Today, Auckland Transport is running two “community participation sessions”:

Through an independent facilitator, these sessions will delve into the pros and cons of options that physically separate cycle and vehicle lanes, incorporating your feedback and ideas, enabling us to collectively reach a solution.

The project under discussion is Upper Harbour Drive, where AT recently installed concrete separators (“tim tams”) to protect people using the existing painted cycle lanes. The tim tams came under fire mainly because some drivers have found it difficult to stay in their lanes; and some road cyclists ran into trouble in the early stages of the project.

Meanwhile, other people are asking why the protected cycle lanes have been kept so narrow when space was available to make them wider:

This post isn’t so much about the project itself, but about how AT will resolve it. The community sessions will be a measure of AT’s commitment to the Transport Emissions Reductions Pathway (TERP), which says:

Organisations need to stand firm and deliver to their stated goals…

Once strategic direction is consulted on and set, future consultation should focus on how, not whether, projects that support that direction are delivered.

Who’s in the room?

Are the participants for these sessions somewhat self-selected – through being vocal (even with AT actively seeking diversity)? Or are they drawn using a sampling technique, proportionally representative of demographics and geographic location?

Deliberative democratic processes prefer the latter approach if any recommendations, or decisions, are to be made.

Participants in a deliberative workshop undertaken by Koi Tū and Watercare. Image courtesy of Watercare.

If the sessions are structured to bring together vocal people from opposing sides, there’s a risk of focusing too much on resolving the conflicting views of individuals. Naturally, this doesn’t lead to the best decisions for future generations.

Perhaps the success of the sessions hinges on whether management is supporting staff to “stand firm and deliver to their stated goals”.

If so, the potential for a win-win solution here is great. The cycling team involved in this project includes some very knowledgeable and skilled people. Community leaders and other AT staff in the room will be able to observe – and practise – the leadership skills involved in discussing AT’s priorities and responsibilities. For example, they can bring the conversation back to the fact that our children need a city-wide all-ages cycling network that will enable the level of mode shift outlined in the TERP:

Above all, everyone must be clear on this point: “collectively reaching a solution” for this location does not mean people in the room get to override the city-wide transport strategy.

What led to the transport problems on this road?

Physical protection in the form of concrete tim tams is a safe and appropriate treatment for an urban street. These devices are working successfully in a number of locations throughout the city, such as on Nelson St and more recently on Ian McKinnon Drive.

Tim tams successfully installed in the same programme, on Ian McKinnon Drive. Image: GA

The number and descriptions of crashes on Upper Harbour Drive suggest that drivers are hitting them after losing control of their vehicle, which implies distracted or impaired driving, and speeds that are too high.

Lower speeds could likely have prevented the crashes or reduced the damage. So a key task for managing this road is reducing speeds to an appropriate safe level.

So how did we get here? Why are speeds on this residential street so high they’re causing this number of crashes into kerbs?

Several organisations have contributed to the problem over the years:

  • Auckland Council (and its predecessors) allowed housing development in the area, without providing the necessary funding and planning support to make the street environment fit for families to walk and cycle safely near their homes.
  • Waka Kotahi built an expensive motorway nearby (the Upper Harbour Highway), and then changed Upper Harbour Drive from ‘state highway’ to ‘local road’, and handed it over to AT. What it didn’t do was responsibly modify the road to a standard suitable for a local street network before handing it over.
  • Auckland Transport itself has neglected to improve this local road to reduce traffic volumes or speeds. Notably, it’s over four years since AT committed “in full and without question” to reviewing speed limits on approaches to all intersections, and “where appropriate” lowering them to a maximum of 50 km/hr. – Upper Harbour Drive is a prime example. This was an ‘action’ in the Safety Review programme to be undertaken in 2019, and I’ve reminded Auckland Transport about it specifically, several times, in meetings and in emails. If AT had set appropriate speeds on Upper Harbour Drive, supporting them with changes to help make those speeds intuitive, crashing into tim tams would not be a thing.
  • The Police have been largely missing in action on urban enforcement of the vehicle speeds required to keep people on foot and bike safe. (Furthermore, the initial Police response to the installation of tim tams on this road was not appropriate for a road safety partner – it demonstrated a lack of understanding about their role in helping to deliver the government’s Road to Zero strategy and  Emissions Reductions Plan.)

In an ideal world, Auckland Transport would have created an appropriate “road hierarchy” of local roads at the time the highway was opened, in order to reduce traffic volumes and speeds.

