Gael Baldock: Common sense isn’t that common

Commuters and locals were unimpressed with Auckland Transport announcing Meola Road closure until the end of April, on the very day it was meant to open, after their Waitangi Day holiday.

A timeline of works is required to coordinate a ‘Dig Once’ project that buries power lines underground, upgrades stormwater, repairs the sunken road over the closed landfill and installs a cycleway on the northern side of Meola Road.

So, AT knew at the beginning of the project – why did they choose to keep the community in the dark? This excuse is a coverup, “Our teams made the decision to extend the road closure to reduce the overall time and costs of completing the project.”

Since Meola Road has been narrowed from 9.2m to 7.2m, construction would be impossible around one lane of traffic. When I tried to set up a Meola Monarchs butterfly garden, I was told that methane from the old dump could cause an explosion if there was a spark and, although I don’t believe it, that would have made a more believable story.

At least illuminated motorway signs and one between the motorway off-ramp and Pt Chevalier Road, are giving commuters a choice to continue along the motorway or Great North Road or to enter the maze of detours through the ‘bird streets’ of Pt Chevalier.

However, the two-way cycleway is a disaster waiting to happen because of the probability of head-on collisions. What if a child with a head injury were to require an ambulance and the road was blocked by a broken-down bus?

Between outer-link and 101 route, there are 88 buses that stop at two in-line bus stops, in both directions. Potentially blocking traffic 352 times a day, not counting humps! Recessing the bus stops again with traffic lights behind the northern stop would be cheaper and safer for students crossing to access Western Springs College through MOTAT.

In June 2011, Nicole Rosie, New Zealand Transport Agency [NZTA] Chief Executive, told a government select committee, “By queues, rather than traditional speed signs and other things, we slow traffic down.” Heather du Plessis-Allan asked about the loss of productivity and called it “crazy” when transport bloggers admitted it creates more emissions.

An exorbitant amount is spent in the name of ‘traffic calming’ (creating queues). There was never enough room on Meola Road with cars parked on both sides and opposing lanes of traffic. Drivers had to navigate around parked cars by pulling over and giving way to the oncoming traffic. It's a ‘no-brainer’, that naturally slows traffic, achieving the same end.

Soccer players from all over Auckland come to park by Seddon Fields, and Meola Reef Dog Walking Park attracts owners from far and wide. What a shame they couldn’t also install off-street parking for dog walkers at the same time or at least prepare the ground for future works.

The experiment to move Kiwi’s out of cars onto bikes has failed. “I'm not a believer in 'build it and they will come'. There's a cultural resistance: we love our cars,” Auckland Transport CEO Dean Kimpton told NZ Herald. “In that emissions reduction plan, cycling is supposed to rise to 17% of all trips. But it's still stuck on 1%. We've got the facilities available and people aren't using them.” They are expensive outdoor gymnasiums for a minority who don’t contribute to their construction or consider other road users.

For cyclists concerned with motorists' visibility turning into busy Pt Chevalier Road, it's more sensible to use the quieter, parallel Huia Road as a designated shared cycleway with painted ‘sharrows’ and speed restrictions. It would save revenue, avoid congestion, stop commuters ‘rat running’ residential streets and leave the road well flowing.

The Pt Chevalier, Meola, Garnet Road route has 29 proposed humps. This project intrudes into Garnet Road on either side of the roundabout. It is the same ‘Waitematā Safe Routes’ cycleway design the community rejected six years ago.

It hides cyclists between parked cars and the kerb in a ‘blood sandwich’. It stops short of the Westmere shops, so they didn’t have to be consulted. The two-lane roundabout becomes single lanes with zebra crossings on all four roads. Traffic that continued along Garnet Road will now be blocked by the commuters travelling along this busy ‘Highway to the West’.

Cycleways that started under National to address emissions targets ($50M May 2009, $100M August 2014) are being discontinued. AT already has a $400M budget shortfall. With the National Government’s removal of fuel tax revenue, transport budgets need to be cut.

Let’s start with aspects of the ‘Pt Chevalier Cycleway’ making it better, cheaper and safer. (Gael Baldock)

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Published: March 2024