Follow us on Twitter

New cycle superhighways for Auckland?

A short while ago I asked for an update on the Auckland Harbour Bridge shared cycleway and walkway from the good folks running the Getacross campaign, Kirsten Shouler sent me the following summary of the project and it’s current status:

Since May 2011, NZTA and the AHB Pathway Trust have committed significant resources to identify and finalise the optimal design for a walking and cycling Pathway on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. NZTA has now signed off on the structural feasibility of the Pathway concept design. NZTA has advised they won’t allocate funding through the NLTP to construct walking and cycling access across the AHB, but they will permit the construction and operation of the Pathway as a community facility.

What happens to the Pathway now is in Auckland Council’s hands. On May 15, Auckland Council’s Transport Committee will decide the future of the Pathway project. A potential funder has been identified, and a naming rights sponsor lined up. There is virtually no cost to Auckland Council but we need Council on board as a project backer to finalise the contracts.

The AHB Pathway Trust is asking for Council to consider  the Pathway proposal as a transformational project and as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) which is funded by revenue from a toll on users and the sale of naming rights to the Pathway.

The Pathway is an example of a private initiative which has a very strong foundation, including agreement with NZTA and a robust business case….It will:

resolve the most critical gap in Auckland’s walking & cycling network

  1. provide a flagship project for uptake of walking and cycling in Auckland (similar to the way Britomart Station provided a catalyst for rail patronage)
  2. deliver a significant tourism attraction that will encourage longer stays by visitors to Auckland
  3. use an innovative funding proposal in line with goals of with Getting Auckland Moving & the Auckland Plan
  4. provide projected net surpluses  - which are estimated to be substantial
  5. enable Auckland Council to take ownership of the Pathway once the construction loan is paid off.

As you can see it all sounds like very promising stuff. They have NZTA on board allowing the structure to be added to the bridge and private funder ready to pay for construction. All it needs now is the OK from Auckland Council and the pathway becomes a reality. Fingers crossed for May 15th, great job Getacross!

Now it would have been good if the various agencies responsible for transport in Auckland could have somehow funded this out of their not insignificant budgets, but there’s no point splitting hairs if this PPP model is the one that actually gets it built. At the end of the day a small charge for a great ride and a wonderful view isn’t such a bad thing… although I must wonder if we’ll have the dubious honour of the only bridge in the world where it is free to drive across but a tolled for those on foot!

Anyway, this pathway will make an excellent addition to the transport and tourist infrastructure of our city, and as Kristen says it will end up in the hands of the people once the construction loan is paid and the investors have made their money back. Looking at that list of benefits, I really think numbers 1 and 2 are the killer outcomes of this project. As a shoreboy I can say I would love the opportunity to walk or ride into the city and home again, and there is obviously a huge problem where a full quarter of your city cannot access the other three-quarters without using motorised transport (or a lengthy swim!). But the flagship-project effect is perhaps even more important, it’s one thing to simply meet the current demand for walking and cycling, it’s another altogether to open that option up to a lot more people, to advertise it, promote it and to make it a real part of the way people get around our city.

Like most other Aucklanders I cycled around my neighbourhood a little as a child, but gave it up in my early teens in favour of being driven – and later driving myself – everywhere instead. For a good ten or twelve years I didn’t give cycling another thought, not until I moved to Melbourne. There I chose to live car free and could do so relatively easily with a transit pass and some comfortable walking shoes, but in some cases I found it quite time consuming to make trips across town that were a few kilometres in length. They would take thirty or forty minutes on foot, and often just as long on the tram once you factor in a little wait time and a connection or two. The solution I discovered, along with thousands of other Melburnians, is cycling. Cycling has gone from strength to strength there, not only in sheer numbers but also in image. Hipster kids aren’t concerned with cool cars, but you should see the flash fixies and cruisers lined up at the pubs and cafés all over inner Melbourne every afternoon. In Melbourne riding bikes is not only effective, its fashionable too.

They may be latte sucking hipster douchebags, but they're latte sucking hipster douchebags who ride bicycles.

