Auckland Transport is consulting on safety improvements in Pukekohe town centre, including raised crossings and new traffic signals. Feedback closes tomorrow Wednesday 31 August, so it’s not too late to have your say.

Unfortunately, it is too late for the poor soul who died on Monday after being hit by a bus at a roundabout that AT proposes replacing with traffic lights. As reported in the Herald:

A pedestrian was hit by a bus at a busy Pukekohe roundabout connecting King St and Manukau Rd, and emergency services were called around 9.40am. The person died at the scene.
The crash happened in an area that has been earmarked for a “series of safety improvements” which AT had been engaged with the local community about.
AT executive general manager, safety, Stacey van der Putten said the pedestrian’s death was an absolute tragedy.
“Our AT team was heartbroken to hear the news this morning. Our thoughts are with the person’s family at this awful time.”
The driver of the bus involved will be stood down and provided with wellbeing support while police, the bus operator and AT’s safety team investigated the circumstances of the incident, van der Putten said.
The local transport authority was currently engaging with the Pukekohe community on safety improvements for the busy area near the train station and bus interchange.
“This crash is a painful reminder of the importance of projects like this which are designed to keep Aucklanders safe no matter how they’re travelling.”

Our thoughts, too, are with the person’s family and friends at this awful time. And also with everyone affected, including the bus driver (who is being offered support), anyone who witnessed the event, and the reported 20 police officers, St John staff and firefighters who rushed to help.

Everyone will be reeling. So what now?

Six months ago, after Levi James was killed on his bike in Royal Oak in an area where people had been begging for improvements, we asked: Where do we put our fury and our grief? Three months later, with still no action taken, a guest post asked: How many people have to die for AT to act?

This time, our question is: why does this keep happening, when AT knows what’s needed?

Five years from the road safety review, and four years on from the promised Vision Zero paradigm shift, some valuable work has happened inside the organisation. But something is still not sitting right.

Of course there are practical constraints to improving safety across the network – limits to budgets, person power, delivery contracts. But the difficulty goes deeper. It seems to be a communication problem, between AT and the public, and most of all, between AT and itself.

Here is the intersection where Monday’s fatality occurred. Reporting by Stuff suggests the crash happened outside the Mobil station.

The roundabout at the intersection of Manukau, Massey, and King. Image: Google Streetview.
The pedestrian provision here is minimal: tactile pavers and a pram ramp directing people towards a refuge in the middle of the road. Image: Google Streetview.

The intersection is is important to fix, as it’s just 300m north of the train station and sits between it and the town centre. Here’s AT’s proposed design, as well as the design for the Stadium Dr and East St intersection.

Here is the language used to describe what’s being fixed, and why. Note how it’s almost all about moving traffic, and reducing delays. Note also the assumption that traffic will just keep coming, growing in volume and size.

Why change is needed

  • We need to replace the existing roundabout to optimise the movement of people and traffic demand. The intersection is busy, and growth will put more pressure on its current layout. Manukau Road carries the most traffic, including both local traffic and traffic from Tuakau and further away.
  • There is already significant queueing, with some drivers taking risks to enter the roundabout.
  • Traffic signals will help balance queues and minimise delays by spreading the waiting time across all roads.
  • Signals will improve safety for people crossing busy Stadium Drive and Massey Road and those accessing the commercial and retail precinct on the southern side of Manukau Road, including the bus and train interchange.
  • The existing roundabout is not a suitable size for current and future traffic volumes. Its smaller size is a problem, as there is not much space (collision zone) separating two vehicles using it, such as large trucks.
  • Enlarging the roundabout is not an easy option either because the rail overbridge restricts this from happening.

Note the nod to pedestrians and access to the public transport hub.

And note what’s missing. According to AT’s ‘Future Connect‘ strategic master map, as well as being a primary route on the strategic walking network, this is also a major strategic cycling route. Which makes sense: why wouldn’t we want to make it safe for people to walk or ride a bike or other micromobility device to the train station?

