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Reflections on Nelson St

As you know, on Thursday the Te Ara I Whiti (The Lightpath) and the Nelson St cycleway opened to the public. They are both fantastic additions to Auckland and are rightly making many people proud to see their city developing into a more people friendly place. For this everyone involved in the project should be proud of the outcome. After using them a few times already along with events like the “First Hoon” organised by our friends at Bike Auckland on the opening night I thought I would share some of my thoughts about project and what needs to be done next.

These projects have already started to spur change. I’m aware of at least 6 people who now own a bike as a direct result of these projects, some of whom now have the option of riding almost the entire way from their home to work on safe cycleways – and they intend on doing so. Many others have said they’ve pulled their bike out of the garage for the first time in years as a direct result of these projects. In the coming weeks, months and years I suspect they will be joined by thousands of others across Auckland doing exactly the same, especially as more and more of the planned network is built.

There are some more immediate results too. On Saturday I was on my way to Bike Rave and decided to take a detour down Nelson St (because why not) when I came across the scene pictured below. Ahead of me were two young boys probably around 5 years old riding down Nelson St by themselves. Their parents were walking nearby on the footpath but clearly the level of safety provided by the new cycleway was such they felt comfortable letting their kids ride down it. Before this project I can’t imagine most adults being comfortable riding down Nelson St, let alone them letting young children do it by themselves. From our social media accounts there were reports of many more scenes like this one and they are powerful reminders of the importance of building infrastructure that’s safe for all ages and all abilities.

Kids using Nelson St

Just under 48 hours earlier hundreds turned up to ride cycleway for the first time with the lights on – the “First Hoon“. Waiting for them to turn on it was an impressive sight to see hundreds of people on bikes stretch all the way back up Canada St and around on to Upper Queen St – and there were many more behind from where I took this photo and across the road too. It says a lot about how Auckland is developing that on a Thursday night hundreds will turn up just to ride a cycleway. Note: the grade sign on the right, up to Upper Queen St is over twice as steep as what Skypath will be.

Waiting for First Hoon

Having originally been designed for cars travelling at high speeds the old off-ramp is nice and wide and was easily able to accommodate the people using it and there was a very positive vibe in the air. A lot of people stopped to check out the view or to talk to friends while many others carried on down Nelson St to give the lanes down there a go.

This is a photo from a bit later on from Phil Walter via Rode

Nelson St Cycleway First Hoon - Phil Walter

All up it was a great event with many happy people out enjoying what is effectively a new part of the city. I even came across about a dozen people checking it out (walking) at about 11:30pm on Saturday night on my way back from Bike Rave.

One last comment on the pink path/the magenta adventure/the lightpath. Here is a photo of it taken from a helicopter by David Kraitzick‎ and shared with Bike Auckland. It certainly makes a statement.

Nelson St offramp from Air

Of course there is always someone complaining about bike infrastructure and that role seems to primarily fallen to Mike Hosking who has complained about the project on his breakfast radio show and twice on Seven Sharp. This image was posted to the facebook page for his radio show asking where the cyclists are. It turns out it was taken at 7:05am, a time when many people are still in bed and as you can see the road isn’t exactly packed with people either.

Mike Hosking Cycleway

Does anyone else think they just painted the bike symbols over his shoes?

On Seven Sharp on Friday (watch from 10:35 and from 23:00) he complained amongst other things about how much space the cycleway had taken. Here’s a picture sent to Bike Auckland showing the cycleway on Nelson St which is still extremely wide. Of course there were a number of other silly comments he made Nelson St road space vs cycle space

Auckland Transport today sent me the results of their cycle counters. These record the number of movements rather than the number if people. They also don’t include pedestrian numbers and the pedestrian counter will be working soon.

The numbers on Lightpath

Screenshot_2015-12-07-11-49-18~2

And on Nelson St

Screenshot_2015-12-07-10-46-30~2

Moving on to what next, the most obviously aspect this raises is Stage 2 which is to connect the cycleway from Victoria St to Quay St. AT want to send cyclists to the eastern side of the road and make them negotiate a minefield of narrow shared paths and multiple road crossings. Back during the consultation, I pushed for the cycleway to stay on the western side of Nelson St then use Market Place. With the opening of Stage 1 and using Nelson St a number of times it’s made it even more clear that AT would be crazy to go ahead with their proposed route.

The desire line and route that feels most logical is to keep going straight ahead with traffic not stop and cross to the other side. If anyone at AT thinks shifting bikes to the eastern side so they can carry on straight ahead is an even a remotely sensible idea they need to get out on a bike and try it for themselves. On Saturday I tried my suggested alternative by going straight with general traffic and using Market Pl. It definitely felt to me like the most logical way to go and was surprisingly pleasant – with the exception of negotiating those slip lanes. Riding down Market Pl under a canopy of trees was a fantastic way to mark that you’ve reached the waterfront.

I’m aware that AT are looking at this option now and are currently running some traffic modelling to see the impact of removing the left turn slip lanes.

Market Rd option

The other aspect that struck me was the need to get on with the planned cycleway on Victoria St – which is on the list to be done in the next few years. On Thursday evening I came up Victoria St on my bike and it was difficult to get anywhere along the route due to congested roads – and I was wanting to avoid the busy footpaths. Getting at least some of the Victoria St section sorted soon at least as far as Federal St would really help in making it easier for people on bikes to access Nelson St.

I appreciate that space through this section is tight, especially giving the changes being made for the CRL enabling works however as it is listed to get funding within the next three years from the government’s use it or lose it Urban Cycleway Fund it is something AT are going to have to get on to. Getting it to Federal St might work in nicely with tourism too. People go up the Sky Tower, see the pink streak and want to try it out so they can go back down, hire a bike and head off along Victoria St and up Nelson St.

City Centre Cycle Routes

Did you check out the new addition to Auckland’s cycle network, if so what did you think?

57 comments to Reflections on Nelson St

  • JimboJones

    What a knob-end that Hosking is! Would he stand in the middle of an incomplete road and ask where everyone is?
    How about applying some kind of intelligence to the argument. What was that space used for before – parking. Would have it been used by 500+ people a day – probably not. So more people are using this space than before even though it is incomplete.

  • Scott M

    The light path also looks fantastic from the Harbour Bridge at night time. Someone should take a picture from that angle and put it on the blog.

  • Cycled it yesterday, and noticed a few (South American?) tourists on hired bikes.

    Already popular, but I can imagine Auckland cycleways becoming an attraction once there is a critical mass of connected lanes joining features like lightpath and skypath. Compared with the pure ‘traffic sewer’ that was Nelson street, the changes are revolutionary for Auckland.

    As more Mike Hosking, I am not sure if he is just trolling or just that disconnected with society. Comments like Aucklanders ‘love there cars’.. which is not backed by evidence. I was tempted to write to TVNZ, but contented myself with tweeting on #bikehosking. Mind you he is a golfer.. perhaps a member of the Remuera golf club who probably see $18m spent on the thousands of people using the bridge daily as a waste, but the $500m invested on their land worthwhile?

  • RB

    Lets be honest here. Cyclist numbers will drop substantially when the weather turns bad (and the novelty wears off) and most will revert to their previous forms of transport. As for few people being around at 7 a.m. on a work day, really? From 7 a.m. onwards the roads are full as you well know. Just stating the obvious.

    • JimboJones

      Why would you go from a free form of transport to a car costing probably $100 a week in petrol and parking? Maybe when it is really cold and wet, a few days a year…
      I’ve recently moved from a car to an electric bike I doubt I’ll ever go back to commuting by car. But I wouldn’t have started riding if it wasn’t due to having a decent cycleway most of the way to work.

    • Nik

      I was at a BBQ on Sunday and one of the guys there was talking about his electric bike and his commute that involves this part of the cycle network. He did talk about the curves on the lightpath bridge and the light phasing on Nelson street slowing him down, but the impression I got was that he’s happier with this route than other options.

      My thought was that at least he now has the option to commute via bike and if he chooses not to some days is that really an issue?

      Change happens one person at a time.

    • Yep the roads in the pictures looks packed with cars

    • wayne

      I ride down Nelson each morning at about this time all year round. I can report that motorized traffic at this time is light. In the short time it takes to travel along Nelson St I will normally encounter at least five other riders. If I had encountered Mr Hosking standing in the middle of the cycle way he would have been reminder-ed to keep left. It is my impression that I encounter more cyclists all year round as cycling continues to grow. You can read the monitoring reports here. https://at.govt.nz/cycling-walking/cycling-walking-monitoring/ This confirms my impression.

    • Bryce P

      Few cyclists. Majority of cyclists just don’t have to leave home to be in the city at 7am just to miss traffic. A cyclist can leave Te Atatu at 8am and be in the city on time for a 9am start.

      • Bobo il Pagliaccio

        Agree. The bulk of office workers probably start arriving in the city by any modes between 745-9am.

  • Does anyone have figures for the number of cars using Nelson St? The only figure I can find is from https://at.govt.nz/about-us/reports-publications/traffic-counts/ which has a 7 day ADT of… 504 cars. Which is either an error, or more likely, just counting that accessway between Union and Cook.

    • Since the cycleway is about one lane wide, it’d be interesting to see how it compares to the number of cars using the street, per lane.

      • So if the count builds to even one more bike lane user than 1/6th of the 6 or so traffic lanes it will be doing more for the city than the rest of the road, per width metre…. And to be fair we would have to wait for a city wide cycle network of the size of the entire motorway network to be complete and feeding it to make that comparison….

        Spatial efficiency will win here, as it always does in cities; that’s what they are about.

        • Oh yeah, it should take a few years and more pieces of the central city network being finished before it gets close to its potential. It’s an interesting tipping point to look out for, though – when is cycling investment no longer something we do because we want to grow cycling, but simply because we already have cycling that needs it?

    • Peter Nunns

      Hmmm. That is odd. It certainly doesn’t tally with NZTA’s state highway traffic volume data, which seem to suggest that 20,000+ vehicles exit the motorway onto Nelson St. (I didn’t read closely; could be wrong.)

      Of course, there are still 3 or 4 lanes left for traffic, plus space for parking. I don’t know much about the signal phasing and all, but I suspect you could still funnel 4-6,000 cars an hour down Nelson St – i.e. plenty of capacity.

    • Ari

      It is about 30k vehicles a day off the motorway onto Nelson. I can’t find the source but It was a modelling report.

  • Hopefully AT can sort out the wait at Wellesley St intersection. Left turning cars get a default green arrow, which is fine, but on pressing the beg button to cross as a cyclist, you have to wait for a phase to finish (inc westward Wellesley St movement). Kind of spoils the momentum, especially when there’s not actually any traffic coming down Nelson.

    Asides from that it’s fantastic. I rode it on Sunday on a whim whilst quaxing on K Rd for christmas presents, after having been up to Tumeke cycle space to fix my gear shifters. Perfect cycle day. SkyPath now please.

    • You’ll get used to that if you walk or cycle in Auckland for a while. Almost every signalised intersection works like that.

      Even the ones with a slip lane work like that, even though that left turn traffic turns left behind you when you’re standing at the beg button.

      What’s more, you may have noticed that as a pedestrian you still have to press a beg button to cross the off-ramps. Even though they could in theory simply get green light while the off-ramps have red. But cyclists do get green light automatically.

      And even in that situation you’re sometimes still required to wait for a full cycle. I have seen that at least at the big left-turn to SH1 on Beaumont Street, don’t know about these ramps.

  • mfwic

    I am just concerned about all those wonderful old houses that had to be knocked down with whole neighbourhoods removed just to make space for the motorway and The Lightpath.

    • Peter Nunns

      Now that I’ve been up on the Pinkpath, I think it would be a prime location for some apartment towers. Amazing views; I’m sure some developer would pay top dollar. Failing that, council could convert it to a miniature golf course to recover some revenue from users.

    • Ari

      Hear! Hear! A wonderful community was destroyed just to make way for this empty white elephant cycleway. It’s just terrible.

  • And here is what you see if you look the other way from that spot on Market Place:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-CCcRfcIaozI/Vf5iH5ANxfI/AAAAAAAACAc/XGbIgkGEXOg/s600/IMG_6139.JPG

    How is it possible that we need a 3-lane wide queue there at the traffic light?

    In other words, plenty of room for a bike lane. Or maybe we can make that stretch a shared space.

    • Max

      AT are more concerned about the other side of the intersection, and about the last stretch of Lower Hobson Street. Market Street isn’t the main problem for a possible route along here.

  • It’s probably not fair to measure the width the cycleway has taken from Nelson St without also counting the number of lanes in Hobson St – they do after all make up just one route, Nelson and Hobson being different directions of that same route.

    The cycleway has reduced the number of general traffic lanes on this route from 10 to 9. O.M.G. Of course the total number of lanes has gone up from 10 to 11 due to the cycleway having a lane in each direction.

  • Ari

    I just love that 1st photo. It is quite wonderful and it really encapsulates the whole point of building quality cycling infrastructure and who we are building it for.

