Photo of the day: Mitre 10′s bike parking

The other weekend I went to the Mitre 10 Mega in Wairau Road to pick up some building supplies. To my surprise, they’ve put in a bike rack near the store entrance. I’m not sure how much use it’s going to get given the aggressive traffic environment on Wairau Road – but someone’s obviously given it a go!

Perhaps Mitre 10 should consider following the lead of IKEA’s Danish stores and renting out cargo bikes to let their cycling customers move bigger loads.

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Queens Wharf Traffic Changes

In accessing Queens wharf on foot most people flow straight from the intersection of Queen St and Quay St as it is the most direct route. The only problem is that it’s also the entrance and exit on to the wharf for vehicles which often dominate the area. This is something I’ve written about before.

Queens Wharf Car Access 2

Thankfully Auckland Transport are finally going to do something about making the area safer for pedestrians by shifting the vehicle access to the east.

The changes will involve:

  • Removal of the Quay Street right hand turn onto Queens Wharf
  • Removal of the traffic lights from the current vehicle entrance onto Queens Wharf which will only be available for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Relocation of the vehicle entrance to Queens Wharf eastwards which will not be signalised
  • Vehicles exiting Queens Wharf can only turn left onto Quay Street
  • Vehicles entering Queens Wharf must be traveling from the west, and must turn left off Quay Street onto the wharf

This is a good outcome and it’s good to see Auckland Transport finally doing this. It should help towards making Queens Wharf a nicer place for people to be. The changes are also shown below.

Quay St entrance to Queens Wharf

Weather permitting work starts on making this change tomorrow night.

Wynyard Cycling Complaints

The new Waterfront Promenade linking the Harbour Bridge to Wynyard Quarter will be fantastic when finished later this year however its completion will leave a gap in the network through Wynyard Quarter itself. Auckland Transport and Waterfront Auckland are going to be fixing that gap through the addition of some separated cycleways and shared paths through the area.

Increasingly, more people are choosing to cycle to work or for fun. The creation of cycle paths through Wynyard Quarter supports this and makes it easier to get around.

The vision is to provide a world-class facility connecting the North Shore (via SkyPath), Herne Bay, and Ponsonby, with the CBD and Tamaki Drive.

Separated cycle paths will go along Beaumont Street and Madden Street.

A shared pedestrian and cycle path will go along Westhaven Drive and the western end of Gaunt Street to Daldy Street, where it will connect with the Daldy Street Linear Park.

Wynyard Quarter Cycling Routes

More separated cycleways as well as filling in holes in the network are obviously a good thing but as you can expect not everyone is happy about it.

The prospect of a cycleway in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter has fired up members of the marine industry.

The plan would mean reducing the number of parking spaces in the area and that’s got some business people worrying about their futures.

Marine Industry Association executive director Peter Busfield supports the idea of a cycleway linking up the waterfront but not if it keeps customers away.

If customers can’t park nearby they won’t come and businesses will close, he said.

“When someone comes to get a propeller repaired they need to put it in their car and drive to the shop. You can’t put it on a bus or take it on a bicycle.”

[...]

Stephen Harris is the owner of Auckland Engineering Supplies and said the proposal to replace parking spaces on the west side of Beaumont St with a dedicated cycleway would “absolutely kill the business”.

It’s not surprising to see a business complaining about the loss of parking as it seems to happen everywhere cycling infrastructure is proposed however if a simple cycle lane is going to kill his business then I’d suggest the business isn’t that going that well in the first place. The talk of lost carparks is even odder for two reasons. First of all the building in the photo with the article its own customer parking on the roof.

Wynyard Quarter Marine Industry Cycling complaint

And secondly there is still proposed to be parking on the eastern side of the street according to this map from Auckland Transport.

Wynyard Quarter Parking

Perhaps the one thing that could be questioned is whether the western side of Beaumount is the right place for a separated cycleway.

