to (nor should have to) brave the road currently share a single narrow path.

Work to address these issues kicked off in February and will see the road raised by up to half a metre and a dedicated cycleway, an extension of the one on Quay St, will be built to separate bikes from walkers. The Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Path will also eventually connect into it.

Instead of highlighting about how this will provide better options for all, the Herald have gone after the project.

Buses, trucks and luxury SUVs will be among a list of wide-bodied vehicles no longer able to comfortably fit within the kerbside lanes of Tamaki Drive courtesy of a new $14 million cycleway.

Roadworks on one of Auckland’s busiest roads travelling east out of Auckland city centre along the waterfront, Tamaki Dr, have caused a major traffic choke point since February this year.

And it seems the strain on road vehicles is set to continue once the $14m project is complete next year.

Internal Auckland Transport (AT) correspondence and designs say buses will be required to use the middle lanes of Tamaki Dr, because the kerbside lanes are too narrow at 2.95 metres.

Graphics within an AT report have specifically placed buses in the middle lane of the arterial Tamaki Drive route because that is where they are expected to travel once construction is complete.

How the buses are to pick up passengers from the middle lanes, and whether they will hold up traffic when doing so, is unclear.

In response to the Herald, AT claimed “A bus is 2.5 metres wide so there is adequate room for them to operate safely”.

….

AT told the Herald there had been substantial research by AT’s road safety team and chief engineer into the safety of the road corridor – which was also ticked off by an independent safety auditor.

“We have done vehicle surveys on the road including video monitoring over a seven-day period. This confirmed that heavy commercial vehicles generally use the middle two lanes,” an AT spokesperson said.

“At no time during the survey period was there a situation where four large vehicles, either buses or trucks, were side by side.

“The purpose behind the design for Tamaki Drive that Auckland Transport is currently delivering, is to ensure that heavy commercial vehicles have most of the road space allocated to them through the slightly wider middle lanes, while also maintaining the safety of smaller vehicles.”

So AT’s engineers and independent experts have reviewed the project and found it fine but we should be outraged because someone in a ‘luxury SUV’ doesn’t like it? Isn’t that a bit like trying to argue we should listen to random reckons instead of scientists and health professionals about COVID?

As AT also pointed out, there are other routes in Auckland that are narrower, such as New North Rd in Kingsland which has four lanes on an 11.5m wide road (or about 2.85m per lane). But the narrower lanes don’t just provide more room to enable the cycleway, meaning we get more efficiency out of the existing road corridor, they also help improve road safety because they encourage people to travel slower – as opposed to wide lanes that can make you feel like you’re on a racetrack and encourage you to driver faster. Driving over the harbour bridge on the clip-ons vs in the narrower central lanes can be a good example of this effect. Those central lanes are also just over 3m wide so similar to what’s proposed here but cater for vehicles travelling 80km/h.

If anything, this article should be congratulating AT for finding a way to make the cycleway fit in the corridor. It should be supportive of changes will improve safety and finally it should be questioning why AT aren’t making similar changes on roads all over the city. We deserve better from our media on this and a lot of similar issues.

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71 comments

  1. The journey’s reply to a tweet pointing out the need to increase cycle mode share was “let’s just rip up every road and build cycleway that no one uses” so not surprising the Herald have a complete lack of balance here.

    Interviewing someone who works at your job and pretending they are an unbiased observer takes the cake too.

    1. New Zealand Herald should be renamed to New Zealand Troll Farm, it’d be good if the whole paper was behind a paywall.

      The good news is, while they espouse rubbish like above they’ll help contribute to National staying as unpopular as they were proven to be over the weekend.

      1. This is it. The outraged minority shouldn’t be pandered to and we are seeing that in the political shift in NZ. It might be hard to bite your tongue sometimes but its getting easier to just smirk and get on with what was planned.

  2. Very lol at the ‘luxury SUV’ quote.
    Those kerb side lanes should be T3/bus lanes, hopefully they get that upgrade in the future.

    1. I think the inclusion of “luxury SUV” – in the headline even – makes it clear that the editorial decision with these car-vs-bike articles is that they’re seeking outrage and division because it gets them the shares and clicks.

