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 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.
Sooooo, what did get released today? The (first part of) the Transport Design Manual, Auckland Transport's new guide for how to design our roads better. Including guidance on home zones, protected bike lanes and protected intersections! pic.twitter.com/tsBYrRbSNK
— Bike Auckland (@BikeAKL) August 27, 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.