2016 – A Year in Review Part 2 – Walking and Cycling

This is Part 2 of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at Walking and Cycling. You can see Part 1 on public transport here.

We finished 20156 with the fantastic Lightpath and Nelson St cycleway and 2016 kicked on from there with more good progress – including right at the end of the year AT announcing the completion of the Nelson St route, something I’ll cover in the new year. So, here’s my summary.

Quay St cycleway

We ended 2015 with consultation on the Quay St cycleway and by July this year it was officially opened by then Prime Minister John Key, Transport Minister Simon Bridges and former Mayor Len Brown.

A number of cycleways have automated counters, and AT have installed more to help measure the impacts of unprecedented investment currently going in but the Quay St cycleway is the first in Auckland to have a counter on it showing how many trips there have been. And the number of trips has been rising steadily. In October just under three months after opening the counter hit 50,000. Then just another two months later it reached the 100,000 milestone. With the warmer weather the daily numbers have been frequently above 1,000 and so it’s possible we’ll see it surpass 200,000 before the end of summer.

In further good news, AT announced that work starts in February to extend cycleway to just short of the intersection with The Strand and will be extended past that as part of the Eastern Path project.

Skypath

In the middle of 2015 we were ecstatic when Skypath was granted consent but we expected appeals from a very small but vocal group of people who opposed it, primarily on Northcote Point. And as expected, those appeals came. During 2016 two of the three groups opposing the project dropped their appeals. That left just one small group of local residents to take the fight to the environment court in November. But only a few days in the judge stopped the hearing and verbally said the consent would be issued, and without any of the crazy demands the opponents to the project were seeking.

In mid-December the formal ruling was released and was very critical of the appeal including comments like.

In the overall analysis, we felt unconvinced by many of the claims of the residents about the existing environment, which unfortunately we considered had been viewed somewhat through “rose tinted glasses”

With the consent out of the way, hopefully 2017 will see progress made towards finally building it.

In what will be linked to Skypath, the NZTA consulted on Seapath too. We haven’t heard the outcome of the consultation yet.

Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai

In December, the first stage of Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai (the path of land and sea), formerly known as the Eastern Path and the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr shared path, was opened. Stage one is from Merton Rd to St Johns Rd. Bike Auckland has some good coverage of the event.

Stage 3, widening of the Orakei Basin boardwalk should be starting soon while Stage 2, from St Johns Rd to the Orakei Basin is expected to start during 2017

Waterview Shared Path

At the beginning of 2016 work started on the Waterview Shared Path from Alan Wood Reserve, over the rail line, through Harbutt and Phyllis reserves, Unitec and over to New North Rd at about Alford St via a 16m high, 90m long bridge across Oaklely Creek.

Franklin Rd

The upgrade of Franklin Rd has been the subject of numerous debates and design revisions, including at one point only catering for “confident cyclists”. But in the end AT were able to find a decent design for the project. This is part of a wider upgrade of Franklin Rd and includes improving utilities. Work on the road itself should start in 2017.

Consultations galore

A lot has been happening behind the scenes too with a huge number of consultations this year for projects that are expected to start construction over the next year or so as AT continue to ramp up to make the most of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Fund. I’m bound to have missed some but they’ve included:

There have been so many, I’m sure I’ve missed some, especially some of the smaller ones.

Usage

Of course, one of the points of investing in more cycling is to get more people using bikes and on that front we’re seeing some good results. For example, at Kingsland on the NW cycleway, usage is the highest it’s ever been and well ahead of what we’ve seen before thanks to the addition of cycleways like Lightpath and Nelson St.

Of course, there have been many other things that have happened over the year and too. Are there any key changes I’ve missed? You can also see Bike Auckland’s summary here.

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus on roads

Franklin Rd design improves

For the second time this week I’m able to say that AT have improved the design of a cycleway, this time on Franklin Rd.

