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Upgrade does not cater to all

JENNY LING AND KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
Cycle Lanes
SAFETY FIRST: Cyclist Emma Blomkamp says separate cycle lanes and removing car parking would go a long way to make Dominion Rd safer for cyclists.

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New plans for cyclists taking on one of Auckland's notoriously busy roads have drawn mixed reviews.

Auckland Transport has proposed parallel cycle routes on streets close to Dominion Rd so bike riders won't have to cycle on the major arterial road.

While the $4.5m project has received the thumbs up for young and less experienced cyclists, it seems commuter cyclists have been left with no alternative but to tackle the road which carries about 25,000 vehicles a day.

Transport Blog editor Matt Lowrie says the alternative routes won't work for commuter cyclists.

"They're too convoluted, they're not straight enough and it's a longer distance to travel. While it is good, it's not going to solve all the problems and there are still going to be cyclists who are cycling to town, that won't change."

Cyclist Emma Blomkamp rides from Sandringham to work in Mt Eden. She used to cycle along Dominion Rd, but this year she's been taking side streets because cycling on the arterial road can be "pretty scary".

"I find it worse when the bus lanes aren't in use and the cars are parked there because of the risk of car doors opening."

Ms Blomkamp says the only way to make Auckland roads safer for cyclists is to have dedicated cycle lanes and remove parking from major arterial roads.

"It may work if you don't need to go all the way along Dominion Rd.

"But my biggest objection is they're not proposing cycling lanes, they are just proposing measures intended to slow traffic, improve lighting and have signage."

The alternative cycle route covers 12km. It runs from Renfrew Ave and Parau St in the south to Onslow and Bellevue roads in the north.

Work starts in May and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

It includes linking streets for cyclists with new signage, traffic slowing measures like speed humps, and traffic lights at four intersections: Balmoral Rd and Matipo St, Balmoral Rd and Pine St, Mt Albert Rd and Bremner Ave and on Mt Albert Rd at an accessway between May Rd and Renfrew Ave.

Some paths will be shared with pedestrians.

The plan is part of the Dominion Rd upgrade which will see bus infrastructure, footpaths, street crossings and village centres improved.

But separate cycle lanes have been ruled out. The only dedicated cycle lanes are a 100-metre strip north of View Rd between George and Horopito streets which connect to the existing lanes on Ian McKinnon Drive.

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"To create more space along most of Dominion Rd to allow for cyclists, buses and cars would require widening the road," Auckland Transport's website says. "This was ruled out because of the $50m extra cost, mostly related to moving services like power, water pipes and telecommunications."

Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor Cathy Casey says widening through the village centres "is not an option because it could only be achieved by altering the fronts of a number of heritage buildings."

Ms Casey says about 300 cyclists use Dominion Rd every day.

"There have been a number of bicycle accidents along Dominion Rd and the quieter parallel cycle routes offer a safer alternative to less confident cyclists," she says.

There were 27 crashes in the area involving cyclists from 2008 to 2013 including three serious injury crashes and 18 minor crashes.

The risks are very real to Ms Blomkamp, who earlier this month saw an injured cyclist on Dominion Rd near Bellevue Rd. He could have been knocked off his bike by a car or crashed because the area was dimly lit, she says.

Cycle Action Auckland chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert says the route is "not ideal".

"They're not what we asked for and they are a compromise.

"Dominion Rd is the most direct route for cyclists to get into town and it's no coincidence buses use it. Cyclists want to use the direct route as well - so cyclists and buses will still be sharing a narrow space. They will continue to use Dominion Rd because it remains the most convenient route."

Brake Road Safety development director Caroline Perry says it is great to see safe cycle routes in the Dominion Rd upgrade.

"Internationally, research has shown that the most effective ways to protect cyclists and pedestrians is the separation of road users, and slower speeds.

"This is a good step forward, but there is still much more that needs to be done to make Auckland more cyclist and pedestrian-friendly."

What do you think of the new cycle plan? Email edcl@snl.co.nz with your thoughts.

- additional reporting AUT student Jason Walls

- Central Leader

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