It’s good to see progress towards a safer city, with Auckland Transport consulting on its next project in the road safety programme:
The Manurewa (Area 2) Safety Improvements project. Submissions are due next Monday 8th March.
At the end of this post, I also outline an alternative approach for future safety projects, which will enable Auckland Transport to achieve much more from the same budget.
The location for this project is immediately south of the first area of Manurewa they implemented last year.
Manurewa was chosen on the basis of need: safety statistics for the area are terrible. The area’s street layouts allow and encourage very high driving speeds, creating the tragic situation that people are being killed and hurt in life-changing ways just trying to move around their suburb. Sometimes it’s people simply out walking. The community is affected in many ways, including that people don’t let their children move about independently, and are put off wanting to walk and cycle themselves – including to the bus and train. This is the cause of many problems: congestion, public health from physical inactivity, and transport poverty for those who don’t drive.
Change in this area needs to shift not just how people drive, but how the streets – and the people using them – are valued.
The project is ambitious. Of Auckland Transport’s safety project areas to date, this one covers the largest area.
As the diagrams above show, there will be a lot of speed humps – 250 apparently – and other treatments to help calm traffic, which is partly because the area is so large.
In designing this project, Auckland Transport had the benefit of the feedback from the first Manurewa project, in which many people said they wanted the area extended.
What’s great to see is the local leaders supporting the project, as reported by this article in the NZ Herald:
People will says it’s overkill, says Manurewa Local Board chairman Joseph Allan, but if it saves one life in the community it is worth it.
“Safety is seriously important for our community. When you have cars travelling through the area at 120km/h something is going to happen and lives will be lost,” said Allan.
With the backing of the local board and local councillors Angela Dalton and Daniel Newman, AT has selected Manurewa for the largest traffic calming programme in Auckland…
Each stage is costing $4 million…
AT says the measures will help to create a slower speed environment, saying the area of the second stage had 131 crashes in the past five years and vehicles travelled at more than 120km/h on Rimu Rd, McDivitt St and Coxhead Rd.
The push to slow down traffic arose around 2017, said Dalton, from concerns in the community over speeding, police chases and rat-running in an area with six or seven schools.
“It looks good, it’s definitely safer and it can only but slow people down or they damage their cars. We know it is safer around those schools. The safety for those kids was paramount.”
She said the schools are grateful for the changes and, so too, families with children but acknowledged the community is divided.
Newman said Manurewa’s roads have historically had some of the worst serious injury and death rates of anywhere in Auckland.
“It really upsets motorists who don’t like a slow drive and speed bumps, but there is a significant safety element to the measures. If other communities saw it they would be jealous,” he said.
Barney Irvine, infrastructure spokesman for the Automobile Association, said it is good to see AT changing the roads in Manurewa to bring speeds down, rather than just dropping the speed limit, and more was needed.
“Reducing speeds on quiet residential streets around schools, where there are safety issues, will sit comfortably with most people, and we’d expect it to have plenty of support from locals,” he said.
These community leaders need a hearty thanks for their leadership. Our city needs every elected member to be an ambassador for safety and for decarbonising our transport system. (And good to see the AA taking a more responsible path than they did in the central city, where the complex mess of frequently changing speed limits can be traced back to their lobbying.)
The Herald also peppered the article with comments from people not wanting to see these changes. Ironically, these people are opposing improvements for drivers. Traffic calming makes it easier to turn, change lane, to look for and manoeuvre into a car park, and easier to see where it is you’re heading if you don’t know the area. Through enabling modeshift, the project can also improve driving for those who need to, by reducing the number of cars on the road.
Auckland Transport commissioned research into public perceptions before and after the similar, but smaller, Te Atatu and Papakura projects. The ‘after’ surveys overlapped with the first lockdown last year, which may have influenced results. Yet they are still striking:
More than four out of five respondents (82%) felt that the speed humps and tables have made the area safer overall, including 50% saying it is much safer than before. The net increase in positive safety ratings was +76%.
Hopefully Manurewa will also be included in the next tranche of speed limit changes (which, incidentally, seem to be running late. There was supposed to be one tranche per year, and the next set is actually just a tidy up of some of the harder-to-resolve roads in tranche one. To catch up on specific commitments Auckland Transport made to the Safety Review, Auckland Transport will need faster action.)
Hopefully Auckland Transport will implement this Manurewa project quickly and move onto the next one.
