Over the last six months or so we’ve written a number of times about Upper Harbour Dr and the saga that erupted about it after Auckland Transport moved to improve the safety of the existing cycle lanes as part of a programme to add protection to 60km of existing painted cycle lanes across the region.
The route is important as it is the only practical option for someone wanting to ride between the North Shore and West Auckland, and unfortunately will remain so for the foreseeable future. There are also plenty of plans for improved connections either side of this road.
The barriers quickly highlighted why they were actually needed as after a number of vehicles crashed into them. AT have said that causes of the crashes are not consistent. Some are likely to be speed related – with my personal experience being that it wasn’t uncommon for vehicles to travel in excess of 100km/h along the route. AT have also said that one of the issues was that left gaps between the separators too large, making it easier for vehicles to stray across the edge line and hit the end of a barrier, damaging their vehicle.
Some locals have been quite vocal in demanding that the barriers be removed,
In responding to this, AT held a number of community sessions where they presented five different schemes.
- Remove the separators – deemed unacceptable from a safety point of view
- Improve the existing scheme – with various options for this such as fixing the gaps between separators, changing the type of separator, adding rumble strips etc.
- Replacing the cycle lanes with a shared path
- Narrowing the median to give more of a buffer to the separators
- Replacing the cycle lanes with a single, bi-directional cycleway.
AT have ended up looking to implement two of those.
They are currently in the process of replacing the concrete barriers with lower, easier to mount rubber barriers – this is costing about $225k plus traffic management costs.
But they’re also now consulting on a proposal to spend $3.4m to replace the cycle lanes with a single, bi-directional cycleway to the eastern side of the road (right hand side on the image above), the types of separator they should use, as well as some other safety enhancements to the road such as four new raised zebra crossings and further lowering of the speed limit.
You can also see the design documents here.
Bi-directional cycleways can have some benefits, such as making it easier for a faster rider to pass a slower one. But they have some downsides too, such as potentially being harder to access, and can have safety issues, for example a driver exiting a driveway or side road into heavy traffic may end up blocking the cycleway in both directions, or worse, not check both directions and hit a cyclist. Being wider they may also encourage illegal parking too.
Some of that access issue is being helped by the four new raised zebra crossings proposed. This should help in making the road safer, not just for bikes but for pedestrians and drivers too. Two of these are at each end of the cycleway while the other two are around the Greenhithe Rd intersection.
AT have also just dropped the speed limit on the road from 70km/h to 60km/h. As part of the redesign they’re proposing to drop it further to 50km/h. Those speed tables will help with this but more might be needed.
There are a couple of things about the proposal that I’m concerned about with this specific proposal.
The issues at each end
Most people who cycle along Upper Harbour Dr will travelling through, and concerningly, this proposal does nothing to fix the intersections at each end.
At the southern end, cyclists coming from the west will still have to navigate a ~340m gap along Tauhinu Rd between the Upper Harbour Bridge shared path and this proposed bi-directional cycleway. While there are cycle lanes on Tauhinu Rd, they’re narrow and only paint, certainly not something everyone would feel safe on. AT even say on their page
- Facilities need to cater for people of all ages who would like to cycle or e-scooter, but are not confident enough.
So if AT are investing money to redesign the route, they should close this gap and making the motorway on/off-ramps safer would be an additional benefit.
At the northern end the bi-direction cycleway stops about 340m short of the intersection with Albany Hwy. There is not much in the way of real protection on this section either, mostly just some existing hit-sticks.
Combined with the southern end, this means for someone travelling west to north, from the end of the Upper Harbour Bridge path, will have to cross the road three times on their journey.
It’s worth noting that the Albany Highway intersection is perhaps one of the worst in Auckland for people on bikes, especially if you’re turning south with cyclists pushed into the middle of the road with traffic on either side. AT do say that they’ve got another team looking at safety improvements to this intersection but it’s unknown when we’ll see anything about this.
The main benefit of a benefit of a bi-directional cycleway is that you get a wider cycleway, meaning it’s easier for example to pass a slower cyclist, while the total cycleway facility also takes up less space. AT are generally aiming for a 3m wide cycleway but it seems they’re dropping this to around 2.6m in places. In some cases this narrowing happens even though there’s still a painted median for cars and in at least one location this seems to be in order to add on-street parking where there has never been any before (including before the cycle lanes were put in).
As noted above, the consultation for this redesign closes today. The survey form is very quick and can be done in only a few minutes.