It’s 2021, and Auckland Transport has proposed yet another “safety project” with no safety for people on two wheels… while wrapping it in wording about sustainable local journeys.

And because it’s 2021, the announcement got ever-so-politely ratioed on social media a few weeks back.

When AT disbanded its cycling team in late 2018, the promise was that cycling expertise would be “embedded” across the organisation. As Bike Auckland points out, this project – and others like it which would set bike-hostile design in stone –  suggests a better word might be “entombed”.


What’s the project?

Mt Roskill Safer Communities Phase Two. Feedback closes Sunday 19 September here’s the link.

Artist’s impression – Hayr and Dornwell Road intersection, looking east (Auckland Transport)
Artist’s impression – Mt Albert Road, near Mt Eden Road – looking west (Auckland Transport)

The overall idea is to “improve accessibility and safety for pedestrians” via improvements on Mt Albert Road, at the intersection of Frost Road and at Hayr Road and Dornwell Road, next to Three Kings Plaza.

AT plans to rebuild two major intersections with new traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, improve footpaths, and relocate bus stops. At first glance, good – this is a diabolical intersection as it currently stands, and not just for people on foot.

But people on bikes? You can have a little safety, as a treat:

  • Paint new sections of cycle lanes and advance stop boxes for cyclists to safely wait at the front of the traffic queue for the lights to change.

What’s the problem?

AT’s been consulting in this area since 2017, and the public has been asking for safer cycling the whole time. This ain’t it.

For starters, paint is not protection.

And hands up who uses advance stop boxes? Is it kids? New riders? Older people? The less confident people on bikes, to the left of this chart?

Via @EngineerDustin on Twitter: “This graphic is a very powerful tool when discussing bicycle facilities with city officials. Once they specifically identify which users they are trying to attract (family friendly, usually), the discussion can pivot to what it will take to get them there.”

Nope, advance stop boxes on a road like this – with lots of traffic, including oversize vehicles and buses – are suitable for only a hardy souls in the highly confident range.Yet AT says, right there on the project page:

We want to make our roads safe for everyone, people walking and cycling, especially for our kids and senior citizens and people driving. Projects like this one around Mt Albert Road are another step towards our goal of achieving no deaths or serious injuries on our roads. We are guided by the Vision Zero approach to transport safety, which prioritises human safety over other measures like minor time saving.

But the design doesn’t cater to the people they say they want to help: kids and senior citizens, on bikes. Yet it could, so easily – for example, by reallocating some of the multiple turning lanes for general traffic, which are only there for minor time saving.

AT must know that this design isn’t Vision Zero. It’s neither equitable, nor safe, nor contributing to decarbonising our transport system.


How can AT ignore its own plans and policies?

According to AT’s Future Connect mapping portal (which contains an updated version of the promised Auckland Cycle Network), this particular location is a “major route”, to be delivered in the “First decade” (highest priority) and is “First ranked” on the cycle and micro-mobility deficiencies list – i.e. it’s extremely hazardous.

This is an intersection on a 50kmh arterial road – the type of location where most bicycle deaths and injuries happen, as noted in AT’s recent 2021 Road Safety Business Improvement Review.

Where (reported) injurious or fatal bike crashes happen in Auckland: overwhelmingly on urban arterial roads, mostly at intersections. From the 2021 Road Safety Business Improvement Review for Auckland Transport. The same report notes “there does not appear to have been any notable improvements to the relative safety of Vulnerable Transport Users on foot, bike and motorcycle since 2017.”

And, traffic counts on this bit of Mt Albert Road are around 17,000 vehicle movements a day, meaning it’s off the top off this chart, and absolutely requires a protected cycleway, as per AT’s own Transport Design Manual.

A handy graph from AT’s up-to-date Transport Design Manual, indicating what’s required to keep people on bikes safe at different traffic speeds and volumes.

This is basically a list for “thou shalt not ignore people on bikes here” – and yet, the design does.

To put it bluntly: failing to plan for people on bikes is planning for deaths and injuries.

By the way: cycling safety is also top of the list in AT’s Parking Strategy:

  • Remove parking where it causes a safety risk for cyclists on the Auckland Cycle Network.

And AT has an overriding mandate for mode-shift – i.e., making the roads safe enough for all the people who are keen, but currently too scared, to go by bike. Which feeds into decarbonising the transport system, for which AT also has clear marching orders from Council.

So many red flags here – all pointing to a critical need to include life-saving design for people on two wheels.

And yet, somehow, computer says “nah”??


And doesn’t this design ride roughshod over local (and national) plans and goals?

