It's been more than a year since Welcome Bay Lane was closed because of dangers for cyclists but it is set to reopen this week. Kiri Gillespie finds out what has changed, and whether or not cyclists and residents in the area think it will make any difference for them. More than a year after Welcome Bay Lane was closed, authorities plan to open it again this week.
But the man who raised the original concerns about its dangers says the changes have only made things worse for motorists, with a Welcome Bay resident calling the redesign "ridiculous".
The changes to Welcome Bay Lane's entry and exit points came after the small slip lane was closed in September 2018 over safety concerns for cyclists travelling along Welcome Bay Rd.
Today, Tauranga City Council confirmed the road would reopen on Sunday after a redesign, including a tight chicane at its entry point.
The redesign was carried out despite consultants recommending the council leave the lane closed as it was too dangerous.
Cyclist Ivan Davie, who first raised safety concerns in July 2018, was perplexed at the redesign. As far as he could see, it would create more issues for cyclists and motorists, he said.
Davie - who also drives - anticipated more crashes, particularly involving motorists trying to slow down for the entrance while trying to safely navigate the chicane, looking out for traffic behind and checking for cyclists on Welcome Bay Rd.
The issues involved were "quite spectacular" and Davie was surprised the council and transport agency were reopening the lane as is.
"They've kind of gone in a circle. They've spent a lot of money for what is broadly the same outcome, with the same risk, but now they've managed to involve cars."
Welcome Bay resident Cameron Childerhouse said the redesign was "ridiculous" and he also anticipated plenty of crashes from Sunday.
"There will be rear-enders out the front of our place from day one, and I'll have the video camera ready and waiting."
The scope of Childerhouse's security cameras includes a section of Welcome Bay Rd by Welcome Bay Lane. He has captured countless crashes and dangerous driving incidents within the past year.
Childerhouse said the new design would slow Welcome Bay Lane traffic to such a point, congestion would become a major problem again, he said.
"They did it all to help traffic flow but it's going to have the opposite effect," he said.
Childerhouse said most people in the area he knew of said they would not use the entry access to the road, "so they might as well have left it closed".
Transport manager Martin Parkes said the council had gone through a robust safety process.
The council was still working on an upgrade of paths between Greenwood Park Lane and Ohauiti Rd, west of Welcome Bay Lane, and towards the bus stop of Welcome Bay Rd east of Welcome Bay Lane, he said.
Parkes said the council received three feedback messages through its contact centre since construction work began on September 23. Two of these were complaints - one about a lack of information and the other complaining about the way that Welcome Bay Lane would reopen with a narrower entry and speed cushion.
Parkes said cyclists would need to be mindful turning left into Welcome Bay Lane.
New Zealand Transport agency Bay of Plenty system manager Rob Campbell said the safety improvements were done through an independent safety review process, with the council, designed specifically to improve safety at Welcome Bay Lane's entry and exit points.
A traffic island constructed opposite the entrance was done to prevent overtaking "and help control speeds through the area".
"The design recognises that confident cyclists will probably choose to stay on the road, however cyclists do have two options to get across the Welcome Bay Lane intersection, including diverting left along Welcome Bay Lane to a new off-road crossing location or staying on the marked cycle lane," Campbell said.
"Other small safety improvements include new signage and road markings, providing a safer left turn access into Greenwood Park Retirement Village, and a traffic calming device known as a 'speed cushion' on Welcome Bay Lane."
The new design was applauded by councillor Bill Grainger, who submitted his own, similar, version as an option but was told it would be too unsafe.
Final costs of the redesign are yet to be tallied.
What's the issue?
Welcome Bay Lane was closed unexpectedly on September 28, 2018, after cyclists raised safety concerns over how the road intersected with the cycleway. The cordon was expected to be in place for three months, nearly 14 months later it is about to be reopened.
An independent report into the transport agency-led Maungatapu Underpass project - completed following Bay of Plenty Times' coverage - found 25 safety issues, including the Welcome Bay Rd cycleway, which cuts across the entrance to Welcome Bay Lane.
The lane acted as an easy slip road for traffic travelling 60km/h towards Hairini, Mount Maunganui, Greerton and Ohauiti. That traffic is now funnelled into a controlled intersection at Hammond St, where it waits to turn left.