      1. Well at least 58% of NZers voted for a ‘progressive’ party, so who cares what the anti change brigade think… I do hope Labour don’t pander to the National swing voters, they need to take the progressive mandate they have been given (even if it is mainly just due to Covid!)

      1. Hmmm… that’s probably true. It’s an issue that comes up regularly.

        I think the solution is that this road shouldn’t have four lanes (two each way). We want access. We want mobility. We want physical activity. We want a cheap public transport system, not an expensive private transport system. We want to lower emissions and have cleaner air and better safety.

        All this points to having just one lane each way, for buses, and dynamically priced for general traffic – as one of many levers to reduce the volume. This frees up road space for proper lanes for cycling, scooters, e-cargo bikes, leaving footpaths free for people walking.

        It’s surely a part of Auckland where “equity” doesn’t become an issue. People with disabilities could have exemptions to the pricing.

        1. This road is plenty wide enough for four lanes in places. There’s next to no reason to have such a large footpath on the landward side most of the way; the opportunity should have been taken to align the road slightly differently and free up more space on the seaward side near the trees. Granted the Minigolf place presents some challenges, but I still don’t get why the footpath on the landward side has to be so wide. This applies in many places along Tamaki Drive.

        2. I looked at the width of the landward side when I did the original proposal for Bike Auckland to ask AT to ditch the “wider shared path” option for a proper cycleway.

          In the end, narrowing the landward path (more) was rejected by AT because of the trees, yes. Partly because of overhanging branches – but also because of tree root issues.

          Plus, considering how anti-cyclist campaigners in the last couple years have jumped onto “Lets save the trees!” as an excuse for their opposition (while being deathly silent when the project removing trees didn’t involve bikeways!), I wasn’t keen to propose tree removal even if I didn’t care about those lovely Pohutakawa (which I definitely do).

  3. I was thinking the other day, instead of spending tons of money on speed bumps etc on residential streets, why not just paint cycle lanes (or even very wide parking areas) so that the driving space appears very narrow (almost one way like). Our street is very narrow (always cars parked on both sides) and in general people do drive reasonably slowly. But many other residential streets are wide enough and have a centre line; those roads encourage you to drive much faster. At the very least centre lines should not be painted on any residential street.
    Its these very cheap changes that AT need to be considering, and they need blanket policies everywhere instead of the odd consultation here and there.

    1. That’s a great idea! I wonder if there is a legal reason why it hasn’t been done?

      I grew up on gravel roads and over xmas when people arrived on holiday it was amazing to see how lost they were with no white line to mark the center of the road. A lot of them were literally petrified.

      (and us equally petrified when we drove in a city!)

      1. Centre lines aren’t required automatically. It’s more habit why we are painting them on residential streets (and we’re doing it less now). Research shows that just not having centre lines (no other change) drops average speeds by 2-3 kph. Not massive, but that alone translates to something in the order of 5-10% reduced injury crashes levels.

        Yes, adding parking / retaining parking can indeed reduce speeds too. Meanwhile, we in some areas still remove parking to improve flow. Two of our strongest car-centric tendencies (Car parks! Flow!) at war…

  4. The difference in lane width is 50mm, which is insignificant. Once in service the difference will be imperceptible to road users.

    The lanes will be delineated by roadmarking lines that are 100mm or 150mm wide (+10% to -5% width tolerance) and have construction tolerances for transverse location of +/-20mm (TNZ P12, NZTA P30).

  5. Numerous truck and trailer convey mostly empty containers back and forth from the port to the container yards at the site of the old Tamaki station. I know Kiwirail and Auckland ports probably don’t want to put these containers onto rail but it would be possible. In fact last time I looked the siding is still in place. These trucks run on the first section of Tamaki drive to Ngapipi drive.

  6. Those lanes shown could be 5.0 metres wide and still not fix the issue. Because the photos don’t show that the rest of Tamaki Drive still allows cars to park on the side of the roads.