There’s even more to be worried by here. This intersection is in the rohe of Puketāpapa Local Board – which has been working tirelessly and creatively alongside AT and other partners over the years, to build a local walking and cycling network.

This includes safe links to schools (including the huge Mt Roskill campus, with ~3500 students) and award-winning greenways through parks. Roskill is becoming rad for riding – a perfect spot, you’d think, to demonstrate proper bike-safe intersections on a busy main road.

The awesome Pedal Puketāpapa map, a collaboration between EcoMatters and the Puketāpapa Local Board with support from Live Lightly. Click to embiggen, download the full map here, and find out more here.

As part of this conscientious planning, part one of the Mt Roskill Safer Communities scheme added raised crossings on Frost Road for pedestrians and cyclists, shared paths connecting the schools to the wider network, and upgraded alleyways with wider paths and better lighting (more about that here).

Mayor Phil Goff, Councillor Chris Fletcher, and members of the Local Board trying out the new raised crossings near the school. (Image: Auckland Transport)

AT made a nice video about it, too:

On the road to decarbonising our transport system, Auckland Transport’s job is to deliver the changes our local roads need for safer active travel and low-carbon healthy neighbourhoods.

Leaving out bikes (and other micromobility) means this project locks in the very opposite direction of travel. It won’t help us get anywhere near zero-carbon by 2050, let alone 2030. And that’s especially unfair to children, who are legitimately frightened about the future.

The bike-washing spin cycle gets kinda dizzying after a while. What does the Mt Roskill design offer this poster-child for sustainable transport?

So what’s the solution?

In an online webinar, a road safety engineer for the project said AT has met with Bike Auckland to discuss their suggestion for squeezing protected bike lanes into the design, and they’re “looking at the recommendations”.

When asked if this means protected lanes are now confirmed, the reply was that they’re “still doing the assessment”. Site constraints were also mentioned, including a power pole at Frost Road. So, no guarantees.

While Bike Auckland’s suggestion (over here) is one way to fix this proposal, it’s not the only one. Road reallocation is specifically included in the National Land Transport Plan 2021-2024 as a climate action:

Activities in the 2021–24 NLTP that will deliver on the climate change strategic priority include:
Reallocating road space for shared and active modes to support more efficient, reliable and low emission movement of people and freight.

We also expect to invest in the following new activities in this NLTP to enable mode shift, greenhouse emissions reduction and delivery to government commitments:
• $111 million for Connected Communities to reallocate road space on key Auckland arterials for public transport and active modes.

A panorama showing just how much tarmac there is to play with here.

If you want to have your say…

CLICK HERE to give feedback – by Sunday 19 September

The gist:

  • The proposed design ignores people on bikes and scooters, so it’s not Vision Zero compliant
  • It drops the ball on climate obligations, by not enabling mode shift
  • It ignores AT’s own ‘Future Connect’ priorities for Mt Albert Road
  • It doesn’t match AT’s own Transport Design Manual
  • It doesn’t deliver the Local Board’s vision for a walkable and bikeable neighbourhood
  • This is a once-in-a-generation project – so AT must dig once and do it right
  • AT has to include proper protected bike lanes… which might involve road reallocation
  • Luckily, road reallocation is a recommended climate action strategy in the NLTP!

Basically, there’s room at this intersection for protected bike lanes and wider footpaths for better walkability. With road reallocation on the menu and Vision Zero the overarching goal, there are no constraints on getting this right.

=> Here’s that feedback link again <=


P.S. Why does this keep happening – here, there, and everywhere?

This project – and other examples just like it – raises lots of questions…

  • Do AT’s project teams check their work streams against all the master documents and key strategies before proceeding with design? If not, why not?
  • Is there a screening process to sense-check all designs for safety for all modes?
  • Is this an explicit trade-off between budget and safety – and if so, how is that possible within a Vision Zero framework?
  • Is it a trade-off between “efficiency” for vehicles and safety – and if so, how is that possible within a Vision Zero framework?
  • Do AT’s senior executives sign off on these trade-offs?
  • Are project teams empowered to push back on those trade-offs, when they can see safety is being compromised?

Recurring examples like this suggest an organisational culture in which people who make everyday journeys on bikes just don’t count. And/or one where the leadership hasn’t fully empowered their people with the tools, guidance, and support they need to create effective (and ethical) 21st C streets.

It’s frustrating that in 2021, with a climate emergency breathing down our necks, our city’s transport agency can still struggle to follow its own clear, top-level strategies. And it’s beyond frustrating that so often, decent outcomes seem to depend on well-organised volunteers working after-hours to highlight basic issues.

