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Britomart precinct quick wins

It has now been three months since Janette Sadik-Khan visited Auckland and showed us how easy it was to create a more liveable city by making things better for people to walk and cycle around, and best of all we could do this really quickly and cheaply.

Since the excitement of that time their has been some positive noise about some cycleway projects such as Karangahape Road and Nelson St, however there is so much to do around the city in the pedestrian realm. So now I am going to look at a number of really simple and cheap things we can do around the city to make things much better for people.

The first place I am going to look at is the Britomart precinct. This has become an immensely successful area over the last decade, revitalising a formerly very rundown and seedy area, preserving a large collection of heritage buildings, with a few sympathetic additions. However the streetscape  is still very plain, and the design prioritises cars, even though walking is the dominant mode of travel through the precinct. While it is better than many areas of the city, there is still much to be done.

Pedestrians should really be the priority throughout this area, however the road layout still gives priority to cars, and several streets are used as rat runs. In the medium term we could look at pedestrianisation and shared spaces in this area, however with limited budgets and uncertainty about bus movements this is best left for the longer term. So therefore I am going to focus on easy and cheap improvements.

The East-West site link is probably the most important, linking the station to the atrium of the Westpac building through Takutai Square. For some unknown reason this link is totally devoid of zebra crossings, which would prioritise pedestrians, slow cars and improve safety.

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Commerce Street

 

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Gore St

 

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Britomart Place, looking towards the disaster of Scene Lane

 

Zebra crossings could be added to all three of these roads tomorrow with tiny cost, yet make things so much better for people walking in this precinct. Zebras with raised tables should also be added to all the side streets, such as the corner of Galway and Commerce Streets.

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Galway and Commerce St

In a slightly longer timeframe consideration should be given to closing at least one of the north-south links to through traffic. These streets are much busier than they should be because of rat-running and cars circling for parking. At least in the short term, Commerce Street is important for bus movements so that will need to stay. Gore Street is probably the most likely candidate, the main use of the area seems to be taxis illegally parking in the median.

While Britomart Place has some traffic calming in the use of lane narrowing and pebbled surfaces directly opposite the Westpac atrium, the two ends at Quay St and Commerce St are totally oversized, and for 4 lanes so every turn movement can have their own lane. The slip lane from Britomart Place to Beach Road is also very dangerous and should be removed as a priority.

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Britomart Place – 3 southbound lanes for one quiet street

The area could be narrowed substantially, with traffic lanes roughly halved. The narrowing would be best done on the western side, which would allow popular places like Mexico, Brew on Quay and several cafes to expand their tables over more of the pavement, and provide more room for pedestrians. This can be done without any expensive reconstruction in the short term, just by allowing planters and tables to cover part of the existing road.

Britomart Place map

This rather crude drawing shows how much space could be freed up for people and street life, while still allowing 2 lanes of traffic through the area.

There is also one change that could benefit people cycling. If you are cycling from the (rather pathetic) bike racks at Britomart you can head east along Tyler St. However heading towards Britomart there is no obvious direct legal option, and people are forced to cycle the wrong way down Galway St between Commerce and Gore Street. If this section was flipped this would make things much easier.

Another option is the provision of contraflow bike lanes. These are used with some success in Adelaide, the use of which in their laneways was noted recently by the excellent Cycling in Christchurch Blog. If flipping the streets was not possible for some reason, then these could be installed to allow cyclists to travel east-west through the area.

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Adelaide Laneway – c/ Glen Koorey, Cycling in Christchurch blog

All these changes suggested would help ensure Britomart could continue to be an exciting area and further enhance its reputation as a great place to be.

29 comments to Britomart precinct quick wins

  • TedF

    Thank you for your thoughtful approach. Car users seem to have a priority in these areas which make it more difficult for the stick weilding slower movers to cross these streets.

  • Nik

    Would a kickstarter to sponsor some planter boxers (branded with TransportBlog) so there was no excuse to delay the implementation of an experiment be a worth while endeavour?

  • As someone who works in Britomart, you are 100% bang on here Luke.

    I feel like a broken record but I really think 90% of the improvements to Britomart could be achieved by about 20 bollards and some paint.

    These streets like Gore and Commerce should be accessible for cars but not through streets. Stick some bollards at one end and there you are.

    I always cycle the wrong way down the western end of Galway as there is no other legal way to go East-West by cycle. The parking needs to be removed (do we really need parking on every square inch of street?) and counterflow/bi-directional cycleway added. That is paint only but planters for separation would be nice.

    CAA had a great presentation last night from AT and there was an indication that there may be more resolve at AT to go ahead with removing parking despite business protests. This is particularly true for the proposed Wynyard quarter cycle lanes. Mostly because the collapse of businesses predicated when parking is removed never materialises and in fact the opposite happens.

    The businesses always underestimate how much parking is actually available and who it is used by (spoiler alert: not their customers – looking at you High Street retailers!).

  • Bob

    I used to work in the area, and there were never enough places to lock up your bike. Whats more, the railway station staff did not like people locking bikes against any rails by the atrium. Perhaps they thought there might be a bomb under a bike seat or something! Who knows!

