A well-used Tauranga road will be closed after dangers to cyclists were identified in a safety audit commissioned by the city's transport authorities.
The Bay of Plenty Times can today reveal the New Zealand Transport Agency and Tauranga City Council will this Saturday close Welcome Bay Lane following concerns for cyclist safety.
It is understood the road will be closed for about three months while officials consider other options to address safety issues concerns cyclists using the Welcome Bay Rd cycleway, which cuts across the entrance to Welcome Bay Lane.
The closure comes on the back of an independent audit commissioned by the council and agency following a Bay of Plenty Times story in July highlighting cyclists' fears for their safety. Read more here.
Tauranga city councillor Rick Curach, who is chair of the city's Transport Committee, said he had been aware of the safety concerns but "we weren't aware of the degree of safety until we eyeballed it ourselves".
Curach and councillor Bill Grainger, who represented the Te Papa/Welcome Bay ward, spent an hour at the cycleway junction this morning. Between 7.15am and 8.15am, the councillors counted 25 cyclists using the cycleway plus others using the footpath on the other side of the road.
Welcome Bay Lane used to be the original Welcome Bay Rd leading up to the Hairini roundabout. However, when Welcome Bay Rd was rediverted as part of the Maungatapu Underpass project, part of the road became a free turn and slip lane for westbound traffic.
Grainger said he was concerned the closure of the road would result in recreating congestion along Welcome Bay Rd - an issue which has previously plagued the suburb.
The other options recommended in the audit include permanent closure of the lane, and two controlled crossing points being installed on Welcome Bay Rd, before and after the entrance to Welcome Bay Lane.
"If we have to close it for the safety factor, we need to ensure we close it for as little time as possible," Grainger said.
"There's probably 50 per cent of cars running up that route. With that, you are going to have all the nose to tail traffic running back up to the Welcome Bay shops again."
The councillors said they both preferred extending the existing cycleway into Welcome Bay Lane further and creating a turning bay and crossing point before rejoining the lane to the road ahead of the underpass.
Grainger said safety had to be the number one priority "but so is making sure that our options are going to be good for drivers and cyclists".
In a previous story, cyclist Paul Armitage said he could see why some had concerns over the new cycleway.
The Bay of Plenty Times has sought comment from the council and transport agency.