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Cyclists speak up about danger spot

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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A shared footpath for pedestrians and cyclists could be created on Ngahue Dr if Auckland Transport has its way.

But two cyclists who use the route and have campaigned for safer cycle routes in the area say the idea is impractical.

Alex Macmillan and Simon Thornley raised the issue of the dangers of cycling along the arterial road after roadworks were completed (East & Bays Courier, June 29, 2011).

They are lecturers at University of Auckland's School of Population Health and both use the route to cycle to work.

Since then Auckland Transport has carried out a scheme feasibility study. Both on-road and off-road cycleways were considered but the preferred option is an off-road shared path from College Rd to the entrance of Waiatarua Reserve, spokesman Mark Hannan says.

It would be an extension to the existing network of off-road shared paths on College Rd, Stonefields and Merton Rd.

Catering for all road users and ensuring their safety are primary concerns, Mr Hannan says.

"This would provide a safer alternative to cycling along Ngahue Dr where the narrow lane widths preclude installing on-road cycle lanes."

Mayor Len Brown agrees.

"In my view the way forward for safe cycling in Auckland is not necessarily to be part of the existing roadway, contesting with buses, cars and trucks.

"We've got to look laterally at how best to maximise our full carriageway opportunities.

"I would like us to increasingly concentrate on developing the footpath berm to be shared between cyclists and pedestrians."

But Dr Macmillan says there is little evidence that off-road shared paths increase safety for cyclists.

"Disappointingly, what's lacking on Ngahue Dr, and in Auckland more generally, is not road width but political will - to recognise the importance of cycling in contributing to multiple transport objectives and to act on the best evidence we have available to us."

Her recent PhD research on cycling to work concluded that shared off-road pathways lead to an increase in cyclist and pedestrian injuries and a lack of driver awareness of cyclists.

This results in more vehicle-cyclist collisions when the two modes eventually do have to share the road, for instance at side road crossings and intersections.

Ngahue Dr has been converted from two lanes to four to "meet theoretical future traffic demand associated with the very car-oriented residential and retail development of Stonefields and Lunn Ave," Dr Macmillan says.

"This demand hasn't materialised so far, and there isn't good evidence that it will. What has resulted is very fast-flowing traffic in four narrow lanes."

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On-road cycle lanes, accompanied by best practice intersection improvements, are the most likely way to improve both actual and perceived cycling safety on arterial roads such as Ngahue Dr, she says.

Dr Thornley agrees.

"Sharing footpaths can create an unsafe environment for pedestrians and most serious cyclists want to use the road because it is usually the most efficient option.

"It is disappointing that the council is trying to push cyclists off the road, or at least make no accommodation for them on the road."

Auckland Transport will call for community consultation after more detailed technical investigations are carried out.

It is hoped that construction can take place towards the end of the year, Mr Hannan says.

- East And Bays Courier

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