2016 – A Year in Review Part 2 – Walking and Cycling

This is Part 2 of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at Walking and Cycling. You can see Part 1 on public transport here.

We finished 20156 with the fantastic Lightpath and Nelson St cycleway and 2016 kicked on from there with more good progress – including right at the end of the year AT announcing the completion of the Nelson St route, something I’ll cover in the new year. So, here’s my summary.

Quay St cycleway

We ended 2015 with consultation on the Quay St cycleway and by July this year it was officially opened by then Prime Minister John Key, Transport Minister Simon Bridges and former Mayor Len Brown.

A number of cycleways have automated counters, and AT have installed more to help measure the impacts of unprecedented investment currently going in but the Quay St cycleway is the first in Auckland to have a counter on it showing how many trips there have been. And the number of trips has been rising steadily. In October just under three months after opening the counter hit 50,000. Then just another two months later it reached the 100,000 milestone. With the warmer weather the daily numbers have been frequently above 1,000 and so it’s possible we’ll see it surpass 200,000 before the end of summer.

In further good news, AT announced that work starts in February to extend cycleway to just short of the intersection with The Strand and will be extended past that as part of the Eastern Path project.

Skypath

In the middle of 2015 we were ecstatic when Skypath was granted consent but we expected appeals from a very small but vocal group of people who opposed it, primarily on Northcote Point. And as expected, those appeals came. During 2016 two of the three groups opposing the project dropped their appeals. That left just one small group of local residents to take the fight to the environment court in November. But only a few days in the judge stopped the hearing and verbally said the consent would be issued, and without any of the crazy demands the opponents to the project were seeking.

In mid-December the formal ruling was released and was very critical of the appeal including comments like.

In the overall analysis, we felt unconvinced by many of the claims of the residents about the existing environment, which unfortunately we considered had been viewed somewhat through “rose tinted glasses”

With the consent out of the way, hopefully 2017 will see progress made towards finally building it.

In what will be linked to Skypath, the NZTA consulted on Seapath too. We haven’t heard the outcome of the consultation yet.

Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai

In December, the first stage of Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai (the path of land and sea), formerly known as the Eastern Path and the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr shared path, was opened. Stage one is from Merton Rd to St Johns Rd. Bike Auckland has some good coverage of the event.

Stage 3, widening of the Orakei Basin boardwalk should be starting soon while Stage 2, from St Johns Rd to the Orakei Basin is expected to start during 2017

Waterview Shared Path

At the beginning of 2016 work started on the Waterview Shared Path from Alan Wood Reserve, over the rail line, through Harbutt and Phyllis reserves, Unitec and over to New North Rd at about Alford St via a 16m high, 90m long bridge across Oaklely Creek.

Franklin Rd

The upgrade of Franklin Rd has been the subject of numerous debates and design revisions, including at one point only catering for “confident cyclists”. But in the end AT were able to find a decent design for the project. This is part of a wider upgrade of Franklin Rd and includes improving utilities. Work on the road itself should start in 2017.

Consultations galore

A lot has been happening behind the scenes too with a huge number of consultations this year for projects that are expected to start construction over the next year or so as AT continue to ramp up to make the most of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Fund. I’m bound to have missed some but they’ve included:

There have been so many, I’m sure I’ve missed some, especially some of the smaller ones.

Usage

Of course, one of the points of investing in more cycling is to get more people using bikes and on that front we’re seeing some good results. For example, at Kingsland on the NW cycleway, usage is the highest it’s ever been and well ahead of what we’ve seen before thanks to the addition of cycleways like Lightpath and Nelson St.

Of course, there have been many other things that have happened over the year and too. Are there any key changes I’ve missed? You can also see Bike Auckland’s summary here.

Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus on roads

Skypath and East-West; good, bad and ugly

To borrow a sports analogy, yesterday was a bit of a “game of two halves”. There was good, bad and ugly all thrown in from different sources. I thought I’d highlight them both in this post.

The good fantastic

After decades pushing the vision and years of hard work by some amazingly dedicated people, yesterday it was confirmed that Skypath will be granted consent.

Skypath Consent - From Westhaven

Consent was initially issued in July last year however as expected, some of the groups who have long opposed Skypath appealed to the Environment Court. Earlier this year two of those groups dropped out, the Herne Bay Residents Association claiming it would never happen anyway, and the Northcote Point Residents Association (NRA) who saying they couldn’t afford the costs that would sought against them if they lost. That left just the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society (NPHPS), a group set up only a few years ago and run by many of the same people as the NRA, to challenge the project in court.