It also qualifies as a major deficiency/ opportunity for cycling and micromobility (albeit low-ranked).

To be clear, it’s good that the wider project includes raised crossings, and that it addresses some safety issues at two busy and demonstrably dangerous intersections.

But you may have noticed AT are proposing a legless crossing on East St intersection, even though it’s a key part of the strategic walking network. And even the header on the project page is clear that this project gives nothing to cycling and micromobility:

We are proposing improvements to make Pukekohe town centre safer for people walking and driving

Well, not entirely nothing. There are some painted green “advance stop boxes” on each arm of the intersection, which connect to no bike lanes. This is bike-washing of the worst kind. It barely improves safety for people who currently cycle, and in no way helps anyone else to consider it. That’s a shocking omission in 2022, with mode shift a priority.

It’s not clear from the project page if cycling was even considered in the design process, let alone a bike-friendly intersection of the kind seen (so far) only on the pages of AT’s Transport Design Manual, launched almost three years ago to the day.

A theoretical bike-friendly roundabout for Aucklanders, from Auckland Transport’s much-anticipated Transport Design Manual, which came out in 2019.

Of course, this project would have been scoped and communicated before Council and AT adopted the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (TERP). So, it wasn’t under an urgent obligation to think holistically about enabling and encouraging mode shift for climate reasons.

But we’re four years into Vision Zero, and yet going by this design, AT has failed to communicate Vision Zero design principles to every corner of the organisation – let alone the basic point that ‘safety improvements’ that neglect safety for vulnerable modes are not safe designs.

How many more years will it take for that understanding to soak in? And how long will it take for the new urgent climate mandate to “trickle down” to every person, and every project?

However long it is, we cannot afford it. This tragedy should be a spur for AT’s CEO (or currently acting CEO) to refresh the priorities of every single person in the organisation, and every single project on its books.  It’s an opportunity to gather the troops, and say something like:

Not only should this never have happened, our proposed fix isn’t up to scratch because it rests on old thinking and outdated models. Planning for “current and future traffic volumes” is not how we do things any more. That was then, this is now.

Now we plan for current and future safety – for all of us, however we’re travelling. We plan for current and future climate robustness – at scale and at pace, hell for leather. We plan for a current and future Auckland that’s worth living in, where our streets add to our lives, rather than taking lives away. We plan according to our mandates, our manuals, and our publicly promised strategies. Any questions?

Sadly, it’s too little, too late for the person we lost on Monday. But it’s never too soon to fix things for the rest of us, and there’s so much to be done.

Here is the feedback link for the Pukekohe town centre safety improvements and here are the project details. We encourage you to support the raised crossings, and to ask for redesigned intersections that embody the Vision Zero principles and climate targets AT has signed onto. Consultation closes Wednesday.

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  1. That roundabout image always strikes me as wildly out of context. We don’t have 40m wide roads in Auckland.

    1. Also the future is in completely separating slow speed bike and pedestrian traffic from automated vehicle traffic, except on very slow speed streets not placing them in intersection with each other. That frankenroundabout design is a perfect example of an intersection trying to do too much while still not avoiding placing pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles on collision courses.

      1. It is the large grassy area. Which is something you commonly see in the Netherlands.

        Most Auckland streets are 20.1 metre, so you should be able to squeeze those lanes in there, but the intersection will not be large enough to accommodate a roundabout.

        Or maybe you can, but then it would have been much more useful to have an image of a roundabout that fits in the typical Auckland intersection.

        The same for that protected intersection. It is neat but it shows an intersection of 2 25m wide streets. That kind of intersection is pretty rare in Auckland. Again, shouldn’t they show a design that fits in the much more common 20.1m width?

        1. Roundabouts in Auckland are generally pretty rare (compared to much of NZ). Heap of them are multi lane, like Royal Oak or old Panmure. These are often single lane roads that ballon into multi lane shit shows, then reduce back down to single lane roads after the intersection. This fundamentally values traffic flow above everything else.