Harkin New Zealand managing director Gary Lock said there are several other routes where a cycleway could go. It’s unsafe to mix heavy vehicles and cyclists, he said.

“It’s an industrial marine zone. You’ve got to protect the cyclists, especially if you’ve got kids and parents cycling.

“Most of the people who turn into the driveways are trade-related or driving heavy vehicles and they will have to turn across the cycleway.”

Ovlov Marine co-owner Lachlan Trembath agrees safety and customer access should come first.

I can only assume the western side was chosen to allow for access from Silo Park to the promenade without having to cross roads.

Like many other businesses in New Zealand when it comes to cycling, I suspect that the marine industry can’t see past the status quo.

Cycling and public transport are good activities but you’ve got to have time, he said. No-one’s going to cycle to Beaumont St to pick up a pail of oil or an outboard, he said.

Large heavy and bulky items might not be ideal to transport on a bike but I would bet there are a huge number of other products sold by the businesses along Beaumont St that would be easily transportable by bike back to the marina once the promenade if complete.

I’m going to predict that at worst these cycleways aren’t going to do anything to harm the local businesses and if anything might even gain them some new customers from people riding past.

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.

Britomart Pl 4

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.

Cycling in Manukau

Last week I looked at how hard it was to safely walk around Manukau City. Today I am going to look at the cycling infrastructure that has been provided.

On the various regional cycle network maps a lovely grid of completed cycling facilities is shown (solid lines).

Manukau Cycle Network

 

This is a 2011 version, but can’t fund anything newer on the Auckland Transport website. All the dark red lines are existing facilities, which are fully complete as far as AT is concerned. However the reality is somewhat different. Luckily I was walking around Manukau when I took these pictures, because I sure wouldn’t have wanted to bike along any of them, even though I am quite a confident cyclist.

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This is Manukau Station Road. For starters a narrow painted lane with no buffer is totally inappropriate for a road that is signposted at 60kmh.

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Things quickly go from bad to worse. While running cycle lanes through bus stops isn’t great practice it is rather common place in Auckland. However is this is not just a bus stop where a bus stops momentarily, it is a bus layover area where buses park up for extended periods of time. Potentially even hours. So anytime a bus is parked here people cycling have to veer out into 60kmh traffic.

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This is Manukau Station Road again, between the MIT campus and the council offices on the left. The cycle lane just suddenly ends without warning, and there is not even a ramp that leads to the path to allow people to leave the road safely. It seems as though a dedicated right hand turn lane is more important than safe cycling

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This is Manukau Station Road at Lambie Drive. The motorway on-ramp is straight ahead so people cycling need to turn left or right here. The little green patches show a narrow cycle lane up against the kerb on the left hand side. Then there is another cycle lane starting in the foreground of the picture. However to get between the two you have to veer across 2 lanes of 60kmh plus traffic. Again totally unacceptable.

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This is now on Great South Road. The cycle lane is less than 1m wide. Note to designers, if you are struggling to fit the bike stencil in the lane it is definitely way too narrow. Cyclists have to chose between riding close to the debris filled drain on one side, and fast traffic on the other side.

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Also on Great South Road by Redoubt Road. Again have cycle lane that is about 1m wide with no buffer next to 3 lanes of fast traffic. Again cyclists have to cross several lanes of traffic to keep going straight ahead.

These issues are of course not unique to Manukau, and I’m sure anyone that rides a bike could tell you there are serious issues all over the city. However Manukau probably the worst example of a “completed grid” that is complete rubbish. Unsurprisingly the lanes are a total failure and it is rare to see people cycling here.

This highlights a big problem with the 1000km Regional Cycle Network that Auckland Transport claims is 30% complete. Very little of this 30% is actually up to scratch once you discount shared paths through reserves. At least 5% of the network is bus lanes (not great), or even transit lanes (awful) so none of that should be counted. Then there are the many painted sections that are narrow, unsafe and disappear without warning. Bike lanes like this can be worse than nothing, as they force cyclists weave and merge into moving traffic, rather than just staying in the traffic lane and making drivers overtake. Of course this style of cycling is only for the brave, and will never get more than a hardcore cycling in these conditions. Cycling should be a relaxing everyday activity, not an adrenaline rush for the fearless.

