Joy Begbie believes she is an accident waiting to happen.

She does not want her picture in the paper, nor will she reveal her age. “I don’t like the term elderly,” she says. “I am an older woman.”

But without giving too much away, she will not lightly be “fobbed off” by bureaucrats in her campaign for pedestrian safety improvements at one of the island’s most hazardous intersections.

She approached Gulf News after waiting five months for agencies to “do something” to improve pedestrian safety at the intersection of Ocean View Road and Burrell Road. She will not give up, she says, because she fears for the safety of others who need to cross the main road at this point as much as her own.

The intersection is on the crest of a steep hill where the main road takes an S-bend. In fact, five streets converge at this point. Pedestrians walking from Little Oneroa towards Surfdale are forced to cross here because the footpath swaps to the other side of the road. The steep drop, and the bend, on the Surfdale side of the hill means traffic is obscured.
Joy has lived on Burrell Road extension for 33 years. She needs to cross Ocean View Road to get to the eastbound bus stop to shop in Ostend.

“The number of times I’ve nearly been knocked down are beyond count,” she says. “I’m scared to even go down there.”

Joy says if she were to be hit, “it wouldn’t be the car’s fault and it wouldn’t be mine. It’s a shocking corner.”

She has seen children take their lives in their hands by dashing across the road here and says many walkers and bus passengers share her concerns.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people crossing that road, including travellers who are far younger than me, and they all agree how dangerous it is.”

But after first approaching authorities last November, she is dismayed by the bureaucratic wheels of the local board and Auckland Transport. Apparently working in splendid isolation, both are investigating pedestrian safety in the area – but on opposite sides of the hill. Neither promises a solution for bus passengers and pedestrians on Ocean View Road anytime soon.

Joy’s first port of call was the local board who directed her to Auckland Transport. AT promised to ask its network management and safety team to investigate. “The team should be able to provide you with an update by 17 November,” the agency wrote.

In early-December, she got a response. “We wish to advise that AT is currently investigating pedestrian and cycling facilities on Waiheke … A feasibility study has been commissioned over the practicality of proposed pedestrian crossing points and further enhancing cycling facilities along this route.

“The Ocean View Rd, Burrell Rd, and Surfdale Rd investigation will be included in this study. The outcomes of the study are expected in early-2017.”

She heard nothing further so on 24 March she phoned AT again. “They told me that my case was closed and they would open another one.”

Auckland Transport says the case was closed because “we understand the issue and are actively looking at what we can be done”.

The feasibility study it referred to in early-December was in fact commissioned by the local board and involved a different intersection – at the Surfdale shops. The local board study took in Surfdale Road as far as the Surfdale shops (at the intersection of Hamilton Road and Miami Road).

Auckland Transport is still scoping “a complimentary (sic) investigation focusing on the Ocean View Road bus stop and pedestrian facilities”.
However it says the local board study has proposed extending the footpath from Ocean View Road to a new pedestrian refuge island on the Surfdale side of the hill. “These measures would provide a potential pedestrian link to Burrell Road. However, it is acknowledged that it requires pedestrians accessing Burrell Road to divert from their desire (sic) line.”

AT says its own planned investigation will consider whether a safe crossing can be provided nearer the bus stops. “…This is a challenging location to provide a safe crossing facility.”
AT adds that no funding is allocated for improvements at the intersection “so a timeframe for potential changes cannot be provided”.

The intersection and approaches are, admittedly, a traffic planner’s nightmare – as are a number on this island where population and visitor growth far outstrips the pace of infrastructural improvements. Joy says the risk is heightened on the downhill side by drivers hurrying for the Matiatia ferry.

But there would appear to be an option to locate a pedestrian crossing below the eastbound bus stop, about 100m below the intersection. Because of the bends in the road, it would need to be accompanied by signage and traffic calming measures.

Yet planners seem more worried about inconveniencing cars than prioritising pedestrians.
Joy may not be the only “accident waiting to happen” – old or young, local or visitor – near the crest of the hill.
• Geoff Cumming

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