Two years since Welcome Bay Lane closed due to safety concerns for cyclists, work continues to make the area safer.
The redesign of Welcome Bay Rd and Welcome Bay Lane has been plagued with issues since the opening of the Maungatapu Underpass in June 2018.
A month later, concerns were raised that a cycleway on Welcome Bay Rd cut across the popular entrance to Welcome Bay Lane. The issue resulted in the closure of Welcome Bay Lane until it could be made safer. Tauranga City Council called on independent experts Viastrada and Aurecon who each recommended the road not be reopened in its original design, as it was too unsafe.
However, elected members voted to re-open the road with safety provisions such as a speed bump and chicane aimed at lessening the danger. Now, fewer people use Welcome Bay Lane despite the effort and about $300,000 to have it reopened.
Council director of transport Brendan Bisley
said the organisation did not have any record of how many vehicles used Welcome Bay Lane. However, it appeared to get minimal use.
In the first week of September 2018, when Welcome Bay Lane was open, the average daily traffic count for city-bound traffic on Welcome Bay Rd was 4651. In the first week of September 2019, after Welcome Bay Lane was closed, the Welcome Bay Rd traffic count was 4886 - indicating a potential shift of 235 vehicles each day.
As of the week ending July 31, 2020, the average traffic count was 4710.
Bisley said the council was installing four new projects aimed at improving cycle connections around the Maungatapu Underpass area. One of these was a shared pedestrian and cyclist path being built to run alongside, but separate to, Welcome Bay Rd between Welcome Bay Lane and Hammond St.
Work on the 3m-wide path began in June and the project is expected to cost $350,000.
Bike Tauranga member Andrew Thorpe said the group knew nothing about the latest works despite a keenness to be more involved in helping address city cycling issues.
Thorpe said the redesign of the entrance into Welcome Bay Lane had already helped considerably.
"Now, the vehicles coming up behind you can't just sweep past you and pull in. You know
they have to slow down to your speed, or slower, to get around that corner. That certainly makes me feel a lot safer."
Thorpe, who cycles Welcome Bay Rd frequently, said the real area of concern was at the Hammond St traffic lights.
Cyclists travelling towards the city via the Maungatapu Underpass must wait in the left lane for left-turning traffic to pass in front of them on a green turn arrow, before the standard green light goes. When the green light signals, left-turning traffic often continues crossing in front of cyclists, despite their path straight ahead.
The issue was one of 25 hazards to cyclists and pedestrians identified in a 2018 independent report into the underpass project.
Thorpe said he was encouraged by the new separated cycleway but did not know anything about it other than the works he had already observed. It was not clear what the expectation of cyclists was meant to be now, he said.
"One of Bike Tauranga's ongoing frustrations is we seem to get consulted only when it suits the city, despite our desire to be part of the solutions. We are very keen. We don't just want to throw bricks. We want a good healthy, working relationship."
Bisley said he was surprised at Thorpe's concerns as "it doesn't ring true at our end given the time we put into engaging with them on bike projects".
"The Welcome Bay shared path projects were the result of safety audits so were actioned accordingly."
The other projects were a shared path from Welcome Bay Rd to Hammond St footbridge ($65,000); Welcome Bay Rd shared paths between Kaitemako Rd and Welcome By Lane ($180,000) and a shared path between Greenwood Park Lane to Ohauiti Rd ($200,000).
Costs for the latest works were shared between the council and Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency, which worked together regarding the Maungatapu underpass project that resulted in the redirection of Welcome Bay Rd and creation of Welcome Bay Lane.
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.
- An independent report into the transport agency-led Maungatapu Underpass project prompted after the 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 Ōhauiti.
-That traffic now funnels into a controlled intersection at Hammond St, where it waits to turn left.