There was an excellent piece on TVNZs Sunday programme last week about cycling (click the image).
Its great that they talked to Glen Koorey (sometimes comments on here as Glen K) who made the excellent point that for ~$600 million, we could build an entire cycle network in Auckland. To put that figure in perspective, over the next 10 years the council has budgeted to spent around $5 billion on local roads so that doesn’t even include all of the money proposed to be spent on the motorways. Re-prioritising some of that spend could see the entire proposed cycleway network (below) completed in less than a decade.
Let’s stop mucking around and just get the thing built. At the very least, wouldn’t it be wonderful to at least say we have “completed” one transport network – of course I’m sure that there is still more that could be done so cyclists, please don’t jump on me for that comment .
This is a guest post from reader Goosid
I returned to New Zealand in September 2011 from three years in Romania. Although Bucharest may rival Auckland for its unfriendly environment for cycling – I have always been a keen cyclist and seeing the cycling Infrastructure in Northern Europe (particularly Amsterdam and Copenhagen) convinced me that the deciding factor is investment in infrastructure. You only need to look at the difference in cycling culture between the Netherlands and Belgium to see that. Belgium, despite having a very similar culture (at least in the majority Flemish areas) and geography to the Netherlands has relatively poor cycling infrastructure and is much more auto dependent. This is even more pronounced in the French speaking parts of Belgium.
What I also saw was how well bicycles work with public transport. I am sure many of you have seen the stacks of bikes at the Amsterdam train station, to the point where there is now basically a crisis of congestion and parking for bicycles
Like most of the English speaking world we are very far behind even Belgium (the Netherlands has more cyclists than the entire English speaking world combined). In Auckland a common issue raised are the hills that Auckland is blessed with which give us such a great natural environment.
The solution I have found is an electric bike. I first saw these in Germany and I immediately realised what a great idea they are. Electric power is perfect for bicycles as the low weight means a relatively small power source is required as opposed to an electric car where so much weight is added through the batteries. I don’t really cycle for fitness so I just want to get from A to B as quickly and easily as possible.
I purchased a SmartMotion eUrban Bike. You can see more detail about this bike at (http://www.electricbikes.co.nz/content/view/96/125/). It was specifically designed for New Zealand by the Wisper franchise owner in New Zealand and is a great little bike. However, I have no association with the business and there are lots of other great bikes out there. For some electric bike porn check out the new electric bike from Smart (who make the Smart cars) http://www.t3.com/news/smart-electric-bike-available-to-pre-order-now. Drool!
The bike can be ridden purely on electric power via the throttle or, on my bike, you can choose an assist level from 1 to 5. This means that the bike will supply power from the battery in addition to your pedal power to keep you at around 25-27 km/h on the flat. If you go over 27 km/h the motor will cut out and you are just on pedal power until your speed drops again. I always ride on assist level 5 which, of course, sucks more power.
These are the advantages I see of the electric bike:
- It has a motor, so I don’t work as hard and arrive at my destination not covered in perspiration. I usually travel at around 27-30 km/h with literally no sweat.
- Hills are like riding on the flat. I just turn up the assist, go down some gears, cycle at a normal pace and usually ascend the hill at 18-22 km/h depending on the slope. Annoys the hell out of the lycra brigade I tell you!
- It can be carried on trains and ferries. I take the Bayswater ferry every day and it is fantastic. A lot of fellow riders get off and continue on to Newmarket, Ponsonby etc.
- Easy for kids to use. The speed via throttle is limited to around 25 km/h so they can’t go crazy speed wise.
- The range is great at around 30 kms per charge on my reasonably hilly route. I usually charge every 3-4 days and I have never been caught short. The bike has an easy to read panel that shows the amount of power left at the current rate of consumption. It takes about 5-6 hours to recharge from a normal power outlet and uses about the same amount of power as a light bulb.
- If the power does run out you can still continue to cycle like a normal bicycle using the pedals.
- It is very quiet with only a slight whine when the motor is working hard up a hill.
Some disadvantages from a normal cycle are:
- It is heavier than a normal cycle (mine is about 19 kilos) which may make it difficult to carry up and down stairs for a smaller person. I am 85 kilos and it is easy for me.
- It will be a few 100 dollars more expensive than a non-electric bike which is basically the cost of the battery. I think it is worth it to avoid the effort on hills and to enjoy my cycling more.
- The battery does have a limited life span. However, I know a guy who has an older model of Wisper bike with the same battery for 5 years and it is still going strong. I believe a new battery costs around $700 new.