In their appeal, the NPHPS sought some absurdly strict conditions placed on the project, likely in a bid to make it not viable. Our friends at Bike Auckland have more details, including the council’s response but below are the conditions the NPHPS wanted.

  • limiting entry to between 6am – 7pm (with exit permitted until 10pm), and
  • imposing a daily maximum limit of 1440 movements in and out of the Northern landing (NB this number has been revised upwards from earlier proposals, which were in the low hundreds), with trips to be booked online.

Insane, imagine trying to suggest someone impose those kinds of conditions on a road project, or perhaps even the Harbour Bridge.

Thankfully today Judge Newhook verbally confirmed that the consent would be issued. There may be a refinement of the conditions, such as allowing for the impacts on the point to be reviewed after construction but not the crazy demands the NPHPS tried for. Anyone out there who doesn’t think that if costs are awarded against the NPHPS that they’ll fold, not paying their debts?

All up awesome news and well done to everyone who’s been involved in getting this over the line, especially Bevan Woodward who has been pushing the project from the start.

The bad and the ugly

Yesterday evening I attended a community workshop/discussion about the East-West Link (while Auckland Transport tried to change the name to East-West Connections, the NZTA are using East-West Link). The purpose of the event was to discuss the project and issues in advance of the NZTA notifying it to the Environmental Protection Authority, something they intend to do in early December – just a month away. The EPA process was also used for Waterview, Puhoi to Warkworth and the Basin Reserve and means that a binding decision will be made within nine months of notification.

Given how much work goes into preparing for an EPA process, it means there’s unlikely to be a lot, if any change from what they showed. This suggests that the event was more of a box ticking exercise while also making sure they’re prepared in advance for the main issues that people will criticise them on. They did claim the design will evolve as the over the course of the process, like it did with Waterview but it’s unlikely to change all that much.

A key feature of the evening was the NZTA showing some of their latest designs for the project and there appear to have been some changes since we last saw them. For now we’re stuck with some phone photos but I’m sure they’ll release higher quality versions online in time.

The first and most obvious thing you may notice in the images below are the connections around Onehunga. I’ll come back to that in more detail later. Next you may notice the large areas of reclamation that are now proposed, this is quite different to the stark straight lines we saw in some earlier designs. These serve both to deal with stormwater and serve as mitigation to plonking a giant road down over what is currently a bit of a hidden gem. Through these areas are meant to be walking and cycling connections, including a boardwalk over the water between those two areas that jut out.

One of the big changes not really evident from these images is that the road had been pushed back and is now almost all on the existing land along the waterfront (where the cycleway is). This is mainly due to the difficulty they would otherwise have had in getting consent to reclaim land. There will still be some reclamation though, mainly for a bund to help stop stuff leaching into the harbour like it currently does.

east-west-overall-design-1

Further east you can see the connections to SH1 which includes upgrades through to past Princess St. The section over the port car storage area through to Gt South Rd is about a 1.4km long viaduct – one of the reasons the project is so expensive. One aspect they did confirm is that it has apparent the design allows for grade separation of the rail junction.

east-west-overall-design-2

Here are a couple of cross sections. The cycleway on the foreshore side but next to the road was described as a ‘high speed cycleway’

east-west-foreshore-road-cross-section

east-west-foreshore-road-cross-section-2

As mentioned, here’s a closer look at the design at the Onehunga end, perhaps best described as a sea of roads. One thing that I did learn was that the area past the port will actually be in a bit of a trench so will be partially hidden from the port area. The graphics are shown over the motorway bridge for clarity but they will be under it in real life.

east-west-onehunga-interchange-design

and here’s a more artistic view of it.

east-west-onehunga-interchange-design-artistic

Unfortunately, the photos I took of the design elements (highlighted by the pins) didn’t really come out well. It’s also not clear just how rail of any kind will get through this area if it’s getting to the airport.

The East-West Link is clearly a project that is going to be something that sees a lot of discussion over the next year so.

One less objection to Skypath

Some great news yesterday that the main objector to Skypath, the Northcote Residents Association (NRA), has withdrawn their appeal against the project. That leaves just the Northcote Point Historic Preservation Society (NPHPS) – made up of many of the same people as the NRA – opposing the project and it appears that their appeal is just on operational matters, not opposing the project itself.

Skypath Consent - Observation Deck

The second-to-last residents group holding up construction of the $33.5 million SkyPath bridge has withdrawn its appeal in the Environment Court.