    The last I checked, Nelson offramps spew out 30,000 vehicles a day. So if you consider 6 lanes changing to 5, the cycleway needs to carry 5000 cyclists a day to justify the loss of 1 lane to vehicles. This is unlikely to ever happen given that the weekend count is an abnormal situation. Check again in Jan to see a normal result. Having said that, there is plenty of space on Nelson St and I doubt the loss of 1 lane makes much difference overall. This is the great thing about one way systems. They can handle the loss of a lane or two as was found in New York. I would advocate more one-way streets for the sole reason that they are safer for everyone and we can fit more cycle ways in AND bus lanes, but one way streets have a lot of irrational opposition.

    Also 5000 cyclists take up a fraction of the space that 5000 cars do so any person we get cycling instead of driving actually helps the motorway traffic too. More cyclists = quicker drive for me to work.

    As for cyclist delays at intersections, that comes down to priority. I think the view is that cyclists now have safe infrastructure, so they can wait all day. I think it will take time for AT to change it’s view on priority. Cycle lobby groups need to get more people to ask council to do something.

    • Not so Ari, because those vehicles have not been banned they still have all the other lanes, there has always excess capacity here. So the cycle way volume is in addition to whatever the general traffic lanes carry.

    • Bobo il Pagliaccio

      lol, the trolls are out in force on this topic, or is it the Mike Hosking fan club?

    • Yes I love that photo too. Was already smiling enjoying riding down the off-ramp then Nelson St but then to see that was special (and to be able to get a picture of it too)

  • Chris O

    I tried the cycleway out on Saturday afternoon, heading uphill from Victoria St. Would love to try it again in a downhill direction, and for people wanting to check it out, I’d recommend starting from the Canada St end (also lots of refreshment options near the end at City Works Depot and Victoria Park Markets).

    I couldn’t help but feel a thrill when I first saw how wide the Nelson St section is. It really is how cycleways should be built. And the Lightpath itself – just wow. They’ve created something that works both practically as a bike path, and is also striking enough to be a destination in its own right.

    After exiting Canada St I headed to Heroes for Sale along K Road, then home via Ponsonby Road, and the comparison couldn’t be more stark really. When Ponsonby Road is busy, it feels like a space only for the bravest and most determined of cyclists, and it shouldn’t be that way *at all*. There’s already a commitment for a cycleway on K Road, but Ponsonby Road is crying out for one to create another link between K Road and the waterfront. Given the complicated politics of sacrificing either car parking or traffic lanes to create one, I’m not holding my breath it will happen any time soon.

    I’m so looking forward to the day when we don’t just have these awesome paths, but they link up into a network: Northwest cycleway to Lightpath to Nelson St to Westhaven to Skypath to Seapath or the Northcote Safe Cycling Route. I hope projects like this one raise people’s expectations of what quality cycle infrastructure should look like.

    Coming into work today, the bus stopped at the Nelson and Victoria St intersection. While I waited a cyclist pulled at the end of the cycleway… then another one, then another one. There were 6 by the time the bus finally moved on. If you build it, they will come!

  • I watched the Friday Seven Sharp piece on TVNZ OnDemand and Hosking pointed out three runners, three cyclists and two people on hoverboards were all that used the cycleway. Very biased piece! Although, I was one of the three runners, so I was very glad to get on TV 🙂

    I ran the cycleway Friday lunchtime and also on Sunday in the evening when it was dark, I thought I read somewhere that the lights “follow” you around, but I didn’t notice that happening. I noticed that the lights were white where people were standing near them, so something is going on, but I certainly didn’t feel like the lights were following me as I was running. Did I just make that up?

    • Rich

      try it on a bike, the faster you go the more it will react. I had white behind me and blue in front, the change in colour was keeping pace with me with pulses reacting every now and then.

    • Ari

      Yes the lights definitely respond to movement. I’m not sure they follow you per se, but they do react and change colour and maybe not that quickly. I did a time-lapse video and saw the effect. Quite interesting.

  • Ian

    The right wing, always the last people to the party.

    • luke

      and yet we have a national government putting money into cycleways.

      where will tosser hosking take his vote now?

      • Brendan Barry-Walsh

        Yep Right wing government that enabled Urban Cycle Fund. What does that tell you about the quantum shift in attitude?…… By most

  • Steve H

    At this point I’m probably just chiming in as a sycophant, but I have decided to deliberately extend my commute in order to bike Te Ara I Whiti every day. Partly because it’s absolutely gorgeous (I can’t stop smiling the entire way along, especially when making eye contact with gridlocked motorists) and partly because it feels much safer than my usual daily dodge between buses and lane-hopping cars down Symonds St.