Franklin Rd Impression

Franklin Rd is one of the most iconic streets in Auckland with its large established trees.

The plans to upgrade Franklin Rd have been fairly contentious over the last year or so resulting in multiple designs, redesigns and debates. There were cycle lanes, then there weren’t, then there were as AT kept changing how it responded to feedback from locals and others who use the street. The same applied for the painted median and parking between the trees.

During the last consultation AT presented three options

  • On road painted cycle lanes with a median and cars parked between the trees
  • On road painted cycle lanes with no median and cars parked between the trees
  • Raised cycle lanes inside of parked cars and no median

In the end they chose Option 1 saying amongst other reasons why it was preferred that “it provides for confident cyclists”

Franklin Rd - October 2015 -revised option 1

Option 1 from last year

But AT are now back with a new consulting on the plans following their more detailed design work. They’re now proposing to slightly raise the cycle lanes by 50-70mm above the road and on the inside of the kerb line. The kerb itself will be rounded rather than vertical so still easy to mount but will still be much better than what was proposed before of just paint.

As I understand it, one of the key drivers for the change was that the previous design would have required digging storm water catch pits in the tree roots – and AT are trying to avoid damaging the trees. This seems like a much better outcome for both the trees and those on bikes.

In addition to the cycle lanes there are other good changes too such as having raised tables over the side streets and at the intersection of Wellington/England streets where a narrow roundabout will be installed on top of a raised table with pedestrian crossings included and even cycle bypasses.

Franklin Road Roundabout Design

Positively the design also appears to be acceptable to local residents including Waitemata Councillor candidate Bill Ralston.

While I’m aware Bill hadn’t opposed them before, some others had and that AT have been able to come up with a solution that is acceptable to the various interest groups is a great sign.

In addition to the cycle lane changes, AT are also consulting on the street lighting. Traditional street lighting would require regular and ongoing tree maintenance and so they’re also considering using a catenary system – something they say could also be used for the annual Christmas lights further enhancing the street.

They are consulting on these changes with it open till 10 May.

Well done AT

New ideas for Franklin Rd

The discussion over the future design of Franklin Rd has be going on for some time now and has taken a number of twists and turns along the way. The most recent of these was a few months ago when Auckland Transport suddenly dropped the two of the four options they were considering – the two with any kind of cycle infrastructure included. Since then a lot of work has been going on to push for a better outcome and to cut a long story short, AT now say:

Since options A – D were presented in June 2015, AT has been continuing with technical investigations to address the safety issues raised by residents and in safety audits. As a result of this further work, options have been revisited and further revised to address safety issues and meet the project objective.

In addition to a “do minimum” option (which is maintaining the current design), the 3 options outlined below are currently being considered.

The great news is that other than the no change option, all three now include cycle infrastructure of some kind. They are shown below

Option 1 – Parking is between the trees and 1.5m wide on street cycle lanes that are buffered from the general traffic lanes by 0.6m of paint. This option retains the central median for those turning.

Franklin Rd - October 2015 -revised option 1

The cycle lane and painted buffer is similar to the setup they’ve put on Upper Harbour Dr as shown below. They are certainly better than a normal painted cycle lane but I’m not sure it’s necessarily going to encourage a lot of less confident people to get on their bike and use them.

Upper Harbour Cycle Lane with BYL

Note: incase anyone was concerned, the courier wasn’t parked there and moved before I reached the driveway

Option 2 – This is very similar to Option 1, the key difference is there is no flush median and the space it used has gone into making the cycleway wider to keep it further away from the door zone of parked cars. I wonder if this is one of the first times we’re talking about removing a painted median in Auckland, good to finally seeing it suggested.

Franklin Rd - October 2015 -revised option 2

This option is better than the first one but can three be better again?

