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Worse for pedestrians, easier for cars – a wrong decision for Hataitai

hataitai intersection

by Mike Mellor
The Wellington City Council is proposing to build a mountable roundabout at the intersection of Hataitai’s shopping centre, which it says will increase pedestrian safety – but it provides no information to support this. The new layout will in fact make things harder for pedestrians (who will have to walk out of their way to get to the re-positioned crossings) and easier for vehicles.

hataitai plan

This will tend to mean fewer people walking in the suburb’s shopping centre and more cars driving through it, precisely the opposite of what gives a shopping centre vitality. It is also the opposite of the WCC’s transport hierarchy – which puts people on foot first, recognising that people walk (not drive) into shops, that many will cross the road getting there and that many will not be driving (particularly at a busy transport hub like Hataitai).

WCC lists the 15 options it considered in a presentation it made last month to the Hataitai Residents’ Association.

It ranked them, and then did a benefit/cost analysis of three: a mountable roundabout (ranked 1); traffic lights with parallel crossings (ranked 2=); and traffic lights with an exclusive pedestrian phase (ranked 15, and last). How it chose these three is not stated, but in all of these options pedestrians end up worse off than they are currently. Apparently the council did not analyse any option that showed increased pedestrian benefit, or even ones with results no worse than now.

One way of improving pedestrian safety and convenience is to put pedestrian crossings on platforms at footpath level, giving a level walk across and creating a low speed bump – not a particular traffic issue when they are well designed and traffic should be moving slowly anyway, as close by this intersection.

But despite the professed concern for pedestrian safety, WCC says that such platforms are not “necessary” on three of the legs, just on Hataitai Road.

A development of crossing platforms would be to put the whole intersection on a platform, and that option was the other one ranked 2= – but for some reason it never got to the benefit/cost analysis stage, being overlooked in favour of no. 15.

So what should the WCC do?

The proposal makes little sense, but combining it with a raised table looks as if it would give improved benefits while still being affordable. Alternatively, the council could just focus on pedestrian safety and improve the existing crossings, preferably with platforms. Benefit/cost analysis of these two options would be useful – and all options that make pedestrians worse off should be discarded.

Fewer people and more cars makes no sense whatever.

Submissions close this Friday.

16 comments:

  1. Yard glass, 21. July 2020, 9:06

    The proposal says it will require the removal of 13 car parks so hard to argue it would increase traffic. Might be bad, though, for the businesses which rely on them. I walked and drove through this intersection for years and it’s always been dodgy. Don’t forget it’s also a bus thoroughfare so extra bumps wouldn’t be ideal. I’ve always found pedestrian crossings located right on intersections dangerous as motorists are focussing on too many places at once and can end up waiting in an intersection while someone is crossing the road.

     
  2. Ellen, 21. July 2020, 12:51

    Let’s make Hataitai a better place to be, not just pass through – the pedestrian crossings need to be safer, so many near misses. And the crossings need to go where people want to walk. The Waitoa Rd bus stop near the shops is one of the busiest on this route so needs to work well for bus passengers too.

    Removing the parking close to the intersection will simplify it for everyone, and making it clear which side gives way will help too. Roundabouts don’t work for pedestrians but a raised section of road with zebra crossings works well in Tawa (there are buses there too) – and it can here.

     
  3. Kerry, 21. July 2020, 14:26

    Thanks Mike. I am not much impressed with WCC cycleway management, and their treatment of pedestrians is little better. There is a good solution for a junction like this, a Dutch roundabout:
    — Move the centre of the roundabout south-west by 5 m or so, to get good clearance all round. If it has to be mountable, make sure that no vehicles can mount it at speed. A step of about 80-100 mm might be about right.
    — Install three concentric roundabouts: motor vehicles in the middle, cycles further out and pedestrians on the outside.
    — Use raised crossings where motor vehicles cross the cycle and pedestrian roundabouts, with ‘pedestrian crossings’ for both cyclists and pedestrians.
    If that doesn’t match NZ regulations, then change the NZ regulations.

     
  4. Dave B, 21. July 2020, 16:23

    A similar arrangement used to exist at the Crofton/Ottawa/ Collingwood/Waikohai intersection in Ngaio. This used to be a crossroads with pedestrian crossings close to the intersection on three of the four legs. In the late 1980s this was replaced with a roundabout (non-mountable). The pedestrian crossings all disappeared and white timber fence was erected across one of the natural desire-lines where pedestrians used to cross. How this was ever considered acceptable I cannot imagine, except to remember that this was 30 years ago when ‘cars-first’ thinking was even more prominent than today.
    Concerted community action managed to get one of the crossings reinstated, but re-positioned a good 30m from the desire-line meaning potentially 60m extra walking. The white fence got repeatedly demolished by vehicles and the council eventually gave up trying to fix it. Now only a shorter section remains, away from the trajectory of out-of-control vehicles and no-longer affording any pretence of protection to pedestrians.
    A generation of pedestrians have been disadvantaged and inconvenienced by this, and this unsatisfactory arrangement remains to the present day. And on a bad day, the traffic still banks up there. So good luck Hataitai. Sad this sort of thing is still happening.

