Thursday, February 29, 2024

Designing safer streets

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Sunnyhills School principal Justine Driver says the changes being made to roads around her school are intended to make it safer for pupils and parents. Times photo Wayne Martin

Major traffic changes are being implemented at an east Auckland school with the goal of reducing congestion and increasing road safety.

The work is part of Auckland Transport’s (AT) ‘Safe school streets’ trial and is being carried out locally in partnership with Sunnyhills School in Pakuranga.

“The changes were installed in the April school holidays and will now be monitored by the project team to assess how it is working, particularly during peak school pick-up and drop-off times,” AT spokeswoman Natalie Polley told the Times.

“The project team will continue to listen to feedback and make changes if required.

“These changes will help inform longer-term more permanent changes which will be publicly consulted on.”

Sunnyhills School principal Justine Driver says the school encourages its pupils to walk, cycle, or scooter to school as part of its involvement in the Green-Gold Enviro and Travelwise programmes.

“We are in a safe community and we want to promote as many people as possible coming to school in a sustainable way, to reduce the amount of traffic around the school gate.”

Driver says AT engineers made temporary changes to the intersections in and around Fordyce Avenue and The Crest last year to see how it went for a single day.

“Now we have a short-term trial of some initiatives the engineers believe will help to slow down traffic around the school and make it safer for pedestrians.

“It does look a bit of an eyesore with all the orange cones being set in to the concrete but that is not a long-term solution.”

AT wrote to local residents in April saying the trial and changes are “designed to increase safety outside schools, reduce the number of vehicles during peak times and encourage more students and their families to walk and cycle to and from school each day”.

The measures include installation of a temporary roundabout, planter boxes, flexible bollards, speed bumps, and drop-off and pick-up areas for parents and caregivers.

They’re temporary, but if they work and the community is happy with them, AT is keen to make them permanent.

Driver says several streets are being narrowed to make them a shorter distance for her pupils to cross.

“This trial is to improve our parents’ habits when accessing the school so it’s safer for our children.

“As a principal and for our board of trustees, the safety of the children is paramount.”

She and her teachers often see motorists pull into driveways or perform three-point turns while children are walking to and from school.

“Kids are unpredictable and we want to make it as safe as possible. We continually have to police it.

“I and my staff who are on duty, we tell people not to park on yellow lines and drop people off and when we do we get abused.”

Driver says the changes are also about making the traffic on roads around the school better for locals.

“We often have driveways of our resident neighbours blocked by cars wanting to pull in and pick up kids as well.

“This trial includes a drop-and-go so people drive up, drop off their child, and there’s no parking at those points.

“That will help promote dropping off their child who can then safely walk into the school grounds.”

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