Great divide over traffic lights
Plans are afoot to improve safety at the intersection of Tamaki Drive and Ngapipi Rd. Auckland Transport favours installing a set of traffic lights. Reporter Karina Abadia asked residents what they think.
One of the city’s most dangerous intersections is to be fixed but opinion is divided over whether installing traffic lights is the best way to make it safer.
The Tamaki Drive and Ngapipi Rd intersection is considered one of the top 10 high-risk intersections in the Auckland region.
Thirty-one crashes have been recorded at the notorious site in the past five years with 25 resulting in injury.
The intersection is up for safety improvements as part of the government’s Safer Journeys Action Plan which aims to identify and fix at least 30 of the 100 highest risk intersections by September 2014.
Auckland Transport has put forward two options – installing lights or adding a roundabout – but has expressed a preference for lights.
Vehicle counts in September 2012 on both the Ngapipi Rd and Tamaki Drive citybound approaches showed morning traffic flows were similar, with 2747 vehicles on Tamaki Drive and 2693 turning left from Ngapipi Rd onto Tamaki Drive.
‘‘Traffic lights have the benefit of being monitored and phasing timings can be changed to optimise intersection efficiency, or in response to other events on the network,’’ Auckland Transport road safety manager Karen Hay says.
Tamaki Drive Protection Society chairman Ken Palmer agrees.
‘‘I don’t think it will hinder the traffic flow into the city,’’ he says.
It is better to let the traffic queue up a bit and then have a traffic light phase where the queue gets cleared, he says.
With the roundabout option the citybound traffic will back up on Tamaki Drive because drivers will have to give way to others turning right onto Ngapipi Rd.
Only the traffic light option provides pedestrian crossings and cycle lanes.
‘‘[Having] cyclists on a busy roundabout is pretty risky. Just take the Panmure roundabout; it’s almost a death-wish to cycle around there,’’ Mr Palmer says.
Society member Dr Peter Harwood says a roundabout will not change the fact the Ngapipi bridge is a real pinch-point for cyclists.
He suggests providing more space for pedestrians and cyclists with an extension of the boardwalk from Mechanics Bay to Mission Bay to separate the footpath from a dedicated cycleway.
But St Heliers resident Robert Johnston says a roundabout would be safer for motorists.
‘‘People have to slow down for a roundabout and if there is an accident it’s likely to be at a lot less velocity than if it occurs at a traffic light intersection.’’
It is also better for the environment, he says.
‘‘With traffic lights vehicles are sitting there idling which must inherently produce more pollution than when vehicles are actually able to move.’’
Mission Bay resident John Coutts also supports the roundabout option.
‘‘It is very difficult for drivers to turn right from Ngapipi Rd on to Tamaki Drive. With a roundabout they would get priority over people heading east along Tamaki Drive.’’
In the morning when citybound traffic is heavy there is also the option of putting in lights at the roundabout, he says.
St Heliers-Glendowie residents association chairman Keith Savory says Auckland Transport already seems to have made up its mind and has not offered sufficient information to help residents make an informed decision.
Pro lights: Tamaki Drive Protection Society chairman Ken Palmer and committee member Dr Peter Harwood support the proposal to add lights at the intersection of Tamaki Drive and Ngapipi Rd.