Earlier this week Stuff highlighted a coroner’s report that is damning of Auckland Transport’s slack response in fixing an intersection that caused the death of a man.
Four years on from an elderly man being run down in his wheelchair, Auckland Transport is yet to make any changes to the crossing a coroner labelled as the primary factor in the crash.
William Wiki Teoi was hit by a car while crossing East Tamaki Rd in Ōtara and died later at Middlemore Hospital from heart failure in March 2018.
The 84-year-old had been trying to cross the busy four-lane road because a nearby pedestrian crossing was not accessible in his wheelchair.
At the time, Auckland Transport said the road was not the primary contributing factor, but said it would upgrade the crossing and renew road markings.
So far neither of those things has been done.
In a recently released finding, Coroner Alexander Ho emphatically refuted AT’s stance, calling Wiki Teoi’s death “preventable”.
“I do not accept AT’s conclusion that the road was not the primary contributing factor to the crash,” Coroner Ho said. “It was.”
He said the only reason why Wiki Teoi was navigating through uncontrolled traffic was because AT did not provide a safe signalled crossing for mobility users to cross a busy arterial road.
The police serious crash unit also pointed to the lack of accessibility at the crossing as a contributing factor, alongside the fact Wiki Teoi crossed between cars stopped at the lights.
The intersection in question is East Tamaki Rd and Preston Rd.
The coroners report says Mr Wiki Teoi had travelled north along Preston Rd and was trying to get to the northern side of East Tamaki Rd
The traffic signals also allow pedestrians to cross East Tamaki Road. However, because of the slip lane, the signalled crossing does not provide an uninterrupted path between the south and north sides of East Tamaki Road. Pedestrians coming from the north side of the road cross to a traffic island on the south side. From that island they can then either cross the uncontrolled slip lane to reach the south side of East Tamaki Road/west side of Preston Road; or cross Preston Road via a signalled crossing to another traffic island from which they can cross an uncontrolled slip lane to the east side of Preston Road.
Because Mr Wiki Teoi’s mobility chair did not permit him to cross the non-accessible uncontrolled slip lane to get to the traffic island and the signalled crossing, he instead travelled a short distance west, down the south side of East Tamaki Road where there was a driveway allowing access on to the road. His intention appeared to be to cross the two lanes on the south side of the road, pass through a turning bay and then cross the three lanes on the north side of East Tamaki Road where he could remount the footpath by using carpark entry access.
When Mr Wiki Teoi reached the turning bay, both lanes two and three on the north side had stationary cars. He started moving through the stationary traffic towards lane one that was free flowing at the time. As he exited lane two he came into the path of an on-coming vehicle which collided with the front of his wheelchair.
The issue with the intersection for mobility users is quite clear from the streetview image below, with no mobility access from the footpath across the (uncontrolled) slip lane to the traffic island. You can also see from the image above that the footpath doesn’t even extend all the way around the intersection.
It is tragic, awful, and unfortunately all too common, for people in wheelchairs to face these sorts of choices and risks in our city. The safety review highlighted the problems with our deficient infrastructure, and AT was tasked with resolving the situation.
As noted above, AT have still not fixed this intersection and they blame COVID for not being able to consult on changes they proposed to make. Those changes they say will take place later this year or early next year. That suggests it will be about 5 years from Mr Wiki Teoi’s death to fix this intersection. That is outrageous and highlights serious cultural issues inside the organisation. They should have at least put a short-term fix in within days.
Instead, AT consulted on plans to improve this intersection in the middle of last year and it appears that what is taking so long is that AT have also tacked on a road widening project, making the project bigger and therefore harder to fund. The widening includes changing the existing slip lane from Preston to Ormiston Rd to having two lanes and adding an extra eastbound general traffic lane. One positive though is they will be adding an cycleway along some parts of Preston and Ormiston roads
Of course this report comes days after the tragic death of Levi James at Royal Oak in a location where advocates have for years been asking for changes to make it safer and which Auckland Transport ignored. Even now, nearly two weeks on AT have not made any changes to the street to make it safer, such as by removing on-street carparking. And it’s not that they can’t.
Back in November 2010, Jane Bishop tragically lost her life cycling home along Tamaki Dr – at the bend by Kelly Tarlton’s. Like in the case of Levi she was ‘doored’ as she passed a pinch point that had been raised as a safety concern years earlier by advocates. In response to her death, Auckland Transport removed some carparks from the spot 10 days later.
It feels like these days AT’s strategy has taken a leaf out from the gun lobby in the US after each mass shooting – express sympathy but deflect any discussion of blame or action long enough until the news cycle moves on to the next issue.
With that in mind think it’s useful to start highlighting cases like Wiki Teoi’s and Levi James’ where clearly deficient infrastructure has resulted in a death or serious injury and where Auckland Transport have yet to implement a fix. We plan to include a section tracking these and how many days it’s been since the incident happened in our Weekly Roundup post each Friday.
The question for readers I have is what other examples should we include.