Option 3 – Option 3 takes a very different approach by moving the cycle lane to the inside of cars and raises the pavement, something much more akin to a Copenhagen lane. The lane itself is only 1m wide however there is also a 0.5m buffer to the trees and a 0.7m buffer to for car doors meaning all up the lane is about 2.2m wide. Further it widens between the trees. In my view this is a considerably better option than the first two and the only one that really enables people of all ages and abilities to ride comfortably.

Franklin Rd - October 2015 -revised option 3

When the whole process started one of the first things AT tried to do was stop parking between the trees to help protect their roots. This option would also achieve that much better than the other two options.

We’ve even a real world example of what it would look like, from the Netherlands of course. This is Molenlaan, in Rotterdam

Rather than repeat things too much I’d highly recommend you read this post by Cycle Action Auckland on the options. They have a much more detailed look at the proposals including many more features and downsides for each option, a more detailed look at the safety issues and a better look at the Molenlaan example.

In my view only option 3 would make one of Auckland’s truly iconic streets even more so – and a goal to aim for with other streets across the region.

Photo is copyright to Sydney.

 

 

Franklin Rd update

Last year Auckland Transport started consultation on improvements to the iconic Franklin Rd that is in some serious need of improvement – in part due to the damage caused by the roots of the trees that give it its character.

Franklin_Road_Credit_Craig_Flickr_stream_10240761194_c0e14a455e_o

Photo: Craig

 

Back in October AT presented two different options for the street and one aspect that was common among them was to push the kerb out past the trees to better protect their roots however that caused its own issues. The two options are below

Franklin Rd Original Options

Like many others we felt there were a number of issues with both of these designs and that AT could do much better.

AT have now released the results of the feedback they received which falls under 12 key issues.

Cycling – There was significant support for cycling facilities – 18% of responses raised cycling as an issue, 6% of those questioned the need for cycling facilities.

Pedestrians – Catering for pedestrians was a significant issue, with the safety of pedestrians a key focus.

Speed – Reducing the posted speed limit was suggested by a number of people with either 30kph or 40kph suggested. The speed limit on Ponsonby Road has been lowered to 40kph and is perceived to be working well.

Parking – Retention of parking between the trees was supported by the majority of people.

Carriageway configuration – Carriageway configuration includes the cross-section, or how the road looks from one side to the other. Key themes were:

  • Retaining parking between the trees.
  • Ensuring safety.
  • Suggestions for alternative configurations.

Options presented in November 2014 were considered to create safety issues.

Detailed design/services – Comments relating to the detailed design of the final option included:

  • Improvements to the road surface to reduce noise.
  • Undergrounding the power.
  • Ensuring raising the pavement (if this is the design) does not increase runoff into adjacent properties.

Flush median – There was significant support to maintain the flush median, primarily for safety reasons.

Trees – The London Plane trees are recognised as being iconic and important to protect and retain. Experience from overseas was also provided to demonstrate the resilience of the trees

Footpath/berm – Most people preferred low growing native plants. Other suggestions included:

  • community garden,
  • fruit trees,
  • flowers

Intersections – Safety at intersections was raised, in particular the Wellington Street intersection.

Ensuring safe traffic flow through Franklin Road is critical. At peak times bottlenecks are experienced:

  • turning right from Wellington Street onto Franklin Road,
  • turning from Scotland Street onto College Hill,
  • the Victoria Park New World where the reduction of road width (due to entry / exit barriers) prevents cars moving to the left for turning into side streets or Victoria Street West.

Franklin Road residents suggested a roundabout or traffic lights for the Wellington Street and Franklin Road intersection. It was decided that traffic lights could increase street noise for local residents and impede traffic flow, so options for a roundabout needs further exploration.

Streetscape – The visual appearance, symmetry and iconic views of the wide street are valued by many. Both original options were considered to narrow the view corridor and diminish the “beautiful and wide boulevard that has become so iconic in Auckland”.

There’s also a desire to consider street furniture such as rubbish bins and seating.

New World entry – While not a road intersection, the entry to New World was raised as a safety issue.

