Our Opinion – Something’s got to give

Speeds are lowering on many of our roads. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more feedback about this – especially the proposal to lower the speed on Silverdale hill from 70kph to 60kph (HM March 7). Perhaps that’s because traffic is so busy there that you’d be lucky to go more than 60kph! 

What AT is essentially saying is that these roads are not designed, engineered or built for safe use by growing volumes of traffic, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, at higher speeds. And it’s right. 

Broader changes proposed to roads are a response to climate change – the immediate need to reduce CO2 emissions by changing the way we move around. This includes AT’s Parking Strategy proposals, which include re-designing roads to be multi-use.

These moves, clumsy and inconsistent as some of them are, are driven by science – just as the Covid-19 pandemic response was. Government, Council and AT need to lead the way, which is what they are attempting to do.

A lot of this has come late for Auckland which until recently prioritised private vehicle use and urban sprawl. For the Hibiscus Coast, land zoned for business was allowed to be re-zoned residential by Council, which made no sense given that if people work closer to home, it reduces road congestion. So, most of us commute but our park and ride is not big enough. 

And while it is counter-intuitive to charge at park and rides when you want to encourage public transport use, some of the proposals in AT’s parking strategy, including making roads multi-use, are essential. Cars cannot continue to rule the road.

That brings me to the proposal to place a pedestrian crossing smack bang in the Whangaparāoa Rd dynamic lane. The dynamic lane was designed to aid traffic flow, and obviously having a crossing over it will slow that flow when someone needs to cross. 

However, this is not a motorway. It’s a main road which is also residential. During consultation on the dynamic lane residents raised issues such as safe access to their driveways, children having to cross the road to get home or to school. I have seen children standing in the middle of the dynamic lane, waiting for a gap big enough for them to run across. There may not be many needing to cross, right now, but if you provide another safe place to cross, more will begin to use it, with an increase in walking and cycling.

If these moves by AT, petrol prices, squeezes at the park and ride and the congestion tax (which is on its way) are to succeed in getting us out of our cars more often, there needs to be regular, reliable public transport as well as consistency – new highways, including Penlink, must be built with dedicated public transport and cycling lanes.

Some of us will have to be dragged kicking and screaming from our cars. It will be a gradual process as we move towards higher use of public transport and more walking or cycling – one trip at a time.

It is an inconvenient, challenging and painful process. But an important tenant of survival is adaptation. Humans are now faced with two options – adaptation to new ways of living, or, ultimately, extinction.

Editor, Hibiscus Matters