Photo of the Day: The Waitemata from Pt Resolution Bridge

Auckland is a city with great harbours, or rather, is a couple of great harbours in search of a city. When we finally take the city down to the waters’ edge more fully this place is going to become really delightful to to visit and work in, but also extremely photogenic. Personally I think the real coming of age will be the international coverage we’ll get from Skypath. NZ has wilderness, now it needs to add to that image with urban sophistication along side the natural beauty….

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Grafton Gully Opening

I made my way to town this morning for the official opening of the Grafton Gully and Beach Rd cycleways. Perhaps because we’re only two weeks out from the election the government pulled out the big guns with John Key turning up to cut the ribbon along with Len Brown and Barb Cuthbert from Cycle Action Auckland. The ceremony itself took place under the Wellesley St underpass which was presumably a precaution from the rain that threatened but which thankfully didn’t eventuate.

There were four speakers who spoke about the project, Ernst Zöllner – the regional director for Northland and Auckland, John Key, Len Brown and Barbara Cuthbert from Cycle Action Auckland. I managed to get a recording of most of them so rather than repeat what they said they are below.

Ernst Zöllner

I missed recording the start of his speech but it was about how the Grafton Gully project came up very highly on all of the NZTA’s criteria.

John Key

There were quite a few interesting comments from the Prime Minister. He said the NZTA were ahead of the politicians on cycling issued and have driven them to do more for cycling. He talked about the Dutch experience and how they haven’t always been such a cycling friendly place and the big one I thought was him stating his support for Skypath

Len Brown

Like Ernst I just missed the start of Len’s speech however he started by talking about how views on transport in Auckland were changing rapidly and referenced the recent poll and was talking about how a huge percentage of people now want investment prioritised around PT and active modes.

Barbara Cuthbert

Speeches over and it was time to cut the ribbon to officially open the route.

Grafton Gully Opening - Ribbon Cutting

and a quick photo op ride along the cycleway.

Grafton Gully Opening - John and Len Riding

It was then time for us to get our bikes and have a go. Of course being a cycling event a ton of people turned up with their bikes and the bike racks for guests were overflowing.

Grafton Gully Opening - Bike Rack

I’ll do a separate post looking at the cycleway itself including photos and video.

Wellesley St Underpass Timelapse

The timelapse below shows what it took for the NZTA and their contractors to build a cycling underpass at Wellesley St. While the road was narrowed the street itself was only closed for about a week. Now if only we could get some similar underpasses at interchanges like St Lukes.

 

Copenhagen Cycle Improvements

It’s great that the Grafton Gully and Beach Rd cycleways are now complete and officially opening on Saturday. While Beach Rd may not be perfect, it represents a huge step forward for Auckland and one I think many people will want to see replicated in a lot of places elsewhere, and fast. Despite not even being officially open or having the Grafton Gully connection open yet it does seem like it’s already getting some good use.

Grafton Gully Cycleway sneak peak

A sneak peak at the Grafton Gully cycleway from Auckland Transports Twitter feed.

However we still have a lot of work to do if we want to even come close to the level of cycling infrastructure the cities we look to as examples have, cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam. What’s more they aren’t standing still either and are continuing to not only further develop their networks to make cycling even easier. This video from Streetfilms highlights some of the improvements that have happened in Copenhagen in the last few years.

In particularly like the greenwave lights and they are something that could be quite useful on Beach Rd (and at many other intersections).

Photo of the day: Mitre 10’s bike parking

The other weekend I went to the Mitre 10 Mega in Wairau Road to pick up some building supplies. To my surprise, they’ve put in a bike rack near the store entrance. I’m not sure how much use it’s going to get given the aggressive traffic environment on Wairau Road – but someone’s obviously given it a go!

Perhaps Mitre 10 should consider following the lead of IKEA’s Danish stores and renting out cargo bikes to let their cycling customers move bigger loads.

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Wynyard Cycling Complaints

The new Waterfront Promenade linking the Harbour Bridge to Wynyard Quarter will be fantastic when finished later this year however its completion will leave a gap in the network through Wynyard Quarter itself. Auckland Transport and Waterfront Auckland are going to be fixing that gap through the addition of some separated cycleways and shared paths through the area.

