The Wrong Side of my Car

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

29 Jan 2017

AT’s response to the Northcote Point consultation

So I submitted on this proposal for whatever they’re building on Queen Street in Northcote Point. Basically my previous post, but a more polite version. So a few weeks ago I got the feedback report in my inbox. And a distinct sense of déja vu.

Coming soon. *1

So the option with the double lane speed bump it is. Actually, nobody really wanted any of the 3 options, but as a politician would say, we have to do something.

Stupid thing #1: the original proposal

What we won’t get *1

Originally, AT proposed proper cycle lanes on this stretch of road. Of course the residents balked at the loss of parking, but that is easily refuted with a parking survey. Then there were the stupid chokers. D’oh.

So now we got our more lame version, still featuring the chokers. But with more parking for all those poor cars. Which are mostly on their driveways anyway, but who cares.

The report

The report opens strongly, rightfully pointing out that speed kills on urban streets. A point which is repeated throughout the AT responses chapter. Like, a lot.

Speed surveys have shown that the average speed along this stretch of road is 51km/h. Effective speed calming measures here will decrease the speed to around 30–35 km/h, which is safer and the risk of serious injury or fatality from a vehicle collision with a pedestrian or cyclist increases sharply. At a speed of 30 km/h, the probability of a fatality in a crash is around 15 percent; at 50 km/h, the probability of a fatality increases to over 80 percent.

I might add, even if the risk of getting dead is not that high, it still feels unsafe. Charles Marohn drawed a nice analogy with sniper bullets. Most people will never, ever cycle on that street.

Another point thing which regularly comes back is that this street really doesn’t see a lot of traffic. Which is expected, since it only leads to a narrow peninsula. It just behaves really badly.

From there it goes downhill.

Traffic calming does not make a safe cycling space—cyclists remain at risk from doors opening and do not have a protected area to ride in.

AT responds:

The road along lower Queen Street is quite wide, so people on bikes are not expected to ride too close to parked cars. ‘Dooring’ is not expected to be a significant hazard.

D’oh! Someone clearly misunderstands how these local streets with parked cars work. OK, it’s wide, but cyclists are expected to cycle as far as possible to the left anyway. Drivers will merely use that space to drive faster. I don’t know an easy way to solve that problem, but we have to, since so many homes in Auckand are on streets with a similar layout.

Stupid thing #2: the chokers

A submitter wrote:

My experience tells me that people get used to this kind of traffic calming devices very quickly, and drive just as fast as before.

Well, this is really the crux with those chokers, is it? The report doesn’t answer this point at all. The reason is simple. Single lane chokers have two modes of operation, and both are failure modes. Either the traffic is calm, or mostly tidal, and then the lack of opposing traffic means they do nothing at all to slow traffic down. Or there is more traffic, and then they bring people on collision course, force cars to stop for no good reason, and they’ll force drivers to play silly games of chicken. You’ll know immediately when that happens because you suddenly get a lot of accidents.

Stupid thing #3: the speed limit

A common question is why they don’t lower the speed limit. And:

AT generally prefers physical measures to reduce vehicle speeds as they are self-enforcing, i.e. they don’t require extra resources to enforce. Minor local roads with lower than 50 km/h speeds are also unlikely to be a priority for the police, making self-enforcing designs more feasible.

What the hell?

I never had the impression the police has much interest in anything happening outside cars. I lived in the CBD, opposite the police station, and even there you could go for months without ever seeing a cop outside a car.

Regardless, since the intention is to slow down traffic to 30 km/h, they might as well just drop the formal speed limit to that. What a lame excuse.

Conclusion

The report concludes with a summary of the 3 options. Have a look at the cross-sections:

Cross-sections of options 1 and 2 *1

That street is humongous. 13 meter! You could build 2 m wide Copenhagen style cycle lanes on either side, and still have enough space left for those precious parking lanes and 2 traffic lanes! If you look at the rest of Auckland, there are so many streets which are 8 m wide, have parked cars on both sides, and if you’re careful you can still pass each other. What is all this fuss about?

Failing that, they somewhat accidentally point out an alternative solution, which would be useful since this street is supposed to be quiet anyway. About single lane chokers:

A single traffic lane directs vehicles towards the centre of the road. Between speed calming devices, this increases separation from vehicles and people on bikes.

No darling, quite the opposite. The swerving involved in negotiationg these chokers will send more cars into the path of cyclists.

Incidentally the Dutch figured out how to do this a long time ago. Hint: it doesn’t require street furniture:

Suggestion strips *2.

Unfortunately that requires a certain lack of antisocial behaviour in drivers. Auckland is not quite ready for this. But chokers will not solve that problem either.

Note to AT: be smart. Use some temporary planter boxes first before ripping up the street. Like the ones proposed on part of Karangahape Road. Something you can easily revert if it turns out the whole thing is just not working.


(*1) 

images from Auckland Transport

(*2) 

image from Wikipedia by Maurits90

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