     
  5. Brent Efford, 22. July 2020, 9:33

    All well said – thank you, Mike. The Hataitai example is just one of many where the City Council maintains the ‘cars first’ mentality in street design.
    Another egregious example is the intersection of Brussels St and Park Rd (the busy “main street of Wellywood”) in Miramar. Most weekdays I guide my granddaughter (now 9) over this six-lane-wide unrestricted expanse of asphalt from Miramar Central School to her home two blocks away. The intersection is big enough for boy racers to do late-night wheelies, and regularly sees cars making fast turns into Brussels St which would bowl any pedestrian unlucky enough to be in the way. The weird thing is that the Brussels St paving for motor vehicles is six lanes wide both sides of the intersection, but only two lanes wide with a grass berm and trees further away – the exact opposite of sensible and commonplace traffic engineering.
    I have been making representations through the ward councillors about this pedestrian-mocking design defect since my grandaughter started school four years ago, and the school has also protested – to no avail, of course. The intersection has been resealed twice in that time, without even as much as a painted pedestrian crossing being applied. Let alone a raised crossing and narrowed carriageway, which is the obvious solution.
    Another example of WCC pedestrian-indifference is the practice of designating 30 km/h speed limits in shopping areas – including the Golden Mile now – and then totally neglecting to enforce them. Most motorists ignore any sort of speed restriction sign. The daily squealing panic stops at the pedestrian crossing in Aro St, 50 metres from my front gate, is proof of the ineffectiveness of speed limit signs on their own.

     
  6. Richard Keller, 26. July 2020, 19:39

    “WCC’s transport hierarchy – which puts people on foot first,”. Yes, but what are the priorities of Council operatives? That group is where the neo-liberal has become entrenched. Can we hope to see the ‘foot first’ priority upheld without the WCC elected counsellors calling out the advice coming from staff?

     
  7. Mike Mellor, 30. July 2020, 9:51

    Good point, Richard. The designers of this proposal seem to have considered that neither WCC nor LGWM (relevant because this intersection is on the main spine bus route to/from the east) policies and strategies were important enough to take into account – neither were mentioned in the documentation, and the proposal is at odds with both.

    Whatever the fine words in council policies, it’s ‘foot last’ in this case.

     
  8. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 30. July 2020, 11:40

    Thanks for publishing this, Mike. I agree with everything you’ve said, except perhaps “How it chose these three is not stated, but in all of these options pedestrians end up worse off than they are currently.” The current four crossings, put in way back in the 1980s at the behest of the residents association (which I chaired at the time) were installed to give legal priority to pedestrians but are unsafe due to drivers’ attention being primarily on other motor vehicles. I advocated traffic signals, which have several benefits and one dis-benefit (see below) but a vocal lobby of drivers objected on the grounds that a number of parking spaces would be lost. As I said at the time, and am proven correct by the diagram, just as many car parks will be lost with the proposed roundabout.

    Traffic signals would have several major advantages: principally that they would allow active, automated management of the traffic at peak hours. The primary bus route (and other buses) could have priority (with bus detection); city-bound traffic could be held back off the intersection in the morning peak to avoid gridlocking the stretch of Moxham Avenue between Waitoa Road and Taurima Street; and evening peak traffic from town could be prioritised in the evenings, again to avoid gridlocking that stretch. The primary disadvantage of traffic signals is that people running for a bus would sometimes find themselves waiting for a “green man” and could be tempted to “chance it”; however this needs to be seen against the current dangers for pedestrians on the crossings due to distracted drivers. There have been several injury accidents and many near misses here in recent years.

    If traffic lights won’t fly, then I wholeheartedly agree with the option of raising the whole intersection on a table and paving it a contrasting colour, to signal visually and physically to drivers that they need to slow down and are crossing a major pedestrian area. Retain the pedestrian crossings and do not move them off the pedestrian desire lines. The ramps onto and off this raised table could be carefully designed and angled to reduce negative effects on bus passengers.

    I am disappointed to read of the short consultation period and apparent lack of any publicity of the proposed major changes in the Hataitai village. I intend to address the City Council with my concerns.

