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Call for NEW TRANSPORT ERA safety measures

20 June 2017
Call for NEW TRANSPORT ERA safety measures at high risk site for pedestrian and cyclists.
A cyclist versus pedestrian incident in Ash St today (20 June 2017) is an early signal that the safety profile of our transport network is under-going change, and we must heed it.
Auckland is entering a new transport era which includes the emergence of new benefits and risks. We need to upskill for the new environment.
High risk factors:
• Increasing numbers of cyclists is a new ‘new transport era’ risk
• Slow moving or stationary cars
• Buses
• Pedestrians crossing through cars
Proposed solutions
• An entirely new, innovative, be-spoke solution may be required here.
• New road marking to create visibility between vehicles. Design specifics TBC!
• More traffic lights? Could be overkill.
• A campaign which talks to cyclists about the risk of pedestrians, and pedestrians about the risk of bikes, in this type of environment.
• A clearly marked central cycle way down the middle of the road.
• Improve cycle options - cut back the trees, clear gutter, delineate a cycle passage way. (Thanks for the new tarmac here though – it is amazing!)*
• Sadly, a key issue is the use of headphones:
o Walking across transport passageways wearing headphones is a high risk activity; and
o cycling wearing headphones is simply not safe.
• Improve the cycle way links from the west to the Waterview exchange
Learning as we go, rather than reacting to bad outcomes
About 4 years ago a pedestrian was killed outside Avondale race course, on the infamous Sunday market day. On a weekly basis, year round, the market causes traffic chaos on a road that is the direct link to the city for the vast majority of west Auckland residents.
Many of us saw it coming for years before but nothing changed. Traffic comes to a stand-still and pedestrians, many carrying loads of shopping or pushing trolleys, ran the gauntlet.
Since the accident, a pedestrian crossing has been installed with traffic lights. But the sheer volume of traffic, with cars stopping, reversing and parking, versus the sheer number of pedestrians crossing suggest this safety issue remains addressed. There have been a number of subsequent incidents.
Let’s do better in addressing the safety of cyclists and pedestrians in AUCKLAND’S NEW TRANSPORT ERA.
Let’s make today’s incident, the last or the ONLY CYCLE v PEDESTRIAN INCIDENT on this stretch of road.
Bike numbers are sky-rocketing. I use the western cycle route from Waterview to the city and of late have frequently have been part of a 5 – 10 bike cohort cruising this route together as we naturally cluster together in speed groups. This time last year, it was positively lonely.
There are certain big risk zones on my commute. There are risk zones for inexperienced or unwary cyclists, and risk zones for pedestrians.
This morning’s cycle versus pedestrian accident in Avondale is a glaring example. It made me sick because I have clocked this risk many times, and not changed my behaviour, tried to change that of others, or reported it.
Recognising risks other than motor vehicles
The incident highlights the fact that both cyclists and pedestrians are probably still most concerned with vehicle traffic, and we collectively haven’t quite moved into the NEW TRANSPORT ERA which is creating new risks including that of cyclist/pedestrian shared space among cars. Agencies and the public need to make this leap too.
What happened this morning? What can we learn?
On Ash Street, about 200 meters East of Avondale race course, Avondale College students swarm across the road on their way to school, through mostly stationary rush hour traffic. I believe they are mostly train users acting like water – taking the most direct line from the Avondale train station to their destination. As such we want to celebrate and encourage them to continue with this sustainable transport choice. But we need to make this safe.
There are two traffic light crossings nearby, but from their perspective using those would mean taking a diversion from their path. Can this space be shared in a safe and sustainable way?
Today’s incident in Avondale reflects a unique environment and set of factors, to some degree. But like the nearby death four years ago, the signs were there, and we (someone, or collectively) could have acted earlier.
What are the lessons that can be applied elsewhere? Front of mind for me, is ‘who should I have talked about this risky situation I had observed’, ‘do we have a system for reporting near misses that links to informing infrastructure responses’ and ‘would they have done anything’?
What could I have done? Actually, there are a few options!!
I acknowledge that of the two obvious things I could have done myself, I only did one. I:
• changed my cycling behaviour to ride more slowly and more alertly through this area, highly conscious of pedestrians; I also
• formulated my own emergency response which is to shout out ‘Stop’! when I see pedestrians in this area. I’ve used this on 2 occasions to achieve near misses from high risk moments.