What would that look like? Roeland’s suggested solution, below, uses a “modal filter”, and means Upper Harbour Drive would serve as a connector or access road rather than an arterial. People on foot and bike, and emergency vehicles and buses, would be free to move past this point in the road:

How to reduce the through-traffic on Upper Harbour Drive. Credit: Roeland

This entirely orthodox engineering approach would have allowed locals to experience safer walking, cycling, and driving on the local roads, and a safer cycle route to the North Shore.

Without these treatments, the traffic grew (induced by the new motorway), and Upper Harbour Drive effectively became a parallel highway – while also serving as the key cycle route to and through the North Shore.

What can a cycling programme budget be expected to cover? And what’s not its role to solve?

The Minor Cycling and Micromobility Programme, which installed the tim tams on Upper Harbour Drive, was set up with the reasonable premise of:

making 60km of our existing cycle lanes safer for people to use. Across the region, we’ll be adding physical separation between the existing cycle and vehicle lanes, making Tāmaki Makaurau easier, healthier and more efficient to get around in.

In all these projects, the cycle lanes already exist – they’re legally “resolved” – and so protection can be added quickly and easily, at least in theory.

In principle, the programme will create neighbourhood examples of protected space across the city, offering the power of demonstration to a wide swath of the public. It had its origins in this Bike Auckland post, which crowd-sourced a list of potential projects. So the programme also has the potential to demonstrate AT keeping faith with the public, and benefiting from community input.

To give an idea of how the selected projects fit in, Matt created the following map. Red indicates the new programme. (There are a number of newer paths to be added now, too.)

Of course, the cycling network needs to be expanded and improved in many other ways across the city. But strengthening the existing network in this way is well overdue, because paint is not protection; David Lane should not have died riding in a painted cycle lane 11 days ago. Our tragic and rising numbers of casualties requires us to expand the protected network as fast as possible, in every way possible.

So it’s a worry that the programme is likely to continue to face hurdles created by existing deficiencies in the transport network. Speeding vehicles at Upper Harbour Drive is just the first. For example, Carrington Road is on the list: it’s a good candidate in that it connects two town centres, a railway station, and a major cycleway. But its existing painted lanes are narrow, and will be even more dangerously so when hemmed in with tim tams – unless space can be shifted from the painted median.

What will make or break the success of today’s workshops – and ultimately, the rest of the programme – is whether AT management acknowledges its responsibility for these challenges, and recognises that the programme is exposing them, not creating them.

These barriers to good, quick, easy protected cycleways are legacies of outdated planning, and they should have been resolved long before now. AT’s regular insistence that traffic flow should not be impacted has blighted the entire city. Even its most recent projects have been compromised in this way, despite clear benefits to everyone – whether walking, cycling, driving or just enjoying their local area.

The Minor Cycling and Micromobility Programme is simply a stop-gap measure until the rest of the organisation comes up to speed on the paradigm shift required for the TERP.

What needs to be done now?

AT can bring forward the “significant reform” that the Board committed to in endorsing the TERP.

Time to reform engagement: AT has too often caved in the face of vocal opposition to their plans, blocking our transport strategy from being realised. So it’s time for a different tack, and the Upper Harbour Drive project is a perfect opportunity, as the high media interest allows AT to visibly demonstrate their shift in approach, confirming that climate action is underway.

AT’s responsibilities are to all Aucklanders – current and future – so all upcoming projects need to follow the direction given by the TERP:

Transform engagement processes to better enable citizen participation in transport decision-making, using participatory models such as deliberative democracy

To avoid consultation fatigue, project engagement should focus on the details of delivery, instead of relitigating whether city-wide networks should be implemented if they have already been consulted on.

Time to reform planning: Some projects in the “Minor” programme will work as originally intended, but wherever the legacy problems do arise, the projects will need a mandate to use any of the following tools:

  • Decently wide cycle lanes, which will often require:
  • Reallocating road space: using flush medians, parking lanes and traffic lanes
  • Modal filters, i.e. where appropriate, limiting which type of traffic can pass by a particular point
  • Reshaping intersections for maximum safety (by removing slip lanes or reducing the number of traffic lanes, for example)
  • In-line bus stops, as painted cycle lanes are often interrupted by kerbside bus stops
  • Coordination with other programmes that deliver traffic-calming by changing the way general traffic can move about the neighbourhood

Upper Harbour Drive needs some of these tools, so now is a good time for AT management to demonstrate their support.

Time to reform funding: Will the cost of new engagement, new design and new installation for this project strip other areas of desperately-needed cycling investment? This is a huge concern for advocates, given the urgency of delivering the cycling network.