    Chris Calvi-Freeman, Hataitai resident, transport planner, city councillor 2016-19

     
  9. Dave B, 30. July 2020, 13:17

    How about traffic lights, like a very similar intersection at Brooklyn?

     
  10. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 30. July 2020, 17:31

    Hi Dave, yes I advocated a year or two ago for traffic signals, and worked closely with the officers to explore this option. After much delay, the roundabout has come up as their preferred option.

    Incidentally, I also worked with the officers to try to improve the main Brooklyn intersection, as there’s scope for improvement in the way the traffic signals there are phased.

     
  11. Treena, 30. July 2020, 17:49

    This sounds stupid. Can you link to the submission in here? I want to submit! [As Mike reports, submissions closed last Friday. We published his article four days before submissions closed. ]

     
  12. Mike Mellor, 30. July 2020, 19:15

    Chris C-F, Dave B: traffic lights with parallel pedestrian crossings ranked 2= in WCC’s multi-criteria analysis (MCA), but in the benefit/cost analysis (BCA – see p15 of https://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/projects/files/hataitai-intersection/hataitai-intersection-roundabout-proposal.pdf?la=en) that option was worse than now for both bus passengers and pedestrians – so even less consistent with WCC and LGWM policies than the roundabout proposal, where bus passengers would do better than now.

    That BCA analysis shows that pedestrians are worse off in all three of the options analysed in that way: a raised table was the other option ranked 2= by MCA, but for some reason was not analysed by BCA.

     
  13. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 30. July 2020, 21:16

    Thanks Mike. Yeah I’ve seen the presentation slides. I just don’t necessarily believe they’ve factored in everything. Roundabouts are notoriously pedestrian-unfriendly, and to use one in a local suburban centre is simply ill-advised.

    My fear is that drivers coming into the roundabout will simply look right (for traffic they have to give way to) and fail to look left for pedestrians, especially if turning left, or will “gap accept” (i.e. beat other traffic) and “plant boot” through the roundabout and to hell with the peds. And I’ll be interested to see whether drivers of the increasingly popular big SUVs and utes will simply drive over the small roundabout instead of going around it.

    I’ll reiterate, I think a big raised table and retention of the crossings on the desire lines is preferable to the roundabout. Incidentally, the main reason why people were against the lights appeared to be the loss of car parking; their assumption (not challenged in 2018 by the officers) was that a roundabout wound’t involve carparking loss to the same extent.

    Oh, and finally, if WCC wants to reduce driver confusion as to who gives way to whom, they should remove those stupid limit lines (give way lines) on the approaches to the pedestrian crossings. These are optional, I believe, and simply cause driver confusion as to which traffic approaching the intersection has right of way over the other traffic.

     
  14. Dave B, 30. July 2020, 21:40

    Hard to argue with a study by WCC with lots of tables and graphs, but. . . is it really valid?
    If traffic lights are installed, surely the benefits to the various ‘users’ will depend on the priorities built in to the control-system. How priority is allocated between vehicles and pedestrians is a programming choice, not an immutable property of the traffic-light option. And as Chris C-F mentions in his 11:40 comment above, bus-priority could be achieved with detectors. These are issues common to many intersections around the city, (country, world) where traffic lights have been the go-to solution for decades. Why is this intersection different?
    And were the objections to traffic lights, mentioned as arising during ‘previous community engagement’, substantive enough to rule out the option or could they have been mitigated?

     
  15. Elsie G, 3. August 2020, 16:57

    I’m unsure why the Council is determined to make the Hataitai intersection a major traffic project.

    It should replace the give-ways with much more visible STOP road markings, and get rid of the stupid white lines in front of the pedestrian crossings. Easy!

    It will reduce driver confusion and leaves pedestrians as #1 in the village. Then if safety concerns persist, the Council could assess whether an intersection table is needed. The village seems to be the only 4-way intersection in the area with give-way instead of stop controls, despite being one of the busiest.

    As for traffic lights, I think some residents object to such an extreme solution when the Council hasn’t first tried simple things like clear road markings. Traffic lights also tend to detract from the feeling of being in a village, in the one-eyed opinion of this resident.

     
  16. Ellen, 3. August 2020, 21:58

    Agree Elsie, try the simple things first.
    Traffic lights are a well known way to control and slow pedestrians crossing. The traffic signal phasing in the rest of Wellington clearly shows that pedestrians are made to wait much longer to cross than any vehicle user.
    Pedestrians (adult fit ones at least) make good decisions about the right time to cross. But crossings also need to be safe for kids and others too.

     

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