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Protesters create Pedestrian Paradise

Unless you’ve avoided either the city or the news for the last day you’ll know that yesterday thousands of people descended on the CBD to protest the signing of the TPP. This post isn’t about the TPP – there are plenty of other places for you to discuss it – but rather about the impact the protests had on the city which I think highlighted a number of key issues we frequently advocate for. I wasn’t there so these are based on observations from others and images on social media.

Protesters walking down Queen St are nothing new but what was very interesting this time is that a number of groups went and blocked major intersections all around the city. This included blocking roads such as Albert St, Fanshawe St, Hobson St, Nelson St and Wellesley St. Given that Hobson and Nelson in particular are one way, it leaves them completely empty downstream of where they were blocked off. This had the effect in instantly turning many roads within the city over to people.

From these and many other comments I saw it made many parts of the city that are often quite hostile to those on foot actually very pleasant, pedestrian paradises if you will. There is obviously a lot going on in the city right now with the CRL getting under way and a number of large commercial building projects on the go but at the same time plans like the City Centre Master Plan call for making the city centre more people friendly – among other things. For example, it lists this as one of its outcomes and targets

OUTCOME 7

A walkable and pedestrian-friendly city centre – well connected to its urban villages.

Target 1: More kilometres of pedestrian footpaths/walkways
Target 2: More kilometres of cycleways
Target 3: Reduction in pedestrian waiting times at intersections
Target 4: Reduction in use of left-turn slip lanes
Target 5: New mid-block pedestrian crossings

Over the last few years we’ve had numerous international guest speakers visit Auckland talking about how we can do many of these things, do them quickly and do them cheaply. This includes people such as Janette Sadik-Kahn and Mike Lydon and many others.

It all begs the question of whether we’re moving fast enough to reach the city’s goals. Now obviously there’s a need for cars to be in some parts of the city but we do need to get the balance right. What the protests showed us yesterday is that almost completely shutting many roads in the city didn’t cause the sky to suddenly fall in. Perhaps the lesson we can take from it all is for the council and Auckland Transport to be bolder about making changes, throw some cones or planter boxes out on the street and block off a lane or two. It would allow quick changes to be made in response to the impacts generated and would probably end up with a faster, cheaper and superior result to the current process of modelling every change to the nth degree first.

To me the protest also helped highlight just how valuable the CRL is going to be once complete. Protests might not be that regular an event but disruption caused by traffic certainly is. Trains using the CRL are able to completely bypass any issues on the surface. Of course this doesn’t guarantee that in a protest situation that those protesting don’t try to shut the rail network too. Further, as it stands right now, for many of projects to make the CBD more people friendly the CRL happens to be a key lynch pin. For example, key parts of the proposed Victoria St Linear Park can’t happen till the CRL is built as two of the entrances sit within that future linear park.

Aotea Station Design North

 

I also thought of this in the terms of the impact to light rail should we have protests in the future. Obviously a line down Queen St would have been blocked by the protesters so in a situation like yesterday. One advantage it has is that it’s relatively easy to turn them around needing only a crossover track rather than circling a block. Designing light rail to ensure this is a possibility will be important for Auckland.

Lastly a little bouquet to Auckland Transport. Not only were the TPP protests going on but NZ Bus drivers were having a union meeting disrupting or cancelling services. Given they only had one day’s notice about the bus drivers I thought they did well to get some services on some key routes covered by buses and drivers from other bus companies. In hindsight having both the TPP and bus drivers meeting on the same day might have been a good situation as the buses would have been equally held up by the protesters. At least it meant only one day of disruption.

46 comments to Protesters create Pedestrian Paradise

  • I’d go further than “obviously there’s a need for cars to be in some parts of the city”. It might feel obvious, but it’s even more obvious that the city would be amazing without cars in the centre. So why not start with the premise that Queen St, Quay St, High St and Lorne Street should be 100% for people, and force AT and AC to work out the rest from there. There will be a lot of pain, perhaps some streets would need to be open to traffic for the wee hours, but this is the only approach that delivers the solution now.
    We’ve yet to see a Mayoral or Council candidate be anywhere near to this aggressive on delivering a liveable city, and I suspect we won’t. Do we need new people to stand up?

  • Of course there’s no need to have private vehicles at all in the heart of the city:

    http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/dec/09/car-free-city-oslo-helsinki-copenhagen

    Deliveries, emergency, and disabled access are all much more important use of the streets network than people driving in circles. And of course PT vehicles, those that we don’t put underground. But the balance needs to shift much much more towards people out of cars than those in them from its current state, for civilisation’s sake.

