'They should have consulted': George St disruption to return

Road cones are back in the Knox block of George St, Dunedin, within a year of the upgraded...
Road cones are back in the Knox block of George St, Dunedin, within a year of the upgraded section of street reopening to traffic. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The return of disruptive roadworks to a contentious section of George St in Dunedin could have been avoided had the city council listened in the first place, business owners say.

Extra work to fix a pedestrian crossing next to a bus stop in the Knox block started this week and is aimed at improving visibility for drivers and pedestrians.

The safety work has been welcomed as necessary while raising further questions about the original design and puzzling planning processes.

RA Hair and Beauty director Sarah Martin said there had been frequent near-misses at the crossing.

"I saw a bus hit a car," she said.

"We’ve seen people nearly get hit on the pedestrian crossing.

"It’s not safe for bus drivers or the pedestrians, or anyone really."

She expected the planned kerb protrusion on the Knox Church side of the street would vastly improve the crossing, but pointed to "poor design in the beginning".

"They should’ve consulted people or thought of safety first," she said.

"Safety should always be first."

AJ's Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting While U Wait owner Andrew Farmer said the work presented another interruption for business owners, but the council had to get it done.

"They want to get the best result in the end," he said.

"Of course, it’s disappointing it wasn’t mapped out at an earlier stage."

The city council said work under way now followed interim measures put in place in response to concerns raised by the Dunedin Tramways Union.

"We have been monitoring the area since then while planning permanent work in the area around other projects and events ... to minimise disruption," a council spokesman said.

The work on the western side of the crossing would add "a small area of kerb protruding into the vehicle lane, as the eastern side already does".

"This will give people using the crossing a better view of any approaching traffic if a bus is in the bus stop at the time.

"Drivers will also have a better view of pedestrians, helping them to cross safely."

Philip Matthews. Photo: ODT files
Philip Matthews. Photo: ODT files
The work is due to finish on Friday next week.

Information about costs is not yet available.

Tramways union president Philip Matthews said the union would reserve judgement until after the work had been completed.

The union was "a bit disappointed it was not resolved when we brought it up earlier on".

Knox Church minister Graham Redding said the church was not consulted about the adjustments.

"We fully support initiatives to improve pedestrian safety in Knox Row," Dr Redding said.

"Our only concern would be if the planned changes to the pedestrian crossing impinge on the length of the bus stop and result in buses parking across the main driveway and access to Knox Church."

Knox Row was reopened to traffic in July last year after that section of George St was upgraded.

There was debate both before and afterwards about the double bus stop outside the church.

City councillor Andrew Whiley raised concerns about the crossing’s placement as early as June 25 last year, having talked to a bus driver.

The driver expected it would be dangerous to have people get off a bus and then look to cross in front of it, Cr Whiley said in an email at the time.

"The driver’s attention is to the right in pulling out and looking at traffic as they try to move out," he said.

Cr Whiley said yesterday he stood by similar concerns he expressed in August and "engagement with the bus drivers around the original design of the street would not have necessitated this extra work".

The council confirmed during a meeting in August concerns from a bus drivers’ union had been received.

It had also emerged by then engineering work for the double bus stop, including kerb height, was carried out before councillors at a parking hearing had decided to endorse it.

Another curious piece of decision-making in the area was about traffic being able to turn left into the Knox block from Pitt St.

Initial indications of a left-turn ban blindsided the church and the council’s position evolved to one where small and mid-sized vehicles could turn left at the intersection if needed.

The council has confirmed this will remain the case.