Of course, another approach – and one being increasingly resorted to – is taking an organisation to court for failing to meet its legal obligations. With the climate clock ticking, every case is a potential test case.

But one step at a time. The good news is that AT still has a chance to get this one right.

Bici-Man makes the case for rebalancing the transport pie – our health and survival will require more than crumbs served up as an afterthought. (Image via @_Biciman_ on Twitter)
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42 comments

    1. frustrating yes but :

      not a test case for vision zero – thats awesome

      a test case for “guided by vision zero approach” – which is vision not zero.

  1. So the difficulties created by a Power Pole are put ahead of making things safer for humans. FFS.
    I grew up in a time when engineers of all stripes were seen as imaginative and creative people. The only imagination and creativity on show here is safety washing. We expect better. You can do better. You must do better!
    But since you won’t, we have to waste literally hours of our time providing ‘feedback’.
    AT this is a failure of a system and process of your design and management. It is not that we are trying to hold you to higher or unreasonable expectations. We are holding a mirror up to your actions and by your own measures they are woefully lacking. What is wrong with your leaders and your people that they can’t or won’t take action on what’s seen in the mirror?

    1. Completely agree, Mr Plod. I have such respect for engineers – anyone who can make a thing that stands up for centuries is a wizard in my book! But that problem-solving gung ho is compromised by trying to “balance” other factors against the really fundamental and inarguable ones.

      Like the laws of physics when it comes to staying alive on the road. And the implacable rise in global temperatures (and the concomitant effects) even if we immediately decarbonise the transport system that’s been built up over the last century.

      We need ingenious engineers, bringing their ingenuity to every moment. And they need proper backing from their organisation to do the right thing.

  2. Wow!!!! So utterly frustrating.

    One suggestion is to make the mayor and the managers of AT and AC to cycle around Auckland for a month and see how they feel.

    1. Apparently the AT CEO doesn’t have a car and mostly uses PT. The Chair of the AT Board is known to cycle. Neither seem to have made any real progress in getting their organisation on board with public transport or cycling.

  3. Interestingly, former MP and current Mayor Phill Goff’s Mt Roskill electorate office used to be above the Tattoo shop by the Hayr Rd corner where JP Law is now. My BIL used to worked at the tattoo studio for a short while about 20 years ago, and said there were crashes and near misses nearly everyday, even then.

  4. What I don’t understand is how this happens. Why isn’t Shane Ellison on the phone to the project manager now saying “Fix this”. Why isn’t Adrienne Young-Cooper on the phone to Shane doing the same. How did a design that is so egregious, fails to meet the organisation’s own standards and policies and is regressing the organisation’s vision and strategy get this far. What is wrong with the people in @AklTransport that allows this to happen? The “I tried but I had to follow orders” excuse is starting to wear very thin. Would a doctor continue to dispense a medicine that they knew was harming their patient because a manager said they had to?

  5. Thanks, Jolisa.

    The powerpole? Powerpoles are only in the way if you cut into the footpath or the berm: https://www.google.com/maps/@-36.9086195,174.7514994,3a,75y,286.95h,95.06t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sqPugrv6qG7rSZJb45SrllA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    For heavens’ sake, there’s no place for shaving off a bit of footpath!!! It is road space for general traffic that needs to be reallocated, not footpath space.

    AT is a circus. Could someone in a position of responsibility own this, please, take it in hand, and overthrow this determined resistance to road reallocation?

  6. this shouldn’t even be that hard:

    step 1) remove the flush median. Is there room for a separated cycle lane yet?

    step 2) if not, remove any on-street parking (I can still spot a bit outside the shops – across the road from the big carpark). Is there room for a separated cycle lane yet?

    step 3) if not, remove one of the dedicated left turning lanes at the intersection. Is there room for a separated cycle lane yet?

    congratulations, there is now room for a proper separated cycle way.

  7. The people in AT who got rid of the walking and cycling team are getting more and more bold at giving the finger to walking and cycling.

    1. As a local I would suggested that the plan is a massive improvement to walking safety. Not “giving the finger”.

      I am not a cyclist but I think the plan has a significant safety improvement by stopping northbound traffic exiting Dornwell and Hayr, and by using a median lane and right turn arrow for cars turning from Mt Albert Rd into Dornwell and Hayr. I ride a motorbike west on Mt Albert Rd and know first hand about the danger from vehicles exiting or entering Dornwell and Hayr. So again not “giving the finger”. But obviously the writer of the article has identified some opportunities to make the changes even better for cyclists.