With the opening of our first section of urban separated cycleway on Beach Road next week lets hope Auckland Transport has turned it’s back of the pre-amalgamation ways of doing things. Successful cycling requires build cycling infrastructure that everyone is able to comfortably cycle in.

Vancouver has it spot on with their Transportation 2040 Plan:

 

C 1.1. Build cycling routes that feel comfortable for people of all ages and abilities

Many people are interested in cycling but are afraid of motor vehicle traffic. For cycling to be a viable and mainstream transportation choice, routes should feel comfortable and low-stress for people of all ages and abilities, including children, the elderly, and novice cyclists.

Design details depend on a variety of factors, but especially motor vehicle speeds and volumes. Bicycle routes on arterials and other busy streets should be physically separated wherever possible. Routes on neighbourhood streets may require traffic restrictions, speed management and/or parking restrictions to ensure comfort for a broad range of users. Designs should ensure sufficient visibility at intersections and driveways, and minimize the potential for conflicts with car doors, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Other factors to consider include topography—by providing well-marked alternative routes around steep hills, for example—and requirements for un-conventional bikes and other forms of active transportation, including recumbents, cargo cycles, bikes with trailers, and skateboards.

The last few months has seem much more positivity about cycling from Auckland Transport and Auckland Council with talk of separated lanes along Nelson Street and a trial along Karangahape Road. Over the next year we should see if results on the ground match this rhetoric.

Auckland Transport August Board Meeting

The Auckland Transport board meeting is today and below are the bits and pieces from the reports that caught my attention.

First up as usual there are a number of items in the closes session of the meeting that it would be very interesting to see the details about. These are

  • Ferry Services Contract
  • EMU Implementation
  • Tiverton/Wolverton
  • City Centre Access Options
  • Mill Road
  • Parking Services report
  • AT HOP Update
  • Rail Operations shortlisting

On to the Chief Executives report. These are generally just in the order they come up in the report.

AT are working with some of the teams from the HackAKL event and two of the top five teams will have a completed concept within three months.

Discussions have been held with the top 5 teams, 2 have progressed to a stage where the concept will be completed inside of 3 months, with the help of AT. The other 3 in the top 5 are still discussing within themselves how to progress. As well an additional application (hop Balance) from one of the other groups has been launched. We are still restricted in the data that we can make available, PT is working on this with the bus operators.

AT are creating a customer charter which includes specific measures that cover PT, roading, walking and cycling and they say they have been looking overseas to find out what the best practices are. They say the draft versions of the charters will go to a board committee in October. I think a customer charter with specific measures is a good thing and I would hope that there is some consultation from the public on final versions.

AT will be holding a consultation in late September on the rehabilitation of Franklin Rd and surrounding streets. They say Major focuses for the consultation include maintaining the heritage value of the
road (including the trees), parking, a lowered speed zone, walking and cycling. 

A detailed business case will finally be done for the East West Link. It’s something I would have thought should have happened long before it was moved near to the top of the priorities list.

AT say the Environment Court appeal against the Silverdale Park n Ride might delay construction till the next financial year (i.e. after July next year).

 

On the EMUs there were 22 in the country at the time of writing the report however some more arrived yesterday and provisional acceptance had been issued for 18 of them. After the August summer holidays production will be ramped up as the intention is that by the end of the year we will get four delivered a month instead of the current two per month. On the issues with the over cautious signalling system they say

The ETCS system has been modified by reducing the driver warning before curves and other infrastructure features and the resulting improvement in running times.

 

As part of the Otahuhu Bus Train Interchange AT are looking at connections to and from the station. The report notes that this will include additional bus priority and improved walking and cycling connections.

