RIP Ponsonby Road

The dead hand of Auckland Transport is casting its shadow over one of Auckland’s iconic thoroughfares and there are plenty of residents who are becoming very afraid.

There is not one iota of evidence that AT has the knowledge, experience and skill to make the road more “vibrant” and “reflect and protect [its] unique history and culture”. This is an example of AT’s sheer arrogance and mendacity. Ask the residents of West Lynn about the mess AT created after months of disarray that negatively affected all the businesses there. What about the recent fiasco of St Heliers? Ponsonby Road is already vibrant and that vibrancy is created by the people that live there and the businesses that flourish there. AT’s idea of vibrancy is a bunch of bright red planters at the top of Collingwood Street.

AT doesn’t own the building stock; it’s the owners that look after the heritage values under the district plan and Auckland Council. AT’s an organisation that is responsible for roads and public transport not social engineering, urban design and planning. AT hasn’t got a good design bone in its body. It buys in “expertise” at huge expense to the ratepayers. Ponsonby Road is not dangerous per se except for the footpaths, which have been terrible for decades, and its 40 kph speed limit is neither clearly marked - the road markings are virtually illegible - nor enforced.

Yes, there have sadly been some fatal accidents over the last couple of decades, but AT’s driving ideology, Vision Zero, is extreme and unachievable because road design and engineering cannot totally prevent driver or pedestrian error. The raised tables on the side streets may have perhaps improved things. As for bikes, pedal or electric, it would be totally ludicrous to reduce the current four lanes to one lane each way on this major arterial route to allow for cycle ways in both directions as indicated in the Ponsonby Road Plan - “indicative only”, the illustrations are captioned - to which I can only reply “whatever”.

It is totally illogical to devote 50% of road space to bicycles when they are a minute proportion of road users even at peak times. Peak hour traffic is bad enough on Ponsonby Road already; road reduction in this way would be to extend peak traffic by an hour. AT should be required to demonstrate and justify the expense and inconvenience to road users and businesses before embarking on this ideologically-driven stupidity which will end up by killing business as it has in other parts of the city especially the CBD and Karangahape Road. If you make all of Ponsonby Road a clearway at peak hours to return it to two lanes in each direction, the result is that the parking that the businesses require, especially the hospitality sector, will disappear at just the time that customers need them.

The Ponsonby Road Plan was developed when the deputy chair of the Waitemata Local Board was the pro-cycling Pippa Coom, a known opponent of cars, now a councillor. It is meant to provide a framework for the road’s development until 2044! At the rate the unelected and ungovernable AT board is currently strangling Auckland, I doubt whether any plan will be viable beyond 2024 because Auckland as we know it will have disappeared.

Christopher Johnstone, Grey Lynn

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