  8. Frustrating.
    One thing I have had trouble with AT is when you think you have found a mistake is how it is dealt with. In my case AT’s multi million dollar call is based on three lines of reasoning for something happening 10 km away. Discussing it with AT has gone no where, a councillor said AT would not make a mistake and every one else just says talk to AT. Some even said take it to Greater Auckland. Greater Auckland does not exist just to be the official complaints log for AT’s work!
    Now my idea could be wrong, and the next one I have but it is not been heard properly that is disconcerning. Correct ideas and problems, such as this one, get left with , well Bob thought it was right and he is more qualified so he must be right. Does anyone know what structure there is? There is OIAs but this does not

      1. I am really saying
        ” What do you do if you Think Auckland Transport’s doing something wrong?”
        It feels like “Butt head with the person making it wrong. They don’t budge so get more people to butt their head with you.”
        AT is a part of government. I kind of hate to say it but I feel Central Government is so much more through. Apart from in crisis there is always comment from the opposition on new changes

        1. Waiukuian, sorry to hear your challenges with AT
          Until recently – Waiuku hasnt been on any of their maps – AT is more of a northern organisation. Hows your bus and train services. Ferry services? I know you have a road…

    1. Because their programme of work is not aligned with the GPS or Auckland Plan, but aligned with the incumbent car dependent transport planners in each of the agencies who are working together to resist change, responses to challenges are usually defensive. AT puts a lot of effort into its communications, but not to sell a new vision. It’s to defend retaining the old one, despite the instructions.

    2. I suspect this is what AT views the public as :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGgGLLhbf78&t=55s
      Probably fairly accurate judging by the average Facebook comment on their posts. But it does make it hard to get through to people that make the decisions.

      Projecting ideas to the Greater Auckland readership is something. If you’re so convinced in you assertions then you should write a consolidated convincing article.

      I presume this is about your views on the northern busway capacity? And that we should interline more busses?

  9. Sorry missed punctuation and ending “Well Bib thought it was tight and he is more qualified than you so he must be right”
    The OIA process does not encourage a meaningful discussion.

  10. Looks like a perfect candidate for legal action. Besides, it’s way past time for advocacy. Is there a go fund me page or something?

  11. Both Hayr and Dornwell Roads have other entrances and exits.

    Why not just block off their Mt Albert Road end completely? That would allow uninterrupted safe cycle and pedestrian access along the main road opposite a very busy and dangerous set of uncontrolled entrances and exits to a supermarket, library and other facilities.

    How many people would have to drive around the block to get to those side streets?

    How many pedestrians and cyclists – including children – would benefit from a safer and more relaxed experience along a crucial route?

    Why is our region’s transport/place agency only paying attention to one of those questions?

    1. Yeah the blocks to the south are an obvious candidate for a low traffic neighbourhood. It makes no sense to rebuild this intersection if you haven’t decided yet on how that will work.

      You could turn the area into a neat little square if you cut those side streets there.

      1. Yes, exactly. And AT know the findings show that LTN’s reduce pedestrian injuries by 85% – so for a project intended to improve outcomes for walking, they should be doing this as an LTN. Making minor circulation changes as they’ve proposed, without doing it holistically for the whole area is “blow my mind” poor practice.

        What I don’t understand is this: The team involved are almost certainly having non-evidence-based, non-VZ requirements imposed on them by the Barons in AT. Why do the team put up with it? Hoping to achieve incremental improvements “at least” but not pushing for best practice doesn’t stack up given the urgency of our crises. It’s more expensive in the long run, so you can’t argue that it frees up money for other work. It certainly causes more deaths and serious injuries. The more senior members, at least: Why don’t they whistleblow? Why don’t they stick to their own code of ethics? I feel for them, but at some point, everyone has a duty. If you’re not trying to turn this juggernaut around, you’re powering it to continue.

    2. Perhaps Sacha you are not a Roskill local? Blocking off the north extrance for Hayr Rd would not be a good idea. It would force local vehicles to enter Hayr Rd from Warren Ave, and turning right from Warren to Hayr is a dangerous intersection (downhill, corner, limited visibility). Much safer to allow vehicles to turn left from Mt Albert Rd into Hayr.

      Blocking off north end of Dornwell is more feasible (and would have been a different way to improve the current intersection of Dornwell + Hayr + Mt Albert which is dangerous to vehicles + bikes + pedestrians).

      1. Yes you wouldn’t want that right hand turn from Warren to Hayr, unless the intersection involved a simplification of some other movements… which is possible, but requires doing the work to entirely rejig the circulation flow in this wider area, to design it all for a correct hierarchy of streets. Currently there are way too many are through-routes.