At Panmure the new road alongside the tracks is almost finished and due to open to use at the end of September. It’s been called Te Horeta Rd. The image below is from the board report showing the road and it’s looking very much like a mini motorway although I would be happy to be proven wrong once it’s finished.

AMETI - Te Horeta Rd from AT Board Report

HOP use keeps on growing which is a great sign. Overall 67% of trips were paid for with HOP which was up from 65% in June. By mode bus was up from 62% to 65% while rail was up from 75% to 76%. In some ways this is not surprising given the changes in fares that occurred and means the trend of increasing HOP card usage is likely to continue. They also say a strategic business case as well as revenue and patronage modelling for integrated fares is almost complete.

2014 - August - HOP Card graphs

Perhaps the biggest news from the report is about the next train timetable which is now targeted for November

Finalisation with KiwiRail and Transdev of the new timetable to support the increased frequency of Manukau services and the introduction of an EMU weekend timetable was progressed in July and early August. This provides 6 trains per hour from Manukau in the peak period and 3 trains per hour in the interpeak and off-peak, with weekends going to a 30 minute service plan. When the timetable commences, diesel shuttle services will run an hourly service between Pukekohe and Papakura on Saturdays and Sundays and connect with arriving/departing EMUs at Papakura. The target date for the timetable introduction is early November following progressive replacement within the existing timetable of diesel rolling stock with EMUs on the Manukau Line.

Some good news about the look of buses in the future with AT developing what sounds like a region wide design. This is long overdue although I’m sure some operators won’t be happy (I for one can’t wait to see the back of the horrid Birkenhead bus livery). They say the starting point for the new livery is based off the design used on the electric trains and the livery will be included in the future operator contracts which will be rolled out with the new network.

AT say they are also working on a wayfinding system which is something long overdue.

July 14 Patronage results

The patronage results for July are now available and they show another strong month of growth.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 72,740,387 passengers for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +0.5% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +5.9% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. July monthly patronage was 6,268,752, an increase of 343,651 boardings or +5.8% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +5.4% accounting for additional special event patronage only, same number of business and weekend days in Jul-2014 compared to Jul-2013.

Rail patronage totalled 11,552,643 passengers for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +14.4% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Patronage for Jul-2014 was 1,089,839, an increase of 117,561 boardings or +12.1% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +9.9%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,460,177 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014), an increase of +1.4% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +7.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jul-2014 was 233,814, an increase of 33,433 boardings or +16.7% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +15.2%.

Other bus services carried 53,653,594 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +4.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jul-2014 was 4,578,804, an increase of 228,637 boardings or +5.3% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +5.2%.

Ferry services carried 5,073,973 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014, a decrease of -0.7% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and an increase +1.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jul-2014 was 366,295, a decrease of -35,980 boardings or -8.9% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ -8.9% (no special events).

14 - July AK Patronage table

14 - July AK Annual Patronage

Again it’s the rail network showing the most growth up 13% with the 12 month rolling total up 14.4%. One of the interesting aspects about this result is the Western Line managed a 14.2% increase despite there being no additional services other than half hourly services on Weekends in October last year. The Onehunga line continues to show strong growth since it was converted to using electric trains – although part of the month saw the old diesels return as Auckland Transport and others try to address some ongoing power supply issues. The most impressive result was on Manukau services in the first full month that the new MIT campus was completed. Patronage on those services was up over 26% and it will be interesting to see if that level of growth continues.

14 - July AK Rail Patronage

To highlight the growth that’s occurring this graph shows the average patronage on each weekday which since July last year has risen from just under 37,500 to about 42,000 per day. AT say that on average seven services per day are over the planned capacity ratio of four people standing for every 10 sitting while a further six were very near to that level

14 - July weekday average

While the rail network is increasing the fastest the biggest growth by overall number continues to be the bus network which was up 5.8% when you combine the Northern Express with other bus services. The graph below shows the NEX patronage while the one after shows the average weekday patronage for the other bus services

14 - NEX Patronage

14 - July other bus weekday average

As AT said last month, from now they have finally dropped the self-reported bus reliability and punctuality stats and have instead moved to reporting them using the on-board GPS tracking equipment. A separate report on the stats highlights the reasons why the old self-reported stats were so high.