    So that means that my commute now consists of:
    – starting in Remuera, Auckland’s ‘leafiest’ suburb
    – a painful slog up Ayr St (but at least I don’t need to pay for a gym membership)
    – a leisurely cruise through the Domain
    – a cheeky nip across Grafton Bridge & down Upper Queen
    – a smiley swoop along Te Ara I Whiti
    – and concluded by catching my breath as I roll down Nelson St while looking around at the architecture.

    Excellent stuff. This all takes me less time than it would by car (due to long waits on Ayr St) and is much cheaper (read: free) than petrol and parking.

  • Chris D

    Mike Hosking is not a journalist. He is a TV personality who uses his position to force his personal views on the public. Hopefully his unformed opinions will shortly be drowned out by the sound of pedals turning. I can’t wait to use it when I am next back in Auckland.

  • Such a great addition to the city – I can’t resist detouring on my ride to work from Grafton to Ponsonby just to ride it. I do have a gripe with the light phasing on Nelson St by City Works Depot.. way too long, tempting as a road cyclist to just give up and get back into the main traffic lane down to the Viaduct.. same with the light at Vic St.. and Beach Road where that crosses diagonally.

  • Gareth Lockett

    Took my 10yr old son on a bike ride on Sunday starting from Victoria Park, up Nelson Street, Lightpath, Grafton Gully, Beach Road, Quay St, Queens Wharf (stopped at the Auckland Fair), Wyndham Quarter and back to Vic Park.

    It was an absolute joy to ride a complete loop around the CBD with a path so well signposted and free from the stress of being hit by a car. There were loads of other families doing the same thing. There’s no way the Lightpath and the whole route to Westhaven won’t be a huge tourist Mecca eventually.

    Mike Hosking and his Maserati should move to Las Vegas where I’m sure he’d be much happier, worshipping money, casinos and roads.

  • Owen Thompson

    Here’s a route map for the Nelson St cycleway.

    https://at.govt.nz/media/1237814/nelson-street-cyleway-route-map.pdf

  • Matthew

    It an excellent addition to the CBD. And it makes me very happy to see so many fellow cyclists on my weekday commute. Eventually we and the pedestrians will take back downtown, and leave the petrol monsters where they should be, on the outskirts (if not in the last millenium). As for Hosking, Jeremy Wells does him so well on Hauraki that it doesn’t bother me as much as before. He is a class A prat and most people think so I believe. If I had seen him on the cycleway I might have run over those shiny shoes by “accident”, although he whines like a pig already so I suspect his wimpers would be as uninspiring. Keep cycling cycling people, we may not be able to save the planet, but at least we are trying.

  • Claire

    I am absolutely loving the new bridge and the Nelson St cycle way, and feel like I am truly living the dream being able to use them (and Grafton Gully) every day for my work/daycare/home circuit. The pink bridge is just magic and you can’t help but smile.
    My one gripe is that every time I have used the Nelson St cycle way, buses cutting across down Wellesley have queued across the intersection, forcing me (with my little one on the front) and all the other bikes and pedestrians to go around the into the path of traffic. Not just once, every time I have used it.
    By contrast, I have used the bus lanes up Symonds St and have found the buses all to be extremely patient and courteous. Maybe the Wellesley St bus route drivers need some additional training?

  • steve

    So when do we get the same attention to motorcycling. You won’t ever reduce those 30,000 cars coming off the Nelson street offramp with bicycle lanes because bicycles can’t use the motorway. A concerted effort to promote motorcycling with the addition of motorcycle lanes on the motorway and suburban arterial routes, will encourage people out of their cars. Motorcycles take up the same space as a bicycle but travel larger distances with incredible ease.

    The two main concepts of bicycle lanes is improved safety and encouraging the uptake of bicycling to reduce congestion. Both concepts apply more so to motorcycles. Motorcycles have to zigzag and squeeze between traffic at great risk and are more deserving of the same concideration being afforded bycycles. Studies in europe have shown that if 10% of car crivers switch to motorcycling congestion is reduced by 40% and a 20% shift nearly eliminates congestion.

    In the UK they did a comparison test in several congested cities and put a car, public transport, bicycle and motorcycle up aganst each other and the motorcycle won everytime, followed by the bicyle on the shorter distance commutes. Once the commutes got longer public transport mostly came last followed by bicycle then car.

    It’s time AT paid as much attention to motorcycling as a means to get Auckland moving.

  • steve

    One more point. I’ve ridden past the Nelson Street Lightpath at 5pm three times in as many weeks and never seen a soul on it.