A Bike Auckland Timeline
For 150 years, Aucklanders on bikes have been bringing our city’s streets to life, and vice versa.
Our vision all along: safe routes and good roads, so we can travel freely under our own power.
Here are some highlights of our journey so far – and the healthy, happy future we’re moving towards!
Bicycle clubs like the Auckland Amateur Athletics and Cycle Club hosted group rides that drew hundreds of participants. They also campaigned vigorously for sealed roads and improved streets: ‘WE WANT GOOD ROADS’ says the banner at this November 1900 gathering. (Image: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections.)
The Auckland Cycle Roads League gathered over 2000 signatures towards a 10,000-strong nationwide petition from cyclists, asking Parliament for a dedicated tax to fund better roads. “We want cycle tracks” says the banner at a picnic on One Tree Hill on 20 April 1901. (Image: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection)
In 1903, the Birkdale Cycle League built three miles of bicycle track from Highbury Corner to Birkdale. “The first road cycle track made in the colony” was funded by donations, including a barrel of tar and a quantity of sawdust. The path was opened with a grand celebration hosted by the Mayor of Birkenhead; after a picnic and speeches, 300 riders set off on a ride along the new route. The new track quickly lifted property values in the district. (Image: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection)
In 1935, concrete bike lanes 8 ft wide were installed along 1km of Great South Rd from Penrose to Otahuhu, to provide a safe route for workers and school children. Led by the Otahuhu Borough Council, the project was supported by the Automobile Association. Two years later, similar lanes were proposed for Great North Rd in New Lynn. Little trace remains of either facility.
From the late 1930s on, cyclists by the hundreds took part in “mystery bike hikes”, riding en masse to a destination only revealed on the day. In this photo from March 1940, over 800 teenagers gather at the Auckland Domain to ride twelve miles to Tui Glen in honour of the centenary of pedal-power. (Image: Papers Past)
On 26 March 1976, Mayor “Robbie” Dove-Myer Robinson led a thousand Aucklanders in officially opening the bikeway on Tamaki Drive. A simple painted line on the footpath from the Ferry Building to St Heliers, it was intended by pioneer planners John Lewis and Graham Dickson as just the beginning of a citywide network – including the dream of a bikeway over the harbour bridge. (Image: David Lewis)
In the 1970s, against a backdrop of petrol shortages and a move towards sustainability, Friends of the Earth set up PATH (Pathways Across The Harbour) to campaign for bike access to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. They drew support from people all over the city, especially residents of Northcote and nearby suburbs who wanted to bike to work in the city.
From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, the Auckland Bicycle Association carried the torch of bike advocacy forward, leading the charge for better infrastructure in an era in which ‘vehicular cycling’ – riding amongst traffic – was the prevailing design philosophy. The ABA petitioned for what would become the NW cycleway and the harbour bridge crossing, and published a regular magazine, On Your Bike.
A new bridge over Great North Road at Waterview and a path through the grounds of Unitec replaced a roundabout route on busy roads. At the time, it was seen as the last major link along the Northwestern Cycleway, a route that had been patiently won over many years by advocates including David Knight and Kurt Brehmer.
The public yearning to be able to walk and bike over the Auckland Harbour Bridge swelled as the bridge’s 50th anniversary approached in 2009. The Get Across movement drew thousands of people to rallies, culminating in a breakaway crossing, and the creation of SkyPath: a citizen-led design championed by former Cycle Action Auckland chair Bevan Woodward and colleagues.
Around 2008, the painted bike lanes on Devonport’s Lake Road came under attack. Bronwen Jones and other community cycling advocates assembled a petition from over 4100 people, which helped save the day. Over a decade later, a proposal to upgrade Lake Road with bus lanes and protected bike lanes is still in the offing. Meanwhile, the bike lanes remain paint-only, but are well-travelled by commuters and school students, with usage accelerating in recent years.
In 2010, the SH20 route was completed with a path along the northern edge of Puketapapa/ Mt Roskill, thanks to a strong partnership between cycling advocates, the Mt Roskill Borough Board, Ngati Whatua o Orakei, Auckland Council, and the Transport Agency. Shown: Board Chair Richard Barter inviting Cycle Action’s John Gregory to ride the mountainside path, on opening day. (Image: John McKillop, ACTA). Nurtured by the Puketapapa Local Board, the Roskill Greenways continue to bloom with this collaborative approach, with the 2019 Te Auauga/ Oakley Creek Restoration project the latest jewel in the crown.
Max Robitzsch and Barb Cuthbert represented Cycle Action Auckland at the Board of Inquiry into the Waterview Connection. Alongside community advocates, they successfully made the case for what became the Waterview Shared Path. This victory transformed the way the NZ Transport Agency approached all new motorway projects, ensuring better connectivity for all travel modes.
The cycleway linking Upper Queen St to Beach Road via Grafton Gully was opened in September 2014. At the ribbon-cutting, Prime Minister John Key promised our chair Barb Cuthbert that more cycleways were on the way. The following year, that promise was delivered on in the form of the Urban Cycleways Fund, $100m of Crown funding that strategically unlocked local investment and launched a cycling renaissance in Auckland.
The SkyPath design, a public-private partnership, surmounted numerous hurdles including gaining resource consent in 2015 (upheld on appeal in 2016), in an extraordinary testament to Aucklanders’ determination to win walking and cycling access across their harbour. In 2018, the Labour-Green-NZ First Government committed to delivering a shared path via the NZ Transport Agency.
Once just a twinkle in our eye, the transformation of a disused motorway offramp into a sparkling, dynamically lit magenta pathway for walking and cycling heralded a new era of investment and vision for Auckland. Its less flashy sibling, the separated cycleway on Nelson St, rapidly became the city’s fastest-growing bike route.
The Quay St interim cycleway, with its protective planters and highly visible totem-counter, opened in July 2016. As with other central city cycleways ridership quickly exceeded targets: it saw 200,000 journeys in its first year. The cycleway was extended further east in 2018, and will continue along Tamaki Drive in 2020. Meanwhile, the current Quay St works under the Downtown Programme will reduce traffic lanes and install a permanent cycleway.
A model of community engagement, the Te Ara Mua – Future Streets project brought protected bike lanes, paths through parks, and calmer streets to Mangere Central. This exemplary project emerged from the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board’s vision for safer, healthier neighbourhoods – and revealed some of the system-wide barriers to more walking and cycling that will need tackling in order to achieve faster results for communities.
Ridership along connected bike routes rose dramatically in response to upgrades to the SH16 Causeway, the opening of Lightpath in 2015, the opening and extension of the Nelson St and Quay St cycleways in 2016-2018, and the smoothing out of the city end of the cycleway along Ian McKinnon Drive in 2018. Each new connection delivered a quantum leap, especially on the NW cycleway, and especially on weekdays: proof positive of the network effect.
Initially designed in 2017, this extension of the protected Quay St cycleway eastward along Tamaki Drive was redesigned after the Bike Auckland community asked Auckland Transport to aim higher. Scheduled for construction in late 2019, it will extend as far as Ngapipi Rd with clip-ons on the Ngapipi Bridge, and will eventually link into the coming pathway from Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive, creating a seamless journey from the east into the city. (Image: Auckland Transport)
Auckland Transport commissioned fresh designs for neighbourhood walking and cycling for the Waitemata Safe Routes project (originally scheduled for delivery by 2018, but delayed by a small pocket of resistance). The redesign drew warm public enthusiasm, and sets a strong new vision for how we live and move around our communities. We look forward to seeing these healthy streets in real life soon. (Image: Auckland Transport)
In May 2019, after decades of public demand and the perseverance of the extraordinary citizen-led SkyPath campaign, the NZ Transport Agency announced its preferred design for a walking and cycling path across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, bringing certainty at last for the city’s most glaring missing link. The soonest construction could start is late 2020, and it’s estimated it will take about two and a half years to build, meaning we’ll be riding across in 2023 at the earliest.