Under existing contracts, bus operators provided AT with a monthly service delivery report. Two main variants of contract exist: ‘North Auckland Spine’ (~5% of services), and the remainder (~70% of services). Commercial services (~25% services) are exempt from performance reporting. The majority of contracts reported contracted performance rather than actual customer experience, i.e. excluded trips where performance was impacted by factors outside of operator control e.g. adverse weather, exceptional passenger loadings and significant traffic congestion, resulting in artificially high performance reports. Various metrics were used including reliability at within 30 minutes of start of trip.

Reliability and punctuality has been predominantly monitored through manual self-reporting systems. AT has been working with operators to transition to an automated system based on actual performance data generated from new GPS-tracking equipment. Reporting reliability and punctuality using GPS-tracked performance data will commence from 1 July.

New and consistent, PTOM KPIs will be reported – reliability (trips started within 10 minutes of schedule and completed) and punctuality (trips started within 5 minutes of schedule). In future punctuality at points through the trip and at the final destination will also be measured.

This new methodology reports on customer experience with no exclusions or exemptions such as congestion or adverse weather. An expected punctuality is 100% at start of first each duty timetable trip (operator reaching the trip start) and for all other trips, allowing for an element of average statistical non-performance from outlying high congestion, poor weather, accidents, etc, and compounded where successive trips are linked, 95% at trip start for non-right-of-way (mixed with traffic) and 98% for right-of-way (busway) services.

As a result of no exceptions, the GPS-tracked reliability and punctuality will be lower than previously reported, however performance data collected will permit improvements in service delivery through an ongoing iterative programme of six to twelve monthly timetable reviews.

It’s almost unbelievable that operators were allowed to ignore commercial services, services with lots of passengers, services caught in congestion or results when the weather was bad and it’s no wonder they always managed 99% of services on time. Like the self-reported stats this only reports buses based on when they start their run however AT say they are also looking at performance based on certain timing points too. Below is the punctuality results for July compared to December last year which I assume was when AT finalised their tracking methodology.

14 - Bus Punctuality

So Airbus, the service you probably most want to be on time has the worst performance. This graph shows how the performance has changed since December.

14 - Bus Punctuality graph

The PTOM target is the target that will apply once the new contracts are rolled out as part of the new network. They say that performance above or below the target will be subject to financial bonus or deductions so based on the info above I bet all the operators are happy those contracts aren’t in force yet. The same also applies to bus reliability (whether the bus even starts it’s run) for which there will be financial deductions for results less than 98% with again no operators yet meeting that level.

14 - Bus Reliability graph

It’s great to finally have some proper visibility around this and something we’ve only been calling for for about 3 years.

The biggest downside to Julys results was with cycling numbers which were down 21% on last July for some reason (despite what the text in the report says). If anyone has any reasons they might have fallen so much please let us know in the comments but a quick check shows that July was drier than normal with rainfall in Auckland at only 50-79% of an average July.

14 - July cycling

Walking in Manukau

Just over a month ago I was out at Manukau City, at the open day of the new MIT, which doubles as Manukau station. This is a brilliant facility, with world class integration of land use and transport. If you haven’t been out to check it out, you really should. Very impressive coming up the escalators from the station and straight into the concourse of the campus. If you haven’t been there my fellow blogger Patrick has a post with an excellent photo essay of the new campus.

