This is another post from Peter who you can see we’ve now allowed to post directly [ Matt]
I recently started a new job in Takapuna. Unfortunately, it’s just far enough away from my home on the isthmus to be inconvenient for commuting purposes. Driving means winding through town to get to the motorway and then dealing with the traffic freakshow on Esmonde Road. Taking the bus means transferring in town, and sometimes a 10-15 minute wait if you’re unlucky. (Or worse. Last Friday I mistakenly got on the 922 bus, which only goes to Takapuna after a half-hour tiki tour through Birkenhead and Northcote. If you’re going to Takapuna, take the 839, 858, 875, 879, or 895 instead.)
So when the weather and my out-of-shape thighs permit, I’ve been cycling up to Takapuna. Even without the Skypath, this is proving to be surprisingly easy. I cycle down Symonds St to the ferry building, take the ferry across to Bayswater, and then cycle up to Takapuna on the Bayswater pipe bridge and shared path, which lets me avoid battling traffic on Lake Road. (See map below.)
If you commute to Takapuna from the city centre or inner suburbs, I highly recommend that you consider taking the bike. On a good day, I can make it to work in 40-45 minutes, which is competitive with cars and faster than the bus. (Getting back’s a bit harder as I have to go uphill, but I can still do it in 50-55 minutes.) You get to ride on a completely uncrowded ferry, which seems to be a rare experience in Auckland these days. Cycling on the shore side is very safe, as Bayswater Avenue doesn’t get a lot of cars, and the shared path gets none.
And it’s a really beautiful ride to boot. Probably one of the best cycle commutes in Auckland.
And now, for the Tour de Bayswater by cameraphone.
Here’s the view from the Bayswater Ferry back to the city centre on a sunny morning. The ferry runs every half-hour during the peak periods, and hourly during the middle of the day (see the pdf timetable). I was running a bit late on the morning I took these pictures, so I cycled like mad down Symonds St only to have to wait on the wharf as the ferry emptied out.
The ferry is always completely full with commuters when it arrives in town at 8:20 – but I’m usually the only person to get on in the other direction. That is an insanely unbalanced peak flow!
The bike racks are completely full on the Bayswater side – in fact, they seem to be fuller than the expansive park-and-ride. Auckland Transport seems to recognise that a lot of cyclists use the ferry. A few weeks ago I got a quick bike tune-up and hot chocolate at a winter pit-stop sponsored by AT and Bikewise.
Then it’s up a small hill and onto Bayswater Avenue, which is dead quiet at this hour. Many of the kids at the local Belmont Primary cycle or walk to school, which cuts down the traffic quite a bit. I usually only see three or four cars.
And then it’s off the road and onto the shared path down the side of O’Neill’s Cemetery. At 8:40 in the morning, it’s generally populated by dog-walkers, who sometimes need a bit of notice of approaching cyclists.
The new pipeline bridge is fantastic. You feel like you’re gliding over the mangrove flats, which can be a pretty extraordinary sight on a good morning. It’s also a perfect demonstration of how good cycling infrastructure can make biking easier by linking up areas that are hard to move between by car. It adds a direct connection between two of the little finger peninsulas on the shore.
The shared path wends its way around the bays before terminating at Francis Street. From there, it’s an uphill cycle to Jutland Road, another low-traffic side street.
The intersection of Jutland Road and Lake Road isn’t fantastic. The curb bulbs out just before the intersection, forcing cyclists to squeeze between the cars while making the turn. Frustratingly, this intersection leads to the painted cycle lanes on Lake Road.
For safety’s sake, I usually hop up onto the sidewalk around this intersection. This isn’t an option on the trip back, so I usually do a hook turn using the pedestrian crossing button. I have to wonder what AT was thinking when they built such a terrible intersection between two of the major bits of cycle infrastructure on the shore.
Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 1: Where’s the space for cyclists?
Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 2: Still not seeing any space for cyclists.
Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 3: The painted cycle lane appears, at long last, in the left corner of this photo.
Moreover, the painted cycle lanes on Lake Road end in a dangerous way at the intersection with Esmonde Road. Rather than continuing along Lake Road to Takapuna, they take a left and go part of the way down Esmonde Road (i.e. towards the motorway interchange) before vanishing entirely. There’s no obvious, direct way for cyclists to continue through the intersection, which forces me to merge across a lane of left-turning traffic. Fortunately, traffic speeds slow down a bit north of the intersection, which means that the last bit of the ride is civil.
I probably haven’t picked the right time of year to start cycling to work – being winter and all – but it can be a pretty rewarding trip back at the end of the day. The ferry provides an impressive view of the harbour at dusk. Here’s a last look at our beloved coathanger and a few of Auckland’s many sails: