2015 was a phenomenal year for Auckland bike culture. Things are really changing, inexorably and permanently. Our utopian hearts want citywide revolution NOW (if we could only wave a wand and create bikeable streets everywhere, right this minute!) – but optimistic and pragmatic minds are excited to see the seeds of transformation firmly planted, and growing. It’s the culmination of many voices and hands over the years.
To put it in a visual nutshell, here’s a BEFORE pic (image via Google Streetview) of where Nelson St crosses Cook St:
And here’s the AFTER of the same spot. Photo by Tim Duguid, mid-afternoon, mid-week, mid-January, mid-city, mid bike revolution:
We could leave it at that, but that wouldn’t do justice to the major highlights of the year just gone… so make a pot of coffee and read on for details of bike-friendly projects across the city. There’s a lot!
The Big Picture
Probably the biggest news of 2015 was confirmation of the Urban Cycleway Programme (UCP) projects. With $100 million of extra Govt funding for cycling over 3 years (or $300+ million once Council and NZTA funding is included), cycling for transport is being taken a lot more seriously. Of course, this is only the beginning – in order to continue investment beyond 2018, NZTA wants to see urban biking trips up 30% by 2019 (which is to say, approximately 10 million more annual cycle trips than in 2015). So the urban cycleway money is “use it or lose it” in more than one way. This should help concentrate hands and minds to get those bikeways built. And once you build them, well… you know the rest. #quaxing and #hosking follows 😉
- As a crucial supplement to that Govt funding, Auckland Council passed the Transport Levy. Without local Council coming to the party with budgets and projects, the UCP would be bound to fizzle. Thankfully, not only has Auckland Transport gotten a much invigorated Walking & Cycling team with Kathryn King as the new head, Auckland Council also switched gears and passed a transport levy as part of its budget – with a sizeable chunk of it for cycling. Thanks to years of work by us, by you, and other groups like Transport Blog and Generation Zero, we convinced local politicians to put the money where their mouth is. Now they can take advantage of the UCP matching their funding.
- SkyPath gets resource consent! The other major event of the year. While the successful consent decision is still under appeal and currently in mediation, the hearings panel was firmly convinced that the massive benefits outweighed the concerns (both real and imagined) of some locals – and gave approval, subject to a number of reasonable conditions. We attended the hearing to represent all you people on bikes, and all those who want to be on bikes in the future, alongside Gen Zero, who we credit for their enormously successful campaign to get over 10,000 people to submit in favour. Here’s to a 2016 in which the decision is affirmed in appeal, so we can start with building the biggest missing link in our network… only 70 years after the government first promised Auckland a walking-biking-traffic harbour crossing!
- Also in 2015, the Cycle Safety Panel’s recommendations from 2014 started making their way into the system, assisted by the NZTA and MoT taking cycling more seriously (they finally have a real cycling team now). The report’s recommendations have been split into three tranches, from the simpler to the more complex and controversial, and we should soon see the first tranche passed into law.
- Cycling numbers in Auckland are on the rise again. Automatic counters were pretty flat through the 2014-2015 financial year, but the last six months of 2015 showed strong growth again, with some months up 10-20% over the same month the year before. Auckland Transport also installed a cordon of automatic counters around the whole City Centre, and we look forward to getting the data soon. This will give us a better baseline, to see how and where the Urban Cycleways Programme is working.
- Grafton Gully Cycleway numbers are looking good, confirming the success of this flagship project. Even better, the gains haven’t dampened cyclist numbers on Symonds St much, as some worried they might. In fact, Symonds St and Grafton Gully together carried over 50% more cyclists than one year before, when the new cycleway wasn’t open yet. And Grafton Gully is measurably attracting people who are new to city cycling.
- Talking of Grafton Bridge – we didn’t stop the taxi trial from happening, BUT early in 2016, we now hear that AT is planning on stopping the trial (!), because too many taxis were breaking the speed limit and the no-overtaking rules. (We wonder whether another factor is the way private cars have started creeping onto the bridge again, and the combined impact on bus circulation of the extra car traffic).
