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Len Brown on cycling

When all you do for transport is drive (or get driven around) it can be hard to appreciate the value that others place on good quality walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure. It doesn’t tend to go the other way that much though as most people walking, cycling or catching PT are also drivers or have been driven around at some point too. The reason this is important is that those that make the decisions on transport in this city/country often don’t tend to fall particularly into the cycling or PT categories. Thankfully when it came to the issue of hi-vis gear the associate transport minister does happen to be a cyclist and so can appreciate the arguments from both sides.

Getting a brief understanding of the issues that cyclists face appears to have been one of the goals of Campbell Live last night who managed to get the Mayor on to a bike for a tour around the city’s streets.

Campbell Live - Len Brown Cycling

There were are couple of points in the piece that really caught my attention.

The biggest one was him saying that he wants $900 million, 1000km cycle network completed over 30 years.  Now this is interesting for a few reasons. The first it equates to about $30 million and  33km per year. Thankfully Auckland Transport recently provided us with figures on cycling progress. They said that they have/are budgeted to spend:

  • 2011/12 – $7m (prior to 2012-15 RLTP)
  • 2012/13 – $9.967m spent
  • 2013/14 – $10.3m planned

On top of this they say about $15 million is being spent as part of other roading projects. so perhaps about $25 million a year. For the distance measurement we have

  • In 2012/13 delivered 7.4km of new cycle lanes and shared paths and 8.7km of new footpaths
  • In 2013/14 plan is to implement 15.4km of new cycleways and 6km of new footpath

So well short of the 33km per year needed but even then it’s going to be a long time till we see a near completed cycle network. Just as a reminder, over 6 years from 2007 New York City managed to build 590km of their cycle network showing that if we want to build large parts of the network then we can, providing we put the focus on doing just that.

Further a 1000km cycle network is a bit longer than the currently planned 900km network AT has on their website, although they have said they have revised the network but we are yet to see it. The one below is from Integrated Transport Programme.

Regional Cycle Network 1

The other major thing that caught my attention was his discussion on the use of berms. I agree that they are largely under-utilised and in many cases it would be good to make better use of them however there’s two problems I see with it. One is it would require shifting the kerb and channel which is bound to add some decent costs. In many places there are also large established trees that might prevent the kerb from being able to be widened unless they were cut down, something bound to be unpopular with locals.

The suggestion also seems to be based on the idea that we can only get cycling facilities that doesn’t impact on the existing road resource. Just because our streets are the way they are now doesn’t mean that they are ideal. There are often huge amounts of space set aside on the road for parking and median strips so we should also be having a discussion about the value of those, especially as they can often be changed with just paint. The parking issue is especially the case in newer parts of the city were minimum parking requirements have required huge amounts of off street parking.

So while Lens talk sounds good, I can’t really see it as anything of a change from what’s already happening – which is not enough and not fast enough.

38 comments to Len Brown on cycling

  • Max

    “So while Lens talk sounds good” – The Auckland Plan that he championed states that the Auckland Cycle Network is to be completed in 2030. By saying today that he wants it finished in 2044, he has just added a 14 year delay to the plans. Even if we allow for another 100km more than the original network plans, that is hugely disppointing.

  • nonsense

    in 30 years cars will fly so roads will be for bicycles. Just wait Len, no need to do anything.

  • So much about this interview was frustrating.

    The berm idea is appalling, the opinion that berms are ‘doing nothing’ or ‘not being used’ just shows why politicians have no idea about design or the built environment. This discussion took place while pointing at a narrow berm hosting a line of trees. This berm is doing a whole lot of things as well as hosting lovely trees, it is increasing the distance being moving traffic [including cyclists] and pedestrians. Is this Brown just trying to kill one problem with another? Any conversion of berms to traffic movement is going to be way more expensive and just as, if not more than unpopular, than removing some parking spaces. Anyway the point is to improve the street environment for everyone, not make it wider and worse.

    Other disappointments include the 30 year timeline. Come on Len, don’t kick this can down the road. These are quick, relatively cheap, and transformational wins. Bang some heads together and you can be the one cutting the ribbon….

