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.