Of course, there are always improvements to the project to suggest.
First, where’s the safe way to bike on the main roads? On Auckland Transport’s Auckland Cycling Network map from 2015, Weymouth Rd and Great South Rd are shown as “existing connectors” – but for all ages cycling, they need the cycle lanes protected. And Mahia Rd is a proposed connector. These are critical routes to the train stations, so we can expect to see a lot of new housing in the area. If repairs to the network like this aren’t done now, are they programmed to be done by 2030? In fact, does AT even intend to return to the area and set it up for safe, low carbon transport by 2040 or 2050?
Secondly, there are too few pedestrian crossings. All the entry treatments and side roads need pedestrian crossings so people can walk freely along main roads and cross safely every time they meet a side street. Along Mahia Rd, for example:
And there need to be more pedestrian crossings over the main roads too, and much closer to the intersections where they are shown. The safest way across a road needs to be at the same location as the easiest way across – and evidence shows ensuring this is so improves safety considerably. Here, all the crossings are too far away:
Auckland Transport knows how to follow its own design manual and find a way to get them all closer, respecting pedestrian desire lines and accessibility needs. They managed much better at Franklin Rd:
In many places the cost of nearby speed bumps would be better used to shrink the size of the intersections:
Finally, there’s a better approach to traffic calming that we’d prefer Auckland Transport to use for future projects.
This would involve dividing the area into low traffic neighbourhoods, where walking and cycling are easy. Vehicles can still access each property – but there is no through-route that allows rat running. By eliminating those shortcuts for people racing to save time, and cutting the long roads into shorter sections so speed can’t be built up so easily, far fewer speed bumps are required. This frees up budget for other improvements.
To illustrate this idea, I’ve split the area into three walkable and bikeable “low traffic neighbourhoods”, where vehicle traffic is only from local movements – meaning it’s light, and occasional.
This isn’t the only way the area could be split up, and people who know all the different ways Mountfort Park is used will know where the best division between the blue and yellow neighbourhoods should be. I’ve chosen Sykes Rd, but that can be changed. Mountfort Park needs to accommodate both safe walking and cycling, as well as access for vehicles to each carpark.
For the other division, between the yellow and orange neighbourhoods, I’ve used Coxhead Rd, which is a good boundary because it’s a bus route. The other bus routes through the area, on Rogers and Christmas Rds and Glenveagh Park Drive (shown in red), are better kept within the neighbourhoods.
Next I looked at where you could install “modal filters”. These can be made from anything, like planter boxes, bollards or rock walls. Some filters allow people, bikes, scooters and animals to go through, but not general traffic, like this one in Freeman’s Bay:
Some filters allow emergency vehicles, rubbish trucks and buses using rising bollards or enforcement cameras, and the location can be decided tactically:
Here’s a modal filter in Mt Eden:
There are dozens of different arrangements of locating the modal filters, and this would all be decided through local community engagement. Below is one possible solution, demonstrating how few modal filters are required. For this arrangement, perhaps ten filters would be needed. The seven shown, plus maybe three in the park.
In addition to these ten filters, entry treatments would still be required. And these should be more than just red paint. Some entry treatments may allow traffic in only, or out only, like this one in Grey Lynn:
Something like this treatment might work, as proposed in Cambridge:
Since everyone driving in a low traffic neighbourhood is going to a local address rather than cutting through to save time, the need for so many speed bumps melts away. Extra traffic calming measures could be added in as required, perhaps using timber in a tactical way, like this idea from Napier
Or chicanes could be used. Eventually, these could accommodate trees, like in this Ponsonby street:
With a budget of $4m, the project had enough money to do all this and experiment with different technology for the modal filters – including rising bollards or camera enforcement of modal filters. And there would still be budget for improvements to the public realm, protected cycling on the main roads, and allowing a larger area to be covered.
The Manurewa project must proceed without delay, largely as it stands. The safety improvements are urgent. But if you agree the low traffic neighbourhood concept is a good way forward, could you add that to your submission? Ideally, Auckland Transport would produce a city-wide masterplan, based on an analysis of traffic circulation on the boundary roads. This would allow individual low traffic neighbourhoods – designed by communities themselves – to fit within a coordinated plan.
Low traffic neighbourhoods across the whole city can be a cornerstone of our safety and transport decarbonisation planning.
Image credit: Cambridge Cycling Campaign