Albany: so much potential… so many gaps

Sep 15, 2019
Albany: so much potential… so many gaps

Bike Auckland

The Northern Corridor Improvement project will transform bike riding in Albany and the Upper Harbour area, NZTA is building 7km of shared path alongside the motorway from Oteha Valley Road to Constellation Drive and then up State Highway 18. This will *almost* link to a safe cycle route of 3.8km on Albany Highway.

In this guest post, Anna Atkinson explains that although locals are truly lucky that this is happening, in order to really make the most of it, the NZTA, AT and the Local Board need to work together and “think network”, to improve the connections into the local areas. (Note: Anna is running for Upper Harbour Local Board)

I live in Albany, an area with fantastic ribbons of green space, some bikeways, some connections, and huge potential. The riding routes aren’t quite as connected up as it should be, and we need to get it that way before the Northern Corridor project is completed in 2022. But unless we start now, in 2022 we’ll have an under-utilised bike path – just like we have now on the Albany Highway.

One of the nicest places to ride, Hooton Reserve alongside Oteha Valley Road – but currently, you need to drive to get there. (Image: Anna Atkinson)

The new paths form a nearly fully linked-up route connecting Albany Highway to the new motorway shared paths and back.  This then gives us a cycle path that runs past business areas, goes past two of the most congested Park and Rides in Auckland, past residential areas and the University.

And one day, of course, it will link to Seapath and Skypath in the South – and on to Upper Harbour Highway in the West. Oh, the joy on the far horizon! But… let’s focus on the current designs.

The new paths almost connect so many destinations in our neighbourhood, but they’re not quite there yet. All responsible parties – the NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transports and the Local Board – will need to work together to ensure that the new routes deliver their full potential. For example:

  • The new protected shared path will finish just west of Bush Road on Albany Highway. The existing protected shared path finishes just east of Bush Road. Between them lies a short but terrifying section that is just paint on the side of the road. By the time the Northern Corridor Improvement project is completed, this paint-only section will be a glaring gap in an otherwise linked-up piece of network. The NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport should fix this gap as part of the NCI project.
The very lovely Albany Highway shared path… shown before it just becomes green paint on the road. Paint is not protection, for adults or children. (Image: Anna Atkinson)
Where the shared path ends and returns you to the road. Good luck, kids! (Google Streetview)
How well do you think that painted bike lane stays clear of queueing traffic? Albany Highway, approaching the intersection with Bush Road from the west. (Google Streetview)
  • Getting to the new motorway shared path from the end of Albany Highway will require navigating a very scary bit of Oteha Valley Road. (Editorial note: OVR is a four-lane, 60kmh dual carriageway that has seen pedestrian and cycle fatalities in recent years) This could be solved with a widened footpath that becomes a shared path beside the road, linking to the pathways in Hooton Reserve.
  • Alternatively, you can ride through a green reserve… on a path that’s about a metre wide. Then walk your bike over some pedestrian bridges (admiring the ducks and waterway) to arrive in Kell Park in old Albany Village, beside the flying fox and lovely playground. At only 1m wide, this is not really good enough as a functional bike route for everyday travel.
Little in the way of safety or comfort for people walking or biking along 60kmh Oteha Valley Road. (Google Streetview)
  • Getting across Dairy Flat Highway by Albany Village used to be easy using the path under the expressway bridge. Unfortunately, this is now closed, so you must run the gauntlet of the road. NZTA are very slowly developing new plans for the bridge, but the Local Board must ensure a safe crossing option here.
The bridge over Dairy Flat Highway near Albany Village; a pathway under the bridge (not ideal, but an option) has been closed, leaving no safe way to cross. (Google Streetview)
  • Non-existent or sub-standard parts of the network exist in close proximity to the coming Northern Corridor path, and should be addressed. For example, Greville Road has a shared path halfway to Hugh Green Drive – but then there are several hundred metres of only narrow footpath, and no shared paths on Hugh Green Drive to enable cyclists to get from where they live to the Northern Corridor path.
Would you, could you, on a bike? Greville Road, where a stretch of shared path near SH1 (the gleaming white in the distance) feeds into to a frankly perilous skinny footpath, one one side of the road only. (Google Streetview)
  • Many other connecting paths and recent additions need further work to be accessible to all. For example, there are cycling paths along the Albany Expressway and up over green spaces to the new Tirohanga Whanui Bridge to the other side of the motorway. But why is there no safe bike crossing on the Corinthian Drive end of the beautiful new bridge? NZTA and Auckland Transport should work to fix this too.
Children from Pinehill School using the new Tirohanga Whanui bridge on opening day. (Image: NZTA)
… but where the spectacular new Tirohanga Whanui bridge meets local streets and paths, there’s a disconnect, as seen in this photo of the Corinthian Drive crossing – or lack thereof. Solving this disconnect is currently bouncing back and forth between AT and NZTA. (Photo by David Belgrave, via Twitter)

The list goes on. Let’s keep advocating and make sure the connections are made, and made well, so that people can get to the paths safely. Once these connections are completed, we can create a riding oasis in the northern part of Auckland.

— Anna Atkinson (Note: Anna is standing as a candidate alongside Nicholas Mayne for Upper Harbour Local Board, and would dearly love to see some of these connections fixed.)

The challenge is to ungap the map by 2022 – and help create a cycling oasis in Albany.

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