  • I wish they had toilets at the Takutai entrance. Because of where I work, it’s far more practical for me to use that entrance – just have to make jolly sure I’m reasonably empty before leaving the office to go home :-)

    jj

  • Dan Knox

    I walk through this area every day. It is a great place but these changes would amplify all of the good elements by a factor of 11! It would almost be like a little forum.

  • Max

    With the Beach Road Cycleway to be extended from Mahuhu to Britomart Place next year, some change there would be very welcome and needed. Not sure they are thinking of JSK style interventions though.

  • John Polkinghorne

    Great suggestions Luke.

  • Harvey Specter

    Sounds great but I do wonder if it would have negative impacts – currently it is a free for all for pedestrians. Would making dedicated pedestrian crossings actually impede the of walkers unless they are going right down the middle.

    Except for the road used by buses, all others should be sign posted as 10kph (a defacto shared space). Over time, raised crossings should be installed to indicate the entry to the shared zone. Parking should also be removed over time so that it is just taxis (dropping and picking up, not parked), deliveries and those using the valet drop off (is that still there? you could argue against but if they are willing to pay, they are probably spending a lot of money in the area as well so why not keep it).

  • Harvey Specter

    That picture of the Adelaide laneway is exactly what Tyler street should look like. Remove the parking and put in seating.

    In my previous post, I should also have included disabled parking and access to internal parking (is there any internal parking or have the buildings all been converted now?)

  • Geoff Blackmore

    “Zebra crossings could be added to all three of these roads tomorrow with tiny cost”

    Can zebra crossings be installed at intersections without traffic lights? I was under the impression they can’t.

    • I assume by “traffic lights” you actually mean just flashing amber lights? Marker discs are legally sufficient.

      • Geoff Blackmore

        No, I mean full traffic light installation for the intersection. I don’t think you can have a zebra crossing at an intersection without the intersection being fully controlled. Zebra crossings with marker discs are always built away from intersections.

        • Mike

          “Zebra crossings with marker discs are always built away from intersections” – not sure about Auckland, but there are plenty of places in Wellington where this isn’t the case.

          • Geoff Blackmore

            I’m meaning on a side road at an intersection, as shown in the fourth photo above. I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed in NZ, unless the intersection is fully controlled. The reason being that drivers are focussing on the intersection. NZTA’s pedestrian crossing design guide says provision of zebra crossings at junctions is to be avoided unless signalised.

          • David T

            There’s one at the junction of Teed St. and Broadway in Newmarket, it’s visible on the council GIS

          • Geoff Blackmore

            There’s no cars exiting that street however (it’s one way), so no issue with driver focus when approaching the intersection.

          • Kent Lundberg

            There are in many places on Symonds St. Check GE. They are (oddly) uncommon.

        • Luke E

          It’s perfectly legal. See the intersection of Pitt St and Greys Ave. Or Symonds St and City Road.

          • Some other examples off the top of my head:
            Lake Rd and Huron St, and Lake Rd and Como St, Takapuna
            Denbigh Rd and Somerset Rd, and Denbigh and Winstone Rd, Mt Roskill
            Symonds St and the left turn spur out of Wakefield St, CBD
            I’m sure there’s dozens more.

            Actually the Roskill ones are good, they’re in line with the Denbigh Ave footpath, as is Lake and Huron (like Symonds St and City Rd used to be until AT spent heaps of money moving it 2m to the west)

  • harrymc

    Those contra-flow cycle lanes are everywhere in France. I used them just recently; cycling in France was enjoyable but there is no way I would cycle in Auckland.

    • Harvey Specter

      I’m not sure Auckland is ready for (unprotected) contra flow lanes.

      I also think it is an extra complication when the solution probably more akin to a shared zone. If they were common in NZ, that would be a different matter.

    • Wow really? Where were you cycling?

      I lived in Normandy in 2001 and it was one of the most hostile cycling environments I have ever experienced. Other than recreational off road and the occasional lycra warrior, I was pretty much alone on the streets of Caen, Le Havre or Rouen.

      I would much rather cycle in Auckland now than those cities then (though they may have improved).

      • Lyon seemed very cycle friendly to me back in 2010 (first time I ever used bike share and everything) – well before I ever cycled with any intent anywhere. Paris is supposed to be improving also, no?

  • Paul S

    A good reminder that 3 or so months have elapsed since JSK’s visit and not one quick and cheap win ( that I’m aware of anyway?)

    • Bryce P

      To the contrary, all we hear about are expensive solutions. Quay St, Victoria St etc.

    • Gdub

      Good to remember that when somebody asked JSK how long it took to undertake some interventions her reply was 1-2 years. There are still a lot of considered planning and consultation that goes into the cheap and cheerful options. Particularly when you start playing around with lanes, intersections and parking (eek!). The zebra crossing idea is great though. That could be a easy thing to do without needing getting too complicated other than checking safety concerns…

      • Bryce P

        We’ve been hearing about plans for Quay St and Victoria St for the past 4 or more years. Time’s up. Consider what NYC achieved in just 6 years.

  • As a regular walker in this area… hell yeah. There should be a *real* *cohesive* path all the way through from Britomart to Vector Arena.

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