More signs are being added around the new traffic lights at Barkes Corner after two crashes in their first week of operation.

The roundabout metering lights, installed on the approaches from Pyes Pa Rd and State Highway 29 from Poike with an aim to reduce traffic queues, started operating on Monday.

The lights, installed about 20 metres back from the roundabout entrances, are usually green, but drivers still have to give way when they get to the roundabout.

The lights would start phasing between red and green if sensors indicated queues were forming.

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On Thursday morning there were two non-injury crashes on the roundabout - a three-car pile-up followed by an unrelated two-car crash that sent a hatchback into a fence.

Lance Hansen, a senior customer services worker at Hirepool on Pyes Pa Rd, said he was alerted to the second crash by the sound of squealing tyres and a crash as the car hit the fence over the road.

He reckoned the design of the lights was "ridiculous", with a too-short distance between the lights and the roundabout causing drivers to think "green equals go".

"It looks like normal traffic lights, so in people's minds when they see it go green they think they can go without giving way."

Other workers near the roundabout had mixed reviews - the crashes worried some, others thought the lights were fine and one said time was needed to get people used to them.

Police would not comment on whether the crashes were related to any confusion about the lights.

James Wickham, who manages Tauranga City Council's transport operations centre, said accidents on the roundabout were not unusual.

"We'll have to wait for feedback to see if confusion around the operation of the signals was a contributing factor."

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The lights, operational since Monday, have been flashing amber since Thursday afternoon. Photo / Andrew Warner
The lights, operational since Monday, have been flashing amber since Thursday afternoon. Photo / Andrew Warner

On Thursday at 1.30pm the lights were changed to only flash amber.

Asked if the change was related to the crashes, a NZ Transport Agency spokeswoman said the switch was made after the agency became "aware of unsafe driving behaviours".

The agency's Bay of Plenty journey manager Nigel D'Anth said the lights would be covered while "adjustments" were made over the next few days.

"These include adding permanent signs to give way at the roundabout and increasing the visual appearance of the give way signs."

He reminded motorists that standard give way rules still applied when entering the Barkes Corner roundabout.

"The traffic lights operating on SH29A westbound and on Pyes Pa Rd do not mean that the roundabout is signalised, like Maungatapu roundabout."

D'Anth said there was not enough data to show any firm trends about the impact of the lights on traffic.

"Initial findings show we have had 1+ minute time savings on journey time in some areas.

"We will be continuing to monitor the signals to ensure they are working as intended, and if necessary, the phasing of the lights will be optimised over time."

Councillor Larry Baldock said he was still frustrated city councillors had not been given a proper briefing on the metering lights before they were installed.


How it works: roundabout metering

- Most of the time the lights will be green, allowing traffic to enter the roundabout as normal
- When high traffic queues form on one leg, the metering is activated
- During metering the lights will go red to stop vehicles and allow traffic from the busiest approach to enter the roundabout
- Drivers must give way at the roundabout at all times.

-Source: NZ Transport Agency