Increasingly, more people are choosing to cycle to work or for fun. The creation of cycle paths through Wynyard Quarter supports this and makes it easier to get around.

The vision is to provide a world-class facility connecting the North Shore (via SkyPath), Herne Bay, and Ponsonby, with the CBD and Tamaki Drive.

Separated cycle paths will go along Beaumont Street and Madden Street.

A shared pedestrian and cycle path will go along Westhaven Drive and the western end of Gaunt Street to Daldy Street, where it will connect with the Daldy Street Linear Park.

Wynyard Quarter Cycling Routes

More separated cycleways as well as filling in holes in the network are obviously a good thing but as you can expect not everyone is happy about it.

The prospect of a cycleway in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter has fired up members of the marine industry.

The plan would mean reducing the number of parking spaces in the area and that’s got some business people worrying about their futures.

Marine Industry Association executive director Peter Busfield supports the idea of a cycleway linking up the waterfront but not if it keeps customers away.

If customers can’t park nearby they won’t come and businesses will close, he said.

“When someone comes to get a propeller repaired they need to put it in their car and drive to the shop. You can’t put it on a bus or take it on a bicycle.”

[...]

Stephen Harris is the owner of Auckland Engineering Supplies and said the proposal to replace parking spaces on the west side of Beaumont St with a dedicated cycleway would “absolutely kill the business”.

It’s not surprising to see a business complaining about the loss of parking as it seems to happen everywhere cycling infrastructure is proposed however if a simple cycle lane is going to kill his business then I’d suggest the business isn’t that going that well in the first place. The talk of lost carparks is even odder for two reasons. First of all the building in the photo with the article its own customer parking on the roof.

Wynyard Quarter Marine Industry Cycling complaint

And secondly there is still proposed to be parking on the eastern side of the street according to this map from Auckland Transport.

Wynyard Quarter Parking

Perhaps the one thing that could be questioned is whether the western side of Beaumount is the right place for a separated cycleway.

Harkin New Zealand managing director Gary Lock said there are several other routes where a cycleway could go. It’s unsafe to mix heavy vehicles and cyclists, he said.

“It’s an industrial marine zone. You’ve got to protect the cyclists, especially if you’ve got kids and parents cycling.

“Most of the people who turn into the driveways are trade-related or driving heavy vehicles and they will have to turn across the cycleway.”

Ovlov Marine co-owner Lachlan Trembath agrees safety and customer access should come first.

I can only assume the western side was chosen to allow for access from Silo Park to the promenade without having to cross roads.

Like many other businesses in New Zealand when it comes to cycling, I suspect that the marine industry can’t see past the status quo.

Cycling and public transport are good activities but you’ve got to have time, he said. No-one’s going to cycle to Beaumont St to pick up a pail of oil or an outboard, he said.

Large heavy and bulky items might not be ideal to transport on a bike but I would bet there are a huge number of other products sold by the businesses along Beaumont St that would be easily transportable by bike back to the marina once the promenade if complete.

I’m going to predict that at worst these cycleways aren’t going to do anything to harm the local businesses and if anything might even gain them some new customers from people riding past.

Cycling in Manukau

Last week I looked at how hard it was to safely walk around Manukau City. Today I am going to look at the cycling infrastructure that has been provided.

On the various regional cycle network maps a lovely grid of completed cycling facilities is shown (solid lines).

Manukau Cycle Network

 

This is a 2011 version, but can’t fund anything newer on the Auckland Transport website. All the dark red lines are existing facilities, which are fully complete as far as AT is concerned. However the reality is somewhat different. Luckily I was walking around Manukau when I took these pictures, because I sure wouldn’t have wanted to bike along any of them, even though I am quite a confident cyclist.

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This is Manukau Station Road. For starters a narrow painted lane with no buffer is totally inappropriate for a road that is signposted at 60kmh.

