Safety audit called for at Orewa crossings

Business association Destination Orewa Beach is among the groups calling for an urgent safety audit of Orewa’s new pedestrian crossings.

The four crossings on Orewa Boulevard are still being completed by Auckland Transport – work has been held up by bad weather.

The project cost nearly $400,000 and Auckland Transport (AT) said the crossings were designed not only to improve safety but also to be “sympathetic to the boulevard concept”. This included using pavers instead of white painted lines for the crossings.

Destination Orewa Beach operations manager Hellen Wilkins says the organisation lobbied for four years to have the crossings installed, as the former ‘pukeko crossing areas’ were unsafe with vehicles having right of way. The crossings were also needed, she says, to improve connectivity between the town centre shops and beach.

She has raised a number of concerns with AT regarding the placement and visibility of the crossings, supplying photos that illustrate the problems.

Drivers and pedestrians have also been voicing serious concerns about the crossings to the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board and Hibiscus Matters, following our story in July 4 issue. Many say an accident is just a matter of time and that even when the work is complete, the crossings will remain unsafe. Key issues raised are the lack of visibility of the grey pavers, especially when they are wet, and the proximity of the crossings to intersections.

The local board’s frustration with the issue boiled over at its meeting last month.

AT’s elected member relationship manager Ellen Barrett was grilled by members concerned at the number of reported near misses on the crossings. In response, Ellen said that a safety audit was carried out on the design prior to construction, and another will take place after the project is complete.

“AT would not install a facility that does not meet the required standards,” she said. “In terms of the reflectiveness of the crossings, there will be checks to make sure they can be clearly seen by pedestrians and oncoming traffic.”

Auckland Transport’s Code of Practice has rules relating to pedestrian crossings, which include that “zebra crossings are marked by black and white painted strips across the road”. Design and construction must be in accordance with the NZ Transport Authority’s pedestrian planning and design guide, whose provisions include that they should not be sited within 100m of a major intersection (unless right on the intersection) and that transverse bars must be painted reflectorised white, at least 2m long (3 m or more desirable) and 0.3m wide with a 0.6m gap in between.

Member Vicki Watson said that feedback has been daily to Destination Orewa Beach on the matter. She said she fears that the safety audit may come too late.

Local board chair Julia Parfitt has asked for a traffic engineer to visit the crossing sites as soon as possible to look at the problems and for a Destination Orewa Beach representative to be able to talk with the engineer.