    You know what has to happen, it’s parking, medians, and lane over-provision that is the source of space for both bus and bike lanes.

  • mbl77

    30 years? What a joke. “Most livable city” – what a load of BS. Where is someone with vision and the balls to push it forward?

    • bbc

      What’s more he campaigned to complete it by 2026 in 2010, the Auckland Plan said to complete it by 2030 and now he’s kicked it out another 14 years. Basically saying bigger motorways and wider roads, which is all that appears to be fast tracked in Auckland, is all that will be built.

    • bbc

      Admittedly the council has absolutely no say any longer over AT, it is required by law to fund modes in Auckland as per the Government Policy Statement, the only way cycling is going to progress in Auckland is through a forward thinking government that will actually fund alternatives, Auckland Council is basically a lame duck.

  • Christopher T

    I suspect Brown’s ‘thirty years’ is doublespeak for ‘never; not my problem as I won’t be around, but it should get me out of this tight spot; why did my press office ever allow me to dressed up in this stupid outfit; and where’s my car?’.

  • bbc

    Why are footpaths included in the cycling totals? It’s technically illegal for cyclists to ride on them, despite is often being the only safe route. AC/AT want to have their cake and eat it too in my mind. They know full well they’re completely ignoring cycling yet go out of their way to fudge the numbers, fudge what’s completed, fudge what they’re spending. It’s sickening to be honest.

  • 0:53 seconds in, he’s riding on the pavement, right?

    Overall, it just sounds wishy washy – all ‘planned’ but no timelines, detailed budgeting or public accessible information – I’d expect him to be able to rattle off a list of work happening this year, next year, 5 years out, but I doubt he knows. Who does know, because I’d like to hear from them, soon – I’m still young and unattached enough to easily live somewhere else :/

  • Sanctuary

    “…unattached enough…”

    Enough? Let’s hope your other half doesn’t read this blog… ;p

  • Fred

    If this means Len is committing council to spending $30m a year on cycling in the LTP then that’s a huge step forward. If the govt match that spend all of a sudden we have some serious money to play with.

    • This is what I was getting at with my reply – so we have 30m – what are the plans for it this year? and next year? If he doesn’t know there either are no plans or he is underinformed and we need to hear from the guy that does know. I have my doubts though.

      • Loraxus

        The real problem is that this interview gives anyone who wants to slack off on building cycleways a nice comfy mayoral hammock.

        Why hurry, 2044 is far away…?

  • Chris O

    The trouble with this piece for me is it sounded like a very Len Brown response. “We’re going to spend this much over this many years to build this many lanes of cycleway”. That’s all well and good, but he seems to promise everything to everybody – we’ll build all the cycleways, all the public transport projects, all the roads. What I would like to see is him staking out a position by championing some specific signature projects… like a seperated cycleway along Ponsonby Road or Tamaki Drive or somewhere. The single project he’s most vocal about is the Skypath… a project that asks the council to take some on some risk, but not actually commit any funds. And even then he’s qualifying his position on the SkyPath by hinting its progress might be dependent on the goodwill of the residents of Northcote Point and St Mary’s Bay.

    In Vancouver they had good “neighbourhood bikeways” for years, routed down quiet residential streets with dedicated bike signals at major intersections. But their first step in making a major commitement to cycling was taking over a lane of traffic on one of the major bridges into the downtown area and turning into a protected cycleway. When you walk around downtown Vancouver now and see the seperated “greenway” cycling message, it sends a message to potential cyclists as well as the actual cyclists that the city is committed to make bking enjoyable for them.

    • Yes very Len response of promising everything to everyone

      • I had such hope for Len – he made all the right noises. However, I agree the problem is he tries to please everyone and there is little action.

        What amazes me is that in both elections there were clear pro-sprawl, pro-road candidates who Len defeated (John Banks, John Palino). Yet he still seems to think he needs to pander to the pro-sprawl, pro-road constituency. If a lot of people voted for Len because they thought he would scale back the UP and invest the majority of funds in roads, then they cant have known much about Len and ignored the alternative candidates.