Essentially, the small cycling budget should never be expected to resolve all the systemic problems in our local roads. AT management will need to solve these problems using programmes funded from the “local road” activity classes. Otherwise, they’ll be once again stealing the lunch money to cover Dad’s gambling debts.

Upper Harbour Drive. Credit: Todd Niall

All in all, I’m optimistic for a good outcome from the community meetings. AT has made a great start with this description of the process it will be using:

We know we need to enable a choice for how people travel, and to make it safe for all road users – that includes motorists, pedestrians and cyclists of all abilities. The creation of protected cycle lanes, connected to form a network (just like the road network is for motorists) is critical in achieving the outcomes in Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri Auckland’s Climate Plan.

I hope the AT Board is watching this process carefully. Project by project, reform can happen.

Share this


  1. The whole Upper Highway thing is mystifying. Whenever I have ridden it, there has been an almost total absence of traffic. It appears like a quiet rural road, being passed by at most half a dozen cars along its length. So I was surprised they installed tim tams as I would have thought other cycleways had more pressing needs for upgrades.

    I was therefore really surprised by stories of multiple car accidents hitting the tim tams. Basically if you hit the protection you should lose your licence as you are clearly incapable of driving. Are the issues at night?

    As for AT’s engagement process. I have chaired a few of these sessions. My god what a bun fight. All the grey haired angry man stereotypes were to the fore. Quite ugly and abusive with real anger on display.

    1. Yes, I have also been to some of these engagement meetings and been embraced by the behaviour of my peers. The younger people listened politely to what was said. When the older demographic heard anything that went against their beliefs, they would become abusive and rude.

    2. There were more pressing projects than adding dozens of traffic islands to Upper Harbour Drive. They only did it to massage their statistics. Now they can claim several kilometres of ‘protected cycle lane’ for the year. The project has little to do with safety and everything to do with corporate spin. The thought this would be an easy way to spend your money to make themselves look good.

      1. Achieving 1700% change in cycling numbers puts any past “prioritisation” exercises in the bin. We need to do it all. I have yet to see anyone’s strategic plan for creating a city-wide comprehensive cycling network for all ages that doesn’t require these existing cycle lanes to be protected.

        I imagine your criticism is really based on not sharing the vision for that comprehensive network, so – although AT’s various bureaucratic inefficiencies bother you as well – you can’t see the need for sidestepping them, to get going with what is possible and build momentum.

        If you could shift your goals to be more aligned with what our kids will actually need to prevent or cope with the shit show of a future that is coming, you’d regret your words. Claims that AT’s work is only about massaging statistics, corporate spin and making themselves look good is pretty nasty. Progressive staff have to go above and beyond to get stuff happening, and then they get criticised by people like you who should know better.

        1. Sorry Heidi but they were just juking the stats with this one. They could have spent the money putting in protection somewhere where there was no cycle lane. They could have put it towards fixing the intersection at the end of Upper Harbour Drive, but instead they went for an easy option. They thought it was a quick win and it bit them on the bum.

        2. Who’s “they”? “They” could be putting cycling into every single arterial and connector road project AT does, by reallocating road space. “They” don’t because “they” say it would impact traffic flow. “They” know that this is contrary to their Vision Zero strategy, and a few years ago were more careful about it. “They” would always find another excuse, like that it would hold up the buses… Now, they know the Board don’t understand anyway, so it’s just overt. Ugly stuff, turning against the agreed policy, burning staff out so they leave, and no competent governance in sight to call them to account.

          So, no, miffy. Putting in a cycle lane where there isn’t one, or changing intersections, are examples of places where the dinosaurs in charge prevent projects from happening because it doesn’t suit their ideology about traffic flow.

          This programme was put together to get around “them”, as a stepping stone to overthrowing the practices preventing the very things you think should be able to happen.

        3. Heidi the crowed loudly about the cycle lanes after they painted them and reported how they had added to the cycle network. Now they will do exactly the same again without adding a single metre of cycle lane on UHD. All they have achieved is to install hundreds of traffic islands with noses at 90-degrees to approaching vehicles. Kerbs work by being oblique to tyres, not square on. If crashes don’t increase as a result then I will be amazed. Still we can view this a good experiment- how much do these concrete blocks increase crashes? In 5 years we will know the answer.

        4. The popup program is meant to be tactical, quick, and cheap and was proposed over two years ago, but it operates in a complex regulatory and very static planning environment. These are painted lanes – no protection – that are being upgraded to protected lanes. This can’t be done easily on existing streets due to the whole legislated and regulatory process for changing streets. The Reshaping Streets package should help this process.