    When I used to drive that road I avoided the left hand lane too in both directions – peak and non peak – simply because the presence of parked cars makes that lane a more complex environment to be driving in. More than once a parked car nearly lost their door when they flung it open in front of the passing vehicles without checking.

    So, yes, lets do as the Herald says and spend big money on widening the bridge over the Hobson bay sea connection portion of it, so we can have 5.0 metre wide lanes for the big-ass cars to use.

    But unless you also fix the parked cars those “luxury SUVs” and trucks will still favour the middle 2 lanes.

    1. More than once cycling home (and usually when the warmer months are with us) us cyclists have to contend with car doors flung open (Okahu Bay being the worst for some reason) or the good old “standing start and floor it” U turn with no indication.

      Thank God for some dedicated cycle lane developments. Just need to extend it all the way to the far end of St Heliers now.

      oh wait, that can’t happen until the slumlord boomers with their luxury SUV’s die off and are replaced by people with some degree of farsightedness.

      See also: the near universal disregard by Auckland motorists of roadworks speed limits. If you’re on a bike, on the road and travelling at or above the 30kmh roadwork speed limit, you can expect motorists to be right up your arse and dangerously squeezing past if they think it’s possible. Own the road….

  7. 3 meters (or 2.95 wow could be within the painted lines margin of error) is plenty of space. If they can’t keep their “luxury SUV” within that then they shouldn’t have a licence as they lack the skills required to control the vehicle.

    Is it just me or is disregard for road markings getting more blatant in Auckland? It seems no one can stay in their lane anymore. Almost everyone cuts into cycle lanes/shoulders on the most mild corners and even blind corners where I have had a few close calls while using the cycle lane.

    1. It’s not just you. Turning right into a side road, too… almost everyone cuts the corner.

      The driving culture has been slowly worsened by a design focus on speed and efficiency. Turning radii at corners have been increased for traffic flow, slip lanes put in. And where pedestrian crossings are required on a desire line, they’ve been refused, or “pseudo pedestrian crossings” have been put in instead, where “Pedestrians must give way to traffic”

      A lack of enforcement has exacerbated it, too. So whereas the road code is clear that your speed needs to be appropriate for the environment, and you should expect pedestrians could step out at any time from between parked cars, the police haven’t enforced these appropriate speeds. They have enforced as if the posted speed limit is the only limit to a drivers’ speed. The result has been that drivers haven’t had sufficient peripheral vision, and have hit, seriously injured and killed pedestrians… but the police let them off for excuses like “Driver didn’t see the pedestrian” …. and with a dead, or concussed victim, there’s no witness.

      It’s all about a worship of traffic flow.

      Of course drivers have responded to this… they receive cues supporting driving at a steady speed, and expect to be able to keep going like that everywhere. Not to have to slow down at corners, near parked cars, cyclists, or to keep within painted lines.

      1. Re cutting corner there is a local corner I know well that went cycling have to be prepared to look out for and/or keep well left of traffic swooping down hill and cutting quite badly. I have to confess as a driver pre my cycle days it’s the natural line somehow. They should put centre dimple things on the line at least perhaps.

    2. Its worse. I’m not sure whether it’s finally been changed (they’ve been talking of changing it for a while), but it is LEGAL to use a cycle lane in advance of a turn, for 50m!

      Basically, the rule allowing people to go into a bus lane to turn at intersections / vehicle crossings etc was written so as to also apply legally to bike lanes. Madness (or more likely, car-centric oversight).

      1. It’s not actually legal to use it for 50m, the law states.

        “A driver may also drive wholly or partly in a lane that is unavailable to the driver under subclause (1) or clause 4.6(2) to (4) if the driver drives in the lane to cross it to make a turn; or leave a road […] and drives in the lane for the *minimum length necessary* to complete the manoeuvre and for *no more* than a maximum length of 50 m; and gives way to vehicles entitled to use the lane.”
        http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2004/0427/latest/whole.html#DLM303043

        The police have historically refused to enforce the minimum length necessary bit of this rule. Which I can only assume is through windshield bias.

