The Wrong Side of my Car

A blog about Auckland City, its streets, and culture shock

10 May 2016

Terrible craftsmanship I: the most embarrassing missing pedestrian leg

I had a stroll on the Lightpath a while ago. Great. It’s always good to see some humanity in our city, especially in that area, dominated by its spaghetti junction, 6-lane one highways, and brutalist style apartment blocks.

But come out at either end and you’re right back into Auckland. Take a bow to the Rights of the Car. On the Nelson Street end you’ll find what I think is one of the more embarrassing missing pedestrian legs in Auckland.


What makes good craftsmanship? Skills? Efficiency? Elegance? Often it is hard to say. Often it takes a fellow craftsman to appreciate good craftsmanship. It can be hard to tell for laymen.

On the other hand…

On the other hand, bad craftsmanship sticks out like a sore thumb. You will notice it, even if you don’t know anything about the craft at all. There’s plenty of terrible craftsmanship around. I’m a software developer, trust me on this. There is no ‘certified software developers association’. And it shows. Everybody knows at least one piece of software which is so badly designed that you can’t even figure out how it’s supposed to work. Surf the web on a mobile phone these days, and the detritus will just ooze out of the screen. You’ll dust off *1 that old tower PC in no time.

And there is this other craft where nobody seems to mind the occasional stinker. Traffic engineering.


Because a couple of years ago it was quite OK. Most websites just showed the desktop version. Although cumbersome, it basically just worked.

The problem

In December last year, the Lightpath opened, mostly following the spare Nelson Street off-ramp. One of the only places in town where you don’t have to worry about getting bowled over by a car. To give you an idea, you now actually see kids on their little bikes, in the middle of Auckland city. It’s hard to explain just how wildly unthinkable that was only a year ago.

The problem as always is, what happens at the end of the path?

By now some satellites have flown over and snapped some images:

The end of the lightpath

I didn’t paint on that map. Seriously. That is how bright it is. You can see the contrast in real life if you approach the spaghetti junction in your car from the south. Of if you come over on your bike. Obviously.

This is the northern end of the path. Let’s have a closer look at the intersections. The blue line is the cycle path along Nelson Street. The green lines are the signalised crossings. That huge street going from topleft to bottom right in between is Union Street.

And the red line, that is the most embarrassing missing pedestrian leg in the area.

Pedestrian crossings

Let me explain. Most people in this area live in the many apartments around here. And although you see some apartments on the left side of Nelson Street, most of them are actually on the other side, and along the streets further east. So if you’re walking from one of these to the Lightpath, you’ll very likely end up at the corner where the red X is. Note how you have to wait for at least 3 traffic light phases. As someone living there, I can ensure you that that’s a long wait.

So close. Yet so far away.


That’s usually an easy question. Thou Shalt Not Get in the Way of Cars. Thou Shalt Bow for the Principle of Traffic Flow.

But let’s see what happens when cars coming from SH1 get green light:

Let There Be Traffic Flow.

The light green arrows show how that traffic enters Hobson Street. Here’s the kicker: That traffic is not allowed to turn right into Union Street. And any other traffic crossing the red line must have red light as it crosses the traffic coming off SH1. So you can actually safely cross on the red line. (and you’d have plenty of time. Trust me)

There is zero traffic flow to be won by omitting this pedestrian crossing. Nothing at all.

Then what’s the point? A two-finger salute to anyone daring to walk here? Some pathetic last-ditch effort to isolate the path from the rest of the city?

Or maybe the engineers in charge were just too clueless to figure this one out. You know, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Fix this please. This is embarrassing. Coming from a software developer, that’s saying something.

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