        5. I love seeing miffy’s comments. They are a great reminder than some transport engineers simply cannot understand vision zero, mode shift, or indeed our environmental obligations as engineers. His obsitinant refusal to learn stands in stark contrast to large swathes of the profession who are rapidly adapting to a mode shift and safety focused future

    3. I thought similarly initially, but because its quiet people tend to speed / be distracted / whatever else, it also has a rather high speed limit normally too I guess. People crashing into them have really shown how dangerous riding along here actually is, and all it would take is one person on a bike in the wrong place at the wrong time, to become a DSI statistic.

      We also need to remember not everyone is confident riding without protectors, it would be hard no from my partner normally. But with these protectors its enough for a yes. Being this is the only way too and from the Shore without a tedious boat trip – and the only logical way from the western suburbs regardless. I think it makes sense.

    4. I honestly do not think it is about “driving standards”. Looking at all of the “similar” roads where these measures have been installed “successfully”, a key difference that I have noted is that those “similar” roads are quite DISsimilar in one key respect – the absence of bends!

      Another difference in the example cited in this very article is that the tim tams are on a dual-carriageway. That is, traffic immediately adjacent to the tim-tams is not dealing with having to maintain distance from the tim-tams whilst simultaneously maintaining distance from opposing traffic at potentially lethal closing speeds.

      Those difference are significant and sufficient imho to disqualify those “similar” examples as such.

      If any genuinely similar examples exists, let’s see them.

      1. So the problem is bends in the road? Surely that is the purpose of the steering wheel?

        As “cars” have grown taller people seem less inclined to stay in their lane and more inclined to take the lazy large radius path – cutting corners on road bends and intersections. This is bad driving.

        Bends are the exact location that cycle lane protection is most required.

      2. The bends are slight and gradual, probably due to it being ex-SH, where that would have been a treatment done at some point in the past.

        If anyone thinks the bends are bad and the lanes are narrow, then honestly where the hell have you been driving?

        I was on a 100km/h road last week, the sides of the road falling away, open drains as shoulders, bumps/potholes/corrugations-galore, steep winding 180 degree turns, blind crests and more. Yet nobody is crashing or raising any concern. They just know how to drive – and aren’t on drugs, booze, mobile phones, blasting their stereo or having a rant to their passenger like many urban twat drivers seem to do.

        Fix the drivers, not the roads, short of making every road a padded room, you can’t engineer your way out of shit driving. But you can do something to protect more vulnerable road users such as bikes, scooters, mobility users and pedestrians.

        1. I drove it Tuesday 20th about 17:30. Following two other cars both of which clipped the corner apexes into the painted cycle lane where separators have not yet been installed. Have cycled it since the 80s, commuting and weekends, more than a painted line was definitely needed. The angry reaction and collisions are evidence for that.

      3. Ian McKinnon Drive where the separators have been installed is a big sweeping bend. Haven’t heard of any crashes involving the Tim tams there.

  2. “Once strategic direction is consulted on and set, future consultation should focus on how, not whether, projects that support that direction are delivered.”

    This is the guts of it.

    And to follow on from this point, new proposals that AT brings to the table for consultation should be in line with what has already been agreed. They should not have been previously hijacked by local councillors, boards or local business associations.

    If Auckland is to change all parts of the city need to change. Those parts also need to change together. Driving through one suburb for free parking in another is helpful for no oneif the wider perspective is considered.

  3. I am going to sound a bit obsessed, but every time I am see ‘Upper Harbour Drive’ – which I do cycle on a regular basis, I am triggered to remind that this road won’t be finished until they fix the intersection of Upper Harbour Drive and Albany Highway

    I saw a lady on an orange Ebike stranded in the middle of the road on the way to work yesterday waiting to get across the road

    I just don’t want somebody to have to die until they fix this intersection

    1. “I just don’t want somebody to have to die until they fix this intersection”

      Is if that guarantees action from our vision zero transport agency.

      This bike infrastructure also needs to be connected (with protected infrastructure) to the North Western…. Pretty much everywhere needs so much infrastructure, but AT are dragging their heels to avoid upsetting car drivers or business associations. It doesn’t work they are pissed off anyway and road deaths have doubled.

      Massive fundamental change is needed at AT right now if they are even going to get quarter of the network done by 2030.

  4. Upper Harbour Drive/ Albany Highway intersection was planned to be ‘fixed’ as part of an expensive upgrade of Albany Highway from Sunset Road to the motorway interchange. But that major upgrade has never become an economical priority and probably never will. Upgrade of the intersection with cycle connection to the North Corridor Initiative cycle path is a growing necessity, but even the intersection upgrade will be expensive, due to the constraints of the reservoir and an unstable slope near to the road edge. So the Quick, cheap and simple (?) protection of the strategic cycle route across the harbour gets done now, while planning and funding for the intersection goes its longer and slower course.