  8. What really gets me (but doesn’t surprise me) is that the Herald gets all riled up about AT not doing “proper” design for cars – but are happily to ignore or even cheer them on when AT proposes shared paths in a busy town centre (clearly against their updated guidelines) – even if it is nearby on the very same road. THAT article gets to be all about the car parks being “saved”.

  9. A key issue here missed by the article is that the design is terrible for road cyclists too. Road bikes and faster e-bikes approaching Ngapipi at speed would not sensibly consider stopping to join a narrow leisure path – so of course many continue on – as noted by the cyclists comments above even at 30 km/h plus motor vehicles try to intimidate. With this design once the cones clear these issues will remain. This is a clear case where new thinking is needed as noted to AT in the original design reviews – road space has to work for all users not just motor vehicles when on a major bicycle route such as Tamaki Drive & arguably always.

    1. Experience from Quay Street, Beach Road, Nelson Street, and Ian McKinnon is that the vast majority of road cyclists will use a separated cycle path over the roadway. Even for the tiny minority who don’t, narrower traffic lanes are safer.

  10. What a load of cods wallop – if they had had the foresight to create an extended boardwalk over the water then they could have created far more space altogether, allowed sensible parking for those wanting to visit the front and plenty of room for bikes in a safe environment – but no they have to cram everything together and cause excessive risks to all mode of transport and their drivers / passengers cars.

    1. It’s not foresight, they already planned and designed a boardwalk option. It’s cost that’s the problem. By all means go to the local board and ask them to levy a targeted rate to pay for it.

  11. Cycling along tamaki drive and observing the construction, they could have taken some cycle lane space which is generous width and also on landward side of the road. Simple kerbline adjustments- could easily have added 500mm to increase road lane widths. I guess question is what is the safest road lane width? 2.9m, 3.0 or 3.1 m. Certainly slowing people down will be good. Remember you can have 4 packed lanes any time incl wide vehicles – plenty o buses and trucks

  12. Unfortunately the evidence actually shows that wider lanes are safer and that the notion people slow down in narrow lanes is only relevant when it occurs of a short discrete section and not on a long continuous road. This is mentioned in this post on the harbour bridge where the central lanes are less than 3m in width and over tens of thousands of vehicles driving around 80km/h in them every day. Compare that to a residential street which could be >10m in width with no marked lanes yet people drive around 50km/h.

    In this case, the one and only reason for the narrow lanes is to reduce cost, it may very well have adverse safety outcomes however it was deemed acceptable which is too often the case.

    Not too sure how these narrow lanes will due anything to reduce sea level rise or coastal flooding.

    1. ‘the notion people slow down in narrow lanes is only relevant when it occurs of a short discrete section’.

      In fairness this small section of Tamaki Drive where the lanes are narrowed are the very definition of a short discrete section.

      1. By short discrete length I mean 10m, not 1.4km. After about 50m people will be used to the cross section and carry on at the typical legal speed limit.

        This is why traffic claiming is more effective when its varied, with various pinch points and changes in cross section and alignment.

        1. A quick drive along Te Horeta Rd in Mt Wellington will disprove this. People speed up here as it is a wide almost expressway like road, not many start slowing down again after 50m even though it’s a 50 kmh zone.

        2. Yes that is a good example for the opposite of what you think. You could make the lanes on that road 3.0m wide and people would drive just as fast. The road looks like it’s half an expressway waiting for two more lanes to be built in the future.

          The average person probably thinks its posted at 60 or 80km/h and is a good example of how posting out of context speed limit has a limited affect on the speed people drive.

        3. So posting an out of context speed limit has little impact on speeds yet if you narrow a road people will continue to drive at the marked and now out of context speed limit, sure…

          Which one is it?

        4. Jezza, nothing has changed.

          People drive at what is the typical speed for the type of road they are on. Anywhere around the country a road like Tamaki Dr would be posted at 50 or 60km/h, and this is the speed most people would drive at on it. A road like Te Horeta Rd would typically be 80km/h, hence why the 50km/h limit feels out of context. In both cases, be the lanes 3.0m or 3.5m people would travel keep traveling at these speed, but that reduction in lane width would make crashes more likely.

