Auckland Council resumed changes to Queen Street some time ago after apparently being frustrated with Auckland Transport’s inability to do its job. They were behind the recent changes between Customs and Shortland St and Yesterday released the last of their plans to improve Queen Street. The good news is that they are improving, but the bad news is that in a few key areas they are still not good enough.
Following the unnecessary and premature removal of temporary COVID works and the upgrading of the section north of Shortland Street, council asked for comment on what has been done. Separately, they proposed to do the rest of Queen Street in stages in a similar design and with consultations at each stage.
We wondered why the designs did not include bicycles and scooters, despite being seen as a major cycle route in Auckland Transport’s strategic plans. We also questioned the consultation process every step of the way, which would only lead to every consultation fatigue, with every change ending in an uphill battle and why officials continued to resist their own plans that call for the withdrawal. Queen Street cars.
We weren’t the only ones thinking this with these three questions and comments on the materials used so far ended up being the four key themes of comments received by the board. Quite positively, those who were least happy with the changes were engines, which means at least some of it is working.
In response to the comments, the board decided to:
- Complete the rest of Queen St as a one-time project
- introduce a new design and include provisions for bicycles / scooters in the design
- Implement measures to reduce the number of cars on Queen Street
Looking at them in more detail.
There is not much to say about the first. It’s good that they are delivering it in one project, but they say the physical labor will start later this year and take until September of next year.
The new design will use cobblestones to fill in the existing loading / parking docks, like on the first section, but then expand them to cover a few lanes of traffic as well instead of the High Street style promenade. Although there will always be loading areas and of course bus stops.
The main feature of the design are significantly wider trails, providing all people on foot and on wheels with designated spaces to ensure their safe coexistence.
From Shortland Street to Wellesley Street on the East Trail, the new route allows:
- pedestrians to continue using the existing path, the closest to shops, free of scooters, bicycles and people moving quickly on foot.
- people using more active modes – described as “slow wheels and fast feet” – to use a 3.5 meter multipurpose path along the strip closest to the roadway.
Tactile edge, contrasting color, change in paving texture, plantings, street furniture and some surface signage will demarcate the multipurpose path for the safe movement of slow cyclists, scooters and fast moving people. walk away from slower pedestrians enjoy the shops and activities of the street.
Fast moving cyclists should use the road.
The main problem with the design is the space saved. What are even “fast feet”? How many kilometers per hour do I have to walk to be considered a fast walker? It all sounds like officials and / or designers trying to find something to use to justify a bad decision. The comment below is from one of the designers involved.
“Dealing with the potential conflict between pedestrians and wheeled mobility challenges the minds of urban designers around the world. Seeking to remedy it in this way on the main street of Auckland, in my opinion, is a good solution ”,
I don’t understand why we keep trying to reinvent the wheel with this stuff. These types of issues were solved a long time ago and design guidelines around the world, and even Auckland Transport’s design manual say that shared paths are not appropriate. The image below is from AT Design Manual. Queen Street is one of the busiest pedestrian streets in the country, if not the busiest, and experiences 2,000 to 4,000 pedestrian movements per hour during the day, even after Covid.
We even have local examples of what happens when we don’t follow such guidelines. The bike path on Beach Rd is often full of pedestrians because it looks like a footpath. Meanwhile, the recent Quay St upgrade still has temporary fencing as well as ugly orange cones, bollards and signs to help steer pedestrians off the bike path, despite it having paving and contrasting furniture, etc.
I have heard the argument that this has to be a shared path due to legislation banning scooters from cycle lanes. But work is currently underway by Waka Kotahi to change that and that should be completed by the time this upgrade is complete.
An example of how to do this is this wonderful new golden cycle path in Rotterdam. There is only a slight sidewalk, so it’s almost level, but that, combined with the color, makes it clear that it’s space for bikes as well as being beautiful. Gold would even work well for Auckland’s Golden Mile.
The Coolsingel is the boulevard of @Rotterdam.
It was recently the subject of a “road regime” of 58 million euros over three years, with two of its motorways transformed into a pedestrian and cycle promenade, including this emblematic 4.5-meter-wide cycle path.
– Dutch Cycling Embassy (@Cycling_Embassy) March 31, 2021
Here is an overview of the proposed cross section for Queen Street.
And a document showing the design
Interestingly, for the first time, they decided not to consult on the design, only on the designations of the loading areas and changes below.
Reduce the number of cars on Queen Street
The second change is to reduce – but frustratingly not to eliminate – the cars on Queen Street.
We aim to achieve this in several ways:
- We are proposing to prevent passenger cars from traveling along Queen Street by introducing an essential vehicle zone (EVA) between Wellesley and Wakefield streets. This would prevent end-to-end traffic while supporting the efficient delivery of goods. Buses, cycles, mopeds, motorcycles, freight and service vehicles and emergency vehicles may use the area normally. At the southern edge of the EVA, four lanes will be reduced to three between Wakefield Street and Mayoral Drive, allowing a pickup and drop-off area outside of Town Hall.
- In the future, there will no longer be general parking on Queen Street. We propose to introduce 24/7 loading and maintenance along the entire length of the project area, as well as parking for mobility around the arts district.
- We are proposing to remove the right turn from High Street to Victoria Street East, to prevent traffic from turning onto Queen Street through town.
- We are also proposing to modify the existing pedestrian mall at Vulcan Lane and create two short sections of pedestrian mall at Fort Street and Lorne Street. This will give more priority to pedestrians and reduce traffic on Queen Street.
The changes to Vulcan Lane are more than just a legal formality while the changes to Fort St only formalize the new pocket park that has been installed.
The EVA is a good idea and will help remove some traffic. It also looks like Auckland Transport will apply it using their automated cameras, as they currently do on many bus lanes. There will apparently be processes in place to determine what is considered an essential vehicle.
The downside is that there will still be access to Queen Street from Wellesley, Wyndham, Shortland and Customs Streets. At the very least, they should look to add a second EVA at the end of Customs St. When I asked about this at a briefing recently, I was told they couldn’t in. do one there because it hadn’t been done before, which is weird.
What is more concerning is that they are consulting on two options for EVA. One would see it running 24/7, but the other only from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., which would mean free for everyone at night. The argument that businesses aren’t there at night but ignores the thousands of residents who live in and around Queen St.
Finally, the downtown master plan also calls for the Queen Street valley to become a zero-emission zone. There is nothing in this plan to suggest that it will be implemented or be part of the conditions for essential vehicles.
As previously mentioned, there are consultations but it is limited to changes of network, EVA and loading zones. They are asking for further comments, however, so it would be good to keep pushing for a dedicated cycle path.