After looking at the campus I decided to go for a walk around the wider area. Note the whole time I was within the Manukau Metropolitan Centre, and less than 800m from the station entrance. This is an area with a wide variety of shops, apartments, restaurants, offices and services including a large Westfield Mall, courts, MIT and AUT campuses and Rainbows End.. It would certainly be reasonable to expect people to walk from the station (soon to be joined by neighbouring bus interchange) to any of these areas, following the route I took. Would also be very reasonable to walk between any of these activities which is what would usually happen in an urban environment. Manukau is also one of the premier Metropolitan Centres outlined by the council in the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plan, so the pedestrian environment should be of a high standard.

Manukau aerial

However unfortunately what I found was just plain awful, dangerous and embarrassing to roading engineers everywhere (yes I know there are good ones, but your colleagues are largely responsible). These are the 7 photo locations overlaid on a council aerial photo.

This is Great South Road. Almost adjacent to Westfield Mall. Totally out of scale for what should be an urban street, especially considering there is an 8 lane motorway 200 metres away!

 

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Picture 1

This is on Lambie Drive, within 400 metres of Manukau station, and is on what might seem to be an obvious walking route from the station to the Supa Centre, which contains a large amount of big box retail shops. But no consideration given to anyone who might want to go shopping who does not have access to a car (or even chooses not to drive!).

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Picture 2

But it gets more embarrassing. Half way along this missing footpath are a few pram-ramps longing for a footpath. Great ‘future proofing’, but ridiculous that the footpath didn’t follow.

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Picture 3

This is the roundabout at the corner of Cavendish and Lambie Drives. Like many roundabouts in suburban centres it is designed for speeding truck and trailer units. This of course means usual cars travel very fast around the roundabout. To get the other side one pretty much has to run to the island. People that are elderly or infirm, well, too bad. If you want to visit the Red Cross(!) on the other side of road, get a taxi!

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Picture 4

This is Davies Avenue. Doesn’t look anything out of the ordinary for Auckland. However this is a brand new street, that has just had a large amount of money spent on traffic calming. However that calming still required 2 turning lanes, and no zebra to allow people to safely cross the road.

 

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Picture 5

This is Manukau Station Road. Up until 5 years ago this was Wiri Station Road, and also State Highway 20. This meant people on the motorway at Manukau needed to drive along here to head towards the airport. However this has been bypassed by a large motorway, 300m to the south. However no attempt has been made to calm the road to match the vastly reduced traffic volume. Probably could close half the road and it would be fine. While this road may be ok in an industrial area, once again this is a few hundred metres from the station and mall. There is also a very good reason to walk along here, and that is Rainbows End, just out of sight to the right of the picture. Only 500m from Manukau Station, and could be good patronage generator. However no chance when people have to walk along a miserable highway that barely caters for pedestrians.

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Picture 6

This is the main entrance to Rainbows End, looking back towards the mall. While there is a signalised crossing, there is only a pedestrian crossing on one out of 4 of the intersection legs. Again what should theoretically be an obvious walking route is awful for pedestrians, and thus encourages more people to drive.

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Picture 7

If Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are serious about making Manukau one of the key Metropolitan Centres in the region, they really need to fix totally unacceptable pedestrian environments like this. I would also hope that Auckland Transport realises fixing these issues would help drive public transport patronage, by increasing the reasonable walking catchment. Acceptable walking distance is heavily dictated by the form of the urban environment, and in places this bad people will be put off walking 100m. Sadly Auckland Transport seem to totally ignore walking as a mode of transport, and don’t bother fixing these type of environments.

Some readers of the blog may also be interested in what it is like to cycle around Manukau. The Regional Cycle Network suggests there is a great connected cycling grid, however I can tell you it would certainly be worse than walking. I’ll blog those pictures next week.

 

ACT promises to abolish helmet laws

Cycling seems to be the issue of the week so far. We’ve had Skypath and the Northcote cycle routes followed by National then announced an urban cycling policy which finally seems them agree that urban cycling improvements are needed. Now ACT have joined in on the debate by promising to abolish compulsory helmet laws.

ACT’s plan to double cycle use without spending taxpayers’ money

“The National party yesterday announced a $100 million cycle-way that just happens to go through the marginal seat of Hutt South” said ACT Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.

