A fairly common theme of annoyance with the way Auckland operates that was raised in my “Pet Peeves thread” seemed to be the lack of respect paid to pedestrians within Auckland’s CBD. A few examples of comments in that thread:
I think one of my biggest peeves in Auckland is the free left turns that almost all roads in the city have, and of which maybe 2% have zebra crossings. Many of these are downright dangerous and really hammers home the message that the car has priority over anyone on 2 legs.
From The Trickster:
The pedestrian crossing just by The White House on Queen St – when I have time to press the button, pop into the dairy, purchase something and have a brief chat with the owner before wandering out and still having to wait 30 seconds before I can cross on the light, well tells you something about priorities.
From Nick R:
High St oh High St! What a nightmare. At one point on the western side the gap between the shop front and a street pole is about two feet! Ok I realise this is Auckland we are talking about and car parking is up there with oxygen and potable water, but does this narrow laneway in the historic part of town really need parking up *both sides*?! The ironic thing is on a busy sunny lunchtime it becomes a defacto shared space as pedestrians are forced out into the roadway. And don’t get me started on the square having a road across it. Why?
I had a chat with one of the urban designers on the Queen St upgrade, she spent months battling the road engineering team who wanted to do the same thing for the intersection of Queen and Mayoral. Apparently they just could concieve not having a full multi lane intersection with left turn lanes and traffic islands. The engineers were convinced that if the didn’t do the intersection to the standard in their engineering manuals it would become filled with crashes and injured pedestrians. Somehow they didn’t catch on to idea that designing an intersection on the main street of the metropolis so that people can drive through it as fast as physically possible might be a bad idea for crashes and pedestrian safety.
From George D:
Why can’t they lower the speed limit on Symonds Street to 40 and give greater priority to pedestrians with more crossings with better phasings? It goes right through a university with 50,000 students, and right past one with 20,000, and goes right past the court – all of these are important public institutions. Now that the motorway extension is there, the excuse that they used to use – it’s necessary because the motorway hasn’t been built – no longer applies.
Compared to Auckland’s suburbs (particularly the newer ones), of course the CBD is fairly pedestrian friendly, and there certainly are a lot of people who walk around the inner-city streets. Yet it seems that there’s a general opinion that things could be much better, and in fact should be much better.
Let’s have a look at a few photos of inner-city streets – firstly in Auckland and then in a few Australian cities. Here’s Queen Street in Auckland: And now Queen Street in Brisbane (which is also the main street of that city): Next we have Bourke Street in Melbourne, a major inner-city shopping street: And finally, Pitt Street in Sydney: While Auckland is certainly making progress, with the current “shared streets” project, I think perhaps the most depressing thing is that the two street of Auckland with the most potential for pedestrianisation of becoming ‘shared spaces’ – High Street and Queen Street itself – were upgraded in recent years yet fully kept their traffic. Furthermore, where spaces in Auckland’s CBD are car dominated, they are really really car dominated. Hobson Street is perhaps the worst example: Yup, that’s a one way street which is around 6 lanes wide. Surely we can do better than this? Surely Auckland deserves better than having its main street being a four lane highway, and many of its other inner-city streets being massively wide multi-lane oneway streets that actively encourage people to drive at 60kph or more along them.
Surely the CBD is for people. Why can’t we make it a more people friendly place?