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Things quickly go from bad to worse. While running cycle lanes through bus stops isn’t great practice it is rather common place in Auckland. However is this is not just a bus stop where a bus stops momentarily, it is a bus layover area where buses park up for extended periods of time. Potentially even hours. So anytime a bus is parked here people cycling have to veer out into 60kmh traffic.

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This is Manukau Station Road again, between the MIT campus and the council offices on the left. The cycle lane just suddenly ends without warning, and there is not even a ramp that leads to the path to allow people to leave the road safely. It seems as though a dedicated right hand turn lane is more important than safe cycling

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This is Manukau Station Road at Lambie Drive. The motorway on-ramp is straight ahead so people cycling need to turn left or right here. The little green patches show a narrow cycle lane up against the kerb on the left hand side. Then there is another cycle lane starting in the foreground of the picture. However to get between the two you have to veer across 2 lanes of 60kmh plus traffic. Again totally unacceptable.

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This is now on Great South Road. The cycle lane is less than 1m wide. Note to designers, if you are struggling to fit the bike stencil in the lane it is definitely way too narrow. Cyclists have to chose between riding close to the debris filled drain on one side, and fast traffic on the other side.

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Also on Great South Road by Redoubt Road. Again have cycle lane that is about 1m wide with no buffer next to 3 lanes of fast traffic. Again cyclists have to cross several lanes of traffic to keep going straight ahead.

These issues are of course not unique to Manukau, and I’m sure anyone that rides a bike could tell you there are serious issues all over the city. However Manukau probably the worst example of a “completed grid” that is complete rubbish. Unsurprisingly the lanes are a total failure and it is rare to see people cycling here.

This highlights a big problem with the 1000km Regional Cycle Network that Auckland Transport claims is 30% complete. Very little of this 30% is actually up to scratch once you discount shared paths through reserves. At least 5% of the network is bus lanes (not great), or even transit lanes (awful) so none of that should be counted. Then there are the many painted sections that are narrow, unsafe and disappear without warning. Bike lanes like this can be worse than nothing, as they force cyclists weave and merge into moving traffic, rather than just staying in the traffic lane and making drivers overtake. Of course this style of cycling is only for the brave, and will never get more than a hardcore cycling in these conditions. Cycling should be a relaxing everyday activity, not an adrenaline rush for the fearless.

With the opening of our first section of urban separated cycleway on Beach Road next week lets hope Auckland Transport has turned it’s back of the pre-amalgamation ways of doing things. Successful cycling requires build cycling infrastructure that everyone is able to comfortably cycle in.

Vancouver has it spot on with their Transportation 2040 Plan:

 

C 1.1. Build cycling routes that feel comfortable for people of all ages and abilities

Many people are interested in cycling but are afraid of motor vehicle traffic. For cycling to be a viable and mainstream transportation choice, routes should feel comfortable and low-stress for people of all ages and abilities, including children, the elderly, and novice cyclists.

Design details depend on a variety of factors, but especially motor vehicle speeds and volumes. Bicycle routes on arterials and other busy streets should be physically separated wherever possible. Routes on neighbourhood streets may require traffic restrictions, speed management and/or parking restrictions to ensure comfort for a broad range of users. Designs should ensure sufficient visibility at intersections and driveways, and minimize the potential for conflicts with car doors, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Other factors to consider include topography—by providing well-marked alternative routes around steep hills, for example—and requirements for un-conventional bikes and other forms of active transportation, including recumbents, cargo cycles, bikes with trailers, and skateboards.

The last few months has seem much more positivity about cycling from Auckland Transport and Auckland Council with talk of separated lanes along Nelson Street and a trial along Karangahape Road. Over the next year we should see if results on the ground match this rhetoric.

Send a message to Len Brown about Auckland’s Long Term Plan

This Thursday the mayor is releasing his first proposal for Auckland’s Long Term Plan, the 10 year budget for the city. Last week I blogged about the budgetary pressures the council is facing, and the risk of large cuts in public transport investment. However there is still potential for Auckland to progress the Congestion Free Network and important cycling investments in a rates constrained environment if we prioritise those projects and push back some of the very expensive roading projects with limited benefits like Penlink.

