Apartments, tower cranes, and the coming new cycling/walking amenity right in the heart of the city’s motorway singularity.
Last week I spent a few days on the Gold Coast and I wrote about their great new light rail system. While I was there I was also struck by a few other observations – in particular cycling. It started on the way from the airport when I noticed multiple large groups of teenagers all getting around on bikes – many of which were sit-up city bikes rather than BMX or mountain bikes. As this is something you don’t see too much here, it immediately stood out.
I thought that perhaps initially it was just a one off, but the more I looked around the place the more saw people of all ages, genders and body sizes riding bikes. Further, on many of the street corners I noticed a lot of small bike racks, and they most often had a handful of bikes locked up to them. To be clear, in no way am I talking about anything close to Dutch or Danish levels of cycling but it was a difference from Auckland. Note: I stuck to the beach corridor so things might be quite different in the suburbs.
As someone who advocates to make Auckland more bike friendly, this intrigued me as to what caused this – especially given Australia is the only other country in the world¹ with a law requiring people on bikes wear helmets.
Now of course the Gold Coast has a couple of things going for it right off the bat, it’s flat and warm which, while not the sole determinant of bike use, certainly don’t hurt. But from the experience we’ve seen in other cities that’s not enough to drive bike use, infrastructure is.
Next I thought I’d look to see what level of bike infrastructure exists, assuming there must be some sort of bike network. So I searched and I searched and to my surprise struggled to find anything. The closest thing to any bike infrastructure was the wide walkway and separate shared path alongside some of the beach at Surfers Paradise – but that’s only about 750m in length.
Next to the beach walkway the road had these markings. I guess you could call them sharrows but there wasn’t much space for cycling, and I’m not sure why you use it given the walkway above is right next to it.
The only other infrastructure I saw was very poor on road cycle lanes on the main North-South route – the Gold Coast Highway. By poor I mean a strip of very faded paint – often quite narrow and in the door zone of parked cars. The image below was one of the better locations.
If good bike infrastructure didn’t exist, what was it that was generating the bike use I was seeing. I had to think back to all of the times I’d seen people on bikes and there was one common denominator, they were all riding on the footpath. A quick google confirmed my observation with Queensland allowing people ride on the footpath – as does Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory.
As we know, people will ride more if they feel safe, and in the absence of bike infrastructure a footpath often provides a much safer environment than a road does. With the exception of some high pedestrian areas, allowing cycling on footpaths effectively creates an instant network. Naturally the biggest concern is the interaction between bikes and pedestrians, and just how that works in real life is hard to tell, but everyone seemed to get on OK. Unlike on a shared path where the width encourages people on bikes to ride a little faster – and get frustrated by pedestrians taking up the whole thing – a narrow footpath encourages slower speeds allowing for better interaction. Queensland also has a requirement that people on bikes give way to people on the footpath, although I’m not sure how well that is enforced or if it needs to be.
In my view allowing riding on footpaths definitely isn’t a substitute for a high quality cycle network but perhaps it’s something we should consider in the interim, at the very least just for kids to help encourage parents to let their children ride to school.
On that note, perhaps my last observation was the most powerful. From the top of a double decker bus to the airport as I was going to leave we passed a school – I happened to have a seat upstairs right at the front so had a great view and while gazing out of the window I noticed the school had a bike storage area and this is what it looked like.
My guess is there are at least 50-100 bikes parked up in this space from kids who have ridden to school. That may not be Copenhagen or Amsterdam levels but seems fairly impressive for this corner of the world, and in the context of what we’re used to seeing in Auckland where very few kids will ride.
What do you think, should people be able to ride a bike on the footpath?
¹Some specific cities/provinces/states in other countries require them but they’re not a requirement for the entire country.
A good little piece of news from the government yesterday with Environment Minister Nick Smith giving requiring authority status to the NZTA for cycleways. As I understand it, previously the NZTA could only designate cycleways within their own state highway corridors while outside of that it was up to Auckland Transport or local councils to do the consenting. That can make consenting for many projects difficult and that’s before taking into account there are often only a few staff stretched across many projects. Now they’ll be able to (try) and designate cycleways anywhere.
