Providing a safer option for people who cycle along Totara Street so they can choose to ride off the road, away from heavy vehicles.
What's happened so far?
On 21 September 2021 Waka Kotahi approved the partnership funding for the Totara Street safety upgrade and works started in October 2021.
Since then, work on the shared path and cycle way along Totara Street has progressed with final works being completed throughout the site. Some work at Rata Street is on hold until mid-2023.
Since this time last year, we have seen a significant uptake in users on the shared pathway. A 38% overall increase and a 69% increase during the peak morning period is a promising sign that the improvements have given the community the confidence to use this stretch of road safely for their daily commute.
What’s the urgent safety risk?
Two people have been killed on Totara Street since 2018. The cycle lanes are right next to the vehicle lanes and are narrower than recommended standards (ranging between 1m and 1.2m). Trucks have blind spots that prevent drivers from seeing people who are riding bikes near the truck. There’s a lot going on in a narrow space of road. Totara Street is busy with heavy vehicles, cars and bikes.
The image below shows (in red) the blind spots for a truck driver. If you’re cycling, driving or walking in these areas it makes it difficult for the driver to see. The dotted line represents the intended path for the truck to turn that goes through various blind spots.
(Graphic source: Cycling Action Network of New Zealand)
What's the plan?
We've built a shared path and a separated cycleway with the goal being to separate vulnerable road users from heavy vehicles as much as possible along Totara Street.
Shared path – Hewletts Road to Kawaka Street
The 3m wide shared path is on the eastern side of Totara Street. We didn’t put it on the port side of Totara Street because there is a conflict where the railway line splits into two tracks—KiwiRail doesn’t permit cycle paths to cross their tracks in those circumstances and it’s not feasible to build an overpass or underpass.
Separated cycleway – Kawaka Street to Rata Street
The separated cycleway is on the port side of Totara Street between Kawaka Street and Rata Street. The new signalised crossing near Kawaka Street now links the shared path to the cycleway. The design included intersection upgrades and a new signalised crossing at the left turn slip lane into Totara Street from Hewletts Road.
Who is it for?
The shared path is designed for everyday users, rather than for people who are training or want to ride at speed. It’s not a perfect solution. If you use Totara Street as a cycling training route, we recommend riding on the road as a bunch where possible and taking the lane.
The shared path will make Totara Street safer for more people, sooner, acknowledging that it won’t attract those who want a fast, uninterrupted ride along the road.
Long term planning will continue with our transport and industry partners. This planning will take some time because Totara Street presents some complex challenges. In the meantime we’ve updated the on-road cycle lane markings and added rumble strips.
Will it affect traffic?
One of the challenges for this project has been how to get people safely from the harbour bridge pathway on the western side of Totara Street to the new shared path on the eastern side.
A traffic light will be added at the left turn slip-lane into Totara Street. The new signal will only be activated when people want to cross the slip lane. This allows safe movement of pedestrians and bikers between the harbour bridge path and the main Hewletts Road intersection.
Depending on how many people activate the new signal, it might take a bit longer to drive over the harbour bridge at rush hour. People driving from the city might sometimes find themselves in longer queues as they approach Hewletts Road. At worst this could mean a 1.7 minute delay if the pedestrian crossing lights were to be triggered at each change of the lights during the highest peak hour traffic. Although 1.7 minutes can seem like a long time, it needs to be measured against the potential for death and serious injury that the project aims to prevent.
Waka Kotahi supports signalising the Hewletts Road left turn slip lane to provide a safer crossing for pedestrians and cyclists.
What’s the cost?
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency will help pay for the project. Council contribution to the project is $4.1M. The remaining partnership funding of $4.284M will be provided by Waka Kotahi, bringing the total project cost to $8.4M.
Consultation background and feedback
In July 2020 the Council proposed a safety upgrade for Totara Street. We asked people to tell us how they currently use Totara Street and for their thoughts on the proposed safety upgrades.
Most people agreed that Totara Street needs to be made safer for people who cycle between the city and the Mount. We received lots of feedback about how the proposed design could be improved and other suggestions that need to be taken into account.
Key themes that came through the responses were:
- Concerns about the proposed signalised crossing just north of Hewletts Road.
- Questions about why the shared path could not be maintained on the Port side.
- The need for a broader plan for managing freight operations.
We appreciate the time people took to provide us with feedback. As a result of feedback, the following changes to the design were made:
- Removal of the signals north of Hewletts and incorporating a signalised crossing at the Hewletts Road intersection.
- Retaining the left turn lane at Rata Street to support Port and future reinstatement of cruise ship operations.
- Improving safety with signalised crossings at Hull, Triton and further enhancements at Waimarie intersection.
- Pedestrian facilities for a safer crossing to access the café’s and business between Triton and Hull and to access bus stops at Puriri Street and Matai Road.
Q&A about Totara Street safety upgrade
Cycle detector loops along Totara Street show that more than 100,000 bike trips were made in 2019. While many people bike to get to work in the morning and afternoon peaks, a large number of people use the route during off peak periods and weekends. Port operations and trucks frequent the area 24 hours, 7 days per week.
