With the government is now seemingly on-board with the need for safe urban cycling and Auckland Transport are about to embark on some great new cycling projects. Unfortunately it seems a shadowy group within AT are working to make the few cycle facilities we already have decidedly less safe. This issue has been really highlighted to me with some new cycle lanes I use.
I ride to/from work once a week and my route takes me via Upper Harbour Dr, the road that was formerly a semi-rural state highway until the SH18 motorway opened less than a decade ago. The road still has a speed limit that is a hang-over from its former status of 70km/h and provided little in the way of facilities for walking or cycling. In fact much of the road didn’t even have a footpath requiring people (including school children walking to bus stops) to walk on the road. In short it wasn’t great for any one not in a car but at least the road was fairly wide and importantly yellow lines along its length meant there were never any cars parked. As such it was easy for (most) drivers to give plenty of space. Here’s an example of what the road looked like.
Given its lack of facilities for walking and cycling and that it is the only route cyclists can use to ride between the North Shore and anywhere else in the region – without taking a ferry, bring on Skypath – AT decided to do something about it. The project was to add a new footpath on one side of the road and cycle lanes on both sides. Due to the speed of vehicles they also proposed those cycle lanes have an extra buffer zone.
The project has been underway for some months and is almost at completion with seemingly the only thing left to do is add a few bike symbols on one side. All good so far but ….
As part the process to install the painted cycle lanes the existing yellow no parking lines were removed. In probably no surprise to anyone pretty quickly the local residents took advantage of this change and cars started appearing parked on the street. At this time the markings for the cycle lane were still going in so I was told by AT to wait till this process was complete.
Fast forward to this week and as mentioned above the project is nearly completed with one side fully marked and the other not far off. Below are just a few examples that of what I’ve encountered on my ride, forcing me and other cyclists out in to the general traffic lane with vehicles going 70km/h – many much faster.
There’s something seriously wrong when the process of installing cycle infrastructure leads to a reduction in safety for people on bikes. The problem all stems not from the lanes themselves but the fact that the yellow lines were removed. Like parking on footpaths I suspect many drivers have either forgotten or don’t realise that parking in a cycle lane is illegal. By comparison compliance of yellow lines is very high.
So I asked Auckland Transport for a few comments on why they removed the yellow lines here (and in other cases that I’m aware of), especially seeing as some cycle lanes do also include yellow lines. I’d also heard that the decision not to include yellow lines was made by a group within called the Traffic Control Committee who I understand have to sign off road designs. Here’s their response.
Motorists are not allowed to stop, stand or park in a cycle lane, relevant section is 6.6 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.
The requirements for marking cycle lanes are outlined in section 11.2 of the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices 2004. A road controlling authority is not required to install broken yellow line markings to indicate that motorists should not park in cycle lanes. However, Section 12.1 (3) of the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices 2004 does allow a road controlling authority to install broken yellow lines if it deems it necessary.
Some of the legacy Council’s choose to install broken yellow line markings in addition to the cycle lane markings and some did not. This resulted in inconsistencies across the region, in some cases customers believed that if the broken yellow lines were not present they were allowed to park in the cycle lane.
In order to address this issue the Traffic Control Committee issued a directive in December 2014 advising that broken yellow lines should no longer be installed in cycle lanes. Existing broken yellow lines would be allowed to fade and would not be remarked. The purposes of this directive was to try to move the region towards a consistent approach that customers could easily understand.
The Traffic Control Committee consists of the Manager Road Corridor Access, Manager Parking and Enforcement, and Manager Road Corridor Operations. Authority for passing resolutions under bylaws was delegated by the Auckland Transport Board of Directors to the Traffic Control Committee at its meeting of 26 October 2010.
In my view this is group have been negligent and as a result created unsafe environments – ones that will do nothing to encourage more people to ride a bike. It also seems completely at odds with how we treat road safety elsewhere such as actively designing roads to reduce hazards. What’s it all for, saving a little bit on the cost of yellow paint?
Of course AT could always go out and actively enforce the no parking rules however we we’ve seen that is only likely to drivers feeling like they’re being victimised. It also has the potential to create animosity between locals and those on bikes.
Lastly who thinks those buffers would be the perfect place for a few flexi poles or perhaps