Well, nobody can say 2018 was a dull year for cycling in Auckland. It featured a few big victories, some typical setbacks, and some unexpected happenings, both good and bad. And above all, biking continued to grow in momentum, diversity, and style, and give us all a lot of joy. So here’s to 2018!
Let’s scroll through the calendar and capture some of the highlights…
It was a heated start to the year: we’d only started our summer holidays when news arrived that works on the Quay Street Stage II bikeway expansion had been (temporarily) halted by protesters, As we explained in a blog post and an article for The Spinoff, the protest was never really about the trees. The project eventually proceeded smoothly, resulting in a gorgeous new surface to ride on, and paving the way towards further improvements to come further along Tamaki Drive.
January also saw the release of a draft transport budget that proposed slashing the bike budget by 90%!! Thankfully, after immediate and furious protests from almost all corners (including the new transport minister), AT quickly withdrew the budget, which bore the signatures of senior staff, saying it had been released in error. As we were to discover in 2018, even with an official new direction for transport that ostensibly had everyone pointing in the same direction, it paid to be vigilant…
The redesign of Grey Lynn’s streets dominated a lot of our time – and a LOT of media discussion around biking in Auckland. So it was great in February to be able to help our friends at Generation Zero organise Bike to the Future 2, a happy ride of many hundreds of people, showcasing the diversity of those who want bikeways not just in the City Centre and along motorways, but right in our neighbourhoods. Encouragingly, the new CEO of AT Shane Ellison made an appearance, and spoke of AT’s “unwavering commitment” to making Auckland a better place to bike.
“Don’t take anything for granted – advances need to be fought for” could apply to a lot of things that happened in 2018. In March, for example, we highlighted a safety upgrade proposed for a Papatoetoe intersection – which, instead of fixing a bike lane gap through an already convoluted intersection, made it worse with a multi-lane roundabout! We pushed back, with your strong support, and significantly transformed the outcome.
In March, after noticing that blog posts and info on safe and fun routes to ride with small kids have always been some of our most popular resources, we created a popular new volunteer-powered page of great places for family rides. (Since then, Auckland Council has also established a helpful web database of walk & cycle paths here.)
In April, in partnership with Newton Central School, Bike AKL proposed a design that would add a separate footpath to one of our oldest, narrowest, and busiest sections of bikeway. As the number of people on bikes grows, so do the “problems of success”. Narrow bike paths like the Northwestern – built when nobody expected a thousand riders a day and many hundred walkers – are becoming less and less pleasant, both for riders and walkers. While our suggestion met with lots of public enthusiasm, the limited funding means that as 2018 came to a close, the budget for the upgrade had still not been found. Meanwhile, bike traffic along this path rose more than 10% across the year, and will continue to boom, so the urgency only increases.
Around the city, pump tracks are the new (old) favourite playgrounds for youngsters. Popping up in all sorts of places, both as permanent and temporary installations, they are a great way of showing that biking is an awesome way to get young legs pumping – resulting in serious determination and gleeful grins, such as at this April Women in Urbanism event with Sarah Walker in Grey Lynn Park.
Building a cycling city is cheap, compared to the alternatives. But it still costs a few bucks, especially after decades of neglect and billions and billions poured into cars. In April, Auckland Council and Government, led by Transport Ministers Phil Twyford – pictured here at the first Lightpath Festival – and Julie Anne Genter, announced ATAP, an agreement for how the next 10 years of Auckland’s transport would be co-funded. Included were many hundreds of millions targeted towards road safety specifically for pedestrians and people on bikes, completing the delayed Urban Cycleway Programme – and new funding for further bikeways, including SkyPath.
The fine print contained a few disappointments – the ambitious ten-year business case from Auckland Transport’s bike team for new cycleways was only half-funded – but overall ATAP was definitely a massive step forward in setting the scene for the next few years. And, half a year after the national election, it brought certainty to many projects that had been stuck in funding limbo.
In May, with the release of the report into Auckland’s rise in traffic deaths and serious injury, safety became the watchword. We wanted to check that AT was on the same page with us when it came to the safety of people on bikes.The lower Queen St section of the Northcote Safe Cycle Route (pictured above) was a timely example on which to test this. (As of this writing, we await the results of a further safety audit.)
May also saw the first of our winter fundraiser get-togethers, in the form of the Big Bike Debate, moderated by MC Wallace Chapman and pitting two teams of comedians against each other, on the topic That Auckland Looks Better on a Bike. Did we settle the question once and for all – or will we have to have it out again in 2019? Watch this space.
June brought a surprise bikeway project, in the form of proposed improvements to humanise Cook St and the area between Nelson St and Victoria Park – aka Victoria Quarter, which is home to a surprising number of people. We can only hope AT continues to seek opportunities like this to reshape streets towards the human scale, especially in the city centre and town centres where people congregate and walk and bike.
In July, as Auckland’s light rail projects moved forward, we proposed a design and launched a campaign to include bikeways in the design for Dominion Road. The straightest, flattest, and most direct route through the heart of the isthmus, Dominion Road is a dream cycling. The project is currently being worked on inside of NZTA, so we have nothing to report yet, either way. (Which reminds us – have you signed the petition?)
