Editorial: Safety first, so no parking on Tamaki Drive

The death of a young woman cyclist, a visitor from Britain, on Tamaki Drive last week demonstrates yet again the need for a better accommodation of all the ways in which people enjoy this jewel of a road. Motorists, cyclists, joggers, strollers, are all drawn to the flat waterfront drive with its headlands and bays and sweeping views of the harbour entrance and inner gulf and deserve to be able to use it more safely.

After four cyclists were injured by a car last year, the old Auckland City Council spent $455,000 on improvements, mostly warning signs alerting drivers to the likely presence of cyclists and encouraging cyclists and walkers to report hazards. But these steps did not save British nurse Jane Mary Bishop, who died of injuries received last Wednesday as she cycled past a parked car. Its door opened and when she swerved to avoid it, she was hit by a truck.

It is easy to say cyclists should not be on the road. A cycle lane has been provided on the footpath. Evidently cyclists prefer the road because the footpath lane is narrow, tree roots make it uneven in places, and they have to ride too close to the joggers and strollers.

But the road is no place for them. Tamaki Drive is not only a scenic attraction for motorists, it is also a vital route for commuter traffic in the absence of a motorway from the eastern suburbs to the city. And its carriageway is much reduced for most of the way by cars parked along the kerb.

One of the solutions already under consideration would be to widen the footpath on the seaward side, possibly with a boardwalk. Timber could be an attractive surface for pedestrians, less so for cyclists and joggers. To separate them, the pavement could be widened or cyclists given a lane on the road. Either way, the kerbside parking would have to go.

The old Eastern Bays Community Board successfully opposed a reduction in parking between Mechanics Bay and Ngapipi Rd after the four cyclists were injured last year. But something has to give. It is hard to argue that empty cars deserve priority over any of the modes of travel. Many of the cars are parked a long way from the beaches or other amenities. Presumably the occupants are out enjoying a walk to one of the attractions, but their parked cars detract from a waterfront drive visually as well as spatially.

Doing away with car parking is not on a list of possible traffic improvements the new Auckland Transport agency has issued for Tamaki Drive, but Auckland's new mayor and council may be more sympathetic to cyclists. The number of Aucklanders on two wheels has risen by nearly 40 per cent in the past year, according to a survey by the former regional transport authority. Increasingly, they are asserting an equal right to the road.

All things being equal, a road would be more pleasant than a footpath lane for cycling. But things are not equal in a collision. Where cyclists use roads, they need the code of responsibility being promoted by Auckland triathlete Rowan Larsen this summer. He hopes those adhering to it will be recognised by motorists and better attitudes will be engendered on both sides.

But where lanes have been provided, cyclists should use them. And where lanes can be widened for more sociable riding, they should be widened. Tamaki Drive is a prime example. If parked cars were removed, the whole amenity could be vastly improved, not only with a dedicated wide cycleway, but with a jogging path and the pedestrian boardwalk.

There would still be the problem of commuter traffic trying to jostle its way past the tourist buses and sightseers. But safety rather than speed must be the paramount concern.

From NZ Herald