A lot of options were considered for the Port side, including one-directional on road facilities, off road facilities and two-directional facilities. None of these options were seen as viable options and therefore none are able to be supported for the Port side. One of the reasons for this is that the shared path would need to cross an area where the existing rail tracks separate into two lines. KiwiRail does not permit cycle facilities to cross the rail lines in this circumstance.
Businesses on the Port side do not support any facilities on the Port side. Business concerns relate to truck drivers having limited visibility of bikes and the health and safety risks this represents, but support facilities on the eastern alignment.
The main Port entrance is located at Hull Road on the western alignment, and not supported by the Port of Tauranga, given the majority of truck movements converge there.
Heavy vehicle truck movements on the port alignment is 292 compared with 147 on the eastern alignment. This increases the number of potential conflict points for cyclists compared to the eastern side.
An independent safety audit considered this matter a significant risk for people biking and recommended that the Port alignment not be progressed.
We also used our cycle model that gives a clear indication of how people use the roads in the Mount North area. This has highlighted a high demand for people accessing Totara Street from the Hull Road area. This means that people will have to cross the busy roundabout at Hull Road to access the shared path on the Port side. This presents additional safety risks
The most challenging area is between Hull and Triton Avenue, where two signalised crossings are proposed. We have had to consider managing very heavy traffic movements with the main Port entrance at this location. The intersections have been designed thoughtfully to reduce conflicts, increase visibility and provide clear direction of movement.
The intersection design is essential for the safety and comfort of people regardless of how they travel. These designs aim to minimise conflicts between people walking, cycling and driving by heightening visibility, showing a clear right of way, and facilitating eye contact and awareness of different modes. This does however mean, that at these two intersections (Triton and Hull) people will have to increase their journey by approximately 30m to provide safe crossing. The expected delay at these intersections is estimated to be between 15 and 30 seconds.
We are very conscious of the potential conflict between vehicles exiting here, whether between riders on road, or off road.
We acknowledge the substantial feedback around the additional sets of traffic signals north of Hewletts Road not being supported. This option was one of three which included signalising the left turn lane into Totara or going straight ahead across Totara Street.
The suggestion by many that provided feedback was to remove the crossing north of Hewletts Road and rather use the existing signals and the crossing at Hewletts Road.
Unfortunately, there is no prefect solution. Taking the feedback into account, we propose that the slip lane be signalised for safety reasons. This would accommodate both Hewletts Road and Totara Street users and enable safe crossing to and from the Harbour Bridge path. This crossing does unfortunately have implications to the travelling public. The modelling shows that during the worst peak pm hour, a journey for a person travelling is likely to incur a 1.7minute delay.
We are working closely with the individual businesses between Hewletts Road and Kawaka Street where large trucks regularly turn in and out of entranceways.
We will be putting in additional measures to ensure that everyone riding, walking and driving are aware of each other at entranceways and setting the crossing of the driveway as far back as possible (3 to 4m) to enable trucks to see people approaching. This is particularly important given the blind zone of large trucks.
We're also working on a trial of warning lights at Dominion Salt that would alert truck drivers whenever people approach one of the entrances that is most frequently used by heavy vehicles. These may be extended to other high incident locations, depending of the results of the trial.
People on the shared path will have right-of-way but everyone should look out for each other at entranceways whether driving, biking or walking.
There will be some changes to the available space when the shared path is built. We are working with locals to minimise the impact on their businesses.
We will need to remove at least one tree at the corner of Triton and Totara to make space for the shared path. New planting will enhance this area as part of the project.
We’re proposing to build a two-way cycleway along the Port side of the road: there’s more space on the Port side; there are no driveways for the cycleway to come into conflict with; and there will be no impact on parking which is important for retailers between Matai and Rata Street. A new signalised crossing will get people safely over to the Port side of the road and provide access for people catching the bus to safely cross over to Blake Park.
There are challenges with relocating the power poles in the vicinity of Blake Park. This means that are likely to extend the path across Kawaka to Matai Street. We will work to make sure the path is wide enough to provide enough space to separate people biking and walking. This means the signalised crossing will also be relocated closer to Matai Street intersection.
No parking is lost under the current proposal. We have carefully considered the need for parking for local businesses. We will be moving the parking backwards and provide a shared path behind the parking. A refuge island will be provided for people to pause before going into Nikau Crescent at the Port entrance.
The only other route connecting the Mount to the city centre is via Maunganui Road and Hewletts/SH2. It is twice the distance for someone to ride compared to the Totara Street route.
Hewletts Road also has safety challenges for people on bikes, notably two roundabouts (Golf Road and Newton Street), high traffic volumes on the state highway and many busy driveways.
Totara Street footpath is now approved for people to cycle on. People who ride along Totara Street are advised to share the footpath, instead of riding on the road.
These are temporary changes to provide an immediate, safer option so people can travel by bike along Totara Street without riding alongside general traffic and heavy vehicles.
The changes apply between Hewletts Road and Kawaka Street (just north of Dominion Salt). Tauranga City Council has classified the footpath in that section as a shared path. The on-road cycle lanes between Kawaka Street and Rata Street will remain.
The footpath is 1.5m wide and needs to be shared with care and consideration for other people.
Whether you are driving, biking or walking, please be vigilant and look out for each other at entranceways.
Existing road markings have been refreshed and improved, including on-road cycle lane markings at intersections. This is in recognition that many people will continue to ride on the road.