          Here is perfect example (if we lived in universe where AT built Bike infrastructure to facilitate obviously) of where this would be great. The road is really a 2 lane road, but expands at the intersection, then reduces back down.

        2. I think TERP will need an early focus on putting the enormous stroad-stroad intersections on diets. Plenty of our arterials have had extra property take where they intersect with other arterials, so there’s plenty of space to reallocate to fit in one of the Dutch style roundabouts. The stroads themselves will need civilising and lane reduction of course, too.

          What we saw in Hamilton was that these roundabouts are rejected because the model said traffic flow would be affected. A good example of what Efficks is talking about. The traffic engineers and planners are not being professionally responsible.

        3. I think roundabouts are often rejected because of unequal traffic flows on the arterials entering them. Signalised intersections and roundabouts are both expensive.

          The “green” areas are to slow vehicles down and to bring the cycle/pedestrian crossings into the drivers line of sight.

          Not sure why AT would put in “sharks teeth” but reverse the direction from Dutch sharks teeth (the point indicates who has to give way).

        4. Sharks’ teeth don’t indicate a legal requirement to give way in New Zealand like they do in the Netherlands. They probably also wouldn’t work due to the context here. We aren’t at a place where drivers would understand something that subtle. It is still rare that drivers have to give way at any crossings, so we need to actually highlight those locations. This is probably a discussion worth having in 10 years time once our network has caught up at least some of the way to where the Netherlands is.

    2. That roundabout plan is a ridiculous thing to have in AT’s design guide. Seems to have been copied and flipped from somewhere in Europe or the States where the road corridor is massive. But even without those sorts of issues why would they include in a guidebook an image that is so clearly deficient in legal compliance. There are no limit lines on the departure from the roundabout before the cycle lane and pedestrian crossing. There no limit lines on the entry lanes to the roundabout. The pedestrian crossings are missing their striped poles and beacons. You can see enough of the approach lane at the top to see that it has neither the pedestrian crossing diamond marking or give way triangle. There are no edge lines, flush islands and continuity lines to guide traffic to suitable lane routes.

      What possible purpose could this drawing serve in a design guide.

      1. The problem is ideologues pushing a “but muh cycleway” vision at the expense of facts. Deaths in the Netherlands for cycling with all its infrastructure are currently about 7x those per mile for cars. And the gap is widening and only going to continue to widen as time goes on because active safety mechanisms on cars continue to improve. While you can relatively easily automate cars and buses to stop them running into people you can’t easily automate bikes to stop them running into cars and other things. If they can’t even get a big picture vision right on paper what hope do you have that people understand the implications of their work in the real world and how will tweaking “details” will close that 7x gap the Netherlands has?

      2. The purpose of the diagram is to show common layouts for intersections between streets with movement and place functions. The street and roads Manual isn’t supposed to tell you how to use traffic control devices. That’s what the traffic control devices manual is for.

  2. Looking at the map of Pukekohe, it some years since I’ve driven through or around Pukekohe, but I can see what looks like a “natural” ring road using Massey Ave, Wesley St, Tobin St and Stadium Dr.
    I have to wonder if there won’t be far mor sense in convert these streets in to a one way circular ring road with restricted access to the area within the ring road and those streets having a much reduced speed limit.
    The ring road would need to have multiple light controlled pedestrian and cycle crossing points, with raised crossings, to improve safety, otherwise any ring road would become a “motorway”
    I do, also wonder if it is possible, practicable, for a walkway to be built from the station beside the track to emerge around King St inside the Ring Road concept.

  3. Traffic Engineering is a morally bankrupt profession. No other engineering discipline values human life so callously, and if they tried would be sued, defrocked and jailed. It systemically and routinely trades off people’s lives against abstract relative trivialities like driver delay, which is grotesque enough. But then is made even more shocking when you consider that the traffic induced from making more space and priority for drivers through here will delay drivers (and of course any attempting any other way of moving) even more, yet this is explicitly not counted. Indeed that certain outcome instead will be used later to make this place even worse at even more expense.

    It is a merely a bunch of bad habits long proven to be inadequate in outcome with little theoretical basis other a clumsy attempt to use the very real physics of fluid dynamics (flow) to justify inhumane places and systems that give the appearance of improvement (for one group) for a while, and then blames these very users for its entirely predictable and tragic failures.

    There are known answers to this, but.

    Like all bad science it is resistant to evidence, and makes up its own nonsense metrics and faith based systems (the model says…). There is plenty of information and evidence for how and why to fix these lethal, unproductive, inequitable, and ugly places properly, but the profession and our agency seem to be unable to act like mature professionals and change.

    What will it take? Who is the blockage?

      1. Many of us don’t sleep at night because of the failings of our profession. Sadly, many experienced traffic engineers spend hours and days of their time agonising over things like making sure drivers don’t damage their rims on traffic islands and almost no time making sure that children can safely cycle to school. Parts of the profession cannot or will not understand Vision Zero and, frankly, we need them out of decision making positions.

        1. Surely responsibility for implementing policy such as vision zero rests with the chief executive, the person who gets the big bucks. If that person is incapable of making it happen they should be replaced with someone who can.

  4. AT must stop producing designs for project after project like this one. The excuses, when challenged, never stack up. The staff honestly seem to think that as long as there is an incremental improvement for people walking, that it’s OK.

    But it’s not OK. As the TERP says, “To meet the target, Auckland cannot rely on incremental change; it needs transformation.” Reallocating space doesn’t take much money; this isn’t about budget. It’s about priorities. Providing “safety” without providing the safe system we need is like being a climate moderate:

  5. Pukekohe is an appallingly hostile place for pedestrians atm, must be one of the worst in the country for a moderate sized town. I couldn’t believe how difficult and dangerous it is to get across the roads there. One pedestrian crossing near the bus station which looks like it has been grudgingly installed and nothing else.

    1. I cant speak to all intersections in all towns – but this one is world class awful. Huge trucks, massive bus volumes due to cancelled rail services, NZ’s 2nd largest school a block away, and a local population who will fight to the death to ensure no carpark is left behind.

  6. Pukekohe is a rural town that people drive to. As far as I’m aware there are no apartments in the town centre, or plans to build any.

    Not to say that change shouldn’t happen here, but I would think with a priority lense cast over projects, ones that are closer to residential areas, connecting to other cycle facilities, and areas that are supporting density should get more substantial make overs … unfortunately, even in those areas like I’ve mentioned, substantial change isn’t happening either.

    1. It is about 50 km from the city centre, and 20 km from Takanini. There definitely is room for a small town there. A town centre of, say, 30,000 people occupying 3 km² or so would be an interesting option, you would be in a walkable urban setting, but still have countryside within a few kilometres from your home.

    2. Pukekohe has far more PT than most “rural towns”. In two years time, it will be better than many Auckland suburbs. I suspect zoning is part of the reason substantial change in the town centre isn’t happening, there’s certainly no shortage of vacant space aka ‘essential’ car parking.

    3. Pukekohe is a South Auckland community on a rail line, with decent motorway access.

      Even without apartments, it could support a good number of people upgrading for a taste of the countryside.

      50km from London Victoria you are solidly in the affluent commuter belt: Royal Tunbridge Wells, Guildford, Crawley, Reading, High Wycombe, Stevenage, Bishops Stortford and Chelmsford for example.

