How a road split down the middle

The van travelled more than 100m and disappeared around the bend still in the wrong lane. Photos...
The van travelled more than 100m and disappeared around the bend still in the wrong lane. Photos by Craig Baxter.
Vehicles travel in the wrong lane on Portobello Rd yesterday.
Vehicles travel in the wrong lane on Portobello Rd yesterday.
Vehicles travel in the wrong lane on Portobello Rd yesterday.
Vehicles travel in the wrong lane on Portobello Rd yesterday.
A driver (in the vehicle at right) corrects after realising they were  headed into the oncoming...
A driver (in the vehicle at right) corrects after realising they were headed into the oncoming traffic lane.

Has cutting four lanes to two ever been so contentious as a section of Portobello Rd in Dunedin? Debbie Porteous asks the Dunedin City Council what is going on, as drivers continue to complain of near head-on collisions and the council prepares to spend another $300,000 ''fixing it''. 

• 'Ghost' markings set for urgent action

What has happened here?

To accommodate one of the central cycle lanes in the new South Dunedin cycle network, the council is using one side of the median strip of a former four-lane road for the cycle lane and has turned the other side into a two-way road.

What is planned now?

The redundant lanes will be landscaped, and a clearer cycle lane constructed, so they no longer look like road.

Vehicle lanes will be resurfaced, new road markings will be painted, and cycle and traffic signs installed.

This work is scheduled to begin in two to three weeks.

How much has it cost?

So far the work has cost $290,000. The remaining work planned is expected to cost about $325,000. Two-thirds of the cost is funded by the NZTA.

What are the concerns?

The new layout is too narrow and confusing; lack of signs (for motorists and cyclists); traffic is driving the wrong way on one of the lanes.

Why did the council lay it out this way?

The route, designed by consultants and staff, was one of the first in the initial stage of the cycle network.

Staff did not want to spend too much of the tight budget at that stage, without knowing what the cost of the rest of the stage was going to be.

The approach was minimal and depending on how the rest of the stage went, the intention was to do more work on it.

Why did its designers think it would work?

The designerscould not know ahead of doing it, as they had not tried it before, transportation general manager Gene Ollerenshaw said.

Other layout options were considered, including leaving most of the road width and building a shared path or plain cycle lanes in the footpath areas.

But those would not have been chosen at that time because they would have cost more.

''I think we should remember there's no textbook for a lot of this cycleway stuff ... ,'' Mr Ollerenshaw said.

''It's not like when you go to road or pavement design, there's a book that tells you how to do it and everybody has done it before - this is relatively new in New Zealand.''

Will the council at least put up some more signs in the meantime?

Temporary signs warning motorists of layout changes were removed after complaints to the council about the changes dropped off significantly, which indicated most users were used to the layout.

Some people, usually irregular users, could still be surprised by the new layout.

Without feedback indicating a serious problem, there was no requirement for signs to stay.

Old road markings had resurfaced at the Andersons Bay Rd end of the stretch, confusing some drivers.

The markings were expected to be painted over last night.

Can the road go back to the way it was?

Some councillors say they want to look at the options.

Transportation staff say a cycle lane is still required on Portobello Rd.

Any alternative with a cycle lane will cost more than planned.

To reinstate the two closed lanes would involve removing concrete barriers at either end, widening a footpath, redesigning each end of the road, removing the 1.2m-wide concrete median, possibly building another one, and re-aligning all the lanes.

Will there be more consultation on what's next?

The layout of the cycle network was subject of a city-wide consultation, with a route revision since approved by councillors.

Before finalising the details of each section, staff consult with people directly affected.

Consultation with residents of Victoria Rd in St Kilda/St Clair for example, indirectly led to the council revisiting that section of the cycleway.

Staff say residents and businesses on Portobello Rd have been directly consulted. The work is about to begin without any further consultation.

Is the road wide enough and contoured properly?

A two-lane carriageway must be at least 7m wide when in an urban area with a 70kmh speed limit or less, according to urban roading guidelines in the Dunedin Code of Subdivision and Development 2010.

This carriageway is 7.4m wide.

It was built as an arterial road to a much higher standard than a new road for that volume of traffic would be built today.

There are no concerns about its structure.

What about the concerns of the businesspeople who petitioned the council?

The council is working with businesses on two options. The budget for either option is within $325,000. They are:

• Remove and replace the 1.2m-wide median barrier with a narrower barrier along the northern part of the stretch, giving an extra 1m width (shoulder space)

• Or widen driveways to allow more turning.

What about signs for the rest of the cycle network?

Council staff say some signs - for instance, indicating cycle lanes - should be installed as each section is built.

''Wayfinding'' signs indicating, for instance, the way to St Clair or to the city centre, will go in once the network is completed, in case there are changes.

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