- You will have to put up with little jibes from the lycra brigade that you are “cheating”.
- You will constantly be asked by people about your bike and you will turn into an electric bike zealot.
- You won’t want to use your car. Hmm, I guess that should go in the first list?
The point with this is not that my family doesn’t need a car. We live in Auckland of course we do! Keeping with the electric theme, we have a hybrid that my wife uses and I occasionally use on the weekend. However, it means we now comfortably only need one car, which saves a huge amount of money. When my children are older, I intend to buy an electric Danish style electric cargo bike like this one for getting them around:
NZ Post has just bought some electric bikes for their posties and, in some European cities, electric cargo bikes are being used to transport goods through pedestrian only areas. What a great solution for our future pedestrian zones in Auckland. Some can carry up to 100kgs of goods. They are huge in China along with electric scooters.
Some people have been very sceptical about the benefits until they have actually ridden my bike and then they are sold. For trips of less than 5 kms, electric bikes really do offer a fantastic alternative and with some cargo carrying capability can replace a car for many short trips.
I remember someone on the blog did a map showing how over 80% of Aucklanders live within a 2km radius of an existing train station. An electric bike will make you laugh at a 2km ride, regardless of age, fitness or terrain and you can then jump on one of the new electric trains and you are away!
P.S. I have nothing against the lycra brigade! Just playing fellas, all us cyclists have to stick together and guys do a great job of keeping cycling visible in the city.
This is a guest post from our friends in the cycling community
I wanted to let you know about CAN Do 2013: Inspiring Change, an exciting conference coming up in Auckland on the 13th and 14th of April.
CANDo is a national summit for cycling advocates which is held in a different location each year.
Because it hasn’t been held in Auckland for some time I personally have never been to it. But I’ve heard great things about it from those who have attended!
The key details for the event this year are:
When: Saturday 13, Sunday 14 April.
Where: Ellen Melville Pioneer Hall, corner of High Street and Freyburg place, Auckland CBD
Cost: The registration is $60 for one day or $100 for two days, including meals.
Who: The Cycling Advocacy Network, the umbrella group for cycling activists in NZ.
They have lined up some great speakers for the Saturday including:
- Jonathan Daly: Transport behaviour-change expert from GHD Melbourne: “The politics of cooperation in the age of sharing: A new paradigm for bicycle advocacy”
- Stephen Town: Regional Director Auckland/Northland for the New Zealand Transport Agency: “Collaboration & partnership in action”
- Rod Oram, Issues Analyst: “The problem is … the solution is….”
- Camden Howitt from Sustainable Coastlines: “How do we get the NZ cyclist voice heard? Popularising the cause”
- Gerry Dance: Model Communities:“New models, new learnings”
- Phil Shoemack: Medical Health Officer, Bay of Plenty: “The health factor”
- John Mauro: Director of Policy, Cascade Bicycle Club: “Going Online”
- 90 Seconds TV: Social media and interview practice
If you are involved in cycling advocacy, either as an individual or part of a group then this is definitely a must-attend event!
If you are a public transport advocate then you might also find it useful to attend because a lot of the topics, such as, how to use social media or communicate issues effectively to the
general public, are applicable to both our work.
This is a great chance to skill share, network, and talk about how public transport and cycling advocates can work more effectively together to achieve change.
To see the whole programme or find out more check out CAN Do 2013 on CAN’s website.
To register download a form here.
In this recent post Matt collated some stunning photos of Auckland. More than most cities, Auckland is blessed with a wonderful natural environment. But some of the comments on Matt’s post gave me cause to pause, because they noted that all the stunning photos of Auckland were taken from approximately 300m up in the air and/or at night.
“bbc” put it this way:
All cities look picturesque from above at night, the issue is at street level which is where you actually interact with a city. At the fine-grained level Auckland is a particularly ugly city, and has a long way to go.
To which “Steve West” responded:
So true. São Paulo for example looks awesome at night yet it is a bit of a hole too. New Zealand does not have attractive cities – it is only the natural backdrop which offset the harshness of the 1980s era concrete and glass box prefab which continues to this day. Thanks Rogernomics. Recent article in a UK paper to that point – natural scenery nice but Auckland a bit crap.
Having read Steve’s comment I went off scurrying for the article he was referring to. Instead of finding that one however, I uncovered another two recent articles in U.K. that discussed Auckland. The first one was published in The Sun and made particularly positive claims about Auckland being “hobbit forming”. Nice, we’re obviously doing something right.
I then stumbled across this article in the Guardian, which was rather bluntly titled “How cities fail their cyclists in different ways.” It started off discussing Hong Kong, which was interesting, but scrolling down the page a little more you find a sub-section titled “Cities where cycling should be more popular than it is. Example: Auckland“. The content that follows is, I think, worth repeating in full:
Yes, it’s hilly in places and, once you reach the suburbs, very spread out, but Auckland really should be awash with cyclists. It has suitably temperate weather and that same spread out-ness leaves plenty of potential space for bike lanes.
But wander, with the eye of a regular cyclist, around the city centre, and you’re almost immediately struck by the lack of bikes on the road. Outside peak times they’re almost non-existent, barring the occasional cycle courier. Those you do see generally sport the Lycra garb and haunted expression of the cycling enthusiast in a bike-unfriendly environment.
The city is trying to boost numbers and, according to the most recent annual cycling survey, with some success, with 30% more riders on the roads than five years ago. But the numbers remain fairly small – just under 13,500 “cycling movements” observed on one day at 82 monitoring sites. It’s not helped by a compulsory helmet law, in place since the mid-1990s.
I was aghast to learn that the city’s harbour bridge, the main link between the centre and suburbs to the north, has no way at all for cyclists to cross. They must either plonk their bike on a ferry or take a fairly long detour. As an emblem for a city dominated by cars and roads it’s hard to beat.
Like with Hong Kong, it’s not as if Auckland couldn’t do with more cyclists. New Zealand might more or less define itself through sport but it’s simultaneously one of the more obese nations on earth.
The more I thought about it the more I found myself agreeing with the basic premise of the above article: Auckland is quite suited to cycling. One of the benefits of our geography is that there are pleasant views (like the ones shown in Matt’s photos) waiting at the top of most hills and around most corners. And it’s not like we have a winter that’s quite as cold as Amsterdam, where I used to live (and cycle!).
I know we talk about public transport a lot on this blog and it is true that Auckland can do much better in this regard. However I’m increasingly wondering if we’re not over-looking opportunities for Auckland to become more of a cycling city.
A recent presentation on the Integrated Transport Programme, for example, apparently made no mention of walking or cycling, instead referring only to major (read “expensive”) road and public transport projects. I know it’s only a presentation and that we should hold fire until the ITP itself is released, but what message does it send when the summary to a 30-year strategic document developed by almost all the government agencies involved in transport planning does not identify one signature walking/cycling project? It’s amazing to me that walking in particularly can be so over-looked given that it still contributes almost 10% of journeys to work.
And the failure to mention walking/cycling projects from the ITP presentation came hot on the heels of this month’s AT business report, which also left out cycling statistics altogether. It seems like Auckland Transport is suddenly afraid of using the “c” word?
As a cyclist myself I’m obviously “biased” – but on the other hand let’s not ignore than a person on the other side of the world felt sufficiently motivated to use Auckland as an example of a city where “cycling should be more popular than it is.” This point is worth ramming home: A journalist in the U.K. - who could have chosen any city in the world – choose Auckland. That’s not something to be proud of my friends, and it’s not something that will help us to become the world’s most livable city. While Auckland has and continues to make progress on many transport fronts, in my view our investment in cycling still lags.
In my opinion Auckland needs to become vastly more welcoming to cyclists before it can lay claim to being the world’s most livable city. And only then might you start to see beautiful photos being taken at ground level.
This is a guest post from commenter Sam F
One of the debates that most frequently pops up around improving the lot of bicycle users in Auckland is the priority given to off-road versus on-road infrastructure. On one hand, there’s the popularity of routes like the Northwestern cycleway alongside SH18, which will hopefully grow further with the Grafton cycleway project reaching into town, and further into the future the Skypath bridge crossing project. On the other, there’s the continued problem of making the vast bulk of roads outside of the “cycle superhighways” fit for bike users, with major projects involving meaningful changes to road usage very rare (and where they do, sometimes being scaled down and cheapened up in the design stages to the point of wondering why changes to cycle provision where proposed at all).
As a daily rider myself I can attest to how odd it can be to suddenly come to the end of a well-provisioned “superhighway” stretch and re-enter the Auckland roading network we have all come to know and love – less like a motorway ending in a cul de sac and more like a wasterslide ending in a shark pit. Obviously the ideal solution would be to simply continue the lanes and bespoke provision right through the heart(s) of the beast, but we haven’t yet reached the point where that seems politically viable, and probably won’t until we can increase the numbers and visibility of people getting around by bike – which means making whatever worthwhile improvements that we can to the roading system that we have now.
In that spirit, Cycle Action Auckland and Auckland Transport have been working away since last year on a “Quick Wins” project for cycling focused on New North Road which is now beginning to bear some fruit A user audit by CAA, and another detailed safety audit commissioned by AT, looked at cycle safety for the road from Mount Albert through to Symonds Street, and one of the most significant safety issues in both reports has resulted in proposals which AT is consulting on right now.
These concerns “merge conflict pinch points” – places where a multi-lane road is narrowed down after an intersection by on-street parking, leading motor vehicles to speed ahead to jockey for their position in the narrowed lanes. The likely result for cyclists (probably familiar to most people who’ve ridden onroad in Auckland for a good length of time) is getting squeezed out to the left, to avoid being mashed by motor traffic either rushing up behind or passing too closely on the side.
As a result, four of these pinch point sites on New North Road are earmarked by AT for parking removal – No Parking At All Times, signified by the good old broken yellow lines – to allow more room for bikes and motor traffic to merge safely.
Having commuted along New North Road for the best part of six years, I took the time to fire through a fairly detailed email on each of these locations, which I’ve summed up below. You can find the official proposals and an email link for submissions on AT’s website here . Submissions close on 13 February, so make sure you leave some time after reading this to fire up your email and let AT know what you think…
2A New North Road, Eden Terrace
This site comes just after the intersection of Mt Eden Rd with New North Road and Symonds Streets, where quite a bit of motor traffic and buses starts its journey westward either all the way along New North Road or to the flyover intersection with Dominion Road.
As is apparent from the aerial shot, there’s only three normal-sized parking spaces to be removed, all of which have ready alternatives in side streets and offstreet carparks all around, so it’s hard to imagine any reasonable claims of major negative effects on property owners in the area.
These parking spaces vanish into clearway during peak hours, but even at these times there’s already confusion between road users going downhill from the lights – in a classic pinch point, westbound traffic that is in two lanes at the traffic lights often has to merge into a single lane around the corner (with no lane markings to reflect or guide this), and then out into two lanes again at the next lights. When vehicles are in fact parked here, cyclists who’ve filtered up to the advance stop box at the lights have the prospect of trying to merge to the right in the face of merging cars on the right and frequently also avoiding buses pulling left into a stop just past the parking spaces.
Of all the ones proposed this particular change seems like a no-brainer – removing the carparks here would make a significant difference to cyclists and will have the added benefit of making this stretch of road more predictable and efficient for all road users. Here’s hoping this one at least survives the consultation process. Onwards and westwards…
61-63 and 607-613 New North Road
These are another couple of useful changes both of which should assist cyclists headed eastbound uphill on New North Road. At 61-63 New North, just up from the Exmouth Road Intersection, the combination of a gradual left curve and a fairly steep gradient from the lights make this a difficult area for cyclists and drivers already, and removing carparks from this location will improve the situation further.
Down at Morningside (607-613 New North) this change will make life easier for cyclists moving uphill, particularly as uphill traffic headed away from the lights at Morningside Drive often speeds up rapidly:
I’d expect the Morningside change will have quite substantial objection from retailers, given these spaces are right outside a block of shops – however there is offstreet carparking very close by, which is probably unused as it’s tucked away, both behind the Morningside shops themselves in the aerial photo (under the white text box) and behind the corner dairy at 600 New North on the southern side. Removing the on-street parks here might be more palatable if some moves are made (by AT or by local boards, or both working together) to better signpost or prettify the existing off-street carparks, to make it clear that shoppers are still well provided for and that the changes aren’t about opposing motor vehicles on principle.
895 New North Road
This is a welcome step in the right direction for an area which like 2A New North Road is a major conflict zone between motor traffic and cyclists accelerating downhill. Speaking both as a cyclist and driver, I think the total removal of onstreet parking at these shops down to 875 New North Road would be even better from a safety and traffic calming perspective, as this is a horrendous area for clashes between car doors and passing traffic, even before cyclists join the equation:
That said, it’s another useful small step at least. The big issue in making changes here, probably more so than all three other locations, will be business owner opposition – the offstreet carparking behind these shops is horribly neglected and (anecdotally) prone to theft ex vehicle, and the prevailing “park and grab” retail culture all the way through the Mount Albert shops will probably lead owners to fear (with more justification than in most cases) losing custom to other nearby stores with parking outside. Although the cynic in me would ask whether a business dependent on parking at the door for survival doesn’t have bigger issues to look at, these are real fears from real people, and AT might have to be more creative in finding a solution to allay these concerns and make it clear that everyone will gain from a safer environment at this site – a small step to making Mount Albert Shops a more humane traffic environment.
All considered, one of the striking things about these reasonably minor changes is the benefits they seem to offer to road users outside of just cyclists. All of these changes, for instance, will take place along a major bus route whose drivers are probably just as slowed and impeded by badly placed parking as anyone else. Private motorists could also probably use a bit more predictability when working their way through these spots, a benefit to the majority of drivers which should well offset the loss of a parking spot or two.
I’d encourage anyone with a stake in these changes – which should include anyone who lives on, drives or rides this road – to send their opinion to AT via email at the bottom of the page here (again, by the end of tomorrow. Skypath submissions also close tomorrow so don’t forget to put those in either). Early indications from the team at CAA are that the opposition to these changes will be heavy, so if you find merit in part of all of these changes from any perspective (however you get around), it’s worth letting AT know. It’s not all over until the lines get drawn…
This post evolved from an original announcement at caa.org.nz here. Many thanks to Max Robitsch and others at CAA for their thoughts and additional nformation provided.
Many of the people who read this blog, including some of the authors have sometimes an unhealthy obsession with numbers. We are often referring to various stats and it can can sometimes be hard to find things again. With that in mind (and thanks to a suggestion from John P I think) we have now created a series of pages that are linked to directly from the homepage with a number of key transport related graphs. These are the ones that I/we check on pretty much every month. There are probably a couple more that I will add over time but if you have anything that you would like to see on a regular basis or anything that you think needs to be changed, let me know.
Here are a couple of my favourites.
Our rolling 12m patronage totals by mode
Our rolling 12m patronage total compared to the target set in the Auckland plan of 140 million PT trips by 2022. It shows that if we were to maintain the growth we have seen over the last few years then it should be fairly doable however we have started to fall behind a little, but thankfully not enough that we can’t get back on the wagon.
Auckland Rail Patronage vs Wellington Patronage – We got so close to catching them only to fall away due to disappointing results this year.
Harbour Bridge Traffic Volumes – They are starting to rise again but are still no where near the highs of the mid 2000′s
I had the option of having a nice quiet end to the year on this blog, shying away from controversial posts and stimulating passionate discussion. I’ve decided not to take it by confronting a perennial issue that’s bound to get the juices flowing: “should cyclists obey traffic lights?”
For a start, I’m not entirely sure of the legal situation – I assume that cyclists on the road are classified as vehicles and are therefore legally obliged to obey traffic lights. I guess that they have the option of dismounting from their bike and then pushing it across the intersection on the pedestrian phase (something I’ve actually seen someone do with their scooter on Queen Street once!) but otherwise I assume that cyclists are meant to follow traffic signals like drivers. Be interesting to check whether this assumption is correct or not.
Secondly, I can obviously see the attraction of blasting through a red light for a cyclist. They’re relatively unlikely to cause harm to anyone but themselves (pedestrians aside) so they probably feel that it’s OK to do so. Plus our lights generally are set on stupidly long phasing so if you miss the lights you need to wait forever – even if there aren’t many cars travelling by.
However, set against that – and notwithstanding the legal issues – I think I find myself falling on the side of cyclists obeying the signals, because of courtesy more than anything else. We desperately need motorists and cyclists to “get on better” on the road as there are far too many accidents involving cyclists at the moment. Part of that is through providing better infrastructure for cycling, part of that is through driver (and cyclists) education and part of it is through a cultural shift so that there is greater awareness and respect between all road users.
I don’t generally think that having cyclists ignore traffic lights assists in developing a greater level of courtesy and respect between all road users. It is something of a “I expect you to do everything you can to respect me on the road, but I’m not going to show the same level of courtesy to you” vibe that seems to result from cyclists ignoring traffic lights that doesn’t help. Furthermore, in locations where there are a number of pedestrians having the unexpected occur (such as a cyclist whizzing by on a red light) is pretty dangerous and incredibly unnerving.
I am really keen to get a better understanding of what the “cycling community” thinks about this issue, whether other people agree with me and what suggestions there might be to improve this (or perhaps it’s not really an issue at all). That should keep us going for a while.
A great video from Streetfilms looking at how Vancouver is integrating cycling with public transit to extend the reach of its system and provide people with a really high quality alternative to travelling by car:
There’s always an interesting debate around whether we should encourage cyclists to carry their bikes with them on PT (either chucking them on the front of a bus or carrying them on the train) or whether the goal should be on storage at stations. I think the answer is obviously a mix of the two, though obviously carrying them on the vehicles only really works if we’re talking about low quantities of users trying to do this.
From memory New Lynn station has decent facilities for bikes, but elsewhere on the rail network I can’t think of the facilities being that great (though I haven’t looked in too much detail). Improving storage facilities for bikes at train and busway stations seems like a pretty low-hanging fruit to focus on.
This is a guest post from Max Robitzsch who is the Infrastructure liaison for Cycle Action Auckland
Auckland’s City Centre has often been described in the same term as a fortified city – one surrounded by a “moat” on three sides, and the coast on the fourth. Except that this moat doesn’t contain water, but traffic. Speeding traffic, noisy traffic, fuming traffic, jammed traffic, depending on time of day. It works well as a defense against cyclists and pedestrians!
Like any good fortified city, the city centre has only a few limited entrances. And unless you do what the original designers of those gateways intended you to do – arrive in a metal box – access can be somewhere between inconvenient and daunting. This story is about the construction of a new gateway to the fortress, one especially for cyclists.
It started some years back, when some of the engineers and managers at NZTA in Auckland became increasingly aware that they had neglected cycling for too long. Cycle Action Auckland, my organisation, had successfully worked with NZTA on a better a relationship for cycling, and the appetite was growing to do more. But like in any story, even protagonists don’t get to make all the choices themselves. There was (and still is) little money set aside for cycling by the political higher ups in Wellington. So NZTA started with a somewhat smaller project, namely upgrading the Kingsland section of the Northwestern Cycleway.
When that turned into a success story, further plans were made. At least one compass point of the city now had a cycleway that led all the way to the edge of the city moat. But there it stopped dead, right at Upper Queen Street. Six lanes of traffic, a bridge with car parking on it (!), yet no safe route for cyclists wanting to reach the universities, offices and workplaces in the city centre. The problem was rather easily identified by NZTA and Cycle Action. Solutions would prove more difficult.
The two most logical routes from Upper Queen Street (Queen Street and Symonds Street) had just been rebuilt mere years ago for many millions of dollars each. Rebuilding them again, to the level of quality needed for a REAL cycleway, suitable for all cycling levels, would hit a lot of resistance. After bus lanes and wider footpaths, the issues that would be raised about a cycleway on either of the two streets were only too predictable: from business disruption due to new construction, to reduced vehicle capacity to loss of car parking.
Would that fight have been worth it? If the likelihood of success at Council for such a scheme would have been bigger – yes.
But you need an institutional champion to drive a project forward – cycleways don’t get built by advocates. And NZTA owned no land in the city centre, but a lot of land around it – the “moat” areas. So the idea of circling around the edge of the city was born as the alternative – work with what you have, not with what you wish you had.
Initially, the project was known as the CMJ Cycleway, the abbreviation standing for the “Central Motorway Junction” – better known to Aucklanders for a type of pasta. But the more we looked at it, the clearer it became that the key challenge was not crossing State Highway 1 at Spaghetti Junction – but where to re-enter the city centre once you crossed it. Links to the western edge of the city were considered. But Nelson and Hobson Street areas were, if anything, even more hostile to cycling than Upper Queen Street. It soon became clear that the best route would lead around the eastern edge of the city centre, connecting to the university areas, and then further down the hill to the lower CBD.
So Grafton Gully Cycleway it became, and that’s really where the route has stayed since, and where it is now being prepared for construction.
But any good story needs a few more obstacles to overcome.
In 2011, when construction was originally due to start, NZTA was experiencing major financial cashflow issues (on which this blog reported a lot). The message came down from Wellington that no advance funding for the cycleway was available. Certainly not in the several-million-range needed, and despite a good BCR of around 4. Go through the usual funding channels – for the next funding cycle – we were told. So the project went into hibernation.
Early in 2012, Cycle Action thought it was time to revive it. A new supercity had been elected and a plan for a better centre of Auckland was also taking shape with the City Centre Masterplan – a plan more friendly to the thought of cycling, but also possibly somewhat unsure of how to go about it. Yet in the end, it didn’t turn out to be too hard to connect NZTA and Council, as both sides now saw a lot of merit in cooperation.
NZTA was still funding the cycleway construction, while Auckland Council would help in treating the route more like a park and an urban design opportunity than just a transport corridor. Auckland Transport meanwhile revived older plans for Beach Road cycle facilities. The Waterfront Boulevard had also just been announced by Waterfront Auckland – to run from the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Tamaki Drive. So Cycle Action started promoting this opportunity for “everything meets at the Waterfront”. To turn the Grafton Gully Cycleway plan from a “terminus” commuter transport link (shades of Britomart?) into a “through link” – connecting the two busiest cycle routes of the city, the Northwestern and Tamaki Drive.
Of course, no backbone is useful if it doesn’t provide side accesses to get on and off (one of the cool things about the new Kingsland section of the Northwestern is that there are so many accesses onto it). NZTA, with the help of Council and enthusiastic urban designers (working pro bono – shout out to the folks at “Matter”) developed a wider concept of links both immediate and more long-term.
In the short run, there will be links onto the new cyleway at Upper Queen Street, Wellesley Street East (i.e. up to Symonds Street), Grafton Road at the Business School, Alten Road and Beach Road. There are also plans to provide a link near Whittaker Place or St Martin’s Lane (hopefully in the initial construction, though that has still to be confirmed). In the mid-term, it is hoped to provide some form of access near Symonds Street (though as a somewhat misinformed column by Brian Rudman showed, any link in that area will have to be very careful not to disturb the heritage areas of the Symonds Street cemetery – though with heritage advisors having been on-board in the project team since the very start in 2010, Rudman’s outrage clearly had more to do with his aversion to cycling than with any take-over of cemetary land, which is, quite simply, not planned).
Outside of the direct project scope, there are future plans to create a walking and cycling bridge on the northern side of Wellesley Street East, to finally get a route over the motorway towards the Domain side. There are also plans to construct a cycleway on the western side of the last section of Ian McKinnon Drive, to avoid the Newton Road Bridge, and to better tie in with Dominion Road. No, they aren’t included in this project – to do so would have meant robbing the rest of New Zealand of the last cycle funding (yes – the money allocated to cycling by the Ministry of Transport is THAT tight).
The most far-reaching options for the longer term are a forking of the Northwestern Cycleway as it enters the city – one branch will head east (the Grafton Gully Cycleway). The second one would turn west, along Canada Street, and then use the Nelson Street on-ramp to reach the western part of the city – with a side access from Day Street / K’Road. It may take a while, but once built, it will combine beautifully with Nelson and Hobson Streets becoming two-way boulevards (something this blog has often supported).
But before we envision that, let’s get back to what will be built now – starting from about November this year (the most-up-to-date estimate). Staging for the project is proving a bit more complex than expected, so don’t be disappointed if some sections appear finished sometime during the next year, but remain disconnected for a while – it’s a matter of what can be constructed first, while the rest is being prepared. The whole project will likely run through to at least early 2014 before all sections are open.
On the way, we hope you will see that this is a real high-quality project. No more cost-cutting on the quality side like we saw when the first Northwestern Cycleway sections were treaded through Auckland some 15 or so years ago. This will be a path designed for a 30 km/h design speed, be 3m wide (plus so-called “shy space” to any obstructions like fences), with widening on the steeper sections (to make sure slower uphill cyclists and faster downhill cyclists have extra width to pass), with path lighting and cyclist-friendly terminal treatments (you will have to slow down – but if the lights are green at the Upper Queen Street or Grafton Road signal crossings, you should not have to dismount). The underpass that links under Wellesley Street East meanwhile will be designed with extra width and height to feel safe, and good sightlines will make sure there are no entrapment spots on the path.
Another important aspect of course is gradient. When heading out west, this is definitely an uphill ride. From where the work stands currently, AECOM (the designers) have managed to “smooth out” most of the gradient, but there will likely still be two rather steep sections – one being between Alten Road and Grafton Road, and another short one as one goes around the cemetery corner (south of Grafton Bridge). These sections will be almost 6% (i.e. 6m up for every 100m along).
But at least the steepest bit is at the bottom, when you are just starting out – a nice metaphor for most cycling projects. Hope to see you on the path in slightly over a year!
*** This is a guest post by my friend Victoria Neilson. It turns out that I’m not the only person in Auckland who cycles to pole-dancing classes ***
My husband, Derek, me, and our silver Subaru Impreza had been the comfortable two people plus one car Auckland family until we moved into our first house. My work was no longer on the way to Derek’s, which means dropping me off work would increase his journey from 8 minutes to 40 minutes.
As the nice husband Derek is, he doesn’t mind such annoyance. However, I do. But he indeed needs the car because he has many site visits whereas I normally just sit in front of my work computer and run Matlab.
My first attempt to solve the problem was to carpool with some of my workmates who lived nearby. However, it turned out as much maths modelling as most people are bored by as I has to go to work 30mins earlier than needed and often leave 30–60mins later than others. For a while I went to work with a mechanical engineer (who gets up early) and came back with a software engineer (who goes to bed late). This was quite annoying as I had to frequently organise things with 2 people. It was especially inconvenient when the fridge was empty and I needed to do some quick shopping for dinner in the evening, as I had to beg my colleague to stop at shops and wait for me.
It was looking as if we had to join the majority living in the city – get a second car. But this just seemed to be so unnecessary as my work was only about 10-20 minutes drive away. The added cost of the car, petrol, registration and maintenance just doesn’t seem to justify the purchase.
So a few weeks ago I said to Derek: I’d like to transport myself with a bicycle. We then went to the local Avanti shop and bought myself a mountain bike, some road tires, a helmet, a hi vis jacket, some lights and a lock. Everything together cost $1,000.
I’m no expert in bikes. All I know is that my bike has disc brakes, a fairly light body (probably because it’s a small bike) and 24 gears.
Going to Work and Grocery Shopping
The least busy and most efficient cycling route I figured out from home to work is about 5.1km long and Google suggested it’d be a 20mins cycling trip, which later turned out to be fairly accurate.
It has been great to get to work early in the morning on a bike. My muscles are well exercised before I spend the next 8-9 hours sitting down. It’s such a brilliant way to start the day.
My office is a very male dominated work space so soon enough I realised I’m the only person using the girls shower. Since I work for an appliance company, I can simply just dry my gear in a dryer if they get too wet and be ready before I ride home in the afternoon. Everything seems to be just perfect.
A small shopping trip on the way home normally adds an extra 10mins on the road but a large portion of that comes from waiting to cross a main road or dealing with cars.
I didn’t use to visit these local shops as the roads around them are quite awkward to drive around and countdown is only 5mins drive away from my house. However, on a bike they were much easier to get to. It turned out that the butcher has a much bigger and better selection of meat than normal supermarkets at cheaper prices. The vegetable store, while not necessarily as well presented as the supermarkets, definitely has some real good deals. The bakery is run by a hot Chinese girl and they have some real interesting stuff that you can’t get from normal bakeries, such as greentea flavoured mooncakes.
I hated shopping in Countdown. It seems to target specifically at large families as all their specials are always applied on large numbers of merchandises. But now I can get to the local stores much easier, we get to enjoy much better food at fairer prices. Last weekend we roasted a free range chicken with rosemary stuffing, then had chicken toasted sandwiches and used up the rest of the chicken in 2 chicken pies. Everything added together costed no more than $20 and that was for 2 dinners and 2 lunches for 2 people.
Sports and Other Activities
I play a bit of volleyball during my spare time, both indoor and beach. A year ago I also started to take pole dancing lessons for fun. I know what you think but I have my own rules regarding to this which is never pole dance outside the dance studio or my house.
The usual place we play beach volleyball is actually in a nearby park where they have this lovely sandpit, and the pole dancing studio is very close to the park.
The distances between my house to these two places are about the same and it takes about 30mins to get to them. I later figured out a back way to get to these places which is through a foot bridge that cars can not get to. This has shortened the journey by a long way.
There is so much more I can write about how great cycling is. It’s great for the environment, saves us lots of money on petrol and changes our lifestyle massively, in a good way. Derek now can get an extra 30mins sleep in the morning and is much more relaxed on when he wants to come home in the afternoon. We now eat better food and go out at most once a week compared to 3-4 times/week in the past because it’s just so convenient to cook at home! Ok I can go on forever about all the benefits but I guess you must be getting tired of reading it now so I will just mention one last benefit: cycling keeps me in shape.
There is a smallish scale at work that has a weight limit of 60kg. Out of curiosity as I haven’t weighed myself for nearly a year and partially because I was a bit of a show off, I got on the scale in front of some of my colleagues a couple of days ago. I was in my boots and winter clothes so frankly I was slightly worried about upsetting the scale.
But the scale was fine and it showed I weighed 53kg. That was my weight 15 years ago when I was still in school. I’m pretty sure all the cycling I’ve done in the past few weeks had a lot to do with this. =)