Auckland Transport are currently consulting on safety improvements to Swanson Rd through the Ranui town centre – consultation closes on Friday.
The changes are needed because the road is currently unsafe
Swanson Road is a high-risk road where over 50 crashes have taken place and 3 lives have sadly been lost here between 2013 – 2017.
Changes need to be made to improve road safety through Ranui and protect people who are walking, biking, and driving. Every Aucklander deserves a safe transport network where no death or serious injury is acceptable.
These improvements sound very much needed but the comments above start to come unstuck when you look at what’s proposed.
The proposed improvements include:
- 1 new raised pedestrian crossing outside Fresh Choice to replace the existing pedestrian refuge island. To make space for the new crossing we would need to remove 3 car parks.
- 6 new pedestrian refuge islands on Swanson Road to make it easier and safer for people to cross the road near the bus stops.
- New pedestrian refuge islands on Airdrie Road, Marinich Drive and Waitemata Drive, (where it intersects with Swanson Road) to make it safer and easier for people to cross these roads.
- New ‘slow’ road markings and ‘Welcome to Ranui’ signs upon entrance to the town centre.
- New electronic speed signs to notify drivers what speed they are going in the lead up to the town centre.
- No parking ‘broken yellow lines’ painted on the road before and after the bus stops and pedestrian refuge islands on Swanson Road. This will provide more space for buses to manoeuvre safely and enable people crossing the road to be more easily seen by drivers. Parking surveys have shown demand for car parks at these locations is very low so it will still be easy to find a park nearby.
- 5 bus stops on Swanson Road will be shifted slightly to make sure they are in the safest locations for people to cross the road.
The bus stop changes include:
- Moving the bus stop from outside 529 to 525 Swanson Road and adding a bus shelter.
- Moving the bus stops and shelters from outside 381 and 526 to 379 and 540 Swanson Road.
- Moving the bus stops from outside 297 and 352 to 295 and 354 Swanson Road and adding a concrete standing area.
Now there are some good things in here. The raised table crossing is a big improvement from the ‘run for it into the back of a bus’ pedestrian refuge that currently exists.
But many of the changes, while well intentioned, feel under done. For example, they’ve recognised that the huge turning radii on some intersections is an issue so they’re narrowing them down to improve pedestrian safety, but why not just do it properly and add pedestrian crossings. Same goes with the new refuges on Swanson Rd itself. The lack of pedestrian crossings on them means there’s still a good chance you get stuck in the middle of the road watching the bus you were hoping to catch sail past.
The biggest issue though can be summed up with the question “where are the cycle lanes”, especially seeing as AT say they say the project is needed “to improve road safety through Ranui and protect people who are walking, biking, and driving“. As Hayden Donnell noted in his fantastic piece the other day, the main image “features a stranded cyclist staring into the abyss“. She’s likely wondering how on earth she’s going to get home safely.
Waitakere Councillor Shane Henderson wasn’t too happy with the lack of cycle lanes, especially given the road is in the local board’s Henderson-Massey Connections Plan (20,9 MB) which was signed off in 2019 when he was the chair of the board. In the plan, Swanson Rd is listed as part of the express network, which the plan defines as a protected on-road cycleway.
Update: It didn't go well, cost is the major issue. I will be writing a letter and submitting in response to the proposal, stating that in my opinion they haven't got it right, and it is not compliant with the Connections Plan we passed in 2019 https://t.co/A2CJCeCNI5
— Cr Shane Henderson (@HendoWest) March 5, 2021
AT argue that they can’t add cycling facilities to the project due to the cost, and I get that. If we require every small safety project to also add full cycling facilities then we’re not going to get very far. But providing a full cycleway is also quite a different prospect to adding a short section through the town centre until such time as they’ve got funding to do more of the corridor. Even just ensuring the proposal is designed with it in mind for easy addition in the future so we’re not having to go back to dig up and replace these works a few years later would be good.
There’s also likely another reason AT think it will cost so much. It seems that in general, they appear to have adopted the mindset that cycling can only be provided if it doesn’t require reallocating any existing road space, especially if it requires taking away parking. That means any projects then need to move kerbs and drainage and all sorts of other infrastructure making them very big and expensive – see Karangahape Rd.
We need AT to get better and bolder at reallocating road space, removing parking to prioritise other modes. It remains one of the biggest opportunities and challenges for changing our city for the better.
It’s also notable how every cycling project needs to include improvements for every other mode but road projects can just ignore an entire mode completely.
As a reminder, consultation closes Friday.