Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pedestrian safety in Mangere

Yesterday a 9 year old boy was hit by a car in Mangere and suffered serious injuries. As serious walkers, Spider and I wondered how such a thing could happen in the world's most liveable city. Wouldn't TWMLC be pedestrian friendly, especially when it came to the safety of young pedestrians? The initial news reports noted that the incident had happened on Mangere Rd between Robertson and Buckland Roads. This isn't a million miles from our place so we thought we'd check it out.

Mangere Road is a key arterial road that runs smack through the middle of a suburb with a high concentration of children and young people (ie the people least likely to be aware of traffic). It shunts traffic from Otahuhu through to the airport. Running perpendicular, thus necessitating numerous motorway interchanges in Mangere, is State Highway 20, running between Somewhere Out West and the airport. It would be logical to assume that over the years traffic and road planners have become more aware of things such as the demographic make up of the region's suburbs, but alas, this does not seem to be the case. 

We started on the corner of Buckland Rd and Mangere Rd. It's 4.30 so the traffic is building up - it's already pretty busy. On one corner is a park, the other corners are all houses.

Here, the pedestrian curbs are placed diagonally into the footpath - not very convenient or safe for the visually impaired or anyone on a scooter or wheelchair. The crossings are all with the traffic (no Barnes dances for these residents) with one side not having a crossing phase at all (photo below). So to get from one side of Mangere Rd (where this photo was taken) to the other (where the bike is) requires crossing the other three sides of the intersection or crossing against the traffic (as Spider and I did).

One other thing: beware the free left turns. There are no crossings or any other indications to motorists that they need to be cognisant of pedestrians.

Moving down Mangere Rd about 75 metres we come to a side street close to a bus stop. There is no way to get from the south side of Mangere Rd to the bus stop on the other side legally except by walking down to the Buckland Rd intersection then crossing three sides of the intersection and doubling back down the north side. Or cross against the traffic. It should be noted here that there is not, in any section of this block, even the slightest hint of a pedestrian traffic island. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

Next we come to the David Lange Rest Home. It's on another corner with no pedestrain amenities. No wonder you don't see any oldies out having a rage on their scooters and zimmer frames.

Some 500-600 metres down the road we come to the Robertson Rd intersection. This is slightly better set up, probably because there is a school up the road so they had to give some thought to the Differently Abled. There's those little yellow raised dot thingies for the walking stick set, and the curb cuttings actually face the direction people would be expected to cross. Plus, there's pedestrian crossings on ALL FOUR SIDES!

There's still the problem of not having a pedestrian crossing on the free turns, and no indication to motorists to give way to pedestrians.

But the kicker here is that this intersection is about 100 metres away from a motorway interchange. Up to Robertson Rd (traveling east) the road is two lanes wide. At Robertson Rd the two lanes merge into one: it's a shitfight and there's always turds racing up the inside lane to try to gain a cars length before the traffic becomes one lane. The reports into the child's injuries talked about him being hit by a car passing on the left and we're speculating that this is why. Here's two lanes of cars revving their engines waiting to steal a march on the car next to them (lane three turns right):

Here's the shops the boy was trying to get to. They're great; you can by a pink singlet with a picture of (maybe?) Britney Spears and a bag of red onions from the same shop. Being so close to the intersection they (the shops, not the singlets and onions) mess with the traffic flow as cars slow down to turn into the carpark.

As an aside, there's no cycle lane anywhere through here, either. The cyclists we saw were riding on the footpath. 

All this might not be so bad if this was a one-off and could be easily remedied. But whole tracts of South Auckland are clusterfucks like this. The question isn't why do 9 year olds get hit by motor vehicles, it's why don't more get hit? Sorry, but becoming TWMLC means more than putting in a few cute amenities in the nice parts of town. It means attending to the needs of all Aucklanders, even the poor young ones.

But to finish on a lighter note: New Zealanders love Big Things. Mangere is no different. Atop this insalubrious block of shops in one of the poorest parts of town, we find the world's biggest snapper (no reference, I'm just making it up). 

And we hope the kid that's a victim of this slipshod pedestrian planning recovers soon.