- After a campaign by us and Transport Blog, AT agreed that all cycle lanes should get yellow no-stopping lines. This comes after a long battle to convince the authorities that although it’s illegal to park in cycle lanes whether they have yellow lines or not, many motorists didnt know that – or didn’t care enough. The new policy, while far from fixing the issue, will at least make it a bit easier to deal with.
- AT also finally agreed that bus lanes aren’t proper cycleways, and has thus removed bus lanes from its maps of “existing cycleways.” This is another step change in setting appropriate minimum standards for bike facilities – very important as the urban cycleways get rolled out, and something we have been campaigning for for years.
- All work and no play makes Jack a dull bike campaigner. So we were happy to share the fun with a series of bike events across the year, organised by stalwarts like our Jessica Rose. We kicked off with Open Streets – where we had tons of fabulous people turn up for our “bike gang challenge” – and culminated in the “First Hoon” on Nelson St, where we filled the new Lightpath /Te Ara i Whiti flyover with thousands of riders on the first night. Its great to see so many of our supporters and fellow bike folk at these events. Advocacy can be a bit of a tough ride, so it’s great to celebrate the outcomes, and be reminded why we do it all!
2015 was also the year we consciously started channelling more support to local groups. We try to be there for you on the big picture – but we’re also keen to help with the close-up focus. Auckland is a huge city, and a big movement needs lots of locals too. Enter the “Bike Burbs” concept pioneered by our own Carol, to help share the successes of local cycling groups like Bike Devonport and Triple Teez (Mangere) with newcomers like Bike Avondale.
And of course, no small thing – we got ourselves a new look. After 20 years as “Cycle Action Auckland,” we renamed ourselves “Bike Auckland”, complete with a snazzy new logo. The change is part of our drive to acknowledge that the movement to encourage bikes in cities is a “big tent” – from activists to commuters to families – and that the whole Bike Auckland vision is moving on from being “outsiders” to being an integral part of a new, fresh Auckland.
And that’s not all! Across the city, all sorts of bike path and roading projects got the go-ahead. A huge part of our work is connecting you to the projects in your neighbourhood, so you can add your voice. Thank you all for your help in making these developments better for people on bikes! Read on for a roundup of each part of Auckland…
Central / Isthmus Projects
- The City Centre cycleways are finally coming together – connecting up, instead of the hodgepodge of isolated bits and pieces we had previously. The biggest event in the central city was the opening of the Nelson Street Project, Stage I – not only did this bring us a fabulous new flagship cycleway with a stunning colour-scheme that made it an instant hit with many thousands, we also got a proper two-way cycleway on one of the busiest and most cycling-hostile streets in Auckland (Nelson Street itself). We can’t wait for Stage II, which continues the protected lanes down to the waterfront – and the new Quay Street Cycleway. Both due in early to mid 2016.
- The beginning of 2015 brought us the first parking-protected cycle lane in Auckland, with the Carlton Gore Road cycle lanes. These were a (belated) victory for quality over “must keep car parking at all costs”: AT removed over 30 car parks to make the downhill protected lane happen (to think that in 2013, this was supposed to be a one-side-only cycle lane!). While the new protected lanes seem to work fine, the dangerous new signal arrangement at the top with Park Road remains a big fly in this otherwise tasty soup. Even AT have admitted the result is sub-optimal, due to their prioritising of traffic capacity. Lessons learned, we hope?
- 2015 was also the year Beach Road Stage II was completed – extending Stage I from the bottom of Grafton Gully towards Britomart. The downside here is that the new “cycle only” path of Stage II looks and feels way too much like a foopath, leading to pedestrians using it like yet another shared path. This wasn’t helped by the excessive subtlety of the initial cycleway signage (due to legal constraints; scheduled to be improved in 2016). Maybe, as with Carlton Gore, we need to see this one as a lesson learned – in this case, that sometimes good urban design intentions can overwhelm practical requirements. And that pedestrian desire lines are powerful things.
- We spent a lot of time during 2015 trying to get stalled safety improvements back on track for a couple of Auckland’s worst cycling intersections, both in the Isthmus – namely Bullock Track Great / Great North Road, and Tamaki Drive / Ngapipi Road. It is very worrying that even once an intersection has been identified as one of the Top 10 most dangerous intersections in the entire country, nothing much happens for years and years.
- One of the last big developments in 2015 was getting “socks” for Franklin Road at Christmas. After a big campaign by Bike Auckland, we saw cycle facilities return to the future layout of Franklin Road, where previous design stages had removed them entirely. Sadly, due to a mixture of car parking and driveway issues, the chosen solution isn’t a protected Copenhagen-style cycle lane. Regardless, we are now pushing to ensure that the design is made as good as can be… surely AT can find a way to clearly separate the cycle lane from the traffic lane (perhaps with a mountable kerb like in the image at right?). Watch this space.
- In the southern part of the Isthmus, the motorway cycleway works are proceeding. And the Waterview Cycleway finally got consented, and works started. It was also confirmed that the first part of the route towards Avondale / New Lynn will be included in the initial works, going as far as Trent Street / Blockhouse Bay Road (by late 2016 / early 2017), thanks to foresight by the Local Board and added funding from the Urban Cycleway Programme.
- Further east along SH20, the Hendon Park over bridge that will let walkers and cyclists cross over to the new shared path between Waterview and Maioro Street is also coming together. And at Memorial Park, the new “Eel Trap” Bridge (which even already has a Wikipedia Page) becomes part of the local path network, at the southern end of one of the Dominion Road Alternative Routes.
- In the same Owairaka area, along the upper reaches of Te Auaunga / Oakley Creek, Bike Auckland made submissions on a large stormwater / stream restoration project, and managed to get four sections of path widened (Link 1, Link 2) to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to share these Greenway routes through parks.
- The Albany Highway construction works are partly completed – resulting in the opening of the first parts of their Copenhagen cycle lanes. While the area will still be a construction zone through at least 2016, this is a great step forward, and another real flagship project. Once completed, local transport cycling – and cycling to the many schools along this road – will be a lot easier, safer and more convenient.
- We worked with NZTA on adding off-road cycleways along SH18 and SH1 as part of the “Northern Corridor” motorway project, and these were officially confirmed in 2015. (Note that although the cycleway along SH18 is confirmed, the specific route is not, which is why that’s a dashed line on the map). As in 2015, we will spend 2016 discussing with AT and NZTA to ensure the quality of the design. Be assured we will be pushing for good local connections to the new backbone cycleways.
- A project that has been silent for a while: we hear that the Northcote Safe Routes project, a new on-road backbone cycle route between Smales Farm and Northcote Point, has now been tendered for the next (detailed) design stage (tender for that closed end of 2015).
- Bike Auckland spent a lot of time during the year advising AT on, and submitting on various intersection projects on the Shore. This includes asking for better cycling conditions for projects like Kitchener Road / Shakespeare Road (still too many slip lanes!) and Victoria Road / Calliope Road (we like the proposed single-lane roundabout, but the devil is in the detail).
- Sadly, not much was happening in 2015 for cycling out East (i.e. especially the northern part of former Manukau City). The biggest flagship, the AMETI project between Panmure and Pakuranga, quietly slipped off the radar and way behind its original timeframes, and may now not happen for a few more years, leaving the short bits of initial cycleways high and dry. This is a real shame, as Stage II includes some pretty great new cycle infrastructure in one of the more quality-deprived parts of Auckland’s network. New Zealand still seems to build way more “motorways + cycleways” combos than “busways + cycleways” … even though the latter make just as much sense.
- There were some small additions or modifications to cycle lanes out east, like on Ormiston Road between Te Irirangi Drive and Chapel Road. We asked AT to modify that design to provide some level of protection to the cycle lanes next to the long slip lanes. AT subsequently added flexi-posts to discourage drivers from cutting across the cycle lanes – but stopped replacing the posts after they had been mowed down the third time (likely intentionally). Obviously, more solid protection is needed here – another lesson learned.
If we include the Eastern Central Isthmus, things look a little bit more positive for the easterly side of town:
- Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive Stage 1 construction has begun! After a consenting-related delay, we finally saw the kick-off for the first stage of the Glen Innes-Tamaki Drive cycleway. The first bit will extend from Glen Innes Train Station / Town Centre to St Johns Road on the crest – with some zig-zagging to take the bite out of the hill climb. We’re currently working with the Local Board, AT and NZTA to improve side-route connections to the new backbone cycleway, so it’s much better integrated with where people want to start from and where they want to go.
- AT is also separately looking at a whole suite of possible cycle improvements around the Glen Innes town centre, and is going for a “neighbourhood” approach rather than a “route” mindset. This will be great for both local cycling, and also for helping people find their way to the new longer-distance routes.
- At Grand Drive / Abbotts Way In Orakei to the northeast, we also headed off a massive design flaw in a new intersection signalisation. The total lack of any cycle facilities (on a major future cycle route!) in the initial proposal made us think we were back in the past when authorities considered cycling not even worth thinking of. We made a rightful fuss, you added your voices, and thankfully, AT eventually turned the decision around. Back to the future – cycle facilities will now be included in the design.
- In terms of “big ticket” items for the South in 2015, a proper off-road cycleway from Kirkbride Road to the Airport was confirmed for the western side, and works began as part of NZTA’s SH20A motorway works. The initial concept consisted of some very contorted back-route options, but tireless advocacy work ensured that we now get a much more direct route for workers to ride to the airport, and cycle tourists to travel into the city – rather than risk them getting lost in some industrial estate.
- Another even bigger project was the confirmed inclusion of cycleways on both sides of the new Takanini (SH1) Interchange. The initial design, which we pushed back on, had a shared path on the eastern side only. A surprise was NZTA’s inclusion of a new cycleway from Takanini southwards to Papakura, including a big new cycle overbridge at the southern end. While this will be a great new facility, we are somewhat concerned that it has only a few local side access points, so we are trying to get NZTA to add more accessibility. You’ll notice this is a common theme in all our work on big long-distance bike path projects: they need as much access and connection as possible, or they won’t be well used.
The Onehunga foreshore restoration paths opened in 2015 – including (thanks to your trusty Bike Auckland submission some years ago) extra widening to make it easier for riders to share with pedestrians. And AT included a cycleway on Orpheus Drive itself, alongside SH20, to improve things for riders who are travelling through quickly rather than ambling along the new coastline.
- Puhinui Rd and Browns Road in South Auckland both got cycle lanes in 2015, finally. These projects have been planned for many years, and the long timeframes sadly also meant that the designs are old-fashioned – in that they’re paint only, and decidedly “unprotected”. We need to do better for the South. Many areas in the former Manukau City, despite being quite flat (certainly a lot flatter than the Central Isthmus) have some of the lowest cycle mode share of Auckland. No surprise there.
- Talking of better quality, and as part of a vision to address this, the first works began on Te Ara Mua (Future Streets Mangere), a “test area” project that aims to provide better cycling and walking conditions for a very car-centric area around the Mangere Town Centre. The main works, including several shared paths and some protected cycle lanes, are proposed for 2016.
- The NW cycleway along SH16 between Pt Chevalier and Te Atatu has been hugely upgraded, opening in several stages across the course of the year (see photo for an example of one of the new bridge sections). The new Te Atatu underpass is a massive boon to those biking straight through (and a thing of artful beauty). And the new underpass at Patiki Road is closer to being finished than originally hoped for – it should be open by mid-February.
- On Central Park Drive, a shared path built early in the year closed an existing gap between the NW cycleway and Trusts Stadium / Twin Streams cycleway. Built as one of the first projects to get (a small sum of) Urban Cycleway money, this 500m long section may not be very flash, but it’s a great case of “the sum is greater than the parts”. You don’t notice a missing step once it’s been fixed – but you’d never cope without it!
- Talking of other bits and bobs that make the whole work better, the last works – the boardwalk section – have started on the shared path between the Pt Chevalier Interchange and the Eric Armishaw Reserve.
- A somewhat bigger bit for a much larger bob was the opening of the first stages of the Te Whau Pathway, which will one day extend along the whole western coastline of the Whau River Estuary, from Olympic Park in New Lynn to Te Atatu Pensinsula. This project was envisaged by a local community group, and has been taken up by Council / Local Board – we love people who dream big for Auckland!
- Speaking of big – NZTA are doing more motorway widening, this time between Lincoln Road and Westgate. While we’re disappointed to see more car lanes when we really should be building a busway here instead, we have to say that NZTA were very good in terms of taking on our comments on the extension of the NW Cycleway – so, yes, we will get a new cycleway all the way to the yellow overbridge at Westgate! They may also incorporate some key improvements to side accesses we have asked for, including adding an access point back in at Huruhuru Road, which was missing in an earlier design we commented on.
- Another big project in the area is AT’s revamp of Te Atatu Road. This is one where we have a lot of history – we were instrumental in getting a lot of support for it years ago when cycle facilities where first mooted for the upgrade. Some years on, we’re not quite as happy with what was agreed back in ~2012 – a shared path and wide lane on the western side and a southbound cycle lane on the eastern side. But that’s the classic problem with these longer project timeframes – too often, by the time it’s built, best practice has moved on. These improvements for Te Atatu Road will still make cycling here a lot easier – but by the time it opens, Auckland cycling standards will already have moved on.
- Not to forget, as already mentioned above for “Central isthmus”, one of the biggest low-key items of the year: the consents for the Waterview Shared Path were finally granted late last year, and enabling works have now started, with a hope to finish the path late 2016 / early 2017 – including a spur line towards Avondale as an “early start” to the Urban Cycleway Programme bike path to New Lynn. Woohoo!
And what will 2016 hold…?
You tell us! We can see a few things sparkling in the old crystal ball, for starters…
- We hope to see Skypath fully approved and delivery started, to mark the 70th anniversary of the government’s pledge on Auckland’s fully accessible harbour crossing.
- We’d like to see lower urban speed limits up for discussion: on streets where people live, bike, and play, surely 40 is fine? Maybe 20 is plenty! How can local streets (and major roads) be tactically tamed to make them safer?
- We’re also hot on the subject of side-road priority – that is to say, giving right of way to people on bikes / on foot who are travelling in a straight line, so turning vehicles have to give way. It’s on the change list, but will be a big fight (remember how people said the sky would fall if we changed the left turn/ right turn give-way rule)?
- Speaking of hot, we’re keen to see how our cities can help deliver on the Paris climate accord. Every trip you opt to make on two wheels or two feet is a vote of confidence in our power to cool things down a bit!
- With everyday biking catching on, we want to know: what can local shops and schools and workplaces do to help encourage and reward those who hop on a bike?
- How can we turn the tide for kids, and make biking and walking to school an instinctive option again? More speed limits around schools – 30 km/h, not 40 km/h, and permanently, not from 7:35am to 8:35am – would be a great start.
- More bike parking, more bike events, more ‘bike burbs’, more people on more kinds of bikes, more bike fun!
- And let’s build on the success of the new projects. Let’s continue to expect better and demand more! We are as strong as our combined voices.
What else is on the horizon? Tell us, below!