Generation Zero are running a mini campaign this week to encourage people send Len Brown a message that the budget needs to invest in public transport and cycling. Their email ask is at down below, and you can send an email to Len Brown using a simple online tool here: generationzero.org.nz/long_term_plan

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Hey, all the work we’ve done together to push for separated bike lanes, the Congestion Free Network, and the frequent bus network all hinges on one big decision this Thursday.

Mayor Len Brown is right this moment making up his mind about what projects get prioritised in Auckland’s 10 year budget known as the Long Term Plan.

Tell him now to: make the CRL the number one priority; prioritise the city wide rapid transport network; triple the cycling budget; and not proceed with expensive projects with little regional benefit.

There’s real pressure on the Mayor to hold rate increases in his budget to between 2.5% to 3.5%. Transport infrastructure represents nearly 50% of the budget so this funding is the most at risk. This means as a city we need to make some serious decisions about what we prioritise to fund over the next 10 years.

The choice has been made simple for him by his advisors. He’s been advised that he can not deliver all the projects in the Auckland Plan, therefore he needs to find a middle ground.1

That middle ground is the Congestion Free Network.

The Mayor therefore needs to do four things with the Long Term Plan:

  • Make funding for the City Rail Link his number one priority.
  • Prioritise the construction of the city wide rapid transport network including new busways and rail links as seen in the Congestion Free Network.
  • Ensure there is a tripling in the funding for cycling to $30 million a year so Auckland Transport can complete the City Cycling Network.
  • Make sure only road projects with large regional benefits proceed by excluding expensive projects such as Penlink and Mill Road.

Click here to send a message to Mayor Len Brown right now urging him to follow our four recommendations.

The long term effects of a lack of investment would lead to ever increasing congestion and ineffective public transport, exacerbating the many problems our city already faces with transport.

Truly transforming our public transport network over the next 10 years means moving forward with the City Rail Link, North Western, Upper Harbour and South-Eastern Busways and Rail to Roskill, as proposed in the Congestion Free Network.

On the other hand low value roading projects like Penlink2 have nothing to do with an outstanding public transport network.

Excluding these low value roading projects and prioritising an outstanding public transport network would help us get the right outcomes.

The choice is simple. The Council has already put in writing that their objectives over the next 10 years are to move to outstanding public transport within one network, and to radically improve the quality of urban living.

If Auckland wants to truly transform itself into a liveable low-carbon city it needs to prioritise high value projects that deliver on the Council’s own objectives.

Send a message now to tell the council to deliver on it’s own objectives: generationzero.org.nz/long_term_plan

The future of our city is in our hands.

 

ACT promises to abolish helmet laws

Cycling seems to be the issue of the week so far. We’ve had Skypath and the Northcote cycle routes followed by National then announced an urban cycling policy which finally seems them agree that urban cycling improvements are needed. Now ACT have joined in on the debate by promising to abolish compulsory helmet laws.

ACT’s plan to double cycle use without spending taxpayers’ money

“The National party yesterday announced a $100 million cycle-way that just happens to go through the marginal seat of Hutt South” said ACT Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.

“The Greens want to spend many hundreds of millions on cycle-ways. ACT’s contribution to this bidding war for the cyclist vote would double cycle use and cost nothing” said Dr Whyte.

“We need only abolish the law that makes wearing a cycle helmet compulsory. Since 1994, when Parliament established an instant fine of $150 for failing to wear a helmet, cycling has declined by over 50%. Overseas experience also indicates that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet dramatically reduce cycling. This nanny state law does not even save lives” said Dr Whyte. “On the contrary, it costs lives. Before the legislation, few people died from cycling accidents and, of those who did, only 20% died from head injuries alone.”

” Research reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal (see http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/125-1349/5046/) shows that, over a 10 year period, only 20 Aucklanders were killed in cycle accidents and only 4 might have been saved by wearing cycle helmets. This same New Zealand Medical Journal article concluded that life years gained from the health benefits of cycling outweighed life years lost in accidents by 20 times” said Dr Whyte.

