“A child could be killed”: School at wits’ end with AT

Te Uho o Te Nikau school principal Mel Bland is exasperated by lack of action from Auckland Transport over a temporary pedestrian bridge and the implementation of digital speed signs, saying “a child could be killed” if measures are not put in place immediately. 

The school is pushing for a temporary pedestrian bridge to be built on Flat Bush School Road while a decision is made on building a long-term full vehicle/pedestrian bridge.

Currently, students as young as five have to cross a narrow bridge with no footpaths while cars speed past at up to 100km/h. The temporary bridge, which has a price tag of $1 million, was approved by Howick Local Board last year.

Recently there was yet another frightening near-miss on the bridge, witnessed by parents.

Bland said in an e-mail to AT’s team leader of road safety Adam Beattie: “The child would have most definitely have been killed and I have spent more time in conversation with my parent community.  This community is absolutely outraged.  They understand that you can’t control motorists but you do control roads, speed zones.. it has been three years we have been waiting for support to keep our children safe.”

Vehicles approach a schoolkid on a bike as he rides precariously over the hill close to the school. Photo supplied

Beattie did give a timeline for the completion of the bridge next year and suggested a stop-gap measure “It is my understanding that the new pedestrian bridge and associated footpath connections is anticipated to be completed by June 2021. He proposed to “narrow the bridge and approaches to one lane, and provide a temporary, segregated footpath until the new bridge is built. This may receive some negative feedback from drivers and other sections of the local community.”

There is currently an 80km/h speed zone in front of the school which the school wants reduced to 40km/h to bring into line with other schools in Auckland. The school has begged AT for electronic warning signs to be installed.

When quizzed about the implementation of the signs, Beattie said: “There are no plans for additional signs of this type to be placed outside the school. Additional warning and advisory speed signage will be investigated for the crossing point.”

Children walking over the bridge must do so via a skinny strip of roadside. Photo supplied

As a result, the school has resorted to suggesting to AT that they (the school) should buy their own active warning signs, but Beattie poured cold water over the idea. “Cost is not the issue and it is something that we have budget for. The issue is that digital 40km/h signs require a bylaw to allow them to be legal speed limits and to allow them to be enforced. Also, the school has to meet criteria, which is set out in law, before a change can be made to the speed limit. These are national requirements and Auckland Transport does not have the authority to change this.”

There is also a desperate need to get a pedestrian crossing painted in front of the school.

In regards to this, Beattie said: “We will arrange for the zebra crossing markings and associated signage to be installed in the near future.”

Bland said constant delays and empty promises from AT had them considering removing speed signs from nearby Ako Place (which currently has no through traffic).

This common-sense approach was again shut down by Beattie who said: “No, they are necessary for the traffic management plan that the contractor has put in place…we will provide additional signs.”

At the date of publication, these additional signs have not been provided, and Mr Beattie has not responded to the Times inquiry.