The other option was to go to Avondale College and ask to speak at assemblies. This may have proved useful. Our safety is important enough to get out of our safety zones for. Maybe tomorrow??
The new transport era means:
• more bikes, more trikes, more scoots,
• more buses,
• more feet, and well,
• hopefully around the same number of cars (stabilising total national fleet), but this comes with;
electrification of the fleet, which means quieter vehicles across categories
NEW real risk factors that require adjustment and upskilling
Before setting out some responses and solutions, I want to set out some basic assumptions:
• No one on the road wants to hurt anyone else
• Cyclists may need to change their behaviour to achieve that
• Pedestrians may need to change their behaviour to achieve that
• Vehicle drivers may need to change their behaviour to achieve that
• Electrification of the fleet is a public good, but comes with a public risk caused by quieter machines in an environment where people are accustomed to relying on listening.
• We need agency support to get the infrastructure right and information right
And, here are some solutions (both localised to the incident today, and possibly universal):
• An entirely new, innovative, and be-spoke solution may be required on Ash Street – who will lead this? What high risk areas do you see on your commute? What can you do about them?
• Road marking such as clearways leading across Ash Street to and from the end of Highbury Street and Community Lane, Avondale (where cars need to stop before the orange crosses, and create open space) would increase visibility for both pedestrians and cyclists. Design specifics TBC!
• Traffic lights at the point on the road where pedestrians cross would create an awkward cluster of traffic lights, but could also be a solution.
• A campaign which talks to cyclists about the risk of pedestrians, and pedestrians about the risk of bikes, in this type of environment.
• A clearly marked cycle way down the middle of the car lanes would also increase visibility for all parties, and provide greater safety for cyclists vis cars generally. This option should be considered for wider use as many cyclists consider it safer between the cars, than negotiating the gutter, drains, and turning vehicle risks on the left side of the road.*
• On Ash Street overhanging trees paired with large drains and tree debris in the gutter make it a dangerous place to be on a bike. Solution: cut back the trees on Ash Street, keep the gutter clear, delineate a cycle passage way. (Thanks for the new tarmac in this stretch of road though – it is amazing!)*
• Sadly, we still need to reiterate that:
o walking across roads or other transport passageways wearing headphones is a high risk activity; and
o cycling wearing headphones is not an option.
• Improve the cycle way links from the west to the Waterview exchange (the Mt Albert – New Lynn cycle way will serve many cyclists, but for some from areas like Glen Eden and Glendene, Ash Street/Great North Road may remain the preferred option and need to be better served.
• Address this issue to students via Avondale College.
*Creating cycle passage ways is a major and progressive step, but without other measures, it may not address the safety issues specifically in regard to pedestrians and cyclists.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I want to leave you with one further story.
About 20 years ago, I was riding in Wellington. I stood up on the pedals to accelerate when the lights turned green, and my foot slid forward off my pedal and between the spokes of my front wheel. Without even taking a breath I was flipped over the handle bars, ankle twisted, and slammed onto the road. I stood up somewhat dazed and hobbled across the remainder of the intersections and came to rest next to a man in a suit. He leaned down and put his hand on my shoulder. He said with a chuckle ‘it serves you right, f****** idiot cyclist’ and walked off.
Today at the scene in Avondale, we eventually got a bit of traffic moving safely passed the injured pedestrian. As I was waving cars passed a driver in a big flash clean white four wheel drive grumbled ‘bloody cyclists’.
I want to say to you publicly that no one else I saw this morning shared your sentiment. Everyone else had a look of genuine concern on their faces as they passed. Mate, you’re on your own (well, I guess you’ve got a mate in Wellington somewhere).
The age of your generic road rage against cyclists has passed. No wait, it never happened. I guess I do say ‘bloody drivers’ sometimes too – just not usually when I come across an accident.
We do understand that sitting stationary in your car while we carry on our way might be annoying, but your chosen mode of transport is your choice. So come and join us sometime. Or just be considerate to those around you, and at all times put safety (and our collective emotional wellbeing) first.
I’ve found cycling in Auckland really good. Drivers have been generally extremely courteous, and I hope I have not put anyone out too much with my riding, heavy breathing, sweating, smiles, waves, nods, and gestures of thanks to those who look out for me. And to all the bus drivers: thank you for sharing. Xx oo xx

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