The NZTA have been doing a fairly good job on cycling in recent years where they can and them being able to bring their power to bear outside of the state highway corridors can only be a good thing. Further with bike infrastructure now starting to get some meaningful funding from both central and local governments their expertise should be a welcome addition. Thanks Nick Smith
I wonder if there would be similar benefit in giving the NZTA the ability to designate rapid transit routes outside of state highways too.
Auckland Transport have come up with what they are calling great rides which are 10 of the best recreational rides that can be ridden by people of all ages and abilities.
It’s interesting they’ve highlighted the Twin Streams path in Henderson in the press release as I often use part of the route to get to Henderson for some shopping – my quaxing route if you will.
I look forward to the day in the future when they can talk about using Auckland’s extensive urban cycleways to safely go about your daily activities by bike – whether it be shopping, riding to work, riding to school or just visiting friends. Although in saying that once AT put an extensive urban cycleways in they probably won’t have to tell anyone about them, people will be using them anyway.
Are there any great rides you think AT have missed?
A great ad from the Spanish Transport department highlighting the growing frustration of constant traffic jams and the fight to find parking – urging people to re-think how they travel to and from work.
This is a guest post from reader Jeff following on from his first post which you can read here.
Did you know that the Mangere inlet has a fantastic cycle and walkway connecting Onehunga with Hugo Johnson Drive in Penrose? (pictured below, in Green)
If your first reaction is that you’ve never walked or cycled the Mangere inlet, then please do so on the next fine day! You might be surprised how beautiful and peaceful this area really is. It is a real hidden urban oasis.
Whilst often used by recreational weekend families and casual cyclists, the path is cycleable from Hillsborough or Mangere Bridge through to Penrose, this excellent resource is begging to be expanded into a multi modal (walk, cycle, run) link between major Auckland transport hubs, employment centres and residential suburbs.
The existing shared pathway (pictured in green) only covers a third of the possible activation. If we could bring the link along the eastern coast of the Inlet (right hand side, in orange), we can quickly link to the Salesyard road overbridge, connecting the path to Otahuhu, and further south to the Otahuhu Train Station – which, just a year from now, will be redeveloped into major Bus and Train interchange, with currently no option to walk anywhere other than the Otahuhu town centre. Linking these centres via walk & cycleway would be an Auckland first, two Major Rail hubs, linked in this accessible way.
Let’s break the route down a bit;
First thing’s first, a 500 metre extension connects the start of the path with Onehunga Train station, unlocking alternative movement modes between two road-locked regions.
Secondly if we extend the current end from Hugo Johnson Drive to the Otahuhu Transport hub, using railside land along the Eastern shore, we unlock alternative movement between two road-locked regions, Onehunga and Otahuhu have never been linked like this before.
The path can then link Otahuhu Transport Hub, Norana park, Favona road, and Mahunga Drive, and back to Onehunga via Mangere Bridge. Some boardwalking would be required to link through the mangroves, behind Favona Road to link the Favona Rd public access right of way to Mahunga drive, another major employment centre, and then heading north again to link to the existing Mangere Bridge cycle infrastructure. Have you ever driven along Favona road? A major hub of employment from Mangere is built for trucks and vehicular traffic, cycling along it is a game only for the brave.
Let’s take a close look at some of the links required to get best activation;
Starting with Onehunga Mall (the road), linking the shared pathway to Onehunga Train Station. Either setting aside shared space on the footpath, or temporarily utilising rail corridor access would connect the station to the Foreshore. There’s ample room between street & rail land to make at least a semi-permanent access way (until future Airport rail links would require a re-layout of the entire area, roads included)
This is where the existing cycleway ends at Hugo Johnson Drive. Without too much furore this could connect to Great South & Sylvia Park Roads (and onwards to the mall) via railway land.