One thing I noticed in Melbourne is that they have well used shared cycleways along every motorway, rail and river corridor in the city, and quite frankly there’s no reason we can’t do the same. We already have our own prototype along the Northwestern Motorway, and a few other short sections, so why can’t we do the same on the motorways and rail lines to the north, south and east too?

The great thing about shared cycleways is that they are very cheap to build: all you need is about two metres or so of spare width out of a corridor, the design geometry is pretty lax and if you get stuck in a tricky pinch point there’s no real problem diverting the route onto a nearby street or using a pedestrian crossing. As a general guide a price of $1 million a kilometre would be generous for a cycleway, yet there is so much potential for benefits. The Northwestern Cycleway currently carries over six hundred people a day, one wonders if you could add anything like that to the motorway for a mere million per kilometre? The BCRs of cycle projects must be huge!

At this point I should probably make a little observation. In Melbourne I used just regular streets and roads to travel about on my business, and only occasionally used the flash cycleways for a bit of sport on a sunny day. So is this the right path to take? Instead of corralling cyclists into off road paths so they can get out of the way of good honest car drivers, should we aim to normalise cycling on road so that people can just ride anywhere they so chose? Well yes and no. The ability to safely and easily cycle on any street to any destination should be the end goal, but we can’t get there without off road cycleways. The simple fact of the matter is that cycling is currently a niche mode in Auckland and it’s really only done by enthusiasts. To broaden the appeal and normalise cycling we need to get normal people on to bikes, and the best way to do that is to provide a safe and easy network of cycleways. Perhaps people start riding on them for a bit of fun, or they buy a commuter cycle to fly past the motorway traffic, but at the end of the day they get a bike and start riding it. Once we have that off road network stretching out to the four corners of the city, then it’s time to get serious about on street riding.

There’s certainly room along the Northern Motorway once the bridge crossing is complete, there are a few sections of board walk along the eastern rail line that could be extended into a route all the way from Panmure to Quay St, there is space along the Southern Motorway for something similar down to Otahuhu and beyond. In fact our city is covered with transport corridors that could have a smooth concrete path added to one side, it should be a requirement of any new or upgraded motorway to build one in. Another interesting idea I had heard is about the potential to leverage off the electrification works on the railways. Apparently they have had to establish a series of small access roads and work sites all along the railways to install the new equipment, so why not link up a few of these access ways and pave them into long corridors for cyclists and walkers? It can’t cost a lot and the pathway would still provide excellent access for maintenance crews in the future.

So what’s holding us back on these cycle superhighways, why aren’t we spending the relative pittance to cover our city in a network of cycling and walking paths? It might only take a few tens of millions to get a thousand commuters off the road at peak times, so why the hell not? Let the commuters of Auckland burn fat instead of oil, and perhaps even have some fun while doing it!

42 comments to New cycle superhighways for Auckland?

  • Dont forget there are some huge tracts of land along side SH20 and virtually all the railway lines have land to the side of them (and they are possibly the most direct routes too.. give or take)

  • Gian

    will we have to pay to cross, then?

  • Matt

    There are some very sub-par parts of the NW cycleway, I have to say. The part beside the causeway is not wide enough for two cyclists to pass without at least stopping, if not dismounting entirely. The surface of the boardwalk coming under Rosebank Rd is in need of a complete redo. And there are several corners that are downright lethal, including the “intersection” where the Rosebank Rd “onramp” meets the path – steep downhill joining at a blind corner. Absolute genius.

    • Matt L

      Matt – the NW cycleway may have it’s issues but it is still one of the best pieces of cycling infrastructure in the city. Also many of the problem areas with it are being fix upgraded as part of the motorway works that are going to be happening e.g. at Te Atatu a new bridge is being built just for the cycleway and it will be at least 3m wide so will be a big improvement to what is there now.

  • Brent C

    Another example of a cycling superhighway that could have huge benefits is the Great Harbour Way between Wellington and Petone. This project has a huge amount of local government support and a great business case. Unfortunately there is little interest from NZTA to fund the project, so it has been delayed by several years.
    As the motorway is not new, no provisions are included to build the cycleway.

  • Adam

    I completely disagree with Matt

    As someone who rides the NW cycleway daily, the causeway is plenty wide, more than wide enough to pass people going the other way, the rosebank bridge isnt flash, but takes approx 5 seconds to cross, there are parts that could be wider, or straighter, but at the end of the day, it is a huge stretch of offroad cycleway, and is a pleasure to ride.

    As an aside, when we were looking to buy a home, we completely ignored the shore, as could not cycle there, amazed the government cannot see the value in estimated 30mil cost, with a potential audience that is almost begging to pay tolls to ride across!

    • Matt

      So if it’s not the causeway, which is the bridge that is only just wide enough for a cyclist and a pedestrian to pass each other? There’s a bridge through there that’s quite long and incredibly narrow, and I’ve had the good fortune to never encounter another cyclist coming the other way while crossing it. It’s certainly not of sufficient width for opposing cyclists to pass at any kind of speed.

      To those who are saying “It’s better than anything else”, yes, it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not flawed. The risk is that saying “It’s good enough” won’t encourage anything better. If we accept flawed and don’t point out the problems (which, in the case of the path entry I point out above, could lead to a serious collision), our on-the-cheap planners are not unlikely to not try and do things better elsewhere in the future if it becomes a trade-off between “good and safe” and “costs a bit more”. It’s not like Auckland is short of places where dangerous intersections on cycleways wouldn’t be the easy choice when faced with having to level out hills further back from the path in order to have a flatter approach.

    • Bryce

      I disagree. As a semi-regular user, I feel the cycleway is fine for experienced, fit riders but is mostly of poor quality. If the intent is to make cycling accessible and fun for the average person then off road cycle infrastructure needs to be built to a constant, high quality, standard as per Portland and Europe.

      • I’ve cycled south (most everyday), east, and west, and I can tell you that the western cycleway is a pure joy to ride. Yes, it has issues, and it needs some work, but there are other places (like nearly everywhere) that are not as nice to ride, nor as safe. I could not cycle to work in the dark from south auckland, but my workmate regularly does it along the NW cycleway.. there are no cars and its well lit. Its awesome.

        Yes, it needs some work.. but its not going to end the world if nothing is done for a bit.

  • Brian

    I hate to rain on the parade but … one of my business partners was at university during the 80′s in Auckland, he was a keen cyclist (still is) and he was involved in a protest which involved a group of them cycling over the harbour bridge. He said it was a very hard ride – it’s surprisingly steep. You may find that not as many people as you think will use it. I hope that this isn’t a flagship type project from which other cycleways will be benchmarked. If it is, it could be the death knell of cycleways before they have even really got going.

    • Andrew

      I guess it’s all perception, but the grade didn’t seem at all hard to me … and the view was definitely worth it.

    • The bridge has a grade of about six degrees, or 1 in 20. That’s reasonably steep but still well under recommended maximums for cycleways. It is a solid climb of about a kilometre though, so the physical effort expended will a factor in subjective evaluation of the steepness of it. If you’ve had quite a long ride to get to the bridge and you’re a little tired then the slope will actually appear much steeper than it actually is, if you’re starting fresh from town it will be perceived as not so steep. That’s all part of a perceptual feedback mechanism in humans that regulates our effort in line with the physical demands of the environment, a survival mechanism that has developed around conserving and using energy stores most efficiently.

      I actually wrote my first masters thesis on the interaction of physiological energy expenditure and the visual perception of the slope of geographic terrain, I probably know more than anyone would every want, or care, to know about the subject ;)

    • SteveC

      the slope and length of climb on the bridge is roughly equivalent to Lake Road outside Takapuna Grammar, it’s not an Albany Hill or College Hill or Parnell Rise by any means

    • On Dec 11, approx 4,000 people rode over the Bridge as part of the TelstraClear Challenge. Despite a gusty headwind my family and friends thought it was easier than expected. The maximum gradient is 5% for about 500 metres.