“The Greens want to spend many hundreds of millions on cycle-ways. ACT’s contribution to this bidding war for the cyclist vote would double cycle use and cost nothing” said Dr Whyte.

“We need only abolish the law that makes wearing a cycle helmet compulsory. Since 1994, when Parliament established an instant fine of $150 for failing to wear a helmet, cycling has declined by over 50%. Overseas experience also indicates that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet dramatically reduce cycling. This nanny state law does not even save lives” said Dr Whyte. “On the contrary, it costs lives. Before the legislation, few people died from cycling accidents and, of those who did, only 20% died from head injuries alone.”

” Research reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal (see http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/125-1349/5046/) shows that, over a 10 year period, only 20 Aucklanders were killed in cycle accidents and only 4 might have been saved by wearing cycle helmets. This same New Zealand Medical Journal article concluded that life years gained from the health benefits of cycling outweighed life years lost in accidents by 20 times” said Dr Whyte.

“The diminished health resulting from the reduced cycling caused by compulsory helmet-wearing costs 53 premature deaths a year. ACT would simply abolish the $150 fines for not wearing a helmet. That would save $100 million on cycle-ways in marginal seats, double cycle use and save 53 lives a year” said Dr Whyte

I don’t think that removing the helmet laws would see a doubling of cycle use primarily because it won’t do anything to address the reality that our roads aren’t safe to use. The perception of roads being unsafe is often cited as the biggest reason why people don’t cycling despite many people having bikes in their garages. That doesn’t mean I don’t think removing the helmet law shouldn’t happen, in fact quite the opposite. This post a few months ago looks at some of evidence mounting against requiring mandatory helmets.

Now if only we could pick and choose individual policies. A big step up in cycle infrastructure funding along with removing the helmet requirements would be a great combination.

O’Connell St shared space is wonderful, but

Over the weekend the latest shared space in the city was completed, on O’Connell Street. This joins the growing network of shared spaces with Lorne Street, Elliott St, Darby St, Fort St and the also recently completed Federal Street. I would argue that O’Connell Street is the best one yet. The new paved look beautifully matches the scale of the street and period buildings. The street is also all activated frontages with no parking buildings that cause issues on some of the other spaces at peak times.

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O’Connell Street on late Sunday afternoon

 

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A great feature is that all of the benches have little historic stories in the street. Several focussed on how the area was viewed negatively for so long. Another bench notes how the street was widened by 50% in the 1920′s, with buildings from the 1840′s demolished for this to occur. However this can party explain the wonderful character of the street.

 

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O’Connell St on Monday lunchtime

 

Even though the street had been a construction site for 6 months until a few days ago, the street was buzzing with people yesterday lunchtime. A couple of cafes on the street had already set up tables on the street, and I’m sure more will follow. People we also sitting on the benches reading or otherwise relaxing. Overall had a wonderful atmosphere.

For a comparison, this is what O’Connell Street looked like at the start of the year.

O'Connell St

 

A contributing reason for the great atmosphere was that workers were still touching up a few small things, therefore street was still closed to general traffic. However as soon as barriers were removed even briefly, people drove through, and straight away someone was taking advantage of the free parking on offer. I understand later in the afternoon the street was fully opened for general traffic and there were some issues with cars driving too fast.

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It is worthwhile pointing out that their are no vehicles entrances on the street, and no carparks. Therefore the only reason cars need to be on the street is for deliveries, which certainly are essential.

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This sign from the end of the street makes clear that deliveries should occur between 6am and 11am. So therefore after 11am their are no reasons for cars to be on the street at all. So we really need to ask the question as to why general traffic is allowed at all. The only use is as a rat-run, or for people circling around looking for parking, both pointless activities. So why not shut the street from 11am everyday, or even better have bollards to allow deliveries only between 6am and 11am, so no general traffic is allowed at all. This will not mean any money has been wasted, but will allow the full potential of the space to be used everyday.