Moving down the Eastern edge the harbour the path can connect to Salesyards Rd via the existing rail bridge. This opens up the first of two massive catchments to Otahuhu
Otahuhu Train Station. This one’s important, this links the population surrounding Onehunga Train station with Otahuhu’s population and their massive transport hub
The South Coast, Linking Otahuhu Train Station with Major employers along Favona Road. It may look empty but many thousands of people work in this area 7 days a week, day & night.
This bit’s easy, the boardwalk follows Favona Road to Link back to Mahunga Drive , connecting up to the Mangere Bridge cycleway that terminates on Mahunga Dr, just south of the bridge.
At what cost?
It’s estimated that boardwalking a coastline equates to anywhere between $1500 to $3000 per metre, accounting for all project costs.
Return on investment?
This would be realised in a number of indirect ways, while extremely hard to put a value on, they can increase quality of life substantially;
The Bigger Picture;
Thinking into the not-so-distant-future. With Skypath just around the corner, and the Tamaki cycleway under construction, a simple link between Tamaki and Sylvia Park isn’t rocket science.
The NZTA have released a video of what the Nelson St offramp and the New Canada St Bridge will look like when finished soon. It is due to open in December – and as such it’s kind of odd that they’ve released a video when it’s so close to completion.
One of the projects to get funding from the government’s Urban Cycleway Funding announcement is to improve cycling links to the Glen Innes train station. Unlike other projects from the UCF the project isn’t a set route but seems to be intended to create a network of routes linking not only the train station but also the town centre, schools and employment areas.
Auckland Transport are now asking the public just what they think needs to be done to make cycling in Glen Innes better. This is quite different to the usual consultation done where they asking about some pre-prepared plans.
The method of consultation is also new. AT have developed a mapping tool allowing people to drop a pin on a map and add a comment about it rather than having to try and explain details in a text box like we’ve had to in the past. This is a good step from AT. You do have to have to register to give feedback but you can do so using your twitter profile (if you have one).
The consultation is open until Friday 6 November
Thoughts of Sydney are inseparable from images of its harbour:
It’s naturally beautiful, but also much of what has been added around the harbour increases its appeal, particularly the Opera House and the Bridge:
The bridge is not only beautiful, and massively over-engineered, but also is an impressive multitasker; trains, buses, general traffic, pedestrians, people on bikes. All catered for.
Despite that when looking at the bridge its mostly covered with cars in terms of moving people the general traffic lanes are the least impressive of the three main modes, as shown below in the am peak hour:
It is its multi-modality that makes it truly impressive, some 73% of the people entering Sydney on the Bridge from the Shore at this time are doing so on just one of the train lines and one bus lane; a fraction of the width of the whole structure. So not only does it shame our Harbour bridge aesthetically it completely kills it for efficiency too.
The Bridge has always been impressively multi-modal as the first toll tariff shows, and it carried trains and trams from the start:
In 1992 it was supplemented by a pair of two lane road tunnels that up the cross harbour tally for this mode to match the number coming over by train [bridge plus tunnels = 12 traffic lanes], but that wasn’t done until the population of the city had hit 3.7 million. The high capacity systems on the bridge saved the people of Sydney and Australia from spending huge sums on additional crossings and delayed the date they were deemed necessary by many decades. But anyway, because the additional crossing is just road lanes it only adds around 10% extra capacity to the bridge. To think that the government here and NZTA are seriously proposing to spend multiple billions in building a third Harbour Crossing in Auckland with the population only at 1.5m, but not only that but they are planning to build more capacity for the least efficient mode; more traffic lanes.
The evidence from Sydney shows that what we need to add next are the missing high capacity modes. And that we clearly aren’t using the existing bridge well enough. Our bridge was never designed to carry trains, but it does carry buses, and currently these could be given the opportunity to carry even more people more efficiently. And that very opportunity is just around the corner. In 2017 or maybe even next year the alternative Western Ring Route opens, described by NZTA like this:
Excellent, always great to invest in systems that take unnecessary traffic away. And there is no better way to achieve this than to make the alternatives to driving so much quicker and more reliable with dedicated right-of-ways. Here is the perfect opportunity to achieve that, the opening of the WRR should be paralleled by the addition of bus lanes right across the Bridge in order to lift its overall capacity. And at the same time perhaps truck priority lanes on the sturdier central lanes should also be considered, so the most important roles of highways, moving people and freight efficiently, can be more certainly achieved. Although the need for that depends on exactly how much freight traffic shifts to the new route [as well as the rail line and trans-shipping via Northland’s new cranes: ‘New crane means fewer trucks on the highway’]. Outside of the temporary blip caused by the building of Puhoi to Warkworth [much which will be able to use the WRR] heavy traffic growth on the bridge looks like it is predominantly buses.
Meanwhile our transport agencies should be planning the next new crossing as the missing and much more efficient Rapid Transit route. Cheaper narrower tunnels to finally bring rail to the Shore; twin tracks that have the people moving capacity of 12 motorway lanes. Here: Light Rail or super efficient driverless Light Metro are clearly both great options that should be explored:
But before all of this there are of course those two much more humble modes that can add their invigorating contribution to the utility of the Bridge, walking and cycling, Skypath:
The famous cycle steps on the northern side, there are around 2000 bike trips a day over the bridge [despite the steps]:
And there they were right at the beginning:
Auckland Transport sent me some interesting research that has been conducted for them recently looking into walking and cycling and what can be done to get more people using active modes. The research includes an online quantitative survey conducted by over 1,600 people said to be representative of the Auckland population as well as use of the census data – which as we know is limited to only those who are travelling to work. For the purpose of this post I’m just going to focus on the cycling data.
The research suggests that around 27% of people cycle although only 11% do so at least once a week or more. Most commonly people ride for exercise or recreation although as you can see those who cycle frequently cycling to get to shops is more prominent than the other categories. To me this highlights we still have a long way to go before cycling becomes more normalised, but more on that later.
Positively the numbers cycling have increased although for some of the occasions the numbers have fallen quite a bit. An example is with cycling to the shops which has fallen from 30% to 21% however it’s not clear if this is an actual decrease in total numbers or just as a percentage from the larger number cycling.
Those that do cycle are much more likely to be male and middle aged.
The map below shows the Journey to work data from the census. Given those that cycle to work are only a small portion of all cyclists it’s not fully representative of where people cycle but does very strongly show that cycling tends to happen in the areas where cycle infrastructure exists – such as around the NW cycleway. For this it uses AT’s description of cycle infrastructure as also including things like bus lanes. The outlier is a result of the Whenuapai Air Force base
So what gets people to cycle? Fun and convenience seem to feature highly, as does the presence of cycling networks.
The things that hold people back from cycling should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the blog, it’s all about safety.
What people think about cycling appears to be influenced quite a bit by if or how often they cycle themselves, for example the more you ride a bike the more you like others who ride a bike
Based on the Census data, the research shows that demographics strongly influence the propensity to cycle.
Based on the data it is suggested that the areas for the greatest potential growth in cycling are shown on the map below – although a lot of that will depend on the infrastructure that is put in place. One concern I have with this particular part of the research is that it seems to extrapolate current conditions as to who will cycle and as mentioned above, the census data only counts a small amount of all people cycling.
While middle aged men are the most likely to cycle now, the report also highlights a concern that the stereotype of them being lycra-clad warriors could be preventing people from cycling. As the report notes it is “Cycle infrastructure is clearly a big part of what ‘normalises’ sage, and a clear indicator to users that safety is being addressed”
Looking at the potential for growth in cycling the report says of the people who don’t cycle, around 26% could do so.
It gets more interesting looking at the demographics of those who could cycle regularly. As you can see young people make up around half of the potential opportunity for more cycling.
Of this potential group, like above it all comes down to safety the majority agree that there isn’t enough safe infrastructure in Auckland.
Again there’s no surprise here but the biggest factor that would encourage more use is more cycling facilities.
Lastly the report highlights that if the barriers to cycling were closed that millions more trips per year would take place on a bike.
So get cracking on those protected cycleways AT – even if only temporary for now the most important thing is getting a usable system in place