It’s Cycleway Consultation Season

It seems it’s consultation season for bike related projects with not one, not two but three currently now underway by Auckland Transport and all could do with submissions to improve them.

Herne Bay cycling and walking improvements – Closes 18 December

This project came out of AT’s recent consultation on improving cycling options in the inner west of the city. AT say the original plan was for cycling connections via Clifton Road, Argyle Street and Sarsfield Street however they’ve now opted for area wide traffic calming measures using speed tables. All up 22 speed tables are proposed at intersections and mid-block, as shown below.

••••••Hernebay-A4

Here are some examples what is proposed. More can be seen on the AT website.

herne-bay-treatment-1

herne-bay-treatment-3

In a location such as this, an area wide traffic calming effort, if done properly, should deliver a good outcome and across a much wider area than a single cycleway as planned before. It will also have benefits not just for cycling but for pedestrians and a wider range of residents too.

But of course there are things that could be better with  the first thing that springs to mind being that there are no ways for bikes to bypass the speed tables, like Auckland Transport proposed recently for Northcote Point, one example of which is below.

northcote-point-speed-cushion

Further, while the traffic calming will likely help in reducing speeds, it surely wouldn’t hurt to back that up with an area wide change to speed limits.

Our friends at Bike Auckland have a few other ideas too.

There are two open days planned for the consultation, the first being today, details below.

  • Thursday, 1 December, 11am to 2pm at The Governor, 228 Jervois Road, Herne Bay.
  • Saturday, 10 December, 11am to 2pm at the Leys Institute (Ponsonby Library), 20 St Marys Road, Ponsonby.

Consultation closes December 18.

Westhaven to City cycle route – Closes 18 December

Many of the cyclists using the Herne Bay roads above, along with those from the future Skypath as well as other locations, will be heading to the city. Currently, upon passing the motorway noose the options are usually to take the scenic route via North Wharf and Te Wero Bridge, wind around Gaunt St and Viaduct Harbour Dr or to brave Fanshawe St. While only anecdotal, I notice a lot picking the later as it’s the most direct route.

AT are now proposing to upgrade Viaduct Harbour Dr to make it more bike friendly and they’re currently consulting on the section as far as Market Pl.

westhaven-to-the-city-route-map

Unfortunately, what AT are suggesting is a complete turd of a solution for a route that will likely have high numbers using it. The plan, like above is to just calm traffic using speed tables as well as some paint while making no changes to the road. That might be appropriate in an area like Herne Bay but in my view, is completely inappropriate in this location which is likely to have higher volumes using it including children. Based on what’s proposed, they’ll stick to using the footpath – a view some have already expressed on social media.

Below is an overview of the plans but more detailed versions can be found here.

westhaven-to-the-city-route-plan

One example of why this is such a rubbish idea can be seen in this more detailed view of the plan on the part of Customs St West north of Pakenham St East. As you can see people on bikes are meant to cycle on the road behind angle parked cars who could start reversing out without being able to see if any cyclists are coming. Would the people who proposed this be prepared to let their 8-year old child ride on the road here, I certainly wouldn’t (if I had one).

westhaven-to-the-city-route-plan-1

AT have already ruled out using Fanshawe St for a direct connection but I think they need to go back to the drawing board and look at as an option again. The road must be one of the widest in Auckland with the corridor in places over 38m wide. For the section east of Halsey St this width includes a massive 4.5m wide flush median. If ever there was a road that could do with some boulevard treatment, it would be Fanshawe St. That boulevard would include improved footpaths, cycleways, a separated urban busway and then the general traffic lanes

And Fanshawe needs some love too, while it is designed and treated like a giant motorway on/off ramp, it also had surprisingly high volumes of pedestrians who would also benefit from making the area more people friendly and less sterile. What’s more, given the width I think that could likely be accommodated without having to compromise on the number of traffic lanes

fanshawe-st-now

This idea is something we might flesh out in a later post but let’s get this option back on the table because what’s proposed won’t get anyone new cycling on Viaduct Harbour Ave and there is already the scenic route available via the waterfront for those that want that.

Like above, the consultation closes on December 18

Parnell cycleway and residential parking zone – Closes 23 December

The government’s Urban Cycleway Programme identified a route from Tamaki Dr up to Newmarket. To facilitate that, AT are looking at putting protected cycleways along St Stephens Ave and Gladstone Rd.

parnell-cycle-path-map

We along with others like Bike Auckland and Generation Zero met with AT over this project some months ago when at the time they were planning to just install painted lanes. We told there was no point in having a fight over removing the parking they would need to if they were just going to put a bit of paint on the road. Thankfully they’ve taken that feedback on board and the proposed solution includes physically separated bike lanes. In some locations these cycleways will have parking outside them while in other locations there will be no parking. AT say that all up just 95 carparks are affected.

parnell-cycleway-artists-impression

This isn’t to say the proposal is perfect, for example at bus stops the cycleway just stops and cyclists would have to wait for it to depart again.

parnell-cycleway-plan

In this situation, a solution like floating bus stops, where the stop is pushed into the general traffic lane and the bus stop and bike lane become a shared area might be more appropriate, but that would mean AT getting over their fears about buses stopping in general traffic.