  • Andrew

    I’ve cycled over the bridge twice – once back in 2009 during the protest march and again last year as part of the Telstra Clear Challenge – both times it was really not that hard, plenty of tougher climbs around Auckland central.

  • Kevin

    In the post you ask the question – should we force cyclists off the roads or make roads safer for cyclists? Clearly the answer is both. Cities need a cycling network, and just like a road network with motorways, arterial roads and local roads, cycling networks need off road paths, bike lanes on main roads and ‘bike boulevards’ in quiet streets(eg Portland).

    It is a sad state of affairs when we have engineered our cities to make cycling intimidating and unsafe. The great news is that fixing these problems are easy, cheap and effective!

  • I, and my fellow horse riders, see a big problem with the current trend to creating cycleways or even shared cycle\walkways.i.e. we, the orignal (and still legal), road users are completely left out of the picture, even in areas of high equestrian population.

    Current land transport plans use the mythical assumption that it is all about ‘transport’ (commuting). Yet we all know and recognise that many (the majority?) walking and cycling journeys are recreational, not commuting or ‘transport’ (whatever that may be). Indeed there is an excellent (somewhat old now) study by the Chicago Highway authorities that showed that recreational use (and trails) are vital to increase non-motorise commuter traffic. People need the recreational use, to ‘dip their toes’ into walking or cycling in a non-threatening environment before attempting commuting. Yet, the debate and planning documents often talk as if there is a one size fits all approach required to transport planning, in order to make it ‘integrated’. Yet the integration needed for some sectors (non-motorised users) is the integration between parks\recreation and open spaces planning, and transport planning.

    From a purely equestrian perspective we also need to see a lot more ‘talking the talk AND walking the walk’ (excuse the pun) when it comes to cyclists and walkers who on the one hand complain about motorists inability to share the road, having poor attitudes to speed, and their own (same selfish) attitudes to other path\trail users i.e. cyclists vs skateboarders, inline skaters, (whatever) on cycleways and all vs horses on shared paths…

    Infrastructure planning doesn’t stop at the urban limits, and should exclude ANY groups from using the road (or ‘ways’). It seems very odd to many who come to NZ, and indeed to all of us who have travelled extensively, that with so little population density we can’t all ‘get along’ and behave more civily on ALL our roads, trails, paths etc

    • An interesting point Vivien, but I for one don’t make the assumption that ‘transport’ is synonymous with ‘commuting’, people travel about for all manner of reasons of which getting to work is only one. Indeed much transport is for the sake of doing transport, i.e. purely for sport, fun or fitness.

      I agree with walking and cycling we are very much at the point where letting people dip their toes in for a bit of fun is the imperative, but providing for commuters is also important. That’s simply because the greatest demand on the whole transport system comes during the weekday peaks. Effectively much of our infrastructure is quite empty a lot of the time because the capacity has to (or at least is) designed for the busiest period, not the average. In that way a focus on commuter cycling reaps big dividends, because a thousand commuters on a cheap and effective cycle corridor is a thousand commuters someone isn’t trying to accomodate with hugely expensive motorway upgrades.

      Anyway, that distinction is a little academic because cycle paths like the northwestern one are equally good for people who commute by cycle, ride their bikes to go shopping or visit friends, or indeed just ride for fun or fitness. They are cheap and easy and let people use bikes to meet all manner of transport goals in a safe and comfortable environment.

    • Bryce

      Talking about selfish Vivien, I have just returned from a ride with my son from Henderson Park to Candia Rd and there is a good amount of horse crap on the shared path.

  • Steven H

    Cycling as a ‘normalised’ means of transport is something that I’ve really noticed in a few cities around the world, but one thing that has always struck me is they don’t seem as hilly as Auckland. (Something about building a city on a volcanic field??)

    It would be interesting to take a look at the elevation changes and grades required to travel in these cycling cities vs Auckland, both between destinations (ie City Centers, local centers, corner stores) and just neighborhood to neighborhood.

    Cycling also needs the support of public transport, bus to work, ride home.