    1. I imagine they are wanting to have two lanes in each direction for the entire length plus an extra right turn lane at in each direction at the intersections, as per the Albany Highway North project. That is an expensive project because of the widening required to achieve which is neither required nor advisable.

      They should be aiming instead for one lane in each direction and proper Dutch roundabouts at the intersections. The intersection in question has plenty of space for this. And the reason they currently wouldn’t do that is concern about traffic flows and volumes… which it is their job to reduce. There are many levers they need to pull, but making intersections safe enough for walking and cycling, and reducing road capacity are two of the biggies.

      The answer lies in the paradigm shift. Putting an improvement off just so they can do it road-widening way delays a safety fix.

      That is unethical.

    2. I would like to see some options, rather than putting it off entirely because a perfect solution will be a massive job. This bit of Albany Highway road is quite wide with not a lot of houses if they wanted to go full on overkill ‘for flow’

      The ground on the North/East side of the road does slope away, but I would think that still enough room for a narrow cycle path (even 0.5m would be better than nothing)

      Getting people there could be difficult, but could be some creative options; I am think two way bike path on the south/west side on the Glenfield side of the intersection where there is room, or even just traffic calming and a short crossing from the island over to footpath

      Just seems like engineers have taken a quick look and put it into the too hard or needs a $20m road-realignment/bridge basket

      Multiple slip roads in order to improve flow around Upper Harbour Drive that now only deals with local traffic, seems to be the root cause. Even at peak times, this bit of road doesn’t even get that congested compared with a bit down the road with people queuing for the Upper Harbour motorway

      1. Someone should actually present to the Board. AT are making these sorts of decisions all over the city. We could have had an extremely safe network by now if they’d approached the response to the Safety Review in a responsible way.

    1. It would block car traffic but let bicycle and walking through. The basic version is a few bollards. There are more elaborate versions that work with a retractable bollard to let bus traffic and/or local residents through.

    2. Filters out certain modes of transport, i.e. in this case allows active and public transport through, but stops the area being used as a through-route rat-run when there is a perfectly good motorway nearby for that purpose.

      Common in other parts of the world, but not here, as we have a terrible car-culture issue to overcome I guess and/or just need authorities with more willpower to actually make our city a better place rather than run off scared as soon as there is a song and dance from entitled pricks etc.

    3. The thing with modal filters is that currently they are not legal here. But the Reshaping Streets legislation package consultation that ended last week should make the necessary changes to allow for them to be used.
      Unfortunately the draft rule only gave clear power to to the introduction of a physical barrier that stops motor vehicles but allows cycles and pedestrians when what is also needed is the power to use camera enforced controls that can specify what vehicle classes can go passed a point without a physical barrier.

        1. My reading of the Reshaping Streets draft is that this wouldn’t matter anyway. Although modal filters are defined as objects that physically prevent vehicles / allow active mode users, the section:

          2.1 Road controlling authority may change the use of roadways

          would enable the use of cameras with some of the other clauses. For example:

          (a) prohibit or restrict the use of motor vehicles, or one or
          more classes of motor vehicle, on the roadway
          (c) install or remove traffic control devices to instruct road
          users of a prohibition or restriction

        1. I have literally just cycled through a modal filter in Christchurch. AT just installed one on Queen Street. Wellington has them in tge city centre. Even Tauranga has one.
          Modal filters are legal in New Zealand and we need to call out lies from people attempting to block them and misinformation from people who believed the lies.

  5. A transport agency full of ‘professionals’ essentially asking the public to redesign cycle infrastrucutre is the most Auckland thing you could ever find.

    1. Yeah, often the initial proposal is complete trash for bikes, if it has anything for bikes at all. Then they ask for bike related feedback on it all, like are you bloody serious?? Hair pulling intensifies!

  6. We need to keep reminding people here that a tiny, but very noisy, minority of motorists are upset that they have hit a kerb while, inattentively or otherwise, committing a traffic offence.

    Imagine the media spin we would see if cyclists were complaining about crashing while running red lights. This is the media spin we should see when motorists complain about crashing while committing an offence.

  7. Watched/listened the 2nd one of these meetings on YouTube while doing something else. Couldn’t hear all the discussions with different volumes and noise pollution but what I did hear was interesting & overall I think the process was helpful in seeing others points of view.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *