What will Harewood traffic lights campaign deliver?

Opinion: Years of campaigning for traffic lights at the Harewood/Gardiners/Breens intersection might be about to pay off for Harewood Councillor Aaron Keown. The Christchurch City Council is currently consulting on options to improve safety at the intersection. Will a focus on this one intersection however deliver the best result for residents?Harewood-Gardiners-Breens 1

I was interested to read former Mayor Garry Moore’s recent editorial on the Council’s Annual Planning process. Garry sees many projects and issues pitched to Council during the budgeting exercise, but bemoans a lack of big-picture thinking about Council’s overall priorities and trade-offs to balance the budget and constrain rates rises. Likewise, I’m concerned that a single-minded focus on the Harewood/Gardiners/Breens intersection in isolation might not serve the community well.

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Consultation documents on display at the Papanui Library

Does this intersection need lights?

The consultation information (available online and also in printed form at local libraries) includes many interesting points. Some will be no surprise to people using the intersection:

  • The intersection is not easy to navigate by car, cycle, or on foot.

Taking a longer-term view, however, current traffic volumes through the intersection are higher than is expected in the future:

  • Over the next 10 years traffic volumes on Harewood Road are expected to drop.

Traffic lights are likely to make it easier for vehicles on Breens/Gardiners Roads to cross Harewood Road, but ironically may increase the danger to pedestrians. Council’s alternative proposal (left in/out with a signalised pedestrian crossing) promises significantly improved safety and improved community connectivity for pedestrians.

Is this intersection a high priority?

Not according to Council staff. The intersection is ranked as the 61st most dangerous intersection in the city (Harewood/Greers on the other hand is number 21 on the same list). Is it reasonable to leave more dangerous intersections untouched while spending resources on this one?

What are the system impacts?

Traffic lights at the intersection aren’t seen as compatible with the proposed Wheels to Wings cycleway.

Lights at the intersection are predicted to cause knock-on effects including:

  • More through traffic using the intersection
  • Traffic delays and queuing on Harewood Road
  • Increased traffic volumes on Breens Road
  • Increased risk of accidents at the Breens/Wairakei Road intersection

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What next?

Let’s say that after considering public feedback, Councillors decide to support traffic lights. When would they be built? First, funding would have to be found. There’s no money for lights in Council’s budget from now through to 2028 – the community may be in for a long wait, or Councillors could decide to either:

  • Increase Council spending to cover the cost (aka a rates increase), or
  • Defer or delete other planned and budgeted works (ahead of public consultation on either project, the Community Board has already recommended that Council funds the lights by deprioritising/deferring the Wheels to Wings cycleway)

Summary

Our roads and intersections are part of a network – it’s a transport system, and possible changes to one point in the system should be considered in light of overall priorities and wider system impacts.

Question for readers

Have you had your say? How do you balance the situation at this specific intersection against the system overall?