To go with the cycleway, AT is proposing a residential parking scheme for the area. They say that just 10% of cars parked on the street are from locals with most assumed to be commuters. They also think the scheme will help locals deal with the loss of the parking on Gladstone Rd.

parnell-residential-parking-zone

If you want to talk to AT about the plans, they’ll be at La Cigale French Market (69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell) on Saturday 3 December from 8am to 1pm.

Consultation closes 23 December.

 

What do you think of what AT has proposed?

New Amsterdam

The current cycleway revolution in Auckland has a serendipitous feature for one of Auckland’s most cherished but badly treated areas: All routes lead to Karangahape Rd. Both the recent city by-passes: Grafton Gully and the Pink Path, have one end in the K Rd precinct, our only current cycling ‘superhighway’, the NorthWestern, is about to get its city termination moved forward from Newton Rd to the K, and the coming real on-road separated cycle lanes on Great North Rd also lead straight to the K. Oh and the cycle friendly ridge level link of our very own Pont Neuf, Grafton Bridge, leads bike riders there from the other end.

Yes Karangahape Rd is the ground zero of Auckland’s bike riding revival which surely offers a real opportunity for the area to at last both thrive and remain true to its very specific identity. It would be a shame for K Rd to either slide back into decline or to try to keep up with its glossier rivals by seeking to become something its not. And as Ponsonby Rd becomes ever more upmarket and seemingly determined to drown itself in more and more parking and therefore driving, this offers K Rd a great opportunity to brand itself as a street and people place and not a car place. This happy confluence of street culture and improving bike infrastructure is already having an effect on the numbers that access businesses on the street by bike, as can be seen below:

k-rd_3357

And in the data:

k-rd-enhancement-consultation-oct-16-travel-survey

But this is despite the lack of any safe cycle routes on K Rd itself, nor clearly enough parking places. But happily our Transport Agency is on it:

k-rd-enhancement-consultation-oct-16-pitt-to-queen-visualisation-1

The plan is to add cycle lanes each side with temporary barriers, or at least without expensive excavations of the existing curb line and stormwater systems. And improved bus priority which is already clearly vital to the area. It is wise to start with a changeable pattern as there is a longer term opportunity to further tune down through traffic once the CRL station opens way off in 2023. Then this important section, between Pitt and Queen Sts should become one lane each way for buses (and emergency) and otherwise be for people on foot and bikes only. For more on the plan and links to make a submission go here.

To this end I think the K Rd business association should push for a regular traffic closure of this short section between Pitt and Queen every Sunday. This won’t be particularly disruptive, except to through traffic, and that should be the desired outcome; an assertion over place through movement. And of course a way to brand the area as street not arterial, and uniquely street.

So the whole upgrade is clearly a great opportunity for the businesses in the area to market themselves as being at the leading edge of the new city with the bike as the symbol of all the current new urban changes underway: The rise in city centre living, the ongoing revolution in Rapid Transit ridership, in short the return of the City.

The wider point is that the driving era destroyed this place and the walking/biking/transit age we are now in is its best chance at redemption. Go the K.

The Victoria St Linear Park: Why it is vital, but not really a park.

This is one of a series of posts I intend to do about about the city streetscape we ought to be able to expect as a result of the CRL rebuild.

This one will describe the Council’s plans for inner western Victoria St, around the CRL portals, because it seems they are not well understood, especially by some at Auckland Transport, based on the recent release of a proposed design from the CRL team that appears to completely ignore the agreed streets level outcomes. In further posts I will:

  • Consider this problem; transport professionals dismissing place quality outcomes as frivolous or unnecessary, or as a threat to their authority, as a professional culture issue.
  • Have a close look at some of the bus routes through the City Centre, as these are often highly contested by multiple parties, and have a huge bearing on road space requirements

linear-park

linear-park-renderlinear-park

Last week Councillor Darby sent me a whole stack of work done by the Council on the Linear Park, I will reproduce some of this here, but I urge everyone interested to follow the links below; there’s a huge amount of multilayered work showing how the proposal was arrived at and just how important it is:

  1. The Green Link
  2. Aotea Station Public Realm

The first point I would like to make is that I am talking here about the finished outcomes not the interim ones that need to accommodate work-rounds of the street disruption caused by the construction of the CRL. This is about the early 2020s; what is best for when the CRL is open and running, when the new buildings going up, and about to go up, in the city are occupied, and the pedestrian demands are many times greater than currently. It may seem a long way off, but contracts are being agreed now, and if we aren’t careful we will find ourselves locked into poor outcomes that will prove expense to fix. And, remember, this is dividend time; when the city starts to reap the reward of all the expense and disruption of building the CRL itself. This is an important part of why we are doing it: to substantially upgrade and improve every aspect and performance of the whole city as possible, including its heart. Transport infrastructure is a means to an end; not an end in it self.

Second is to suggest that it has been perhaps a little unhelpful that Council called this reclamation of city street a ‘Park’. I can see why they have, this is a repurposing of space from vehicle use to people use, and it does offer the opportunity for new high quality design elements, which is similar to what happens in a park. But I think this undersells the full complexity of what is happening here. There is a great deal of functionality and hard rationality in this scheme, as well as the promise of beauty and the city uplifted.

The place to start is the CEWT study [City East West Transport Study]. This set a very rational and ordered taxonomy of the Centre City east west streets, concluding that Victoria St’s priority will need to shift to a strong pedestrian bias, be the only crosstown cycle route between K Rd and Quay St, and enable a reduced but still efficient general traffic load:

CEWT Preferred Option

Note that east west bus movements are kept to Wellesley and Customs Sts. This greatly helps Victoria St’s space location as shown below. It is becoming clear that AT now want to return buses here. I believe this is a very poor idea, and will unpack why in a following post. So many poor place and pedestrian outcomes follow directly from trying to get both buses and general traffic trough inner Victoria St, and it is still a very hard street to try to shove buses through in terms of their own functionality, and that of the other general traffic. As well as leading to the total deletion of the only Centre City east/west cycle route. Here is how it was shown in CEWT:

CEWT Victoria St

Now turning to the newer iteration from the docs linked to above. The key issue is that the sections of the ‘Park’ around the station entrances on Victoria are focussed on pedestrian capacity rather than place amenity:

lower-vic-st-final

Not a park as in a verdant garden, but largely hard paving for efficient and high capacity pedestrian movement under an elevated tree canopy. Very much an urban condition tailored to met the massively increased pedestrian numbers that we know will be here. Particularly from the CRL itself, but also from the rapid growth and intensification of the whole city centre as it builds up around them, and of course the considerable bus volumes on Albert and Bus or LRT on Queen St. At the core this is simply classical ‘predict and provide’ that surely even most unreconstructed and obdurate of engineers can understand. Meeting projected pedestrian demand; not just an aesthetic upgrade, though why we wouldn’t do that while we’re at it, I can’t imagine.

pedestrian-circ

Because this station sits directly below the greatest concentration of employment in the whole country, as well the biggest educational centre, retail precinct, hotel location, and the nation’s fastest growing residential population, we can expect these entrances to immediately be very busy. The plan on opening is for there to be 18 trains an hour each way through this station all with up 750 people [or even 1000 when really packed] alighting and another load boarding, all milling a round; waiting or rushing. And mixing on the streets with all the other people not even using the system. This will make for a very busy place. Their will be thousands of people walking around here at the peaks. Many more than those  that use the entire Hobson/Nelson couplet in their cars over the same period. This will need space. Furthermore urban rail systems are very long term investments, what may be adequate for the first few years of the CRL is unlikely to sufficient for the years ahead, let alone decades. There is a clear need for the space for this human traffic to be generous to begin with, to err on the side of spare capacity. This really is no moment to design for the short term, once built that tunnel isn’t moving.

albert-to-queen-plan

aotea-portal-axio

hobson-to-albert-plan

albert-to-federal-axio

So has any work been done to picture this demand? Yes. Though to my inexpert eyes this looks a little light:

ped-volume-study

 

In particular the pedestrian traffic heading north, ie crossing Victoria St looks underrepresented. There will be no entrance to the station on the north side of Victoria street. Everyone heading that way has to come out of one of the east/west exists and crossover at street level. The document above does at least point out the pinch points between the exits and buildings on Victoria. And it is these that AT must be planning on squeezing further to get four traffic lanes back into Victoria St. One lane comes from deleting the cyclists, and the other must be from squeezing pedestrians passing the stations entrances. Just don’t AT; therein lies madness, very expensive to move a station entrance once built. And frankly a 5m width here between hard building edges is already tight and mean. Somewhere in AT the old habits of not really expecting people to turn up and low use of the very thing the agency is building seem to have crept back up to dominate thinking, and all for what? Vehicle traffic priority. The most spatially inefficient use of valuable street space in the very heart of our transforming city.

The extra wide pedestrian space that the Linear Park provides doesn’t just have value immediately around the station portals. Stretching up to Albert Park and the University beyond to the east and up on the flat plateau of western Victoria St offering a good pedestrian route to the new offices and dwellings on Victoria St West and Wynyard Quarter beyond. But as the distance increases from the big sources of pedestrians then the condition of the amenity can become more place focussed and more planting and ‘lingering’ amenity can be added, yet it will still need to primarily serve these Active Mode movement functions well:

linear-park-connections

And it is important to acknowledge this is a ‘substantial change’ from present condition. The Council recognise, and it is impossible to disagree, that there is nothing to be gained by trying sustain the status quo here. The CRL is brings huge change to the city and  how it is used and this needs to be reflected in very nature of our streets as well as in our travel habits:

network-change

 

cycle-strategy

The Centre City Cycle Network is hopelessly incomplete without some way to access both the Queen St valley and Victoria Park from the Nelson St Cycleway. And if not on Victoria then where? Not with all the buses and bus stops on Wellesley St.

And lastly, other than the never fully successful Aotea Square there has been no new public realm in the City Centre since the Victorians set out Albert, Victoria, and Myers parks. There are now many more people living, working, and playing in the city than ever before, and other than repurposing, or burying, motorways, or demolishing buildings, the streets are the only chance to provide quality space for everyone. This is so much more valuable than slavishly following last century’s subjugation to motor vehicle domination. We know better than this now. Vehicles will fit into whatever space we provide and people will flood the rest. And the later is the more valuable street-use for a thriving, more inclusive, and competitive, and sustainable urban centre to lead the nation this century.

linear-park-vision

 

 

New data on cycling

We’re always on the lookout for interesting new pieces of transport data. Smartphone apps and automated trip counters provide an increasing amount of usable, timely data that can tell us how, where, and (at times) why we’re travelling.

Moreover, transport agencies are increasingly open about publishing their data and opening it up for others to analyse. For instance, Auckland Transport now publishes data from dozens of automated cycle counters on its website, allowing organisations like Bike Auckland and Transportblog to track and analyse the benefits of investment in safe, separated cycleways.

But transport agencies aren’t the only people with data. I recently ran across two interesting sources of data on cycling that are being collected and published by private companies.

First, Strava, a social network that allows cyclists and runners to track their routes and publish them online, recently published a global map of user-submitted cycling routes. While Strava is targeted more towards athletes (or at least weekend warriors) than everyday cycle commuters, it still provides an interesting glimpse into where some people are cycling. (But not all!)

Here’s Auckland. This map pretty clearly shows the impact of recreation/sports cycling – although major commuter routes like Lake Road, Tamaki Drive, and the Northwestern Cycleway show up strongly, so does Scenic Drive in the Waitakeres, which is definitely not a common commuting route:

strava-auckland-map

Here’s Christchurch – again, some of the same patterns, with hilly rides to the south of the city showing up stronger than cycling within the city:

strava-christchurch-map

And here’s Wellington. Perhaps not surprisingly, the busiest Strava corridors are on the flat areas around the edge of the harbour, and the ride up to the Hutt Valley:

strava-wellington-map

Second, I happened to find out that the data from the automated cycle counter that AT installed on the Quay St cycleway is published online by Eco-Counter, alongside data from a whole bunch of similar counters around the world. (The only similar counter in NZ is in Hastings.)

The data shows daily trips on the Quay St cycleway. We’ve just ticked over 41,000 trips, or an average of 574 per day since it opened:

eco-counter-quay-st

That’s pretty good for Auckland, but Eco-Counter’s data also shows how much better we could be. For instance, here’s a cycle counter in Freiburg, Germany, which I wrote about after a visit last December. They get an average of 9,134 cycle trips per day passing by their city centre counting point:

eco-counter-freiburg

Closer to home, here’s a cycle counter in Darebin, a middle-suburban part of Melbourne, that gets more trips a day than Quay St – 1,340 cyclists a day on average. If the Australians can manage that in the ‘burbs, why can’t we?

eco-counter-darebin

As always, discussion is encouraged! Also, if you have any additional sources of interesting data, leave them in the comments.

August-16 Cycling Stats

The cycleway stats for August are now available and there are some fantastic results. Here are a few highlights but they are not the only ones.

The NW cycleway at Kingsland continues it’s impressive improvement

aug-16-cycling-monthly-kingsland-annual

Further up the line the counter at Te Atatu has been seeing great growth since the new Te Atatu Rd underpass opened just before Christmas last year. During August there were a whopping 76% more trips recorded here than the same time last year.

aug-16-cycling-monthly-te-atatu-annual

The increase on the NW Cycleway is also flowing through to Grafton Gully which saw a 52% increase on August last year.

aug-16-cycling-monthly-grafton-gully-monthly

 

Here is a summary of the counters compared to last year

Site

August count

August 7-day ADT August weekday ADT August weekend and public holiday ADT % change from same month previous year 12-month rolling total

% change from previous year

Beach Rd

8,216

265 291 191 38.5% 106,246

NA

Carlton Gore Rd

5,624

181 216 81 NA 69,716

NA

Curran St

5,825

188 159 271 NA  

NA

East Coast Rd

3,198

103 92 136 -6.1% 46,745

2.9%

Grafton Bridge

14,894

480 565 239 11.6% 188,767

12.9%

Grafton Gully

9,762

315 339 247 52.2% 118,339

NA

Grafton Rd

2,420

78 92 39 NA  

NA

Great Sth Road

2,299

74 76 69 -8.9% 31,386

-2.9%

Highbrook

977

32 33 27 -2.1% 13,678

-6.3%

Hopetoun St

4,225

136 166 50 NA  

NA

K Rd

14,578

470 538 276 4.7% 187,343

NA

Lagoon Dr

4,280

138 115 203 -7.4% 56,667

-8.0%

Lake Road

7,752

250 256 232 2.6% 102,604

4.1%

Mangere Bridge

7,620

246 193 397 -21.0% 144,070

-1.1%

Mangere Future Streets

1,035

33 35 30 NA  

NA

Nelson St cycleway

9,368

302 341 190 NA  

NA

Nelson St Lightpath

11,436

369 376 348 NA  

NA

NW Cycleway (Kingsland)

18,039

582 652 379 37.6% 222,214

21.5%

NW Cycleway (Te Atatu)

14,602

471 431 585 76.4% 167,857

25.6%

Orewa

7,983

258 202 417 1.1% 118,829

5.9%

Quay St Vector Arena

28,037

904 900 916 NA  

NA

Quay St Totem

18,510

597 589 620 NA  

NA

SH20 Dom Rd

2,870

93 86 111 19.1% 38,991

21.0%

Symonds St

10,884

351 422 147 -4.2% 141,039

NA

Tamaki Dr

32,224

1,039 1,012 1,118 11.7% 427,995

6.7%

Te Wero Bridge

13,631

440 391 579 39.1% 187,907

NA

Twin Streams

2,874

93 68 165 26.8% 42,477

0.8%

Upper Harbour

3,776

122 81 239 11.0% 55,436

1.9%

Upper Queen St

3,824

123 138 81 NA  

NA

Victoria St West

2,791

90 99 64 NA  

NA

 

Dear City, I’m in love again

This is a guest post from reader Isabella

I’ve been with Wellington for a while. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s over 30 years together. Notwithstanding some flings with other cities, I’ve been faithful to you. But I can’t pretend I’ve not yearned for a few things you don’t have (like decent PT, some real bike infrastructure), and some things you’ll never have (better weather, lots of little tree-lined beaches).

But after that night, Wellington….

Ohhh, yeah.

Wellington, I’ve fallen for you again – better and more than ever!

That night… I went on a progressive dinner party, traversing the city by hired e-bike between Wellington on a Plate restaurants and bars.

Love City 1

À La Carless – the progressive dinner by e-bike – took 14 of us from Switched On Bikes on the waterfront, to entrées at Nam-D’s fairy-lit “hawker stall” on Tory St, up to mains, wine and desserts at Salty Pidgin in Brooklyn, back to sea level and Charley Noble on Post Office Square for cocktails. It was cold, drizzly, and a light southerly; from start to finish, we progressive diners had the time of our lives.

The Wellingtonista has a great full-spectrum review, but here’s what made one woman glow on her date with Wellington

The “progressive” part of “progressive dinner”

Oh, those hills. They’re so… Wellington.

Without them (and the Town Belt) we’d not have our compact CBD, so… thankyou hills. But dammit, getting up them on foot or on a bike is just hard – especially dressed for dinner, and drinking some nice wines. And especially if it’s windy.

So it’s bus (timetable, ugh), or taxi / Uber (expense, carbon, ugh), or make a few people sober-drive everyone else (carbon, parking, feeling obliged – triple ugh).

But the progressive diners of À La Carless could have our progressive cake and eat it all. Our progressive progress around the city was on e-bikes. And it was a complete revelation.

Love City 2

E-bike serenely contemplating a Wellington hilltop view. No sweat. (Photo: Wellingtonnz.com)

From cruising at jogging pace along the waterfront, bells dinging cheerily and passers-by waving, we progressive diners hit the road. Keeping up easily with the traffic through town, we headed up to Salty Pidgin in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Road, known as a never-ending gut-buster for all but the Fittest Cyclists, was a total breeze.

We zoomed up at a comfortable 20km, this diner cackling with delight as we passed walkers and Proper Cyclists slogging their way up, and as steamed-up buses and cars passed us.

Dear Wellington, after 20 years of getting around in you, and stifling my groans at your hills… now I can wholeheartedly say I love your contours.
All it takes is an e-bike and a destination.

Love City 3

Brooklyn Road – on an e-bike, it’s e-asy (see what I did there?). Photo: Google Maps

Wining and dining and riding, oh my!

The e-bike made a true progressive dinner possible. We spent at most ten minutes door to door between restaurants or bars, and parked right outside every one. Our courteous-parking challenge was more than your average, because of our large posse of steeds, yet it felt easy and seamless finding a park anywhere.

On bowling up at each restaurant we were welcomed and our dish and drink selections arrived with perfect timing, thanks to seamless organisation by Frocks On Bikes.

And credit goes to Frocks’ ride-leading. Light-handed, informative and reassuring, the Frocks women enabled even the most nervous and unaccustomed riders to feel comfortable and enjoy the “progressions” between eateries. Even the most nervous were exclaiming “I had no idea Wellington could be so easy to ride around!”

Love City 4

Some progressive diners getting ready for the road – and dinner

You surprised me, you charmed me

The evening’s destinations were kept secret until we were ready to hit the road, but several of us were extra startled to hear we’d be heading back down to the city and Charley Noble via Central Park. Central Park is in the middle of town but feels like a wilderness – steep, densely bushed, and somewhere you avoid at night (especially if you’re female).

Love City 5

L: Central Park by day (Photo: Tripadvisor). R: Central Park’s nocturnal wildlife (well, maybe). (Photo: hillsofafrica.com)

But with a bike gang of dining buddies, it was just exciting! “Ooo this is such an adventure!” people said as we rolled through the dark trees, with ruru calling our passing and headlamps illuminating the tree-trunks and ferns. The cherry on our dining adventure cake was a stop-off in the middle of the Park – for a zoom on the flying fox. Every progressive dinner should have such an interlude!

Wellingtonians, it seems, can wear all manner of outfits (high heels, dresses, capes, trench-coats) on bikes and on flying-foxes with equal aplomb. (Though despite our narrow streets and traffic there was only screaming in Central Park; flying foxes are a tad more thrilling than riding a bike).

I lived within walking distance of Central Park for years, and never realised how great it’s become. Wellington, I love how you surprise me!

Now, for a threesome…

My partner said “Hell no I’m not A Cyclist” and turned down the offer of a ticket to A La Carless. He’s now regretting it, but he needn’t fear.

The next free weekend we have, I’m hiring us some Switched On Bikes and doing a progressive dining date with Wellington!

Increasing cycling and walking in New Zealand cities

This is a post from Caroline Shaw and Marie Russell who are researchers at the University of Otago Wellington

Having high levels of walking and cycling for transport in our urban centres is a crucial component of having a sustainable, people-oriented, 21st century transport system. The benefits of active transport (walking and cycling in the context of this blog) are well-known.

Active transport is good for health, the environment and the economy (1-3). While we know that New Zealand cities need to do better in promoting cycling and walking, we don’t have any comprehensive way of evaluating cities, of assessing how well they are doing in comparison to each other and over time.

In this study, which is a baseline assessment, we have compared the six largest cities in New Zealand (Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) for some of the key inputs to cycling and walking (levels of funding, policies and programmes, amount and type of cycling and walking infrastructure, and people working on these areas) and the outputs (who cycles and walks, how safe it is and how healthy the populations of each city are).

Some of the findings are from this report are:

  • Walking is the most common form of active transport; however the proportion of trips taken using this mode ranges from 12 to 27% of journeys, depending on the city.
  • Cities in New Zealand with higher levels of active transport (cycling and walking combined) tend to have populations with higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of physical activity-related health outcomes, such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
  • In all cities studied, people who live in more deprived neighbourhoods are more likely to walk to work compared to people who live in less deprived neighbourhoods. However, for cycling to work, the association with deprivation varied by city.
  • Cities in New Zealand with more rain, colder temperatures and higher wind speeds tended to have higher levels of walking and cycling.
  • The number of city council staff working on cycling or walking issues ranges from 1.5 FTE/100 000 people (Christchurch) to 3.7FTE/100 000 people (Dunedin).
  • Given the opportunity (i.e. no congestion) in all cities, except Wellington, half of people will drive above 50km/hr in an urban 50km/hr zone.
  • Christchurch reports the highest levels of cycling infrastructure, with 231km of on-street cycle ways, however Tauranga and Hamilton also report 100km of on-street cycle lanes each. Physically separated cycle lanes remain rare in all cities, with Christchurch reporting the most at 5km (the survey was conducted in 2015, so this will have increased subsequently in some cities).
Photo credit: Jenny Ombler

Photo credit: Jenny Ombler

To obtain the information for the report we surveyed councils, collected information from council websites, and analysed information from the New Zealand Health Survey, the Household Travel Survey, the Census, and the Crash Analysis System. Our study was based, with their permission, on a successful series of reports undertaken in the USA by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. One of our aims was to find out how readily we could gather and analyse information on cycling, walking and health in the cities. It took much more work than we expected: customised data extraction was required to ensure standardised geographic boundaries. Data supplied by the city councils were sometimes unclear or incomplete. But this pilot study found that benchmarking is feasible, and laid the groundwork, with recommendations, for future benchmarking studies.

While this study had a number of interesting findings, one of the main benefits will be to repeat it regularly and show any changes that are happening over time, who is doing well (or not so well) at increasing walking and cycling in their city and what they are doing to achieve this.

We know, intuitively, from visiting or seeing cities where there are higher levels of cycling and walking, as well as from academic research, that what happens at a local level (as well as national) is important for cycling and walking levels (4-6). This report is the first attempt to try and systematically document the important components in determining cycling and walking levels in the largest New Zealand cities. We hope it will be useful for advocates, policy makers, researchers and planners as they embark on the necessary project of transforming our cities.

  1. Macmillan A, Connor J, Witten K, Kearns R, Rees D, Woodward A. The societal costs and benefits of commuter bicycling: simulating the effects of specific policies using system dynamics modeling. Environ Health Perspect 2014; 122(4): 335-44.
  2. Woodcock J, Edwards P, Tonne C, et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: urban land transport. Lancet 2009; 374(9705): 1930-43.
  3. New Zealand Transport Agency. Benefits of investing in cycling in New Zealand communities. Wellington: New Zealand Transport Agency, 2016.
  4. Keall M, Chapman R, Howden-Chapman P, Witten K, Abrahamse W, Woodward A. Increasing active travel: results of a quasi-experimental study of an intervention to encourage walking and cycling. J Epidemiol Community Health 2015; 69(12): 1184-90.
  5. Goodman A, Panter J, Sharp SJ, Ogilvie D. Effectiveness and equity impacts of town-wide cycling initiatives in England: a longitudinal, controlled natural experimental study. Soc Sci Med 2013; 97: 228-37.
  6. Goodman A, Sahlqvist S, Ogilvie D. New walking and cycling routes and increased physical activity: one- and 2-year findings from the UK iConnect study. Am J Public Health 2014; 104.

Editor note: I suspect this report will ultimately be quite useful in helping to show the impact of the government’s urban cycleway programme.

Growth in cycling on new separated cycleways

Last week, Auckland Council unanimously voted to approve the construction of Skypath, the long-overdue walking and cycling link across the Waitemata Harbour. (There is still the hurdle of a potential Environment Court appeal by opponents.) Well done to all the councillors, some of whom had previously expressed scepticism – the city will be better for their votes, and their willingness to rethink an occasionally contentious issue.

In the wake of the Skypath decision, it’s worth taking a look at what’s happened to cycling in the city over the last year. The other week, Bike Auckland published some valuable new analysis of Auckland Transport’s cycle count data. Thanks to AT’s programme of rolling out new cycle counters, we now know a lot more about where people are cycling.

We also know a lot more about the outcomes from recent investments in new safe cycle facilities, such as Grafton Gully, the Pinkpath, Nelson St, and the newly installed Quay St cycleway.

The summary is that these cycle investments have been quite successful. The number of people cycling has increased in locations where safe cycling facilities have been rolled out, while staying relatively constant in other places. (This is, needless to say, good news for the fortunes of Skypath.)

Over to Bike Auckland:

AT is now also reporting the details of those counts much more openly, here. The summary data for June is not available yet – although we have the data for individual locations, as seen on the graphs below – but we do know that in May 2016, cycle numbers were up 22% on May of the year before!

If this growth continues, Auckland may well be the city in New Zealand furthest along on the way to reaching NZTA’s goal of 30% growth in urban cycling by 2018.

…it is pleasing (if not unexpected) to see where the greatest growth is.

Surprise! It’s where new cycleways have been built… and on the routes leading to these new bikeways. This is the network effect – another way of saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’ – and it’s really starting to kick in.

And especially on those routes, we see an interesting change – the usual winter drop-off is much shallower than usual, and in some cases hardly seems to be happening. Can it be that, with better cycleways and more company, riders are happier to keep going when it gets chilly, damp, and dark in the evenings? Is Auckland exhibiting a bit of the ‘Viking biking’ spirit of our Scandinavian antipodes?

Richard Easther, one of Bike Auckland’s associates, has done us all the lovely favour of putting those dry numbers into easy-to-grasp visuals, so we can see how and where Auckland biking is growing. Below, see some fascinating graphs of the flows at some of the counters around Auckland…

[Ed note: if you’re not a graphs or data person, two things to note: the numbers up the left hand side show the monthly total of bike trips; and you’ll notice a dip in the middle of each year as winter arrives. What’s striking about the growth on the new and newly connected paths is that not only is the annual ‘high tide’ getting higher, but the ‘low tide’ is too.]

Beach Rd

Clearly Beach Road is benefitting from all the improvements, including Grafton Gully and its own Stage II extension. A jump of around a third in many of the months earlier this year!

A few instructive contrasts, and some (brief) added commentary from me.

The first thing has been that new cycle investments in and around the city centre haven’t simply cannibalised existing cycle numbers. Cycle counts on Beach Road (and the off-road Grafton Gully cycleway) are up, in spite of the competition from the PinkPath / Nelson St. And, if you follow the link through, you’ll also see that cycling on Symonds St and K Rd has held steady:

Nelson St cycleway

Nelson Street (i.e. through the City itself, not Lightpath) is showing very heavy numbers. The REAL growth here is not visible in the stats: after all, before the protected cycleway opened, this route had just some 5-10 incredibly brave cyclists every morning… now there are several hundred daily, even though the route is still truncated and stops at Victoria St.

The second is that investments in and around the city centre have been followed by significant growth on existing parts of the cycle network. That’s most clearly in evidence on the Northwest Cycleway, which is seeing the largest annual growth ever:

NW Cycleway (Kingsland)

Here’s where the network effect rubber really hits the road, er, off-road cycleway. You can see how the magnetic field of the pink path boom (and the related Grafton Gully effect) has spread far and wide – even more than 5km away, in Kingsland, where numbers are massively up on 2014 and 2015.

NW Cycleway (Te Atatu)

And the effect continues at Te Atatu over 10 km away; if the numbers traveling to the city from further out are a bit lower, they’re still really really high (and resisting the usual winter drop-off). Recent cycleway improvements along the causeway will definitely have helped with this.

The third finding is about the dog that didn’t bark: cycle counts on streets that have not seen investments in safe separated cycle facilities. Some of these streets show some minor growth, but by and large demand is not increasing. That’s in evidence on routes like Tamaki Drive:

Tamaki Dr (EB + WB)

We see a slight boost on Tamaki Drive – but the real growth will come from Quay Street (now open), Quay Street to Ngapipi (~2017-2018) and Glen Innes-Tamaki (2018). Until then, though, our busiest cycle route continues to pedal along in huge numbers.

And, on the North Shore, East Coast Rd:

East Coast Rd

Numbers on East Coast Road near Constellation Drive have been static – not surprising, as little cycle investment has occurred in the area in recent years.

The good news is that we can learn from the positive results on and around new separated cycleways. If we want to boost cycling elsewhere in the city – and we should; it’s the cheapest and most efficient way to get around in cities – it’s pretty clear what we should do.

Council to decide on Skypath funding this week

The council will decide on Thursday if they will go ahead with a funding arrangement for Skypath.

Skypath Consent - From Westhaven

An item (Page 21) at the council’s Finance and Performance Committee gives an update on the project, much of which will be nothing new to those who have been following it. This includes that progress has been made on a number of areas such as that the wind tunnel testing requested by the NZTA found no significant concerns and that progress has been made on connections to Skypath with projects such as Seapath having been consulted on and getting strong public support.

Seapath March-16 Route

Seapath Proposed Route

The second item (Page 25) is the key one though and looking to get agreement from the councillors to move forward with the project. It has the following recommendations to councillors.

That the Finance and Performance Committee recommend to the Governing Body that it:

a) agree to proceed with the SkyPath project and that the hybrid Public Private Partnership proposal is the preferred procurement option to deliver SkyPath.

b) authorise the Chief Executive to enter into all necessary agreements in relation to the SkyPath proposal, subject to minimal financial impacts, and to take any other actions in the Chief Executive’s delegation to facilitate the progress of the project.

c) agree to make appropriate provision for the project in the 2017/18 Annual Plan and the 2018/28 Long-term Plan.

The council have been working with the private backers of the project (the PIP Fund) for a few years now to investigate options for financing the project. The preferred approach is for the PIP Fund is to build it as a PPP in which the council underwrites revenues up to a certain level.

The PIP Fund’s PPP proposal is to finance, design, build, maintain and operate SkyPath as a user pays facility for 25 years, after which it “reverts” to Council ownership. In return:

  • Council would underwrite actual revenues to a pre-agreed dollar amount in the “base case” (the agreed financial model that sets out the cost envelope), and have a share of upside profits above a specific threshold.
  • The PIP Fund’s returns depend on it managing its costs and performance within the parameters of the fixed base case. Any cost overruns are the PIP Fund’s responsibility.

That this private project will likely have a portion of its revenue underwritten by the council has long been one of the key arguments for those opposing it. They claim it will be a failure from not enough people using it – lumping costs on ratepayers while simultaneously claiming it will be so popular the local streets in Northcote will be overrun by people on bikes

Unfortunately the attached reports have blacked out the exact details of costs, revenues, thresholds etc so we can’t see just what those are. But unless something drastic has changed, it is still likely to represent a good deal for Auckland even if the council has to honour the underwriting. The last we saw the project was expected to cost $33 million, a significant sum but since the government came to the cycleway funding party with the Urban Cycleway Fund, there are already projects underway that cost more and are not likely to be used as much. One such example is the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr shared path. This is not to say the GI to Tamaki Dr project is bad, it’s a great project in its own right but that when it comes to benefits, it simply can’t compete with opening up a walking and cycling connection between the North Shore and the city.

In the past the council have been largely very supportive of the project – or at least supportive of investigating it. Only two councillors have consistently voted against it being George Wood, whose constituents stand to benefit the most from the project, and Sharon Stewart. In addition Cameron Brewer and Dick Quax also voted against providing some extra funding to the investigations. Given his ardent opposition to the project, George is almost certainly going to continue to try and fight the project.

While the council will be making a decision this week on whether to financially support the project, we might be still waiting for some time to the outcome of the Environment Court Appeal. It is currently expected that the hearing for it will happen in October or November. In saying that we learned recently that one of those appealing the project had pulled out citing the costs of fighting the project. I’m guessing they more likely realised that it was a fight they wouldn’t win.

Meanwhile, the Herne Bay Residents Association Incorporated has withdrawn its appeal because it believes the project is not feasible so will not “see the light of day”. Therefore, its efforts were “a waste of time and money”.

The group’s co-chair Christine Cavanagh said as a responsible organisation it did not intend to waste residents’ money on an “unnecessary appeal” that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Northcote Residents Association are still fighting though and are appealing to the public for cash to help them do that. As of writing this post they’d raised almost $9,500 but that is a long way from the potential hundreds of thousands their Herne Bay brethren suspect will be needed. They’ve also sent this out in response to Auckland Transport looking at implementing a residents parking scheme which would prevent people from driving to the bridge and then using Skypath, one of the key arguments the residents have used against the project.

AT’s “It’s All Go” campaign

With Auckland’s newest high profile cycleway opening on Friday, Auckland Transport have launched a new website to highlight the cycleways that exist or are coming to the central city over the next couple of years along with a PT inspired network map.

AT Central City Cycling Metro Map

‘It’s all go’ for cycling in Auckland

A new transport map is set to become as recognisable to Aucklanders as the Tube map is to Londoners. Auckland’s cycle network map will be a tool to help Aucklanders plan their journeys and illustrates how we’re improving travel choice to the city says Kathryn King, Auckland Transport, Cycling and Walking Manager.

“Today we have launched our campaign with a video clip of people riding on Auckland’s cycleways. The objective is to let Aucklanders know about the city’s fantastic new and proposed cycle routes. Working with the Government and other partners, we are building 52km of new cycleways by the end of 2018.”

“The pink Lightpath has proved hugely popular and we’ve seen big growth in the number of people cycling into the city.

People are switching to cycling as a mode of transport because it provides them certainty of travel time, it saves them money and it’s a great form of exercise,” she says.

“We are opening Quay St Cycleway on 8 July and later in the year we will be opening cycle routes in Mt Roskill and Mangere. In the coming months we will be seeking feedback from the public on a number of cycle projects including improvements on Ian McKinnon Dr, Great North Rd and Karangahape Rd.”

“Local research tells us that, a large number of Aucklanders would commute into the city by bike if there were more protected cycleways. This programme of improvements will be transformational for Auckland’s transport network,” she says.

Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and the Government through NZ Transport Agency are working on a $200 million programme of cycle improvements in Auckland by the end of 2018. Significant funding has come from Urban Cycleways Programme – a partnership between Local and Central Government to accelerate key cycle projects throughout the country.

As part of the campaign they’ve released this clip

I’ve seen some criticise as being not very representative of Auckland with all of the people young, white and fit

In addition, AT have also released a book which looks at what was achieved in Auckland in for cycling in 2015 along with a number of facts and figures about cycling in Auckland.

The Auckland Cycling Account 2015

As mentioned, the cycleway on Quay St opens on Friday following an official ceremony. Finishing touches are still going in but here’s what it looked like on Sunday afternoon. When finished it will be a welcome addition to the city centre.

Quay St buffer before opening