A few months ago, Campbell Live ran a story about drivers that use dodgy and illegal tactics to jump traffic queues. They looked at drivers using Tristram Ave to access the Northern Motorway.
The response from that piece has obviously been fairly strong as yesterday they ran another story looking at a few other locations.
The reality is that this kind of behaviour occurs all over Auckland. It not only pisses people off who are driving as they should but it also contributes to congestion. What I want to know is if anything can be done about it, short of tying up heaps of police resources on enforcement. I do know that you can submit a complaint to police but I wonder how many people actually do so or how effective it is as to my knowledge they only send the offending driver a letter telling them not to do whatever they did again.
I know a lot more drivers, as well as cyclists/motorcyclists record their trips these days which can be especially useful in identifying bad drivers. The prevalence of smartphones can make it much easier for people to do this so I would be also be keen to hear which apps you use (personally I’m keen to hear about a good android app).
Of course one of the biggest benefits of using PT, especially rail or buses in dedicated lanes, is that users can be largely immune to the antics of idiot drivers. Instead of being stressed out in traffic you can sit reading a book, play with your phone, listen to music or any number of things. Perhaps this point needs to be raised more often and some edgy marketing campaigns targeting hotspots could be run by AT once the new bus network has been rolled out.
Drivers running red lights at intersections seems to be a big problem in Auckland and as a pedestrian in the CBD especially, it doesn’t take long to see it happening. A few years ago a trial of red light cameras was initiated between the former Auckland City Council and the Police was met with stunning success in reducing this from occurring. Sadly despite the success, the cameras can’t be rolled out to other problem intersections as the law doesn’t allow for it. Even worse is that the Ministry of Transport appears to be the ones dragging the chain.
Bureaucrats are being accused of risking lives by dithering over policy guidelines for posting cameras at the country’s most dangerous intersections to stop drivers running red lights.
The Automobile Association is despairing that Government officials are trying to reinvent the wheel more than four years after the former Auckland City Council and the police launched a successful trial of digital cameras in the CBD.
Auckland Transport reported in September 2011 that three cameras rotating around 10 downtown intersections had reduced red-light running by 43 per cent and crashes attributable to such offending were down a stunning 69 per cent.
More recent figures have been unavailable from the council body, but one industry source believes no more than about 10 vehicles a week are now running lights at each site, such is the trial’s continuing effectiveness in reining in drivers.
Even so, the Ministry of Transport has missed two deadlines for producing a national policy for cameras to be introduced to other potentially lethal sites such as in Manukau and elsewhere around the country, although it says it is working hard to complete the task.
“We’ve missed a couple of deadlines but we’re still working to put out the best policy we can,” a spokesman said.
But AA spokesman Simon Lambourne says the Auckland trial has confirmed the effectiveness of site selection criteria and the delay is unacceptable after crashes involving vehicles running red lights caused 10 deaths and 194 serious injuries nationally over five years to the end of 2011.
“It’s simply not good enough – the Ministry of Transport is now trying to reinvent the wheel and the police bureaucracy is not supporting this as much as it should, given the road safety benefits,” he said.
“The Government often talks about cutting red tape and making New Zealand a more productive economy but here’s a classic example where they could cut the red tape and improve the safety and lives of New Zealanders.
“These crashes have an average annual social cost to New Zealand of about $47 million.”
Mr Lambourne said Auckland Transport calculated a return of $8.20 for every $1 of the $750,000 invested in the trial in its first three years, and there had been unprecedented support for red light cameras from 75 per cent of surveyed Aucklanders.
I don’t know how many other issues have such widespread support, and would be so effective. The fact that the ministry appear to be mucking around over this is absurd. What’s worse is it appears that part of the reason for the delay is that officials are worried about there being too many of them.
Institute vice-president John Gottler said the Government had evidently been worried needlessly about facing demands for red-light cameras at intersections throughout the country.
“Unfortunately, there was this perception that every signal in the whole country was going to have a speed camera, and that’s not true.”
In delivering its report to the ministry before Christmas, the institute also identified a range of measures such as altering traffic light phasing.
Mr Gottler said that meant no more than 20 to 40 sites throughout the country should need cameras as the ultimate driver behaviour modification tool, backed by existing fines of $150.
Auckland was likely to need most of them, given that offending was far more prevalent there than anywhere else, to be followed by Christchurch and Wellington “and then the rest of them will be scattered here and there”.
But ultimately it would be up to the Government to provide financial support to match local efforts and to the minister to say:
“I’m going to invest in saving lives”.
It doesn’t often happen but I fully support the AA in this case. The MoT need to pull their finger out and get this legislation in place.
The other bloggers and I have been looking at simple “piece of cake” solutions that Auckland Transport can implement to improve the quality of life for pedestrians. The idea is that the solutions can be quickly and cheaply implemented. Work is going on behind the scenes to progress the ideas raised and we will be talking more about these soon,however I wanted to share and get feedback on one of these.
The change is simple and only requires a bit of paint. What’s more we’ve already seen some examples of it cropping up in both the central city and in the suburbs so it’s not even revolutionary. The idea is to paint light-controlled pedestrian crossings red, as has been done at the recently installed pedestrian crossing on Victoria St:
The crossings painted red are much more visible than simple white lines on the road, sosurely must be better for safety. As a driver it acts as a great alert to tell you that something has changed, and you should be more cautious. That is exactly the kind of environment we want to be creating, not just in the central city but in many other places around the region. It can also work well for Barnes Dance style crossings, such as in the image below from California (I also like that the diagonal crossing is fully marked out):
The biggest problem is that over time the paint degrades due to vehicles driving over it, as you can see is starting to happen in the first image. However there are many more advantages to this idea. A frequent issue at intersections are drivers who, perhaps out of confusion, use the crossings as the vehicle limit line – stopping right on the edge of where pedestrians are walking. Painting these crossings red might help to address this issue by making it clearer which lines are specifically for the crossing. It might also assist in reducing the number of cases where people enter intersections during congestion and subsequently block them, because it would be easier to judge how much space is available.
What I really like about this change is that it can be implemented at every intersection without there having to be a debate around the priority of different modes at intersections. And lastly, I love that it adds some colour to our urban environment.
What you think? Should we paint all of our crossings red? Are there any downsides? Do you have any other simple suggestions for making existing crossings safer?
There are some great traffic engineers out there, some of whom frequent this board a lot. However, I get the feeling that there’s still a big section of that profession who would think that this is a good outcome:
From Manila in the Philippines – hat tip to Gordon Price.
It’s amazing how many discussions I’ve had with traffic engineers that result in them suggesting a pedestrian overpass or underpass around a busy road – supposedly for pedestrian safety but I think more realistically to limit delays for vehicles. Slightly more enlightened engineers will discuss the various options for trying to provide better pedestrian facilities without affecting traffic flow. It seems to take a really enlightened traffic engineer to understand that, particularly in areas with a lot of pedestrians (like the whole of Auckland’s CBD) we might actually want to negatively impact upon vehicle speeds in order to make life better for pedestrians.
The typical defence from said engineers is that they’re only trying to give effect to a policy decision made by others to maximise roading throughput. Does this excuse fly? When looking at the CBD, it seems like the policy documents have been saying forever that pedestrians are important yet we still end up with high-speed defacto motorways all over the place. I’m not entirely sure whether this excuse is valid – what do you think?
Yesterday’s post certainly attracted a lot of comments and a lot of great ideas about ways in which we can improve life for pedestrians in Auckland. I think most helpfully the suggestions didn’t have the CBD focus that I was perhaps worried about – with a nice geographic split. As I noted in yesterday’s post I think that our chances of success are best if we focus on a relatively small number of specific improvements rather than more general (if still justified) statements for how things can be changed.
For a start, it was interesting to see Max’s comment on the particular example given in yesterday’s blog post – a roundabout at the corner of Queenstown Road and Hendry Ave in Hillsborough:
Funny – I have literally spent dozens of hours getting AT and NZTA to fix that exact spot on the SH20 cycleway. They wouldn’t budge, even with an official CAA complaint. “Straight off the motorway, speed to high etc…” – all we managed to get was some stupidly high planting replaced with low planting to improve the sightlines.
This might be a tough one to resolve (perhaps we’ll counter-balance this with some of the others being easy) but I think it’s worth throwing whatever weight we can behind Cycle Action Auckland’s efforts to get a better result here than sending people for 120m in the wrong direction.
A next “easy win” I think is removing the “pedestrians give way to cars” signs which infest places like Henderson, instead putting in place proper pedestrian crossings. I think this is a pretty easy win as Auckland Transport have already made the change at the crossing over Railside Ave connecting the train station with the mall (just outside their head office, coincidence I wonder?) If the change is OK there I can’t see why we won’t be able to achieve the same thing around the corner on Great North Road. Are there any other spots around Auckland where these signs proliferate?
Shifting onto some changes which are more “software focused”, a few intersections were proposed in the comments as being suitable for changes to phasing or the addition of “legs” onto intersections which currently ignore the fact that pedestrians may not want to have to cross three sides of an intersection rather than just the one. For phasing I think the following:
- Barnes dance at the corner of Albert and Victoria Street (after all that’s what started off this whole discussion
- Barnes dance at the corner of Grafton Road, Park Road and Grafton Bridge
- Reducing the amount of “green time” given to vehicles going up and down Queen Street to slow them down and reallocate time to cross streets (particularly at corner with Wellesley). Same for Quay Street (especially outside Ferry Building).
And in terms of adding legs to intersections, the following seem pretty obvious:
- The Kitchener/Bowen abomination that we’ve been moaning about for quite a while
- A pedestrian leg across Beach Road on the eastern side of the intersection with Anzac Ave
- Same thing just along at the corner of Customs Street, Fort Street and Britomart Place
Some obvious locations for pedestrian crossings:
- Along Ponsonby Road (we’ll do a bit more thinking about the best locations)
- Hill Road outside the Botanic Gardens
- Along Pah Road between Greenwoods corner and Mt Albert Road
Finally, I think we ought to try and do something about this:
These are just my preliminary ideas. I know Kent has some further ideas and discussion may highlight that some of this is unrealistic, will happen anyway, needs to be rolled into something more extensive or perhaps there’s a compelling reason why what we’re suggesting wouldn’t work. Once we’ve got a list finalised we can put together a letter to Auckland Transport (copied to key politicians of course) and hopefully begin the process of making this happen.
Within the rather robust comments thread which accompanied this post on pedestrian safety I suggested that perhaps a constructive thing we could do on this blog is identify a few really simple improvements around Auckland (perhaps with a focus on the city centre but not necessarily) which would improve life for pedestrians. Some of these improvements may have a safety benefit, some might just treat pedestrians as something a little better than the “scum of the earth” approach that Auckland’s road designs and management typically take. Sorting out things like this:However, this time we won’t just be highlighting a massive number of situations where huge changes – likely to take years to implement – should happen (although absolutely we need to fundamentally change the way we view pedestrians when designing transport infrastructure). This time we actually want to make change happen. So we’re going to be as constructive as we can possibly be – to work with Auckland Transport, the Local Boards, NZTA (if necessary) and whoever else needs to be involved to make these changes happen.
2013 is also obviously a local government election year, and we think that perhaps the time pressure of politicians wanting to see stuff happen might be a useful ally in our goals here. So we’re looking at specific, quick, cheap, easy changes that can create a noticeable benefit for pedestrians in particular. Things like adding crossing legs onto intersections, removing a particularly nasty slip-lane, changing the phasing of traffic lights to a ‘Barnes Dance’, adding in a pedestrian crossing in a particularly necessary location and other things like that. Perhaps if we pluck out the best five ideas, being as specific as possible about the necessary change and the justification for it, we just might see some of this stuff happen.
And of course, we will follow up on progress and we will shower praise where positive change occurs. Let’s find those “piece of cake” pedestrian improvements and make them happen.