  7. Any proposal that limits traffic “flow” is met with “howls of protest ,some of it from professional organizations,conviently forgetting that the greatest barrier to traffic flow,is to the sheer volume of said traffic. Pukekohe had a go at reduced parking,LTN,similar time to Onehunga,this was quickly shot down,now we have seen a predictable result.
    I wholeheartedly agree with Efficks,if you applied current traffic management techniques to other areas of society,you would face the wrath of the public and the law.The fact it is accepted by the general public ,is baffling, death on a worksite,not acceptable, death on the roading network, price that presumably has to be paid in the interests of traffic flow(productivity).
    The debate gets clouded,when it is dehumanizing,the cyclist, Countdown truck in Wellington, classic case in point, no one wants to think about the mother and child accessing the crossing,the cyclist that stopped. It is all about the pedestrian, the bloody cyclist ,who stopped to allow her access,and exonerating
    the truck driver. There were four human beings involved,l don’t know any of them,but have been all of them at some stage,luckily no one physically scarred in this case,sadly not the case in Pukekohe.
    The pedestrian had a chance in Wellington,the infrastructure afforded her and her child some protection, the pedestrian in Pukekohe had no such protection,with predictable results. How “authorities ” facilitate “this to continue is tragic,and to me hard to understand.

    1. Despite a “First do no harm” philosophy medicine routinely kills people and can tell you pretty well ahead of your procedure the chance with which they will kill you. In homes a surprising number of children drown in buckets, but the utility of buckets means that they are still sold. People slip, fall and kill themselves in the shower, but we as a society expect that people will still take the risk of showering so we don’t have to take the olfactory consequences of them adopting a safer lifestyle. A certain amount of death nationwide in the workplace is also accepted. Throughout society those tradeoffs are continually being made. And the law, particularly in the US, is very adept at calculating the cost of your business killing someone.

  8. Massey Ave/Wesley St/Edinburgh St crossings have a hazard built in because of the traffic islands.

    To the pedestrian, the crossing across both directions of traffic is continuous. One pair of beacons marks each crossing, which run continuously between footpaths, over the tops of the traffic islands.

    To the driver, the pedestrian crossings appear split by the traffic islands, meaning they are unlikely to stop for a pedestrian entering the crossing from the opposite side of the island, as permitted at split crossings. Who’s counting beacons?

    Either a beacon needs to go into the traffic island to denote the split, along with some sort of discontinuity to indicate that split to pedestrians, or the islands need to go.

    1. Thanks.

      Of course, the system needs to be changed so the authorities simply do their job. Meanwhile, we need to submit.

  9. I had to cross this roundabout where the accident happened the other week on that last day of diesel shuttle services. Yes we found it very difficult, was pretty full on busy with small gaps in traffic to cross in. It’s on the natural walk line from the station to the main town strip of shops so definitely needs an upgrade.

  10. Pukekohe, like Warkworth but more so, has a dual existence – as a satellite town to Auckland and as a market town to the surrounding rural area. Growth has happened and will continue, both within the town and in the rural centres around it. outer ring road development, to take freight out of the roads in the centre, is still a long way off. Improving the centre for TERP outcomes needs to navigate a hump in vehicle traffic while building the future. Planning and communications need to recognise both the affected user groups – local and district. A focus on safety and intrinsically safe travel modes, as well as painting the future, is needed to convince people that change is necessary. It won’t look like the centre of Auckland, but it should be just as pleasant to live in and move around, if not more so. People need to be asking what are the changes that will make life better.
    And for this intersection – would the loss of a Mobil station and a car dealership be too dreadful?

  11. In the morning traffic flow is down the hill and left onto Manukau rd. In the afternoon and evening the flow is from manukau rd and up east street. As a cyclist this is one intersection that I avoid as much as possible at those times of the day. The set of lights and controlled pedestrian access to the bus stops and train station is about 500m down Manukau Rd. This is a death trap also because people who think they are more important than pedestrians drive through the cross now signals and down the median to get a jump on the other cars. The road is very slow at 4pmish and the tail is long. The buses coming out of the station complex get a right turn. The whole thing needs a rethink. Also traffic flow is also hindered by the high school and intermediate school drop offs in the morning and afternoon. Many cars do a rat run down Harris Street past the main gates of the High school and intermediate. There needs to be a 30kph precinct around the school entrances. Many intermediate age students scooter through the intersection to get to school from the eastern side of town. The intersection needs to be designed for those children.

