Auckland Transport are now consulting on a cycleway that will make live a lot quicker, easier and more pleasant for users of one of Auckland’s busiest cycle routes. The Ian McKinnon Dr cycleway will cut out the need for the steep climb up to Newton Rd, either cross the road or loop around under it and then having to cross again at the intersection with Upper Queen St. Instead a two-way cycleway will pass through Suffolk Reserve, under Newton Rd and up the western side of Ian McKinnon Dr. AT suggest that people on bikes could save around 2.5 minutes per trip by using new cycleway which also sheds about 6m in height off the route.
This section of cycleway as one of the busiest in Auckland and the counter at Kingsland has been seeing some of the strongest growth across all counters in the region. Usage has almost doubled in just under 5 years.
The first section will see a shared path slip between the existing ramp up to Newton Rd and the houses then through Suffolk Reserve before joining Ian McKinnon Dr under the Newton Rd Bridge.
This section of the cycleway is approximately 200m long and is proposed to be a 3m wide concrete path that is shared by pedestrians and people on bikes. The route of the path through the reserve is currently indicative until further onsite investigate works are completed.
The current route has been selected to minimise the impact on surrounding properties and vegetation, while avoiding the steepest parts of the hill.
In a discussion with AT about the project a few months ago, we and our friends at Bike Auckland urged AT to make this section as wide as possible as it’s bound to be a popular walking route too and so we want them to design it with that in mind. Overall, this section is fairly straight forward.
This section of road is likely to undergo a lot of reconstruction in coming years due to the prospect of light rail. As such and like Quay St, AT are looking at options which can enable the cycleway to be built a bit more temporary than some of the other projects they’ve been developing. There’s no point in spending millions on a route that might be dug up again in just a few years. This means that they’re also trying to keep the costs down by not moving kerbs or building expensive structures such as retaining walls or cantilevering the cycleway over the motorway wall. AT have realised it’s more important to get something in now than wait for projects that might not eventuate for years (although we hope it will be soon).
For this section there are two different options AT are looking at. Both are the same on the upper part (the end closest to Upper Queen St) but they are different on the lower part of Ian McKinnon Dr. For reference here’s what the road layout currently looks like with four traffic lanes and then a shared path, there is also a narrow median on the lower half.
In Option A, a 3m two-way cycleway is added to the western side of the road in lieu of one of the southbound traffic lanes. The southbound direction loses a lane as it is only expected to have minimal impact. A longer term option, such as when light rail is built, might be to permanently shift the cycleway with some more expensive engineering solutions – which in the scheme of $1b LRT project would be fairly small.
This option is the same as above for the upper section but on the lower part where there is more room, would send the cycleway down a motorway maintenance road allowing for the second southbound lane to start again a little earlier. The extra protection is nice but is only for an extra ~150m and does cost a little more to build. With it only being fairly short and the cycleway on the street being protected, I’m not sure it makes a huge amount of difference what option is chosen here.
When completed, as pointed out with AT when we met them and by Max over at Bike Auckland, this cycleway is likely to be a magnet for walkers too. Like we’ve seen with other cycleway projects such as Beach Rd stage 2, Nelson St and many more, pedestrians are almost certainly going to end up walking up on western side too and like those on bikes, avoid having as steep a hill to climb and having to cross the road multiple times to get to the city. This has a chance of creating conflict which we obviously want to avoid. One suggestion from Max is to try and have a small footpath for as long as possible on the western side.
The consultation is open till Monday 29 August. Unfortunately, the project won’t be happening any time soon with it not scheduled to be completed till about mid-2018 so if you’re using the NW cycleway you’ll have a few more years of slogging up the hill to Newton Rd yet. Who knows, by then we might have more information on if and when the light rail project happens.