“The diminished health resulting from the reduced cycling caused by compulsory helmet-wearing costs 53 premature deaths a year. ACT would simply abolish the $150 fines for not wearing a helmet. That would save $100 million on cycle-ways in marginal seats, double cycle use and save 53 lives a year” said Dr Whyte

I don’t think that removing the helmet laws would see a doubling of cycle use primarily because it won’t do anything to address the reality that our roads aren’t safe to use. The perception of roads being unsafe is often cited as the biggest reason why people don’t cycling despite many people having bikes in their garages. That doesn’t mean I don’t think removing the helmet law shouldn’t happen, in fact quite the opposite. This post a few months ago looks at some of evidence mounting against requiring mandatory helmets.

Now if only we could pick and choose individual policies. A big step up in cycle infrastructure funding along with removing the helmet requirements would be a great combination.

National’s Cycling policy

Some great news yesterday with the National Party releasing one part of the transport policy which is actually semi decent. They’ve said they will invest an extra $100 million into building urban cycleways over the next four years.

Prime Minister John Key has today announced $100 million in new funding will be made available over the next four years to accelerate cycleways in urban centres.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says an Urban Cycleway Investment Panel will investigate opportunities to invest in urban cycleways that would expand and improve the cycling network.

Mr Brownlee says National recognises that commuting by bike has health benefits and takes pressure off other transport networks, but says cycleways in our largest centres are fragmented and offer varied levels of service.

“This funding builds on significant investments the government is already making, with projects in Hastings and New Plymouth showcasing how cycling can be a safer, more reliable and realistic transport option.

“Many people cite safety concerns and a lack of infrastructure as reasons for not cycling, so we’re going to begin building cycleways to a standard that delivers real incentives for commuters to make a change.

“Building more comprehensive cycling networks will require new infrastructure to connect existing routes and expand the network into wider urban areas.

“And as these connections will be a mix of local roads and State highways, we’ll need a strategic approach and collaboration at central and local government level.

“Some councils are well advanced in planning and constructing local cycleways, and we want to ensure we do what we can to complement them and make them capable of being used by the widest number of people possible.

“This funding package also strongly complements other aspects of the government’s ambitious transport infrastructure programme, which is designed to ensure people and freight can reach their destinations quickly and safely,” Mr Brownlee says.

The Urban Cycleway Investment Panel will include representatives from central government, local government and other organisations. Draft terms of reference for the panel will be presented to Cabinet by 31 October 2014.

National Party Cycling Policy

I think this is fantastic news and In my view the most important thing about the announcement isn’t so much the amount of money being spent – as the Greens propose to spend more – but that we now seem to have an acknowledgement from all sides of the political spectrum that improving cycling in our cities is a worthwhile thing. Getting that agreement is the key first step and addressing the level of funding can happen separately.

One other aspect I like is the comment that they’re “going to be building cycleways to a standard that delivers real incentives for commuters to make a changeI can only hope that means building infrastructure to the 8 to 80 rule which basically means designing it so that an 8 year old child or 80 year old adult cycle can feel comfortable to cycle on. It would also be fantastic if this meant requiring the NZTA and local authorities to up their minimum standards for what can be built.

One aspect I do find puzzling is the creation of an Urban Cycleway Investment Panel. I would have thought decisions on which projects should get funding would be best handled through the existing NZTA/local government processes. The only advantage I can see is if this group is intended to be some sort of advisory group for smaller councils who don’t have the experience needed to develop better cycling networks. In our large cities in particular there are already lengthy lists of projects just waiting to be funded.

As a comparison with existing spending, according to the draft 2015 GPS, over the next four years approximately $100 million is expected to be spent. As such this investment represents a doubling of existing spending although it won’t be spread out evenly over that timeframe with this new money estimated to be split out as

2014/15 – $10 million
2015/16 – $35 million
2016/17 – $30 million
2017/18 – $25 million

All up it seems like a fairly decent policy for National and it’s one that hopefully represents one small step towards a more balanced transport policy in the future.

It’s also possible we might hear more transport announcements from the government today with John Key talking at an NZCID conference ominously titled “Mega Projects: From Vision to Reality”.