        Len has been given a mandate to change Auckland – why is he so afraid to exercise it? And in the process he is starting to alienate the very people who voted him in. Its just bad politics.

  • Jeff H

    Using berms to create wider mixed cycle and pedestrian use on one side of arterial roads has real merit and does not necessarily mean a scorched earth policy as far as trees go. Appropriate landscaping can still be incorporated where it’s been necessary to remove trees.

    Footpath maintenance in Auckland is a poor cousin to roads with uneven surfaces from tree roots, while overhanging and encroaching foliage is not cut back as it would be if were impeding flows of motorised traffic.

    Great to see Len on his bike promoting the cause and TV3 highlight how far per capita Auckland is behind other NZ cities in cycling infrastructure spending

    • Well every street and road is specific, but in general to claim that there’s available space not on the carriageway is, as Matt said above to show that he is still living in the previous century about best practice. We cannot do this well if we start with the assumption that all current vehicle uses of road space is sacred.

      Look at how a city as big and as crowed as NY found the room, or there are plenty of other smaller examples across the world.

      Adding on-street and off-road cycle ways is a win win for all users, including pedestrians, drivers, transit users,and for place quality and local commerce done properly. When will we have a leader in either AC or AT who wants to be as popular and respected as Bloomberg or Boris?

    • I agree – they wont work everywhere and we certainly shouldnt be ripping out trees to make it work. However, unfortunately, there arent that many tree lined, leafy streets left in Auckland.

      There are plenty of streets where the footpath could be widened by a metre or so and separated so that cyclists have a path on the street side. The one issue is danger from driveways but I think it has to be clear these are not intended for peleton cyclists out on their training ride. These are for transport cyclists travelling short distances – especially children.

      However, the real danger is at intersections – that is where mos crashes happen, cycling related or otherwise. We really need to look at these types of intersections (which are likely to be adopted in Christchurch):

      • Bryce P

        I emailed AT about this planned intersection in Chch and asked why cant we do it here as well. The reply was they are awaiting results of the trial. FFS, they’ve been trialled overseas and are proven to work. Build one in Auckland, then another, then another. Likewise with Dutch, bike friendly roundabouts. Proven. Research has already been done. Likewise 30kmh zones. Proven. Stop pissing around!

        • But Bryce we all know that Dutch people are genetically different from Aucklanders, whose genes have spliced with their cars to make them physically unable to use PT or cycling. At least, that seems to be what our “leaders” think.

          Of course these intersections work and they will save lives from day one – especially children’s lives. Just look at the Netherlands crash death/injury rate compared to NZ (NZ being third worst in the OECD for child crash fatalities) ands the Dutch dont think that is good enough. But that is secondary to moving around cars as fast as possible and these intersections might momentarily delay a motorist.

    • Catherine

      Aside from looking nice and leafy and creating a better roadside environment for pedestrians, one of the other functions for berms is to provide a corridor for all the main services – telephone, power, broadband, etc.

      If berms were converted into cycleways, every time maintenance needed to be performed the cycleway would need to be dug up to access the services, which would mean cyclists are once again marginalized into having no particular space set aside for them in the road reserve.Through multiple diggings and resealings after the completion of maintenance, the road surface would become very rough and unpleasant to ride on – it’s likely this could result in confident cyclists riding in the car lanes to avoid the rough surface and less confident cyclists who have greater reliance on the cycleway to discontinue cycling. A poor outcome for both safety and the number of cyclists.

      The other option is that main servicing points could be covered with metal lids (e.g. manhole covers we use now), however these are dangerous to cyclists when wet as they become so slippery that braking or turning on the lid is just not an option.

      I think the best option is to continue with the on-road cycleways, off-road shared paths, and other options we are currently pursuing as cycle infrastructure rather than using the berms.

  • JohnP

    I have two problems with the mayor giving his views. First I don’t remember him being elected on any platform at all so you can’t really say he has a mandate. My recollection is he got in because he wasn’t John Banks and he didn’t piddle on a tree. At least that’s why I voted for him first time round. He then got re elected because nobody of real note stood against him. Not one of them had a profile that made them a realistic alternative. Second problem I have is that the City was set up by Mark Ford to work well for the managers rather than to allow the people we elect to have any say on – well – anything really. If you want to know anything about future transport then you have to have a mate at AT and ask them. AT makes no sense as a stand alone organisation and it is completely un-democratic but its is the structure they gave us. The result in my experience is that getting anything done is now more difficult that it was at even the worst of the old cities.