    • Glen K

      I don’t buy the “Auckland’s too hilly” argument because there are plenty of cycle-noteworthy places that are also quite hilly (at least in significant parts), e.g. Bristol UK, Portland Oregon, and even the afore-mentioned Melbourne (I mention these Anglo-centric examples because sometimes referring to continental European locales provokes a reaction as if it’s a completely different planet for cycling on).

      I tend to think too that hills are given greater credence by those NOT currently cycling; they overestimate the effort required. Most bikes do have these amazing things called gears! Also what goes up must come down. People look at a flat place like Christchurch and think “that must be great for cycling”. It’s OK, but you have to KEEP PEDALLING. It’s really quite nice to go to a city where, after a bit of effort uphill, you get to freewheel down the other side.

      If all that is still too much then, as suggested, having public transport with bike carriage allows you to mix modes (e.g. bike downhill to work in the morning, take the bus/train home at night). Unfortunately, we still only have Christchurch in NZ with bike racks on buses, and train services in Akld/Wgtn. Or invest in an e-bike to help you get up the hills.

  • Glen K

    “The great thing about shared cycleways is that they are very cheap to build: all you need is about two metres or so of spare width out of a corridor, the design geometry is pretty lax and if you get stuck in a tricky pinch point there’s no real problem diverting the route onto a nearby street or using a pedestrian crossing.”

    …and that kind of attitude is why some off-road cycleways give all of them a bad name. Given the relative width of a person cycling vs a car, that would be like saying “let’s build streets that are about four metres or so wide; that should be wide enough for oncoming traffic”; technically yes, but not with much comfort or speed. And if “lax” design geometry is used (e.g. tight corners, poor sight distance), then many commuting or training cyclists are certainly not going to be interested.

    Sharing with pedestrians can also be quite problematic; they are not always particularly good at sticking to one side of a path to let faster path users through. No wonder then that our NZTA research found that shared path facilities were barely rated better than “shared road” facilities by potential cyclists – they want separation from both.

    We are quite happy spending billions to ensure that motorways are built to the highest standards, but seem unwilling to spend a pittance of that to do a decent job of cycling “motorways”…

    • I wonder if any one has bothered to speak with the guys who make the mountain bike trails for the cycleways project?
      They seem to be pretty switched on in regards to what a cyclist needs to make an off road track ridable (and set them up for varying levels of skill). I am sure some of their knowledge would transfer in this scenario.

  • Glen, I based that comment on my experience riding in Melbourne, there the paths are never much more than two metres wide and in certain places they do pop on and off the street corridor or cross a street with a cycle signal at the lights. It was never a problem from my perspective and they are still very good paths. If you were too hung up on having everything perfect the none of Melbourne’s cycleways would exist, and nor would our one on the Northwestern.

    With walkers, I found that they did get quite busy on nice sunny days but most people using them would walk to one side. If not then a quick ding on the bell was all that was needed. Perhaps thats just a product of having more shared paths that people are used to sharing, users understand the protocol better.

    As for Lax, I meant that cycleway geometry is lax in regards to other transport infrastructure like motorways and railways, and it certainly is. I didn’t mean that we should scrimp on them with tight corners or poor sight distance, just that a good-geometry cycleway is much easier and cheaper to build that an good-geometry street or motorway.

  • LucyJH

    Auckland needs more off-road cycle ways for sure, but not sure if motorways are always the best place to put them. Why? Because often big sections of motorways aren’t particularly close to shops/workplaces and most people are only willing to commute relatively short distances by bike.

    We would probably get more bang for our buck just by painting cycle lanes on our main regional arterials. Course, that would mean (in most cases) taking space away from cars, which we’re not willing to do in most of Auckland.