    Though we have built a great deal of parking structures which naturally act as generators of private vehicle movement, and it will take a while to transform the worst placed examples, but it is important to remember that there is not a single one of these in Queen St, not a single loading Bay, or even entrance to a private basement carpark. There is no destination for these vehicles on Queen St itself, they’re only there because we haven’t had a vision to keep them out, instead using or most important street for rat running to elsewhere. Exclude most of the traffic from Queen, and the east/west cross streets will function better for traffic, deliveries PT etc on Queen will work better, and of course the city will be a better place for humans.

    • Anthony

      Queen St south of Mayoral drive and Airedale St & Scotia Pl which are only accessible from Queen St, all have many vehicle enterances for apartment buildings, hotels, etc.

      So only be the section of Queen St north of Airedale St could be closed to the bulk of private vhicles.

      The CBD was also empty of buses, while the drivers were having their union meeting. CRL would be vulnerable to the same action

  • John Lawson

    In the photo I took from the Hobson St flyover there were 5 buses (including a double decker) stuck in a jam with 35 cars. If the occupants of the 35 cars had been in a bus, the street would have been nearly empty. Why does Fanshawe St not have a bus lane?

    • Steve Cable

      which part of Fanshawe St are we talking about John?

      • John Lawson

        My view was looking SW from the Hobson St flyover (-36.844325, 174.763214) towards Nelson St.

        • Steve Cable

          in August, when I last drove a bus through there, there were bus lanes in both directions; turning from lane 2 on the viaduct led you straight onto the eastbound bus lane outside the Grand Chancellor, coming into town there was a bus lane up to Market Place that continued along Sturdee St, although most of that was bus stop, so I don’t know what you weren’t seeing John

          • John Lawson

            Yes, when I look more carefully at my photo and at Street View, I see the lanes. The problem seems to be that no one was taking any notice of them yesterday.

  • Yesterday morning I had a couple of meeting around Three Lamps, then needed to get to Grafton. Because of the protests and bus strike Ponsonby and K Rds were crawling with traffic and angry drivers but I had great fun weaving through them all on bike; no other mode would have been faster than walking. Of course with bike lanes many more could and would have also taken advantage of the spatial efficiency of cycling has in heavy traffic.

    But it also got me thinking about what these streets would be like if we were stupid enough to build an additional road harbour crossing. As it is proposed to connect no new lanes through the CMJ, all the new traffic generated by the extra capacity goes over the bridge and to precisely three streets; Fanshawe St, which will be mostly bus lanes, Cook St directed insanely to the heart of the city, and Shelly Beach Rd leading to Jervois and Ponsonby Rds. That traffic jam yesterday? It’ll be like that every day.

    Of course if we built Rapid Transit tunnels instead, the growth in trips across the harbour would be in people arriving in the city and city fringe without their cars, and in traffic on the newly built Western Ring Route, also there would be a sizeable reduction in buses on the Bridge, Fanshawe St and the rest of the city. And of course all the other advantages. Lift your game NZTA; there is more than the State Highway network planning at stake here; there’s the very condition and value of the city that this project enormously affects.

  • Bruce

    First point…. most people working in the city that drove would have already been in by the time this all happened so you are talking about a much smaller amount of traffic…but it must have been nice.

    Going forward perhaps there does need to be some form of additional law protecting PT Right of Ways (bus lanes/LR lanes) to the point that it is illegal for non-PT related protests to block those specific lanes (by that I mean a protest about the TPPA for example shouldn’t be allowed to block PT lanes, while a strike by drivers about conditions possibly should – or not). This way PT isn’t affected but other vehicles are. In this circumstance of course police would have to be on to it to make sure that other vehicles aren’t using the PT lanes to bypass protesters.

    Yesterday NEX was effectively shut down due to the protesters. That shouldn’t have happened.

    Oh an we have already discussed left-turn slip lanes and there is ZERO evidence that they actually improve pedestrian safety… in fact there is anecdotal evidence that their removal actually makes for a less safe experience (pedestrians have to wait longer since cars need longer to get through the intersection due to the removal of the slip lane and the crossing takes longer as they can’t partially cross the road to the traffic island meaning they often jay-walk – something which most people don’t have a problem with but from a safety point of view it isn’t ideal).

    • Well my confusion was why block PT? Most protesters were probably coming in by PT and effectively being blocked out lol. I had a hell of a time yesterday getting to shore, my train to Britomart was all good, but then no NEX so caught the Devonport ferry, and of cause the NZ Bus strike/meeting meant i had to wait hours for a bus connection to Takapuna… which ended up happening around school going out so it took like 45 min to get to Takapuna… and of cause the bus was overloaded thanks to there being no buses for hours before.

      If I had known all this I would of just caught the train to Henderson and caught the 130 which would of saved me like 2-3 hours.

    • Nick

      Bruce, I don’t think we need another law making it illegal to block PT. Presumably at the moment it is illegal to sit down in the middle of intersections and block them to traffic, yet that is what happened yesterday. There are already sufficient laws in place. It will always be up to the police to decide the best course of action on the day to minimise risk. Sometimes, like yesterday, that involves letting people get away with it rather than piling in and forcibly removing them / arresting them

      • Bruce

        Yes I imagine that it would be already illegal to block a road but then again most protests do take over roads. My point is that there should be a law specifically about blocking PT as this has a huge effect that isn’t necessary. If it is well known that blocking PT routes specifically is illegal and that police will move people/arrest them immediately for doing so then that would solve that problem whilst still allowing them to protest otherwise.

      • Apparently blocking local roads is OK to the police, but state roads, nope, they were brutal to the ones trying to block the off-ramps.

        • jezza

          But more of a risk to life and limb having people wander onto a motorway, also it’s illegal to be on a motorway as a pedestrian, irrespective of whether they are blocking it or not.

          • Yeah well I guess that is due to the volume of cars or something? The majority of state highway in the Auckland region isn’t classed as “motorway” and has higher speed limits (100km/h) then the sections they were attempting to protest on (80km/h).

          • • SH18 upper harbour highway (1.7KM)
            • SH20A (4.7KM)
            • SH20B (5.2KM)
            • SH22 (14.5KM)
            • SH1 between the Johnstone Toll Tunnels & Te Hana to the regional border (46.4KM)
            • SH16 between Whenuapai & Wellsford (84.1KM)
            • TOTAL non-motorway SH: 156.8KM

            • SH1 between Bombay and Johnstone Toll Tunnels (85.5KM)
            • SH16 between Grafton Gully and Whenuapai (20.9KM)
            • SH18 between Westgate and Upper harbour highway (11.4KM)
            • SH20 between Mt Roskill and Manakau (18.6KM)
            • TOTAL motorway SH: 136.4KM

          • Bruce

            Peter, pretty sure Upper Harbour Highway is a motorway that is unless the “Motorway Begins” signs are just for show?

          • Dion

            Peter is referring to the 1.7km stretch of state highway 18 (still known as the Upper Harbour Highway) between Albany Highway and State Highway 1 which is not a motorway. The rest of State Highway 18 is listed as a motorway in Peter’s list.

    • mfwic

      That’s funny. Wish I had put this comment up but I would have turned it around- allow protesters to block buses but take a firm hand against anyone who blocks us important people in our cars. I missed a troll opportunity.

  • les jones

    I cycled in to the march using the magenta way and Nelson st. For a hilly city like Auckland it is a very gentle gradient. It is great to see cycleways springing up but most of them are recreational or away from roads. The revolutionary thing about the Nelson St section is that a lane has been taken away from cars and been given to cycles. The true strength of cycling lies within the 1 to 5 kilometre range therefore the place to build cycle ways is within that range of the cbd, which Nelson St is. The routes alongside the nw motorway are ok for rugged long distance commuters but Auckland will only be a true bike city when close-in roads have good safe cycle paths.

  • Alex

    AT already buckled under pressure from the minority of High Street retailers who insist of keeping pedestrian out and cars in. Until we get a leader that has got the courage to actually oppose the minority, i aint holding my breath for major roads being pedestrian friendly.

    • kelvin

      Try it for a day during the week first and review the result. Prehaps the stores will change their mind.

      • David B.

        Good idea kelvin, although in truth I don’t agree that retail tenants should be responsible for urban planning, nor should they have the ability to commandeer public space for their private parking.

        Generally car-free spaces are lovely, but I think the CBD area could do with many more public spaces, and a coordinated plan of creating some new spaces (like behind Britomart) along with closing about 50% of CBD streets to motorised traffic could make for a truly people-friendly and vibrant inner city.

        Another related thing I can recommend – try walking or biking along Tamaki Drive just after the Round The Bays run but before it so hastily reopens to traffic. It’s beautiful for about one hour every year on this day, clear of noise, danger and pollution. Enjoy that and think of what our prime waterfront path could be like all the time.

  • mfwic

    I have real concerns about TPPA (and I support free trade) but after getting stuck in traffic leaving a meeting at 130pm I decided I hope the Government finds a TPPB deal and signs that too. WTF is the point of stopping people who are not responsible for signing the thing and buggering up our afternoon? Do they hope to convince someone of their viewpoint?

    • John Lawson

      I support free trade too, but not giving multi-nationals the means of moving production to the lowest wages, with the lowest standards. That was the view of most of the 25,000 in Auckland yesterday. The government must have known there’d be disruptive protests. Why did they pick the centre of Auckland on a weekday?

      • Alex

        I think the government though that the protest would be relatively smaller than those who turned up yesterday and did not expect that until the last few days before the signing.

        Plus for those who are complaining about traffic yesterday… YOU WERE WARNED ABOUT THE PROTEST… YOU WERE WARN NOT TO ENTER THE CBD IN CARS. Unless you were living under a rock, you should have known that it would be impossible to traverse the CBD during that time and should have planned alternate route our alternate plan.

