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.

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.

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  1. It’s just staggering that AT can ignore all directives and targets they get given with stuff like this. St Heliers is the other example, their revised design after consultation is totally unchanged, ignores their design guidelines for cycleways in favour of shared paths and the top bullet point under “improvements” is no loss of parking. You just want to scream

    1. Lmao, the only concrete goal of an alternative modes improvement project is no loss of parking. Can’t make that kind of thing up.

  2. ‘Cost too much’ err, but ok to cost vulnerable road users their lives?

    The priorities of this organisation seem to be just wrong.

    1. And what is the point in “costs too much so we will do it later”. It will still cost too much later except you then have to pay twice.
      There was a similar consultation done on Mt Albert Road outside the three kings plaza a few years back (maybe 3+ years). AT consultation wanted us to choose between 2 options (I think a roundabout and traffic lights). Neither had any cycling infrastructure. Surely Mt Albert Road needs cycling infrastructure, it has to be one of the most obvious roads where it is missing. So why spend millions building something that needs to be dug up again? I notice that nothing has been started on that project to date.

    2. That organisation has a budget of $3 billion a year and a council and government wanting improvements to safety and alternative modes.

  3. No arterial road should have parking. The need to store cars must be sacrificed to make room for more efficient modes. But AT doesn’t want to get anyone protesting.

    I think the difficult part is all the small businesses that lose parking and will go under waiting for cyclists to arrive. Because the cycle network is so piecemeal I think it will take decades before we get people on bikes in any meaningful numbers.

    1. Fully agree, they need to make that a policy coming from the top, not something to consult on every time. “Sorry this is deemed an arterial road and AT policy is to remove parking to provide alternative modes. Please talk to the CEO or transport minister”.
      And I don’t get people that want to park on an arterial, I would feel bad about holding up a ton of traffic while I reverse into a park.

      1. Nowhere is the stupidity of this more obvious than Tamaki Drive. The most picturesque part of the city has a narrow shared path and a car parking lane, with no bus lane or proper cycling facilty on the seaward side. Madness.

        Rip them out, run a proper bus lane where the parking used to be and build a decent 10m boardwalk on the other side of the existing sea wall. Find a way to preserve or highlight the lava flows in the area and just get on with it.

    2. It’s quite telling when arterial roads like Wolverton St/ Maioro St in New Windsor / New Lynn have no parking lines up and down the majority of its length, especially considering it is a dual carriageway, but only with general vehicle lanes. They have one rule for roads feeding cars onto the motorway, and another for other arterial roads.

  4. Surely a quick (and dirty) way of adding cycle lanes to just about any roadway in an urban area has to be with the “paint brush”.
    One of the biggest problems in urban areas is forcing vehicles to slow down to acceptable speeds, so why not narrow the road lanes down to something like 2.7 metres or even narrower.
    The narrower the lane the more conscious a driver becomes of their immediate environment and consequently the lower their speed.
    With the, granted small, savings on each road lane you gain a little space for the addition of a cycle lane at least on one side of the road.
    The next thing that can be done for a small investment is add timber “curbs” at similar intervals as normal white broken lines.

    1. Paint is not protection

      What could be done quickly is dropping those concrete sleeper/divider things down to have segregated cyclelanes, you don’t need to re landscape the entire road. and yes, then you just have to move the lane markings inwards

      It’s mental that wide median strips are seemingly considered essential for safety everywhere at the expense of cycling

      1. It is not protection but even a painted lane is a large improvement over going around parked cars all the time.

        But yeah they might just as well add a line of concrete blocks, that should work pretty well in town centres since they don’t have a lot of driveways on main streets.

  5. One of the reasons I seldom drive now is my shoulders and neck are stiff and quite sore. This makes parking difficult particularly parallel parking. If I go to the supermarket I go at a quiet time. In fact I would rather find an easy parking place I can drive in and out off without reversing and walk than try and negotiate a tight space next to my destination. And less chance of an accidental bump. I sometimes use on street parking but really it wouldn’t worry me to much if there was none around shopping centres. I have no trouble taking the bus though and walking and carrying home most of my necessities. And the best part is its free and the exercise is beneficial.

    1. As a London resident without a car, I haven;t been to the supermarket here for years thanks to the delivery services each chain has. Can highly recommend never having to bother with that hassle again, although I am not sure what Countdown etc charge for delivery

  6. I’m surprised you think the crossing is a good idea. There is a signalised crossing about 100 metres away which AT has conveniently not shown in their renders. The proposed crossing’s only desire line is to Fresh Choice, the existing signalised crossing is by the library and community centre. Large trucks speed through this road and there are a lot of turning movements into the supermarket driveway and on street angle parks. This won’t make it safer for people, improve the centre or encourage people to cycle.
    When is GA going to look seriously at projects outside of the isthmus and provide insightful dialogue?

    1. The nearest crossing is 100m away and there is a large trip generator right there, that sounds like the ideal location for a crossing to me.

      You do realise that matt lives in West Auckland right?

  7. So I guess a good question is:
    If you want some cycle lanes through here, how would you go about providing some safe cycle lanes? What would you take away to make space for them? I’m guessing the flush median and the angle parking.

    1. Flush medians are a total waste of time. But seem absolutely sacred as if they have se sort of magical safety powers

      1. Well they do provide a number of important and useful functions, they do also have a range of safety benefits.

        You would hope that if you’re going to remove them you would do so to provide something that results in a net benefit.

        1. Net benefit will depend on how long term you are talking, and how long it will take for AT to roll out / how well they roll out some more cycling network in that area.

        2. I was thinking of the costs you would incur:
          Removing the flush median would make it less safe for pedestrians to cross the road where they please, and it would remove the ability to have any pedestrian refuges.

          It would also increase congestion as any turning traffic would block the through road, which being in a commercial area it would seem there would be quite a bit of turning traffic.

          By removing the flush median you will have space to add some unprotected cycle lanes, however they would be rather unsafe cycle lanes given the angle parking and the turing traffic.

          To make the cycle lanes safer you would need to convert the angle parking to parallel parking, this however makes it harder to park and so looking at the shops there they would likely lose customers.

          Changing to parallel parking would make it easier to add protected cycle lanes, however cycle lanes approaching small signal controlled intersections on the LHS of a left turning lane is inherently unsafe.

          To address this they could have a protected intersection, however these result in it taking cyclists longer to get through the intersection, particularly if they want to turn right.

        3. Yet most of the countries I have been to seem to function perfectly well without flush medians…

        4. I wonder if these other countries without medians that you are thinking of have big box store USA style towns centres (aka drive from shop to shop mentality) that we seem have copied by and large. Is this the significant part of the problem? Is it also the low density, small car parks in front type commercial little shops that we have here also.
          Very hard to solve with cycle lanes of any sort due to the lack of density and driveway access for cars the stores seem to want.
          I guess the only near future and cheap way to solve it is slow all the general traffic down with small humps across drive accesses where there is concrete barrier protected cycle lanes in place of on street parking and/or medians are removed.

        5. I also have hardly ever seen those flush medians anywhere else than New Zealand. I think flush medians are here simply because what else are you going to do with those huge roadways? You often have better uses for that space, like bigger footpaths or bike lanes.

          Near intersections there are sometimes short sections of turning lanes for the cross turns near intersections. But by and large if someone in front of you is waiting to turn you just have to wait behind them.

        6. Are you able to elaborate what you mean by

          “most of the countries I have been to seem to function perfectly well without flush medians”

          You could say the same about cycle lanes, however that doesn’t mean things won’t be better with cycle lanes.

          Just last week I was about 2s away from getting killed from someone ramming into my stationing car at 80km/h knocking me into the opposing traffic that was also going at 80km/h. Had there been a flush median the fact the other driver was obviously distracted would not have been an issue.

      1. So remove the car parking and put the shops in this commercial area out of business seeing as its hardly the sort of place people will catch the bus or train to so they can do their laundry?

        That somewhat defeats the point of a commercial area.

        1. I guess that’s why there are no suburban businesses on streets without on street car parking anywhere in the world. /sarc

        2. Feel free to share some links of businesses in similar locations with no parking provision. I think you will find it much easier to find businesses in similar locations with parking.

          If you want to pay to buy some off-street parking to compensate the business for the loss you are generating go ahead. However even then, based on the types of businesses I’d probably be happy enough to carry on to another one on my route.

        3. Great example, you show a place that has twice as much parking if not more.

          Obviously, as I mentioned above, it will be with off-street parking. That would be my preference if starting from scratch whilst keeping the area somewhat the same.

          So you want to pay for moving the shops back and providing all that parking so that you can stick in a cycle lane? That will make for one very expensive cycle lane.

  8. Looks like it would be better to remove any goals about cycling as a suburban mode.

    No money, no internal capacity, not worth the fight any more.

  9. Chief executive needs to go, or at least be called out weekly for his organisation blatantly ignoring Council’s goals. Not enough pressure.

    Councillors who object too. I think there should have been a public campaign, over the cyclist that recently lost their life, focused on the dinosaurs who voted against cycle lanes. Faces and slogans – “blood on your hands”.

    Being nice is getting nowhere. They don’t care. These people are not being held to account.

    1. If not go, then the CEO needs to front up to the public and to the families tragically affected and explain why his organisation has failed so thoroughly.

      1. The councillors should have been asked, publicly, to respond on why they endorsed cycling deaths over reduced car amenity. Why that cyclists death was justified, for their position.

        Get the cowards to front up for their decisions. Right now they are just keeping constituents happy. They are not leading and so people are dying. Get them to confirm they believe their position is justified, or that they will change it.

  10. > every cycling project needs to include improvements for every other mode …..

    That’s how you kill such projects…. make them difficult, costly, and disruptive and future cycling projects will get NIMBY backlash…

  11. This is the classic AT approach to the west. All this is designed to do is to allow them to report that they have spent some money out here while the Isthmus gets more and more money.

    If AT were serious about safety or cycling the would be doing this much differently. Fresh Choice has an exit on to Armada Drive, the intersection with Swanson road is singalised. AT should work with Fresh Choice to close the Swanson Road entrance which would get rid of the right turn.

    The wider improvements along Swanson Road are a joke too. Notice how the top map with the orange line has no scale? That’s to hide that they’re selected a huge project extent but are actually building a tiny amount of stuff.

    Swanson road needs proper cycling infrastructure, not a random pedestrian crossing. Its a main route for lots of people to Henderson and onto the Northwestern. AT excluded it from their Henderson cycleways project, despite the route providing connectivity between rails stations, schools, shops and onto the strategic network.

    The west is just as important as everywhere else, (arguably even more given the deficit), but we keep missing out.

  12. Would be interesting to know more about the 50 crashes, and how many involved pedestrians or cyclists.

    My observation when driving through the area is that the pedestrians crossing the road near Fresh Choice aren’t going there, but are crossing from parked cars to one of the takeway shops (and no more likely to use the new crossing than the existing crossing).

  13. Looks like it need dual carriage cycle lanes to protect cyclists from cyclists.

    But seriously, when AT state the number of deaths and serious crashes, can you confirm they all happened in that stretch of road? If so, it would have to make it one of the most dangerous bits of road in NZ.
    Or maybe it is like the CBD where they used all of Auckland DSI stats to justify the works? GA of course would never use or promote misleading stats…..

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