I had the option of having a nice quiet end to the year on this blog, shying away from controversial posts and stimulating passionate discussion. I’ve decided not to take it by confronting a perennial issue that’s bound to get the juices flowing: “should cyclists obey traffic lights?”
For a start, I’m not entirely sure of the legal situation – I assume that cyclists on the road are classified as vehicles and are therefore legally obliged to obey traffic lights. I guess that they have the option of dismounting from their bike and then pushing it across the intersection on the pedestrian phase (something I’ve actually seen someone do with their scooter on Queen Street once!) but otherwise I assume that cyclists are meant to follow traffic signals like drivers. Be interesting to check whether this assumption is correct or not.
Secondly, I can obviously see the attraction of blasting through a red light for a cyclist. They’re relatively unlikely to cause harm to anyone but themselves (pedestrians aside) so they probably feel that it’s OK to do so. Plus our lights generally are set on stupidly long phasing so if you miss the lights you need to wait forever – even if there aren’t many cars travelling by.
However, set against that – and notwithstanding the legal issues – I think I find myself falling on the side of cyclists obeying the signals, because of courtesy more than anything else. We desperately need motorists and cyclists to “get on better” on the road as there are far too many accidents involving cyclists at the moment. Part of that is through providing better infrastructure for cycling, part of that is through driver (and cyclists) education and part of it is through a cultural shift so that there is greater awareness and respect between all road users.
I don’t generally think that having cyclists ignore traffic lights assists in developing a greater level of courtesy and respect between all road users. It is something of a “I expect you to do everything you can to respect me on the road, but I’m not going to show the same level of courtesy to you” vibe that seems to result from cyclists ignoring traffic lights that doesn’t help. Furthermore, in locations where there are a number of pedestrians having the unexpected occur (such as a cyclist whizzing by on a red light) is pretty dangerous and incredibly unnerving.
I am really keen to get a better understanding of what the “cycling community” thinks about this issue, whether other people agree with me and what suggestions there might be to improve this (or perhaps it’s not really an issue at all). That should keep us going for a while.
One thing that really really annoys me about how Auckland treats its pedestrians relates to what happens at signalised intersections. We all know the situation:
- We turn up at an intersection, knowing that we will get the green man at the same time as the traffic travelling in the same direction as us gets a green light.
- Ah damn, the green phase for the direction we want to travel started about two seconds before we hit the “beg button”. When we push the button all we get is a solid red man.
- We need to wait ages for the traffic light in the direction we’re travelling to turn orange, then red, and then we need to wait for all the other phases to go through before we finally get the green man.
- Ah stuff it, just run across the road on the red man anyway.
I think I probably cross roads on a red man just about every single day (generally many more times than once) because of this issue.
Now at the very occasional intersection if the green phase has already started for vehicles and you push the button, you get the green man straight away. This shows that it is possible – just clearly our traffic engineers hate pedestrians enough to not bother doing this any more than extremely occasionally.
Solving the horrific way Auckland treats its pedestrians doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to take a long time to roll out. It just requires those in positions to influence things like traffic signals to actually care about more than just shifting vehicles. Why is it so hard to get things like this to happen?
I think I might make this a regular “column” in this blog – just little ideas around how we can improve life for the poor neglected pedestrian. Maye that will make Auckland Transport notice.
Peters post yesterday reminded me about a post I had intended to write myself based on that Phoebe piece but from a different perspective. Reading it and some of the comments below made me wonder why people think that the speed should be higher and as I’m not that familiar with the area so I made a trip out there courtesy of google maps and street view. The section mentioned was between Pinehill and Northcross so focusing my efforts there and looking at the images, it pretty clearly shows why people think the speed limit needs to be faster. The road is mostly a single lane each way except for around a couple of intersections and is pretty straight, further the houses and many of the footpaths are placed well back from the road. All of these things help make the road feel safer and therefore make it easier to travel faster on it. Here is an image from just one place along the road where you can see just how much space there is, even when there are two lanes (intersections are just behind the image).
So even with two lanes there are substantial road reserves but just how wide is it? The councils GIS viewer helps here with the overlay for property boundaries.
That shows us that all up the road reserve is about 40m wide which is absolutely massive considering that the road itself is only 12m wide. Even factoring in having 4 lanes, wider footpaths etc. there is probably something like 15m of road space sitting being used for nothing but growing grass. My guess is the traffic engineers had way to much control when this was happening and wanted a super wide corridor set aside so they could account for every possibility.
To me that is hardly a good use of valuable land, especially when it is sitting in public ownership. So my next thought was how much is that land worth and could do something with it. On the land value, I did a sample of the land values and sizes on a number of houses in the area around the image above. That suggested that on average land value was in the vicinity of $440 per square metre. Many of the driveways for the existing houses have (or could be modified to have) roughly 20m of space between them. So putting this all together, a 20m x 15m section would then be worth roughly $130k. There would be space for hundreds of similar sized properties all along the corridor amounting to tens of millions of dollars of wasted land.
But is that big enough to do anything with, I think so. Many recent developments have properties that are only this size or even smaller. Take these houses near where I live, each of the three highlighted would easily fit within the dimensions mentioned above.
And what the two southern ones look like from the street level, as you can see there is even space for off road car parking.
So all up what am I suggesting, perhaps we need to look at East Coast Rd, and other roads like it. If needed shift the road to one side of the corridor while still leaving enough space for things like a second lane should it ever be needed (like for bus lanes). Then with the remaining land develop it into either town houses or even stand along places like the image above. By changing the road and developing out the land it would help to give more queues to drivers to slow down as well as obviously getting more housed into an existing area helping towards our housing supply problem.
I almost let the one slip past – meaning to post last week but only just remembering it last night. I just have to comment though when something like this ends up in the NZ Herald’s “Ask Phoebe” column:
Can you please tell me who sets the speed limits on our roads in New Zealand and what criteria are used for determining these limits?
Generally, we have one limit of 50km/h on all urban roads, regardless of whether that road is a main road or a side-street. Compared to Australia, for instance, where the limit is 60km/h on main roads and 50km/h on routes carrying less traffic, our somewhat sedate limit of 50km/h seems unnecessarily restrictive.
For instance, East Coast Rd between Pinehill and Northcross is an incredibly wide road with footpaths set well back from the kerb offering unobstructed visibility in both directions, and it has a 50km/h limit. Not surprisingly, there is a speed camera located at the middle of that stretch, which is the second highest revenue-earning fixed camera location in Auckland. In any other developed country the limit would likely be 70 or 80km/h.
Geez where to start? Let’s just consider pedestrian safety for a moment, if you get hit by a car braking from 50 kph you’ve got a decent chance of surviving. If you get hit by a car doing 60 kph or more, even if it brakes your chances are dramatically lower.
Now let’s consider urban amenity. The faster the speed of traffic is along the route the noisier it is and the more that road severs the community it passes through. I had thought that Auckland was trying desperately to see its streets and roads as more than just a pipe for cars, but for their place-making values. Higher speeds is perhaps the most detrimental thing you could do to a street’s place-making function.
How about cyclists? Oh yeah I’m sure cyclists will feel just as safe along a 70-80 kph road as they would along that road with a 50 kph speed limit. The wider stretches of East Coast Road include on-street cycle-lanes of the green paint variety, meaning that people using them are definitely not shielded from the traffic.
Every other developed world country would NOT make an arterial route like East Coast Road into a 70-80 kph road. Most cities are trying to get away from this obsession about “everything to make the car go just that little bit faster”. We’re the outlier here in Auckland in terms of our continued obsession with building more road, yet even we aren’t stupid enough to be turning too many more (now that Manukau City Council has thankfully been disbanded) arterial roads into defacto motorways.
What on earth was Phoebe thinking?
Update: It seems that some of what I had thought was Phoebe’s answer was actually part of the question. Thanks to Andrew for pointing this out and apologies to Phoebe.