  12. 1) A cycle lane on a road is not a cycle lane, its a death trap.

    2) NZ needs a nationwide transport infrastructure standard based on zero carbon and vision zero that provides enough space for all modes which transport authorities have to met for new designs. If a retrofit cant meet the standard the exception would have to be formally signed off (publicly available) by the transport authority and they would be liable should a safety issue occur.

    3) The standard would require fully protected movements for peds & cyclists at signals & fully protected or off road cycle lanes.

    1. 1) actually, no.

      The same argument applies as with the speed limits. You can’t magically conjure best practice infrastructure. It takes a lot of time.

      If you build this part it will be marooned and unreachable. This argument actually came up against including bike infrastructure (see the Bike Auckland post). So I think they should paint a bike lane on Mount Albert Road — all of it. Or wherever they think the main bike route will go. Then it will naturally make sense to upgrade it to a proper bike path as part of this upgrade.

      Of course if such bike lane would be proposed, the real problem will be revealed: you are not allowed to park on a bike lane so there will be a lot of protest. The point of a painted bike lane is to create space for cyclist. It won’t keep you safe, but creating that space is important and will later allow you to upgrade it (eg. as part of routine maintenance).

      1. The point is that this scheme would *fix* the “no cycle lanes here” argument into place. Under the guise of a pedestrian safety project, AT is preparing to *add* to the difficulties of ever later providing proper cycle lanes here, because going back and rebuilding these two traffic signals in the middle of a town centre yet again is extremely unlikely in the next 10-20 years. Basically “another brick in the wall” in favour of cars.

        The “stranded infrastructure” argument is basically the opposite argument of “every journey starts with a single step”.

        Its a “this is too hard and won’t give us massive benefits on Day 1, so lets not do it at all”. So it never gets done, and in 20 years from now, people will STILL say “But nobody cycles on Mt Albert Road!”

        1. Yes, you’ll have to take it up with AT. They’re using “geographical limitations of the project area” and parking demand as excuses.

          The thing about painted lanes is, why would you not do it? It doesn’t prevent you from building proper bike lanes later. Short term it is easy to improve them with bollards or concrete blocks.

          It will take many decades to finish a full network of protected lanes. The Dutch have been doing this for 50 years and even they still have a lot of painted lanes.

        2. Also about this project, yes it is obviously a stupid idea to go about rebuilding kerbs and footpaths and then not build proper bike lanes.

          The painted lanes fill the gaps between the parts you’ve already built properly.

      2. 1) Actually yes, they are death traps having personally cycled in NZ for over 30 years.

        There is simply no reason that on-road cycle lanes cant be fully protected.

        Vehicle drivers are heavily subsidised by free and underpriced parking. The parking demand can be much better managed by fully pricing it and providing some additional fully priced off-street parking as needed.

        The same can be said at junctions. There is no congestion tolls or direct road pricing so we are forced to provide excessive vehicle capacity to the heavily subsidised road users. Put proper road pricing in place and there is ample opportunity to provide fully protected facilities at the junctions as well.

        We need a paradigm shift so road users bear their full costs, not tinkering at the edges.

        We can conjure up near best practice very quickly by properly managing the parking demand on existing roads.
        The new infrastructure standard would provide best practice on new roads.

        1. +1, if you are going to paint a lane, you’re spending $10,000s on the design and consultation. You should spend the extra 1% of project budget to put intermittent hit sticks the whole way down it.

  13. Defund AT – it does not live up to its name, and is not up to the climate challenge.

    “guided by vision zero approach” is like truthiness and sciency. Its not a thing

    Aucklands Councillors are looking to deliver transport solutions around AT, due to AT lack of delivery and take the road or its the highway approach to transport.

  14. “Streets are the realm where
    public life is played out.
    They are places where
    we share a common
    experience with our
    neighbours and fellow
    citizens. Where the public
    realm is diminished, the
    common good is equally
    diminished. Opportunities
    to connect with one
    another are lost. This leads
    to isolation, decreased
    social capital, decreased
    walking and cycling and
    associated negative
    effects on public health.”
    These are words that give hope ,straight from the AT play book,not sure how much plainer it could be

  15. Thanks Jolisa, a great article. Has prompted me to get a submission in.

    Have you written before on the cycling issues for the eastern end of Mt Albert Rd? I will search this site and Bike Auckland to check. I assume any improvements to the cycling infrastructure around Three Kings are partially negated by the difficulty of improving the section of Mt Albert Rd between Three Kings and Royal Oak, 4 lanes and VERY busy with vehicles at peak and also very skinny.

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