'Now we don't have to rush': Disability advocate wins fight for crossing near Middlemore Hospital

A disability advocate is celebrating after a long fight to introduce a crossing near Middlemore Hospital has been successful.

The new crossing introduces an island into the middle of Swaffield Rd, which falls on a main route to schools, Middlemore Train Station and the hospital.

Disability advocate and wheelchair user Dr Huhana Hickey says the crossing isn't perfect, but it's a big improvement.

"Without the crossing you can't see the road if you're in a wheelchair, or you're little, because of the cars parked on the road."

Dr Hickey, who lives less than a kilometre from the hospital, says not being able to see oncoming vehicles could have deadly consequences.

"I've been nearly hit a few times, by buses, by trucks, by cars," she says.

"I couldn't get to the hospital or catch the train without risking my life every time."

But Dr Hickey was not just thinking of her own safety.

"We have a big state housing area here, there's a lot of disabled people on our street. Now we don't have to rush, especially with a lot of ambulances around."

Auckland Transport senior media advisor Joanna Glasswell says the crossing, initially approved in 2017, is expected to be completed by mid-February.

"Our programme for construction during 2018 was fully committed to other safety improvements that were identified prior to this project," she added.

This was not the only delay in building the island. Dr Hickey was advocating for the crossing as early as 2010.

In 2013, an Auckland Transport spokesperson told Stuff a survey carried out in August 2012 showed there was not enough foot traffic to warrant a pedestrian crossing.

But at the time, no kind of crossing at all was forthcoming, and it was only after Dr Hickey contacted Auckland Transport again in May 2017 that the latest approval process for the introduction of the island got underway.

The crossing is equipped with tactile indicators for vision impaired pedestrians, but is not controlled.

The new crossing introduces an island into the middle of Swaffield Rd.
The new crossing introduces an island into the middle of Swaffield Rd. Photo credit: Supplied

Ms Glasswell says adding lights or a zebra crossing was deemed unnecessary, again due to low pedestrian demand in the area.

"The refuge island will provide a safe crossing for people walking as well as maintaining traffic flow to the hospital for emergency services."

Dr Hickey confirmed the island makes crossing the road significantly safer for wheelchair users, but says that the lack of traffic lights still leave vision impaired and hard of hearing pedestrians at risk.

"Not everyone can hear the ambulances and a lot of cars speed past 50 km per hour," she says.

"We need much more consultation with the disabled community."