One particularly good programme Auckland Transport has underway right now is adding protection to 60km of existing painted cycleways to make them safer. Our new mayor should love it as it’s a cheap and effective way to expand the network of safe cycleways. This is being rolled out over three years and on the first corridors getting the treatment the installation of concrete barriers has been successful and uneventful with one major exception – Upper Harbour Dr.
We’ve already run a number of posts on the topic in recent months, including one two weeks ago which noted that Auckland Transport were running community sessions on the project following complaints about it. Some of those complaints have been fairly typical anti-cycleway stuff, trying to relitigate their existence despite the lanes existing for about seven years. But there have also been issues with the installation due to a number of drivers and even a few cyclists crashing into the barriers.
I attended one of those sessions and if you’re interested, AT filmed them and have put them on their website.
AT noted that causes of the crashes are not consistent. Some will be speed related but they also noted that one of the issues is they’ve left too large gaps between the separators making it easier for vehicles to stray across the edge line and hit the end of a barrier, damaging their vehicle.
To address these issues and locals complaints, AT presented five different potential schemes for the future of Upper Harbour Dr – with one scheme having a few different options.
Scheme 1 – Remove the separators
This would put the road back to the way it was – which given the speeds and how frequently drivers would move into the cycle lanes, is unacceptable from a safety point of view.
Scheme 2 – Improve the existing scheme
This scheme actually consists of a number of different options, and aspects of them could be combined, including with other schemes.
Add Audio Tactile Paving
This would add Audio Tactile Paving, aka rumble strips, to the line outside of the concrete separators. This would be a cheap solution but might not be all that effective given drivers are already crashing into the barriers and would create noise issues for locals.
Remove the separators but add traffic calming
As the name suggests, this would remove the separators but add traffic calming from interventions like speed bumps at regular intervals to slow speeds down.
Change the separators – rubber separators
This would use rubber separators like those used on St Lukes Rd a few years back. But if this was anything like those, they’ll pretty quickly start looking dirty and lose any vertical elements such as hit-sticks. On St Lukes Rd AT just gave up replacing them.
Change the separators – lower profile concrete separators.
Instead of the existing separators which are about 160-180mm high, this would use lower separators that are about 120mm high. That just seems like it would make it easier for a wayward driver to mount the kerb and potentially hit a cyclist.
Change the separators – in situ concrete separators.
Instead of bold down separators, AT suggested the option of in situ separators which could have a different kerb profile with a gentler slope. Again, it’s hard to see how making it easier to drive over the separators is an improvement for those on bikes compared to the current implementation.
Scheme 3 – A Shared Path
By far the most expensive and most disruptive of the options due to the need to change drainage and kerb lines, this would replace the cycleway with a shared path on the eastern side of the road. Shared paths really aren’t a great response for anyone, but especially for walkers and cyclists who are put into conflict to save a bit of space in the corridor. The shared path would also be a magnet for locals parking illegally and even impatient drivers using it as a general traffic lane to try and skip ahead if the road is congested.
Scheme 4 – Narrow the median to widen the painted buffer
The key here is to shift the driving lanes further away from the concrete buffers to help reduce crashes. This is achieved by narrowing the painted median on the road. AT would also add in additional separators to reduce gaps between them.
One of the additional benefits that comes with this scheme is that the wider cycleway buffers, narrower median and additional signage “should have a traffic calming impact”.
Scheme 5 – A bi-directional cycleway
This would replace the cycleway with a single bi-directional cycleway on the eastern side of the road. This would create for a wider cycleway and also incorporate the narrower lanes and median from scheme 4.
However, like with a shared path, there are a couple of big issues with bi-directional cycleways, notably it wouldn’t take much for a car exiting a driveway to block the entire thing, for people to use it as a parking lane or worse, for impatient drivers to use it general traffic lane to try and skip ahead if the road is congested.
There’s also the issue that the western side of the road is the only one with a continuous footpath and it would be made less pleasant for pedestrians having cars racing by only millimetres away.
AT don’t have a preferred option yet but they did give a quick high-level multi-criteria assessment of each of the options. To me Options 4 or 5 provide the best outcome. If you’re interested, there’s more information on each reasons for the scores in the presentation and in the videos AT posted.
AT say they’re now working though the feedback from the sessions as well as from other stakeholders like emergency services and waste management and will take all of that to come up with a new design that will then be consulted on. The existing protection will stay as it is till that’s decided. I do like that they make it clear they’d only remove the protection if other, likely less palatable, changes were made to the street design.
I think AT should also be looking at how they can reduce through-traffic on the street as it seems like it’s often used by drivers racing down as part of a rat-run to jump ahead of congestion on the motorway. As such, this road can also get congested making it harder for locals to get around. Reducing through-traffic could help improve this situation.
Finally, one of the big issues with the cycle lanes is what happens when you get to either end, but especially Albany Highway where if you want to head south towards Glenfield or Takapuna, you’re thrown into the middle of the road and you have to get across what is essentially a slip lane with 70km/h+ traffic. AT mentioned they have a team working on how to improve safety of this intersection and it will tie in with the work above.
Which of the options do you prefer?