    Having said that, I’m all for a walk/cycle way across the Harbour Bridge because I think it will be a flagship project. Just to respond to a few other points

    *I have cycled over the Harbour Bridge and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was. took me about 15 mins cycling in a big group with stops to admire view. And I am not a fit cyclist by any means.
    *In terms of Auckland being too hilly to cycle – this isn’t the reason for our low cycling rates. Wellington is just one example of a city which is much hillier and steeper than Auckland but has higher cycling rates.
    * Re horses – it makes more sense ot put cycle ways into the isthmus (and other built up urban areas) than anywhere else right now. Personally I haven’t noticed a whole lot of horses commuting down the North-Western lately or, indeed, any of our major regional arterials :)

  • Bob

    Still waiting for the NW cyclway to be completed properly. It should run closer to the centre of the city like top of Queen St, university and down to the waterfront like was planned. The NW motorway divided the city in half, needs to be reconnected properly so people on the other side can easily walk/ cycle safely into the city again.

  • Geoff Houtman

    There’s only one thing for it!-

    “CYCLEWAYS OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE”

    I’m pretty sure the PM is a huge supporter of those. Maybe he could have word in the Transport Minister’s ear?

  • Geoff Houtman

    Wait, I got it-

    New “Cycleways of national significance”.

    = Neo-Cons

  • Ben

    This is certainly an interesting post, but do sentences like “latte sucking hipster douchebags” really have a place on this blog?

  • Max

    Some comments about stuff discussed on this post from Cycle Action Auckland’s infrastructure people (i.e. me….;-)

    - Shared path widths: Legally, shared paths can be as little as 2m, but that only works for short pinch points. A good shared path needs at least 3m, and Auckland Transport is intending to make that the default design width for all of them in the future. In high pedestrian volume areas, 4m or more, or separated paths, are better. We recently advocated for shared paths for example along Te Atatu Road, where it seems this will be included in the future design. Upgrading the shared path along Tamaki Drive is also a big project. http://caa.org.nz/tag/Tamaki-drive/

    - Linking north from a Auckland Harbour Bridge cycleway: NZTA has high-level plans for an SH1 cycleway in North Shore, but it is not high on their priority list right now, because the Ministry of Transport has allocated a pittance in money to walking and cycling, so they are not really doing much more than this high-level stuff at the moment, because they’d have no way of funding it. The only large-scale NZTA off-road path that will happen soon is the extension of the CMJ cycleway into the CBD down Grafton Gully (that is in the Regional Land Transport Programme, and, fingers crossed, should be signed off in two months and can then proceed).

    - Auckland Council also has not allocated much money (exactly the same figure as the MoT – 0.7% of the total budget) for walking and cycling. They do good stuff for cycling in corridor upgrade projects like AMETI (http://caa.org.nz/tag/AMETI), but don’t have much money otherwise for new cycling infrastructure. We are working on that as well, on the political side, but it remains to be seen whether the final Long Term Plan changes the disapointing draft.

    - CAA supports a “both!” attitude in regards to whether we need to build off-road paths or concentrate on on-road / existing routes. We spent much of the last years advocating for high-class off-road paths along motorways and railway lines – we managed to play a key role in winning the Waterview cycleway for example – but are also constantly working with AT to fix issues on existing streets, such as the stuff described in this new pilot project: http://caa.org.nz/auckland-transport/quick-wins-for-cycle-safety-a-pilot-program-of-at-and-caa/

    - The Northwestern Cycleway is going to be totally rebuilt between St Lukes and Lincoln Road in the coming years. One of the upsides of the massive motorway projects which we are otherwise sceptical about. It will be raised (no more flooding) get dedicated 3m wide bridges (no more narrow clip-ons) and will generally be brought in line with best practice design (though we have some concerns that at the interchanges you will still have to wait at signals…). See also these posts about the Northwestern Cycleway: http://caa.org.nz/tag/northwestern-cycleway/

  • Adam

    Dang, Earlier I was saying the NW Cycleway is fine, however all that sounds awesome :)

    I do know they are extending it to Huruhuru road as part of current lincoln upgrade, looking forward to that.

    My idea is that they should connect the newton end of cycle way (takau st) to the old, disused nelson street offramp, which is still standing fine, and would drop you right in town (a pretty un-cycle friendly part of town mind you)

Leave a Reply