Cycleway barriers draw mixed response from Aucklanders

Source: 1News

There are hopes Auckland Transport will take on community feedback as it considers a $30 million initiative to improve the safety of cyclists.

Upper Harbour Drive's cycle barriers

Concrete barriers to keep riders and motorists apart were laid earlier this year on a stretch of the North Shore's Upper Harbour Drive cycle lane in a effort to improve cycle safety.

The Auckland Transport (AT) programme will see the barriers put on some Tāmaki Makaurau roads already with a cycleway.

Member of the Upper Harbour local board, Anna Atkinson, told 1News she believes the Upper Harbour Drive project has caused accidents and is not helping improve safety.

"I support AT's overall programme, not necessarily the way it's been implemented on Upper Harbour Drive. It's caused accidents for cyclists and drivers that has been fed back via the local community Facebook page.

"The idea of people being able to cycle safely is exactly what we need. Over 50% of Auckland's carbon emissions come from cars but there are other areas in Upper Harbour and within Auckland that would have benefitted more from this initiative," she said.

"What I'm really hoping is that AT learn from the rollout here and apply the lessons to the other projects such as putting reflectors on barriers immediately, which they didn't at the beginning.

"There's a range of views in the community, some people want them left, some want them removed or replaced with lower, rubber barriers. Some won't even ride in that lane because they think it's unsafe," she said.

"AT have been trying, they have put reflectors on them now, I'm really hoping they can apply those learnings in other places."

Stuff reported in July that AT has promised a rethink over the partially-completed cycle lane upgrade, after angry and at-times tearful Greenhithe residents spoke of a spate of accidents since the project began.

"This has not gone as well as we hoped," AT’s network group manager Melanie Alexander said at a public meeting over the issue last month.

Stuff reported that Gary, who has lived on the road for 20 years, said he was a cyclist and had always wanted a safer cycling lane, but what AT had built was wrong.

"I have never seen so many crashes on Upper Harbour Drive – there will be a serious crash and you will have caused it," he told the AT officials participating in the online meeting.

Bike Auckland, a pro-cycling advocacy group, told 1News protected cycleways have a positive return on investment for cities that implement them around the world.

"Bike Auckland supports the investment in separated cycle lanes to provide a safe and connected network for people on bikes as its paramount for Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland to achieve its climate and transport goals," a spokesperson said.

"Auckland's current cycle network is deficient and needs protected cycle lanes to connect its network and keep people on bikes and other forms of micromobility safe.

"Similar to cities around the world, Auckland faces many challenges due to urbanisation, as the growth in population stretches our resources. Part of the problem is that cities have previously been designed around the automobile, but this is now an outdated model and local governments are adapting their plans to make cities more liveable by designing around people."

However, a petition calling for the removal of the Upper Harbour Drive barriers has been set up by a Greenhithe resident who outlined the problems created by them.

"This has significantly narrowed the lanes for drivers and causing great disruption and concern for motorists and locals," she said.

"Cyclists, as a majority, do not use these new 'safe' lanes (particularly on bin day as they have obstacles in the way) and are therefore riding in the now more narrow road creating more congestion."

Auckland Transport has responded to the petition.

"We are reviewing all the comments received through the petition and will continue to work with the Local Board and the residents to address their concerns," they said.

In an OIA response to National's Transport spokesperson, Simeon Brown, AT said its Minor Cycling Improvements Programme (MCP), concrete barriers are utilised to improve the safety of cyclists in existing corridors.

The programme currently has a budget of $30 million, allocated from June 2021 to June 2026, for design, consenting and delivery.

As well as the MCP, Auckland Transport (AT) also has a 10-year programme to deliver new cycling facilities. Depending on the design and location of a new facility, concrete barriers may be used.

Brown says AT needs to rethink the project.

“Auckland Transport needs to go back to the drawing board before spending $30m on a programme of pop up cycle ways across Auckland which have been criticised as being unsafe by cyclists, motorists, and police where they have been installed on Upper Harbour Drive.

"The pop up cycle way separators are almost invisible to motorists meaning the slightest driving error can lead to a car hitting them, and likewise for cyclists who get caught out by one of them."

He said even police have raised serious safety questions about the installation of these cycle separators and the dangers they present to road users.

"Improving road safety for cyclists is important, however these installations are putting all road users at risk. Auckland Transport should go back to the drawing board before spending tens of millions installing these on many more kilometres of roads in Auckland."

1News has approached AT for comment.