Simon Wilson: At last, is this safe cycling on Dominion Rd?


Something remarkable happened in the anguished debates about transport in Auckland this week. The Dominion Road Business Association (DRBA) produced some concept visuals showing bike lanes on their street.

They were promoting the idea of “trackless trams”, which are electric buses with the stability of trains. I wrote about the pros and cons of that idea yesterday.

But there they are in the pictures, one each side of the road: dedicated lanes for cycling.

Those pictures also show the whole road with a central corridor for trackless trams, which could be used for any kind of mass transit system, including light rail or rapid buses. And there’s a single lane each way for cars. A bit of on-street car parking, but not much.

The bike lanes as shown are divided from cars only by a line of paint, which isn’t good enough. They need to be safe which means they need to be separated by concrete. But that’s an easy fix to the proposal.

This is a breakthrough. Auckland Transport, please take note. A local business association has proposed a transport option on an arterial retail street that prioritises mass transit, includes bike lanes, and markedly reduces the space available to cars.

That removes the single biggest problem AT usually faces when it suggests a bike lane: local retailers say no.

So, Auckland Transport, how about doing it right now?

Mass transit isn’t going to happen tomorrow. The Government will not decide what it wants to do about light rail, or trackless trams, or whatever else it might be looking at, for months. It could be a few years before any construction starts. But the bike lanes could go in immediately.

How transformative would that be? Dominion Rd is a suicide alley for cyclists. But make it safe, and watch it become a model for the whole city of how well cycling can serve the needs of locals.

At this very moment, Auckland Council and its agencies, including Auckland Transport, are anguishing over a new Transport Emissions Reduction Plan, their biggest attempt yet to address carbon emissions.

Building bike lanes is a cheap, easy and extremely productive place to start. Don’t rip up the street, don’t do anything else, because mass transit will require bigger changes later anyway. Just build the bike lanes.

The DRBA also said, in its trackless trams announcement, that the advent of more apartment blocks on Dominion Rd was welcome.

You bet it is. Think about that street in 20 years’ time, with parts of it lined by apartment and office blocks, with retail in their ground floors. The whole area will be chock full of people, which makes for more business life, more variety and stronger and safer communities.

And it’s absurd to think most of those people will be driving a car. Not only because of the climate crisis: there simply won’t be any room for them.

This will also be true for everyone using Dominion Rd as an arterial through route. And for the rest of the city: what’s true for Dominion Rd will be true for all the arterials.

Even now, more than half the people who arrive in the city centre each day do so on public transport. With mass transit widely established and cars deprioritised, that will grow enormously.

This will be widely understood, one day, but it sure would be nice if we didn’t have to keep putting up with the pointless clamour for more roads in the meantime.

Congrats to the Dominion Rd businesses. Bike lanes on that street will do wonders for them. And come on, Auckland Transport, it’s your move now.

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