  12. “Pedestrians Give Way to Vehicles” – On crossings on King St.,174.9057699,3a,75y,265.39h,60.3t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sREWD2hxZjD25aiWa1C3BRg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

    This sums up both how we got to where we are, and it also describes a lot of the thinking around the Pukekohe Masterplan (Panuku closing tomorrow) and the Pukekohe Safety Improvements. (AT-closing tomorrow)

    The intersection that took a life yesterday i believe to be the most pedestrian hostile place in New Zealand. Soon, but out of scope in the Masterplan, and Safety plan, we’ll add traffic from our new train station. No planning for pedestrian or micro-mobility between Pukekohe High School (1700+ students, 2500 planned), King St (Town Center) and our new eTrain Station (closed for 18months – hence huge replacement bus volume).
    Missing from the traffic count – is the Active Transport Corridor (ATC) footpath planned but now dropped from the Papakura 2 Pukekohe (P2P) rail corridor upgrade – can you see the pattern?

    The GA Article’s premise – “too little too late” is absolutely on point. AT and Council – how did we get here?

    The size of the disconnect between council policy and direction (TERP, vision zero,ERP) and the vision these plans deliver – really challenges the point of consultation.

    How do you feed back on plans for a car only future ?

    Auckland Council and Auckland Transport – Pukekohe needs better.

    Our local cycling group Franklin Trails is submitting the following

    In our view the minimum plan should:

    1) Restrict car access in King St to no access or as an interim measure just one way

    2) Remove car parking on the ring road and replace this space with a cycle way

    3) Reduce speed limits on the Ring Road and inner roads to 30km/hr

    4) Provide a safe, green and friendly Active Transport route to connect from the centre of town to the Railway Station.

    I support these goals.

    Please take a minute to submit your thoughts via “Have your say”. Nga Mihi, Paul.

    1. Thanks, Paul. I’m having my say on both the consultations now.

      Good lord the parking changes are bad in the Eke Panuku plan!

      1. Or rather, there’s some repurposing going on, which is great. But there’s no need to “explore opportunities to increase car parking” in other places. Way too little focus on safe biking in the area.

        1. The new train station is going to generate lots of park n ride from the region – which in many cases will result in more cars through town center. Sigh.

          The outer ring road project seems very slow off the mark, which would remove trucks from the King st Manukau road intersections and Manukau road daily traffic jam.

          The masterplan acknowledged the previous innovating streets outrage, which included death threats (seriously). It seems AT, Panuku have sold our kids futures for a safe – no car park left behind model, and dont upset the Pukekohe car folks.

          If the goal of the masterplan is to prepare Pukekohe for 50,000 pop growth in 20yrs, and keep it desirable against shiny new Drury, then safe places for all our people must be at the forefront of the design. But it Aint !

        2. They should be trying to serve as many of the train passengers with feeder buses and safe cycling as possible (e-bikes would be suitable for many passengers and people visiting Pukekohe if there were safe paths; safe paths are required anyway, so why not plan around them). The park and ride should then be located on the outskirts of Pukekohe with shuttles to the train.

          Also, the revision of the development strategy that’s required for the Climate Plan and for the TERP should reverse the decision to house so many more people in the area. It’s going to be a huge barrier to achieving the 5% reduction in average trip distance for Auckland by 2030. A huge barrier to the emissions reductions at all.

    2. “eTrain Station (closed for 18months”
      Completion late 2024 has been stated and that is likely to slip so it will be more than2 years.

  13. That roundabout plan is a ridiculous thing to have in AT’s design guide. Seems to have been copied and flipped from somewhere in Europe or the States where the road corridor is massive. But even without those sorts of issues why would they include in a guidebook an image that is so clearly deficient in legal compliance.

    1. Because it is a diagram of street layout in a Manual on street layouts, not a diagram of traffic control devices in tge Traffic Control Devices Manual.

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