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