        • mfwic

          I have no problem with a march. So I went around the CBD to the meeting (arranged by clients). There were some numpties blocking roads when I left who made me feel that if they are against the deal then perhaps I should change my view and be for it. I formed my views on Irish Republicanism the same way. I had no idea about it until they closed the London rail system down. Since then I have been in favour of anything that annoys them.

        • Tony F

          > YOU WERE WARNED ABOUT THE PROTEST… YOU WERE WARN NOT TO ENTER THE CBD IN CARS.

          That doesn’t change anything though…the protestors had no right or authority to tell people what they could or couldn’t do. The drivers had just as much right to be in the CBD as the protestors did…In fact the drivers had more right to be there as they weren’t breaking any laws. The events of yesterday have set a concerning precedent…

          • What concerning precedent might that be? Peaceful protest?

          • John Lawson

            When 25,000 feel strongly enough about something to spend a day protesting, what can you do about it, except defuse the situation, or police as in many undemocratic states? The government should have held the signing in a remote part of the country, or on a navy ship, which would have saved a lot of police resources and disruption. The only benefit is that we’ve seen how pleasant many streets can be without traffic. It’s a further incentive to look at how that benefit can be experienced more often and more widely.

          • mfwic

            Peaceful is letting other people know your view by marching. What is peaceful about detaining other people? They didn’t use weapons but they still illegally detained us.

      • jezza

        25,000? The latest I heard was there were 7.2 million people protesting in the CBD yesterday.

  • Bryan

    I noticed an AT person on the Britomart platform giving a stern warning to some TPPA protesters to keep their placards furled on the train (4:50 to Swanson), or they’d be walking home.

  • kelvin

    What AT should do is, shutdown car traffic to queen street every friday night till monday.

    Then they can:
    1. Put some beanbags and planters,
    2. Encourage and invite performance artists (like the buskers).
    3. Allow the foodtruck and food stalls to operate in the middle of the street
    4. Only allow Link bus and emergcy vehicle to pass slowly as shared road (one link every 7 min wouldn’t be so bad)

  • Angus Robertson

    “What the protests showed us yesterday is that almost completely shutting many roads in the city didn’t cause the sky to suddenly fall in.”

    What the [bus strike] showed us yesterday is that almost completely shutting many [bus routes into] the city didn’t cause the sky to suddenly fall in.

    • Ben

      Maybe because nothing can get in or out of the cbd haha. But in seriousness if that happened during rushed hour, it would be Rugby World Cup deja vu chaos for PT.

  • Tony F

    CRL and Light Rail would be very vulnerable in a protest situation but hopefully the police would prioritize them and remove anyone who tries to block them (like they did with the motorway yesterday). The right to protest does not include the right to break laws, so anyone blocking a road could be arrested, but it’s usually not worth it because cars can easily find an alternative route. With rail or light rail though, the impacts of disruption are enormous, and it should be obvious to anyone (unless they are a completely self-absorbed prat) that needlessly disrupting tens of thousands of people is completely unacceptable. Overseas, if protestors start blocking public transport systems then they’re viewed as nothing more than anarchists and are immediately arrested, and no one tries to kick up a fuss about infringing their rights because people realize that it causes a totally unjustifiable impact on thousands of people. I worry that in NZ though, the media will dream up the ‘right to shut down the entire PT system’ which will just further damage the reputation of public transport and discourage people from switching away from auto-dependency.

  • Lloyd C

    If they blocked an underground train station it wouldn’t take too many tear gas cannisters to clear them out. I’m suprised the protesters didn’t just target Skycity and cause carnage for them.

  • Ray M

    What I’d like to know is why with people illegally blocking roads etc the cops managed to make no arrests at all. People deciding to shut down traffic to make a point should expect to be arrested. If they actively or passively resist then the arrest may turn out to not be a pleasant business. In the end all the cops did was prevent the protestors being hurt by drivers who decided to move them out of the way. I needed to get from the uni to Wynyard Quarter and it took an age thanks to a bunch of people who really had not idea what they were protesting against anyway. The biggest issue with TPPA is that it is not a real free trade deal as USA, Canada and Japan refuse to compete in dairy.

  • Jeff T

    Fly them down to Wellington for the signing. As many in New Zealand say, ‘not everything is about Auckland’. I would have been more than happy for this to have taken place somewhere other than Auckland.

    No disruption to trains, I see. Great way to travel!

  • Ted F

    What would happen if the vehicle speed in the city were to be reduced to a walking pace. Do away with any 50kph areas and limit the whole CBD to say4mph whatever that is in kph or nearest click on the speedo. Reason being that the roads would then be more like the shared pavements they were in the horse and cart days they were built for, traffic would be more human scale and the isolation of drivers from pedestrians and others would be reduced.

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