The planned SkyPath would be a tube-like structure suspended beneath Auckland Harbour Bridge for use by for pedestrians and cyclists, with an entrance and exit point at Northcote Point.

On Wednesday, August 24, the Northcote Residents’ Association withdrew its appeal against Auckland Council’s resource consent for the SkyPath.

……

One other residents’ group is still appealing the SkyPath resource consent: the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society (NPHPS).

However, the NPHPS do not object to the SkyPath project outright but rather have requirements for its operation including: limitations on user numbers, a suitable parking scheme and their own recommended operating hours.

I don’t know the reasons the NRA withdrew their appeal but it wouldn’t surprise me if the cost of funding lawyers and experts to speak for them simply became too much, especially when compared against the chance of winning. We do know the NRA were actively trying to crowdsource funding with this givealittle page.

Of course saying that NPHPS are only seeking operational changes likely doesn’t reflect the true story as they could be seeking operational restrictions so tough as to try and make Skypath pointless.

Regardless of the reason, this is great news and hopefully means that consenting issues can soon been put behind us and focus can shift to construction.

There is no indication yet when funding could start but I’m hopeful we could see people crossing the harbour under their own steam, on foot or bike, by next summer.

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 unanimously approves Skypath

It was a fantastic day for transport in Auckland yesterday with the council’s Finance and Performance committee voting to support the project Skypath and doing so unanimously. Yes even long time opponent George Wood eventually agreed to support the project. It was decision that took over five hours to reach after listening to supporters and opponents of the project including our friends at Bike Auckland and Generation Zero.

Skypath Consent - Observation Deck

 

The council agreed to the recommendations from the agenda (below) with two amendments from Cathy Casey, that the council support children under 5 using Skypath for free and that dogs on leashes be allowed subject to negotiations with NZTA and health and safety regulations.

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.

I wasn’t able to be there, but thankfully this is one of the meetings that the council live stream and publish on YouTube. If you’re interested you can watch the various parts of the meeting here.

Barb Cuthbert from Bike Auckland spoke passionately about the project, from about 5 minutes in the first video

One of the funnier interactions of the day involved our friend Niko from Generation Zero. I thought his presentation was strong and effective, on top of which he handled the questions from councillors masterfully, and in particular George Wood and Cameron Brewer. A couple of highlights included:

  • George Wood saying to Niko that he’d love to actually meet the people who supported Skypath in Northcote, to which Chris Darby quipped that they’ve been emailing him.
  • Shortly after Wood asked Niko if he’d read the NRA submission to which Niko replied only briefly. Wood then followed that asking if he agreed they had some grounds for concerns leading to one of the replies of the day of No I don’t, that’s why I stopped reading”

There were plenty of other funny or noteworthy moments – such as the guy who referenced a truck falling off a cook straight ferry as a health and safety issue for Skypath.

Then there were the comments from councillors themselves. There were a lot of good comments from so many of them which was pleasing to see but also hard to include everything. So I’ll leave it with a few points from George Wood’s speech that I did agree with

  1. That Skypath should connect directly to Seapath. Where I probably differ from him is that I think it should do that as well as connect to Northcote Point.
  2. That the NZTA should be funding the full thing. In my view it’s crazy that such a vital piece of transport infrastructure needs to be proposed and funded by a private company because our transport organisations in the past simply ignored cycling. In perhaps a bit of irony, had the private company not been funding this, there is a good chance it would have been included in the Urban Cycleway Funding projects.

 

Here’s what the council had to say in their press release following the decision.

Auckland’s SkyPath project has been given the go-ahead to be delivered through a public private partnership, after a unanimous decision at today’s Finance and Performance Committee.
Auckland Council’s Governing Body will formalise the decision at their next meeting on Thursday 28 July.

Mayor Len Brown says SkyPath is a uniting project that brings Auckland together.

“In a short space of time we have made Auckland a cycle city – and this is the vital link for walkers and cyclists.”

The partnership with H.R.L Morrison and Co’s Public Infrastructure Partnership Fund (the PIP Fund) is set to be the first of its kind for significant infrastructure in Auckland by the council.
The public private partnership means construction, operation and maintenance of SkyPath would be financed and delivered by the PIP Fund for the contract period and there would be an admission charge for users of SkyPath.

The council would then provide a limited underwrite of the revenue. This means if minimum revenue streams from fares and sponsorship etc are not met, council will need to top-up funds to meet a pre-agreed amount. In turn, if profits reach a certain level, council and the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust will receive a share in these.
Auckland Council would also receive ownership rights and obligations at the end of the contract period.

Lastly, with this meeting, one thing that stands out to me is just how long it took. As mentioned it took over five hours of sometimes intense debate for councillors to agree on a critical project for the region being built by a private developer and for which the council have a very limited exposure to. Yet this same council will hand wave through a $2 billion roading project like the East West Link with barely a question or concern.

Still, lets celebrate a fantastic result and thank you to all who have helped make it happen. Now we just need to wait for the envrionment court appeal to be sorted and lets get this thing built.

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.

Skypath a step closer

Some great news yesterday that Skypath has cleared another hurdle with it passing wind tunnel testing.

Skypath Consent - From Westhaven

The $33 million SkyPath cycling and walking attachment to the Auckland Harbour Bridge just got a step closer following wind tunnel testing not finding any significant issues with the proposed structure.

In a progress report to Auckland Council, it’s revealed the testing was completed last month and consultants for the New Zealand Transport Agency are reviewing the results.

The SkyPath project will present the findings at a Governing Body meeting on Wednesday.

Opponents to the project have used the lack of testing as one of the reasons it should not go ahead.

However, Wednesday’s meeting agenda reports the wind tunnel testing did not identify any significant concerns and that NZTA’s consultants are currently reviewing the results and advise “it has not identified any significant issues”.

One of those opposing was of course North Shore Councillor George Wood who on Thursday was trying to scaremonger by invoking the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.

The update was part of a report to the council’s governing body next week where the council will decide whether they can enter into a public private partnership once all issues such as consent are resolved.

Next week Auckland Council’s Governing Body will decide whether the chief executive can enter into a public-private partnership to progress the SkyPath project, once all matters are resolved.

If the governing body agrees to progress SkyPath under the recommended public-private partnership option, it would be the first partnership of its kind for significant infrastructure in Auckland considered by the council.

The partnership would mean that the construction, operation and maintenance of SkyPath would be funded by the private sector for the contract period.

This approach would mean there is an admission charge for all users of SkyPath.

The council would provide a limited underwrite of the revenue, and assumption of ownership rights and obligations at the end of a contract period.

The private sector would manage the project costs, and the underwrite is a guarantee on a revenue stream that underpins the project.

The council would not be providing a return on capital for the private sector.

The great news is that if everything goes to plan, the project could be open fairly soon

Mr Woodward said if everything goes to plan, the path could be open by next summer.

Can’t wait

Residents Associations and the Communities they serve

The herald today has pulled the veil back on some of the key opponents battling Skypath in the Environment court and how they’re not at all representative of the views of the communities they claim to serve.

But three associations were not cheering – two based in the northern landing at Northcote Point and a third at the southern landing at Herne Bay – and appealed against the consent in the Environment Court.

With two groups from one neighbourhood opposing the project, as an outsider you would be forgiven for believing the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) and the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society represented the views of a community with genuine concerns about the project.

However, of the 382 submissions from Northcote, 29.8 per cent were opposed.

From what I’ve seen over the years, resident associations tend to be best understood the hobby horses for one or two individuals to pretend they have legitimacy to force their views on the wider community. They’re usually run as the personal fiefdoms with those in charge and are often very protective of who can join so they can retain control of the narrative. Take the Northcote Residents Association (NRA) as an example. The association say they cover the following area which is home to about 10,000 people.

Northcote Residents Association Ma

And their rules state that anyone from within that area can join

4.1 The number of members of the Association is unlimited and any person who is a resident or ratepayer of Northcote is eligible for membership and shall be admitted as a full member on

(i) payment of the subscription specified by the Executive;
(ii) completion of a membership 2 form; and
(iii) agreeing to abide by the Rules of the Association;
(iv) approval of the Executive in accordance with Rule 4.3 below.

But rule 4.3 is the kicker

4.3 A majority of two thirds or more of the members of the Executive, by resolution, may determine that any person’s application for membership be declined. The Executive shall not be obliged to provide any reasons for its decision.

So effectively the executive can kick out anyone who doesn’t agree with them, or in the case most rational people, they’ll leave once they realise they aren’t being represented and those in charge are using the association to further their own personal aims, not those of the wider community. And that’s exactly what has happened.

 

NRA chairman Kevin Clarke said there were no longer any members in the association who supported the SkyPath because they had all left.