Following the feedback and further technical assessments AT have come up with two revised options that they are progressing. The biggest change is that AT are looking at keeping parking between the trees – although presumably on a more controlled basis than currently exists so as to achieve the aim of protecting the roots. Both options also now contain a flush median.

In the first option there are painted cycle lanes on each side leaving the footpaths for people.

Franklin Road revised plan option A birds eye view

Franklin Road revised plan option A cross section

In the second option parking on the downhill side is pushed further out and the cycle lane is raised above the road. For uphill, riders share the foothpath with pedestrians.

Franklin Road revised plan option B birds eye view

Franklin Road revised plan option B cross section

The key issue with both options remains that any on road cycle facility would exist outside of parking which will always lead to concerns. In other locations I’d probably be more critical of AT for this but given trees can’t be moved – and removing any more parking than currently planned would start a local revolt – it’s probably the best we can hope for. It’s worth noting that these plans result in the removal about 40% of the current parking on the street. As such AT will include Franklin Rd in the Freemans Bay residents parking scheme which will be rolled out later this year.

Overall it seems AT have improved the design however a combination of the two still seems like the best outcome. By retaining the recessed parking on both sides like in option 1 and probably narrowing the median a little then they could have that downhill Copenhagen lane replicated uphill.

AT have also given an update about the intersection Wellington St. They say that traffic lights wouldn’t work as they would be too obscured by the trees until drivers were too close to the intersection. Instead they say they think they can fit in a roundabout which is shown in the image below. They do say there’s much more work to do to improve it for walkers and cyclists but that they think it’s possible.

Franklin Road proposed roundabout

Overall it seems like there are a few good improvements but that there are also a few more to go.

AT Board Report Feb-15

Auckland Transport’s board meet tomorrow and I’ve scoured the board reports for any interesting information. Here’s what caught my attention.

Projects

East West Link Connections

A detailed business case for the project is being worked on and will go to the board in April. AT still haven’t officially said which option they’ve chosen from their consultation back in October however this image – from a draft version of the RLTP (page 57) in the December Board meeting and which includes a note saying the map is not to be released to public prior to January 2015 – suggests it’s either option C or D.

East-West Priorities Dec-14

South-Western Multi-Modal Airport Rapid Transit (SMART)

AT say work on the design of the Kirkbride interchange includes future proofing for either light or heavy rail. The RLTP notes that this future proofing is costing AT $30 million which seems extremely high considering the rest of the interchange costs $140 million. One reason it could be so high is I understand the the NZTA team working on the project didn’t originally include rail in their designs despite rail to the airport having been on plans for decades along with other parts of the NZTA working with AT on the route.

Wynyard Quarter – Integrated Road Programme

We should start seeing more roadworks in the Wynyard Quarter in April with AT expecting to issue a contract mid Feb. Works for stage one are Halsey Street South and Gaunt Street between Daldy and Halsey. I’m not quite sure just what changes we’re going to see yet though.

Franklin Road

AT say they will feed back analysis of the submissions in March and I’ve heard rumours the current thinking greatly improved on what we saw earlier. An email update a few weeks ago suggested they were looking at whether parking between the trees could be retained in some situations.

Westgate

AT say the new mall being built as part of the new town centre is due to open in October this year and that new bus services to the area (new network) are due in October 2016. Those bus services will also need an interchange constructed and AT are trying to work out just how they will do that. They say resource consent will be needed and almost certainly will be publicly notified for which any submission will delay the project. A temporary interchange is being planned

Penlink

Work is still going on to update and amend the designation for Penlink and consent will be notified in early 2015 however a recent press release states that due to funding constraints, construction of Penlink is not anticipated until 2025. There are two open days about it, one this afternoon.

  • Thursday 19 Feb, 2pm-7pm, The Peninsula Retirement Village (441 Whangaparapoa Road, Whangaparaoa)
  • Saturday 21 Feb, 10am-2pm, Stillwater Boat Club (70 Duck Creek Road, Stillwater)

Otahuhu Interchange

The demolition of the old foot bridge and piling for the new station happened over the Christmas shutdown and AT say the construction for the interchange itself will begin in June. It’s due to be completed in February 2016 at which time the New Network for South Auckland can finally be rolled out.

Manukau Interchange

Consent is currently being sought for the enabling works for the interchange and AT are hoping to have the project completed in the first quarter of next year.

EMUs

At the time of writing the report AT say there were 42 of the 57 trains in the country and 32 of them had provisional acceptance. They also say that services in December were affected by issues with the signalling system and there had been some door closing issues. The door issues were upgraded over the break but the signalling ones are still being worked on.

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St level Crossing)

AT have created three concept designs and have taken feedback from residents and Manu Whenua into them. AT are wanting to lodge resource consent for the project in February and in the past have said that this project is required before they can deliver 10 minute frequencies on the Western Line. Given the stage it’s at and that some of the residents of Cowie St are bound to go to the environment court over it, it could be years before we see any peak frequency improvements out west.

Puhinui

AT are planning to upgrade Puhinui station with most of the works completed in March and April and with a new canopy installed in June

Swanson Station Park and Ride

The extended park & ride is expected to be completed by the end of April.

Onewa Rd

Also to be completed by the end of April are the works to deliver the westbound transit lane and shared path.

Other stuff

Parking

One piece of good news is that parking officers are experiencing the lowest recorded volumes of aggression towards them and there have been no serious harm injuries since October

AT also say the removal of earlybird parking has meant lease revenue is ahead of forecast and in addition casual occupancy and revenue in the downtown carpark is increasing. The latter part is particularly good as it means the carpark is being used by more people throughout the day which was exactly one of the aims of removing the earlybird prices.

Taxi’s on Grafton Bridge

A 12 month trial allowing taxi’s on to Grafton Bridge will start in late March and AT will be monitoring bus travel times, cyclist safety and amenity along with how many infringements get issued. If any significant issues arise during the trial it can be stopped. AT say the Taxi Federation and Cycle Action Auckland have been involved in the development of the proposal.

Personally I don’t think AT should have even entertained the idea of allowing Taxi’s on the bridge and should have actually gone the other way and making it bus only 24/7.

Double Decker Bus Mitigation Project

To get double deckers on the streets AT need to complete a whole lot of mitigation works to ensure the buses don’t damage things or get damaged themselves. This includes moving power poles, veranda modifications, kerb build-outs and tree pruning. They plan to have this work done by June to enable double deckers from Howick and Eastern to start running. Mt Eden is the next route planned for mitigation works which is meant to happen in the next financial year however AT are awaiting the outcome of the LRT proposal before making any changes.

On the Howick and Eastern Double Deckers, a press release yesterday announced the company was spending $12 million on buying 15 double deckers – most of which would be built in Tauranga. They will operate between Botany and the City Centre. The most interesting aspect of these buses is that they will also include free WiFi, power points and USB ports. Those are great additions and hopefully something we start to see become standard on all PT vehicles and I certainly think they should be on our new trains. The buses are from Alexander Dennis – the same maker as the small NZ Bus buses.

Franklin Rd Upgrade options

One of Auckland Transport’s current projects – as highlighted in the August board report – is a rehabilitation of the iconic Franklin Rd

Photo is copyright to oh.yes.melbourne.

 

 

AT have now released more details about the project. Here’s why they say the project is needed.

Franklin Road is an iconic Auckland street with significant heritage value. It is lined by mature, hundred year old London Plane trees that form a canopy over the road during summer months. During the Christmas festival period residents of Franklin Road host a Christmas lights event which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Franklin Road is also an important connection between Ponsonby and the Central Business District with over 14,000 vehicle trips per day, including buses and over-dimension vehicles. While predominantly residential in nature, there are some small businesses along the road operating from previous homes and larger commercial/retail activities at either end.