    • “First I don’t remember him being elected on any platform at all so you can’t really say he has a mandate.”

      He made it very clear that voting for him was a vote for a different Auckland – one that embraced PT and he also made all the right noises on the Gen Zero surveys. The Aucklanders who bothered to vote, voted for that platform.

      True there was no credible candidate in the last election but doesnt that show the vision he was promoting was generally acknowledged as a popular one? Otherwise Cameron “I dont have any ideas but I can tell you what is wrong with yours” Brewer would have stood for sure on a car-oriented, sprawl platform.

      If he didnt have a mandate when he was so explicit, then the National government certainly cant claim a mandate for the assets sales.

  • Good on the Mayor for actually getting on a bike (even in a horrible jacket) and Campbell Live for taking him on a much needed tour. I don’t think he made his comments in relation to targets for completing the Auckland Cycling Network (and certainly wasn’t looking to delay the completion date). He was highlighting specific projects that are currently underway and made a general commitment to cycleways and footpaths (but agree not helpful to make sweeping statements that sound like big numbers but don’t stack up against current targets, budget and delivery).

    The Mayor’s election manifesto included a commitment to develop an Active Transport Action Plan in cooperation with cycling and walking stakeholders. I agree that progress is far too slow but I am willing to wait to see the details of the actual plan before judging the Mayor just on the basis of these off the cuff comments on a bike ride.

    • George D

      Thanks Pippa. As noted above, his big claims in the election campaign were ‘the world’s most liveable city’, and ‘getting Auckland moving’.

      Now that he’s heading in the right direction again, it’s a matter of making sure that rhetoric turns into reality. Some of us are now a little bruised by seemingly empty words, and disinclined to extend faith without evidence of works. I’m not sure if a confrontational agenda or a cooperative one would work better, but you deserve thanks for sticking to these priorities.

    • Pippa,

      Even when seen as general and off the cuff remarks, what the mayor said is disturbing, for three reasons.

      Firstly, he’s not exactly new to the job. At this point, if he had really taken cycling seriously (or more broadly, livable streets) then he wouldn’t need to resort to vague aspirations. He should at least have a well-prepared and sound position statement in his top drawer, metaphorically and literally. That he does not appear to, says a lot.

      Secondly, this interview was hardly a hostile media ambush or a silly quote taken out of context. He clearly had time to prepare and present things, was relaxed and focused on the subject. Hard to grant him much wiggle room as a result.

      Thirdly, the core problem is with the content of his general statements taken as such — and not only when they are construed as a detailed plan. He pointed to specific examples but mischaracterised them and gave troubling indications of the way forward for cycling. There is also all that he did not say or emphasise, even though relevant opportunities arose. (I’ve explained this in more detail elsewhere.)

      I’m also keen to see what comes next and re-evaluate, but I think there’s enough in his presentation and other evidence to make a higher-level call on the direction being taken now… on the off chance the feedback has some positive effect.

  • KLK

    “getting Auckland moving”……so how many metres of dedicated bus lane was introduced in 2013?

    Pfft.

  • “….By 2044″
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    What?
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    Really?

  • marty

    What worries me is that Len said that the outcome of the Skypath depended on Northcote,St Merrys bay residents ,its my understanding that the landing points for Skypath will be on NZTA land at both ends under the bridge nothing to do with AT or Aucland City .All the fuss there making in St Merrys Bay is BS ,the only roads in St Merrys Bay that people my walk/cycle on from the Skypath one has no houses on it ,the nearest house is on the other side of a 8 lane motorway ,That road is Westhaven Drive ,The other road that we may walk/cycle on in St Merrys Bay has houses on it but it is also a motorway offramp! .St Merrys Bay Assn has very very close links with West Haven users Assn and one person has been stiring things up a both Assn .

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