“Thank God for that. They provided nothing. They did nothing. They were there to destroy and they damn near achieved it. They didn’t do anything positive. They didn’t do anything constructive.

“They didn’t do anything useful and they didn’t do anything to engage their mind in any of the problems that were blatantly presented by SkyPath’s hopelessly ill-resolved proposal.”

A quick search shows almost all of the ten executive members live on Northcote Point itself, living south of Stafford Rd/Rodney Rd.

The herald article highlights two former executive members who tried to have the NRA find out the actual views of the community but were shut down. This is something I first heard about at the time the Skypath submissions were under way. I also understand the executive had taken an official position of not supporting or opposing the project but then at the very last minute a core group submitted one anyway.

It’s also worth highlighting another issue raised

Mr Barfoot said having multiple societies set up made “it seem like there’s a grassroots movement against the SkyPath which is simply not the case”.

He’s referring to the Northcote Point Heritage Preservation Society which was set up in December 2014 during the submission period for Skypath. Many of the founding members are also on the NRA executive.

Of course these Northcote groups aren’t unique and there are plenty of others in various areas that will be similar. And there’s nothing wrong with associations supporting or opposing any project or plan. The issue comes when they claim to represent a community who most within that community probably don’t even know they even exist. Particularly on big discussions and especially RMA processes, perhaps these associations should be required to show the demographics of their members, the demographics of who within the community they’ve consulted and as a comparison to the demographics of the community they claim to represent.

To be fair, addressing the consultation problem is something we’ve talked about before and it extends much further than just residents associations. It applies equally to council’s and the government.

A Seapath to ride

Yesterday the NZTA (and AT) published and later pulled down – although we already saved a copy – a newsletter giving details about Seapath, the walking and cycling route alongside SH1 between Northcote and Esmonde Rd and importantly linking into Skypath. In the newsletter, the NZTA and AT call the project a critical link as it will combine with other projects in the future to improve options for walking and cycling on the North Shore and I suspect it will be very popular, much like the Northwestern cycleway is. The NZTA’s website suggests the project will cost an estimated $17-21 million.

The project actually started life as a result of the work done for Skypath in response to the complaints from some of the Northcote Residents. Here’s how they describe it.

During our consultation phase in 2012 – 2013, the Northcote Residents Association advised SkyPath shouldn’t proceed until we had a walking & cycling network link to Takapuna. Good idea we thought – so we developed the link, called it “SeaPath” and provided our SeaPath report to NZTA and AT. NZTA then commissioned further investigation and prepared a preferred option.

The project is one of the ones the NZTA said would benefit from a rule change last year allowing the agency to designate cycleways by themselves.

Like many other cycleways, Seapath will be a 3m shared path and the agencies say three route options were considered:

  • a landward route on the western side of the motorway
  • a coastal edge route on the eastern side of the motorway
  • a seaward route on a boardwalk on the eastern side of the motorway

They say the landward route is the preferred option and one of the advantages of it is it would provide easier connections to other local routes.

Seapath March-16 Route

click to enlarge

Interestingly the NZTA say another reason for the route selected was due to the it minimising the impacts on Shoal Bay which is home endangered species like Dotterels.

Shoal Bay and the surrounding area has a number of important ecological, cultural and historical characteristics.

Shoal Bay is a natural heritage location of regional significance and is home to extensive mangroves, saltmarsh and shellbank communities. It is also a key feeding and roosting area for migratory and coastal wading bird species including Oystercatchers, Caspian tern and NZ Dotterel.

It’s funny how that same concern doesn’t seem to manifest in the plans for an additional harbour crossing – which based on the last report envisages significant reclamation in the area

AWHC reclaimation needed

I suspect it’s the desire to plough more lanes through the area as part of an additional crossing that is actually the key reasons why the NZTA want it on the western side of the motorway.

That’s a shame as a seaward path like proposed alongside the motorway between Petone and Ngauranga in Wellington could be fantastic.

Wellington Petone to Ngauranga cycleway 1

Below shows the wider network and how Seapath would fit in.

Seapath March-16 connections

Overall this is a good project and it’s positive to see it being progressed. When combined with Skypath will really help in generating change and providing new options for people to travel. With them Takapuna would be 10km by bike from heart of the CBD. I’m already looking forward to both projects being completed.

As this would also help in providing options for people on bikes to avoid Northcote Point I wonder if it will help in the environment court mediation Skypath are currently involved in.

I understand the NZTA will be conducting some consultation on the route, possibly even starting today.