Franklin Road is in poor condition creating safety hazards for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Over time tree roots have damaged footpaths, drainage infrastructure and road pavement. A high demand for parking and a lack of well-defined parking spaces often sees drivers parking too close to trees and driving over exposed roots which can damage the trees.

A number of utility providers are also concerned about the condition of their infrastructure in Franklin Road and are planning service renewals and upgrades in the near future.

As part of the improvements AT have come up with two options, both of which include.

  • Moving the kerbline to the other side of the trees and narrowing the roadway enabling the trees to be located within the berm.
  • Parallel parking on both sides of the road in front of the trees.
  • Upgrading the drainage system.
  • Building the new road pavement on top of the existing pavement to reduce the impact on tree roots.
  • Sewer separation and water main replacement by Watercare Services Limited.
  • Improvements to street lighting subject to power undergrounding works by Vector Limited.

The biggest change is that the kerb is being extended to the outside of the trees in a bid to protect their roots. As the space between the trees is currently used for parking that is being pushed out into the carriageway. I think there definitely needs to be some level of on street parking seeing as many houses don’t have off street parking (although some do) but by pushing the parking out into the carriageway it actually creates more parking spaces. As explained soon I wonder if that’s the best use of the space.

Here are the trees on Franklin Rd likely not long after they were planted circa 1880

Franklin Road, Ponsonby, Auckland. Creator of Collection Unknown : Photographs of Auckland and Lyttelton. Ref: 1/2-004185-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22791340

In addition to the features mentioned above there are two separate options on what to do with the remaining carriageway which is 12.3m in width.

Option 1

Key features of this option are:

  • A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
  • A marked on-road cycle lane on the downhill side.
  • The removal of the painted median.

Advantages

  • Retains parking on both sides of the road.
  • Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a dedicated on-road downhill cycle lane to separate quicker cyclists from pedestrians.
  • Maximises the traffic calming effect as vehicle speeds reduce with narrower traffic lanes and being closer to parked vehicles.
  • Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.

Disadvantages

  • Traffic delays caused by right turning vehicles sitting in the traffic lane waiting to turn.
  • No central refuge area for pedestrians crossing the road.
  • The downhill cycleway is less than the desirable width.

Franklin Road Option 1

The first thing I thought when looking at this was “where’s the uphill cycle lane”, that was until I realised that uphill cyclists were meant to share the footpath with pedestrians. To me that’s a bad outcome as even uphill many cyclists are likely to be much faster than walkers, especially as electric bikes become increasingly common. After that I also wondered why AT are still proposing to use squishy car protectors on the downhill side. Surely the cycle lane should be swapped with the parking lane.

I hoped the design would get better with option 2, sadly I was mistaken.

Option 2

Key features of this option are:

  • A shared use footpath cycleway on the uphill side of Franklin Road.
  • A wider downhill lane that safely caters for both cyclists and vehicles.
  • A 1 metre wide painted median (narrower than existing).

Advantages

  • Retains parking on both sides of the road.
  • Provides an off-road cycling facility in the uphill direction when cyclists are slower and a wide shared downhill traffic lane separating faster cyclists from pedestrians.
  • Provides a narrow painted median which should allow most drivers waiting to turn right to sit clear of the through traffic.
  • Provides a narrower road width for pedestrians to cross.

Disadvantages

  • No dedicated on-road cycling facilities (shared downhill lane only).

Franklin Road Option 2

So for this option we get less cycling infrastructure in return for a median strip so that cars don’t have to slow down as much if someone occasionally turns right.

I’m not sure why we keep coming up with seemingly crap designs for projects like this. To me both options seem like they are compromised by the desire to have as much parking as possible and to use both sides of the road. Instead I think AT need to look at having parking space on just one side of the street which should then allow for two (protected) cycle lanes, something like below.

Franklin Road separate option 1