          Other roads like Jellicoe St in the CBD people would expect to travel at about 30km/h even if the road was actually posted at 50km/h.

        5. Would you look at that, it’s Schrodinger’s motorist. A motorist who will speed on Te Horata Road because it is wide an flat, but religiously stick to the speed limit on Tamaki Drive even though it is narower.

          You are correct that a wider lane is safer for motorists assuming that travel speeds remain the same. However, motorists are not the only road users as people cross the road here, people cycle here, and people walk along the footpath here. Narrower lanes also reduce travel speeds (https://nacto.org/docs/usdg/review_lane_width_and_speed_parsons.pdf) which reduces the severity and frequecy of collisions.

          Narrower lanes are far safer oveall in urban contexts. Even AT have picked this up in their Roads and Streets Guide.

        6. Sailor Boy.
          You will note from looking at that research paper that there is a huge range in values with the correlation of lane width likely being the least relevant. This is mentioned in the paper you provided and it would be a safe assumption that an urban road with narrow lanes likely has numerous other facts already at play that would reduce the mean speed. In saying that however, speed isn’t the only factor that in road safety. Having a 5 fold increase in crashes for a 1% reduction in severity isn’t ideal for example.

          In terms of the AT Road and Street Guide, I don’t have much good stuff to say about it so I’ll leave that be.

          Based on NZ crash crash data a road with narrow lanes and narrows shoulder has almost 4 times the risk rating as a road with standard lanes and standard shoulders. But these are only two of the many factors at play.
          https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/Safety/docs/speed-management-resources/irr-manual-201607.pdf

    2. What evidence is this?
      There is plenty of data that indicate in urban environments (not motorways) that 3m lanes decrease speeds. When people crash at higher speeds, the consequences are more severe.
      Evidence indicates narrower lanes reduces crashes or at worst, have no impact.

      1. What evidence is this that you are referring to, as it doesn’t seem to correlate with either speed or crash data.

        Narrow lanes on their own appear to have a minor impact of vehicle speeds as people get used to it very quickly easily, such as the on the harbour bridge and in the CMJ. Generally it is a combination of numerous factors that determines the speed people tend to drive at.

        As an example, if a road was 6m in width with kerbs either side and no land markings you would most likely slow down as you passed another car going the other way. Paint a white line down the middle of that road however and you probably wouldn’t slow down as you have already got used to driving in your lane. In this situation a marked road with 3.5m or 4.0m lanes would be safer than a road with 3m lanes as it would reduce the potential for a head-on crash and have a negligible effect on vehicle speed.

        From a motorcyclist perspective narrow lanes are less safe as it comes much harder to lane split, this is similar for cyclists. In these cases you want it either so narrow its impossible to pass, or wide enough so that it can be done safely.

        1. In this case the narrower lanes are accommodating a separated cycle lane, so it definitely hasn’t made it less safe for cyclists.

        2. Yes the cyclists on the cycleway will find things safer, and removing that jumbo clearway lane will also make it less confusing.

          However, as we know many cyclists prefer to stay on the road where its smoother and faster and for them the 3m lane creates issues for vehicles wanting to get around them, or the cyclists wanting to get around the vehicles.

        3. So people get used to narrow lanes very quickly and easily. No problem then, we can save plenty of money on not having to widen out roads and probably slow down speeding too. What’s not to like?

        4. Riccardo, people get used to the width and hence the don’t slow down the speed. Yes you save money, but you also reduce safety and this is the tradeoff. You also make it harder and less safe for cyclists and motorbikes to use the road.

        5. The project as a whole will make it more safe as a range of existing safety issues are getting eliminated or mitigated, it just wont be as safe as it could be.

        6. Good, glad to hear it will be much safer as well as reducing the flood impact and adding cycling facilities.

  13. Sailor Boy

    You mean like I mentioned above?

    “In these cases you want it either so narrow its impossible to pass, or wide enough so that it can be done safely.”

    “Yes the cyclists on the cycleway will find things safer, and removing that jumbo clearway lane will also make it less confusing.”

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