Guest Post: Why Northcote’s Residents are wrong about Aucklanders parking at Skypath

This is a guest post from our friends Niko and Emma from Generation Zero

Last week we again saw that Northcote residents are still adamant that users of Skypath will be turning up to Skypath in cars, and that this supposedly will have adverse effects on parking in the Northcote neighbourhood beyond what can be mitigated with a residents parking scheme.

However this point, which we heard throughout the resource consent hearings, was a huge assumption by Northcote residents and was lacking real evidence about Aucklanders preferences when using walking and cycling infrastructure for leisure and recreational purposes. Despite this assumption, claims made about the hypothetical effect of parking was and still is a realistic threat against Skypath going ahead, and so we decided to unpack the issue for the benefit of the commissioners.

Niko-Emma - Skypath header

So rather than rely on anecdotal evidence, like the defense, to make a case as to why people would not be turning up in their cars, we went back and asked the 11,000 people who submitted in favour of Skypath in January this year, exactly how they intended to use the future pedestrian bridge.

The intention of our survey was to find out, more exactly and specifically, how people intended to use Skypath. We saw the group who submitted in favour of Skypath as the fairest and most accurate group to ask, as these 11,000 people already stated they would be likely users of the Skypath service through their submissions. And we think this is a fair subject group, as people who hadn’t submitted in support of Skypath might be less likely to use the Skypath as frequently as those who had taken the time to make a submission. This is because people are more likely to go out of their way to submit on an issue if it directly affects them, and as future users of the bridge, Skypath naturally affects this pool of Aucklanders.

We let the survey run for a day. Mostly due to timing constraints before we had to present at the hearing. We received 1113 responses, which we think is an accurate and fair sample size of our 11,000.

Firstly we asked those who submitted on Skypath “What is your main mode of transport?”
58% said Car. This shows accurately the people who filled in our form are not just the cycling community. The results were fairly representative of inner city Auckland in general.

Niko-Emma - Skypath 1

Secondly we asked “What would your main use of Skypath be?” The results showed that most people wanted to use Skypath for recreation and leisure, 886 people in total. The rest would use it to get to work or to their place of education. Overwhelming they’re not commuters or tourist, they’re leisure people. This shows that the people in this survey strongly represent the group that is the most difficult to predict how they will use Skypath, information that before this survey, had been missing from research on Skypath. Unlike tourists who are likely to bus or walk or commuters who are likely to cycle, this group of leisure users could understandably drive or bus or walk or cycle. Therefore understanding this group’s specific preferences in particular is really important for understanding the actual impact of parking and traffic rather than simply speculating “that leisure users are likely to drive”.

Niko-Emma - Skypath 2

Then we asked “If you were to use Skypath during a weekday, how would you get there?” 61% said they would bike, 13% said they would bus, 12% would walk and 11% said they would bring their car. This shows that although cars are currently the main mode of transport for those surveyed, overall they did not have the intention to arrive there by car.

Niko-Emma - Skypath 3

“If you were to use Skypath during a weekend, how would you get there?”
60% said they would bike, 14% said they would come by car. This is a broadly similar outcome to the last question.

Niko-Emma - Skypath 4

“If it was made clear, in Skypath promotional materials, that parking was extremely limited at both ends of Skypath, how would you then get there?
Only 2.2% of people said they would still try to park as close as they could to Skypath. Otherwise, on realising that there would be poor parking facilities, they preferred to take other modes to Skypath or park elsewhere.

Niko-Emma - Skypath 5

The last question we asked “If safe separated cycle lanes were constructed at each end, how would you then get there?” got a considerably different result in that the number who said they would cycle jumped from 56.5% to 76.1%.

Niko-Emma - Skypath 6

This clearly shows that amongst Skypath’s potential user group there is strong demand for high quality cycling infrastructure. It shows that Auckland Transport’s planned investment over the next 3 years is bang on, and that while Aucklanders may seem to love their cars this is only because they are waiting for better transport choices.

These results show, more conclusively than anything else we’ve seen, that most people, most of the time, intend to use Skypath in a way that will have minor effects on parking or traffic. While we think it is probably fair that Northcote residents are granted some kind of residents parking scheme (to protect against the 2% of Skypath users who intend to try and hunt for nearby parking spots) we don’t think it is reasonable or fair that a few local residents make assumptions about the next generation of transport users moving through their area.

Skypath is going to be brilliant for Auckland. Let’s base its design on evidence and the city we want to create not just the outdated conjecture of a few.

Niko-Emma - Skypath footer