Given the amount of time we put into advocating for a greater Auckland it should be clear that we love this city. Yet at the same time it can be incredibly frustrating when we constantly see missed opportunities to easily make the city better. If Auckland had a school report card it would probably read something like “the city sometimes delivers good results doesn’t live up to its huge potential due to a frequent lack of attention to detail and motivation for quality outcomes”.
These missed opportunities come in all shapes and sizes and one has recently emerged that’s emblematic of the issues we face.
The issue is on Hobsonville Rd where a New World supermarket has been built and along with the development have been some changes to the road with a new set of traffic lights at Sinton Rd. These changes have ignored long existing plans and design guidelines and in the process made the road less safe for those on bikes. This is particularly important as this is the only currently viable route between West Auckland.
Here’s what the road looked like until recently, the same as it was when it was a state highway less than a decade ago but with the new development under construction to the right. While the spaces on each side weren’t cycle lanes, they kind of operated as such.
This location is of course just outside of the massive development happening at Hobsonville Point which is meant to be master-planned to encourage walkability and cycling. So you’d think being able to cycle to the supermarket is something we’d want to encourage. Hobsonville Rd has also long been identified on plans to have a cycleway added at some point in the future.
As mentioned, the changes to the road have included adding lights but also some localised widening beside the development to build dedicated turning lanes. These works have been completed within the last week.
Here’s what the area looks like now.
And coming from the other direction where the road has been widened taking that ‘bike’ space away to add a turning lane.
This all begs the question where are the bike lanes? While it might only be a short section, if we’re going to the extent of moving kerbs why aren’t we ensuring all modes are safely catered for. Furthermore, why doesn’t Auckland Transport claimed commitment to Vision Zero apply? What’s the point of having street design guidelines if we ignore them and why are we seeking to further entrench driving as the only viable option?
Our friends at Bike Auckland say they and the local board were basically told “sorry the supermarket has consent for this (and we don’t have money or legal requirement to improve it)“. So did the council planner who signed off on the plans not even consider this? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time the Council’s consenting team have ignored existing plans leaving us with a sub-optimal outcome. This same thing has also happened at other recently added intersections along Hobsonville Rd.
We’ve also highlighted even more egregious examples such as a few years back where we found the council signed off on not including a busway between Lincoln Rd and Westgate despite it having long been on plans and against the wishes of AT, simply because the NZTA didn’t want to do it. In both cases, having to go back and retrofit the missing pieces will add potentially substantial costs.
It also appears our transport agencies aren’t living up to the plans that were agreed when the State Highway designation was revoked.
IIRC the revocation agreement for ending state highway status on Hobsonville Road, signed by Waitakere City Council soon before amalgamation but legally binding on the Auckland Council family, includes a condition requiring construction of a cycleway on Hobsonville Rd.
— Darren Davis (@DarrenDavis10) November 23, 2020
Of note that just before you get to the section highlighted above, you have to ride through this
lovely hangover from when the road was a rural state highway
About the only positives here are that at least the intersection has pedestrian crossings on all sides, so we’re not adding to the number of legless crossings, and more street trees is good to see.
What really concerns me about this situation on Hobsonville Rd is that it’s a symptom of a larger issue within the council family. If it were a one off it would be one thing but we hear stories almost weekly about AC/AT staff charging ahead on projects and plans that undermine, or at least fail to take account of publicly consulted on and agreed on policies & strategies. Worryingly, it frequently seems they’ve either never heard of those policies and strategies or just don’t care and tend to carry on anyway.
What’s the point of having them if we don’t use them or no one knows about them?
Auckland has a lot to do but if we could just stop missing easy opportunities to make the city better we could make significant progress.