Fast-tracked options to make Totara St safer for cyclists will be considered by Tauranga City Council today, nearly a month after a cyclist died on the busy route.
And the message from city cycling advocates is: Get on with it.
Cyclist Graeme Shallcrass, 62, died in a collision with a truck at the intersection of Totara and Maui Sts on May 28. Police are still investigating the circumstances of the crash.
Two years earlier, in April 2019, Kevin Akroyd, 74, died in a collision between his scooter and a truck near the Waimarie St intersection.
Cycling advocates have been calling for the council to fix Totara for six years. Funding for a plan was signed off in 2018 but the work has been repeatedly delayed.
Totara St is a part of a cycling route between Tauranga and Mount Maunganui used
by commuters, tourists and recreational cyclists.
The council has admitted the existing cycle lane on the street is "inadequate", being too small for both recommended minimum standards and for the traffic volumes.
In a meeting on June 9, council infrastructure general manager Nic Johansson acknowledged Shallcrass' death and talked a "safe system" approach to the roading network.
"You accept that crashes are inevitable, they will happen, but you design the system in a way that deaths and serious injuries are avoidable.
"On Totara St that is something we have been working on and planning for a long time. We didn't get there in time for this instance and our thoughts go to the friends and family of the person that got killed."
He said the trauma of any road death was wide-reaching, from friends and family to emergency services and to council staff who had been working on the project.
"It's devastating for everyone."
He said staff were working on plans for short-, medium- and long-term solutions for the road, in conjunction with Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency.
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"This is something we want to implement really, really swiftly in order for this not to happen to someone else again," Johansson said.
Council staff have recommended a three-step approach to making safety improvements, which the council will consider in a Projects, Operations and Services Committee meeting today.
The interim solution, intended to last about six months, would involve temporarily allowing cyclists to use the 1.5m wide footpath between Hewlett's Rd and just north of the Dominion Salt refinery.
A long-term solution relied on wider planning for the Western Bay's transport system as a whole, which was still being finished. The Port of Tauranga has previously advocated for Totara St to be made a State Highway.
In the medium term, council staff recommended creating a shared path and separated cycleway. Together these would join up and form a cycling route at least 3m wide and separated from road traffic, the length of Totara St from Hewletts Rd north.
The first phase of that work would be to build a 3m-wide off-road shared path on the eastern side from Hewletts to just north of the Dominion Salt refinery.
The second phase would see the shared path extended north, running behind an existing row of trees to Kawaka St.
At the Kawaka St intersection, a signalised crossing would take cyclists over the road to a two-way separated cycleway on the port (west) side, and on to Rata St.
A link to Nikau Crescent and Coronation Park from Rata St was also proposed.
In total this was estimated to cost $6.9m - of which it was expected the NZTA would pay 51 per cent.
The figure included a 30 per cent risk allowance and money for an education and training programme, as well as to consult the public on lowering the speed limit.
To spread out the funding impact, council staff recommended doing the first phase in 2021 and the second in 2022. The project could be done in one hit, however, if the council made funding available.
Kevin Kerr of Bike Tauranga said the group wanted the council to get the job done as one project, after six years of hold-ups.
"We can't dilly dally any longer."
Totara St was part of "the most important cycle route in Tauranga", linking the city centre and Mount Maunganui for commuters, tourists and recreational cyclists alike.
Councillor Heidi Hughes, a long-time cycling advocate, said while the proposed solution was not perfect, it would make the road safe for cyclists of all ages until an "ultimate" long-term solution could be developed.
From a cycling perspective, the main downside would be that the shared path would cross the entrances to several businesses and that would slow down, in particular, commuter cyclists.
Hughes said she had been in touch with the family of Graeme Shallcrass and they also wanted to see an urgent solution for safe cycling on Totara St.
Councillor John Robson said he would be "more than willing" to see the council sacrifice the $11m Elizabeth St streetscaping plan signed off last month, in order to fund the Totara St improvements.
He said Elizabeth St was a "painting and decorating" project - the majority of which the council had no obligation to do - compared to Totara St "where lives can be saved".
Trucks and bikes: Totara St
19,000: Average annual daily traffic on Totara St
3000-4000: Daily trips by heavy commercial vehicles
300-500: Daily trips by cyclists.
Source: Tauranga City Council