Harewood/Gardiners/Breens traffic signals get the green light from Council

Recap: The Christchurch City Council gave in-principle approval for traffic lights at a Harewood Road intersection on Thursday. Earlier in 2019 Council staff consulted on safety improvements for the Harewood/Gardiners/Breens intersection, seeking feedback on two options. The response from the community was clear, with 77% of 1,085 submissions preferring traffic lights to either the alternative left-in/left-out proposal, or the status quo. The community’s feedback and this week’s Council’s decision prioritises connectivity for the community, with an independent safety assessment finding lights to be less safe than both the alternative option and also the current configuration.

Harewood for email.jpg

As a resident in the wider area, I travel through this intersection on at least a weekly basis, and I also have a strong interest in both urban design and community engagement. I’ve been following the debate around this intersection since Cr Aaron Keown campaigned on a ‘this intersection needs lights’ platform in the 2016 local election. (My own submission to the Council was in favour of one-laning Harewood Road as an affordable initial step that would allow for lights later if still needed – at the time I wasn’t aware that the Council had in fact approved one-laning back in 2010, but that the decision had never been implemented.)

The consultation material provided to the public included information on the risks associated with traffic lights, and offered an alternative solution that was safer but significantly reduced connectivity across the intersection. The response from the public was an overwhelming call for traffic lights – as Councillor Mike Davidson noted in Thursday’s meeting, “the community has clearly spoken”. Given a staff assurance at Thursday’s meeting that “signalisation isn’t unsafe” it seems the key driver for the Council’s decision was a desire to be responsive to the community.

Think Papanui’s news of the Council decision was top post of the week. While reactions on Facebook aren’t necessarily a good way to judge overall community sentiment, it was interesting to see this post gain almost universal support from those it reached, with a substantial ratio of positive/‘thumbs up’ responses.

What’s next?

There isn’t money for traffic lights at the intersection in the (10 year) Long-Term Plan, so the next step is for funding to be found. Part of the Council’s resolution on Thursday was for staff to “…investigate funding options and report back to Council in time for inclusion in the 20/21 Annual Plan”. Public consultation on that Annual Plan is likely to take place around March 2020.

Question for readers

Are you satisfied with this decision, and the decision-making process?

One thought on “Harewood/Gardiners/Breens traffic signals get the green light from Council”

  1. As I mentioned in your Facebook post (and I’ll just mostly repeat this here), I think this is an astonishing way to make a decision. The problem with the staff presentation at the council meeting is the moment Cr Templeton asked her question. Her question ends with “They [the traffic lights] are better what is there now?”, to which staff responds “That’s right”. Maybe traffic lights are not unsafe (I am not sure how to draw the line between something being safe and unsafe), but they will double the likelihood of severe crashes, which to me raises the question why do the change in the first place. If the ostensible concern is “the intersection is unsafe at the moment”, why then implement a change that will make it twice as unsafe as it is now? Maybe the real issue is “I want to more easily drive along Breens and Gardiner”. There is nothing illegitimate with that if that is your position. James Gough made it clear in his contribution that the convenience of drivers will be given higher priority than safety, and that is the basis for his decision. But then be clear about it.

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