In September, the vision of a walking/ biking crossing on the Auckland Harbour Bridge got a significant boost with the news that the Government would fund and deliver SkyPath. Woohoo! While there is still a way to go with design and construction (like light rail, the project sits inside NZTA for now), the prospect of a walkable and bikeable (and scootable!) harbour crossing is now securely within reach.
September also saw an important chunk of the Northern Corridor cycleway click into place, with the installation of the Tirohanga Whanui bridge, reconnecting one side of SH1 to the other at Albany. Great to see progress on this project, which is steadily chugging away.
October was Biketober and for the second year in a row, we curated a calendar of spring fun on wheels across the city, culminating in the return of the Bike Rave which drew hundreds of lit-up revellers of all ages. Truth: the urban jungle looks better on a bike.
In November, the AMETI project surged back into public consciousness – and, with contracts signed in January 2019 this busway and cycleway project will be a transport river bringing life to a car desert, and bikeways to a part of town that sorely needs them. Our next question, which we’ll be pursuing strongly in 2019: what’s the plan for safe cycling links, the tributaries that will bring people on bikes towards the great new river of transport?
November also saw the release (after almost a year of design work and consultation with community liaison groups) of a fresh new design for the Waitemata Safe Cycle Routes through Grey Lynn and Westmere. It’s absolutely exemplary – ample consolation for the delay in delivery – and a summary of public feedback should be available in the next month or two – leaving the question of when Auckland will see this model healthy streets project proceed to construction?
Another one for the “don’t take anything for granted” files: in November we encountered the design for a massive new roundabout on the Dairy Flat Highway, a long-awaited safety upgrade that left something to be desired when it comes to safety for those on bikes. This is a major roadie route, rather than a local commute route – regardless, in AT’s new safety-conscious era, we expect better, and we made that clear. We’re currently awaiting an update on the design.
Also in November: the surprise (not unexpected, but rather sudden) closure of the Old Mangere Bridge meant a speedy upgrade was needed for the alternative path across the harbour for those on foot and wheels. The “Southern SkyPath” underpass under the New Mangere Bridge got a fresh paint job, new lighting, security cameras and security guards. We worked swiftly with NZTA and team to communicate your concerns and ensure the new route stands up to the community’s transport needs and safety standards.
In December, members of Bike Albany, Nicholas Carman and Jack Donaldson accompanied Darryl Ovens, whose wife Christine died crossing Oteha Valley Road, to deliver a powerful 3000-signature-strong petition to Auckland Transport asking for urgent safety upgrades to this notorious boulevard. While AT is working on new crossings and a safer speed limit, we await specific contributions to safety for those on bikes, as scoped in the Corridor Management Plan.
A little rain did not dampen the enthusiasm at our second annual Lightpath Festival on the first of December and we were honoured to have the Mayor there to open the ceremonies. Aucklanders big and small came to dance to the samba beat, play on the open streets, enjoy public spaces reclaimed from car traffic, and party on the path!
A sweet way to wrap up the year: in December we celebrated the completion of the Ian McKInnon Drive cycleway at the city end of the NW Cycleway. This short but clever connection removes the tiresome (and dangerous) up-and-over across the Newton Overbridge, and simultaneously brings to life a neglected park under the viaduct. It also creates a magical bike hyperloop that lets you ride uninterrupted all the way from St Lukes Rd to the Nelson St end of the pink path. Beat that, Elon Musk!
And this is just some of what the year brought. Towards the end of the year, news came of a significant reorganisation inside Auckland Transport, and we look forward to confirmation of what this will mean for cycling.
In safety news, we saw the first moves towards safer speeds around the city, including new safe speed area treatments in neighbourhoods and town centres. We tracked the human cost of delay on safer road design, and spoke up when roading projects revealed the gap between Vision Zero language and road design reality. We talked to doctors about the perils of their cycle commutes to work at hospital – a paradox that shows the crucial link between transport options and a healthy city.
Meanwhile, new research underlined what we already suspect about the power of e-bikes, and confirmed that most Aucklanders like bikes and reckon bikeable streets are a positive addition to the neighbourhood (this surprised a noted naysayer). We also assessed a tactical bikeway project, as a sample of how safe spaces for biking could be delivered more quickly around the city. And all over the city, local powerhouses powered on: the school Bike Train pulled into town, and our Bike Burbs brought bike energy to town centres, group rides to the community, and righteous fury and local knowledge to crucial safety fixes.
This summary really only scratches the surface of some of the challenges we tackled, initiatives we sparked, and wins we celebrated in 2018 with the help of our volunteers, paid staff, local advocates and many allies and friends.
Our heartfelt thanks to all our helpers, and to all of you out there who are doing the most important thing of all: supporting the vision of Auckland as a truly bikeable city by just getting out there and riding.
Roll on 2019. Let’s kick up the pace!
Feeling fired up and ready to lend us your energy? Great! We have heaps of ways to get involved. You can volunteer your time and skills, join us as a supporting member (and enjoy heaps of benefits), make a donation to support our work, or get involved at the local level via our Bike Burbs. And be sure to sign up to our e-news to stay in touch!