Recently, Auckland Council’s City Centre Advisory Board published a report discussing the City Centre’s Priority Cycle Routes (see Page 25 onward). These are a number of exciting projects and would do a lot to actually create a City Centre network, not a few isolated routes.
However, except for Nelson Street and Beaumont Street, these projects are currently unfunded – and whether they will go ahead any time soon will depend almost entirely on whether Council, in the funding decisions that will be happening in the first months of 2015, gives cycling a boost. From past experience, we have to bear that in mind when we look at lovely plans and visuals.
That cautionary note aside, lets talk about the six priority projects. Apologies for the low-quality scans (click to embiggen) – that’s how they look on the Council website.
North South Route (AKA Nelson Street Cycleway)
This cycleway idea, while not invented by CAA, was successfully pushed by us to the front of the queue this last year. When NZTA decided that it was not only feasible (if, in some locations, differently than envisaged by us) but could be done pretty quickly, we were ecstatic.
NZTA has since decided to go for an overbridge from Canada Street near South Street, to get onto the old off-ramp. This is now a quite long bridge, and a permanent one to boot – however, fabrication of the steel truss will take several months, even after the tender is awarded (tendering will close in January). So sadly, there won’t be Summer cycling on a new Nelson Street – construction is intended to be completed June 2015 earliest. But NZTA’s team is very much on the ball – we know their staff from working with them on other construction projects, and we know they haven’t been dragging their heels on this one.
This project’s part under AT management will initially “only” got to Victoria Street in the first stage – though that is already further along than the Wellesley Street / Cook Street minimal options. It is intended to also open middle of next year, coinciding with the NZTA opening their bit on the old off-ramp. AT is currently consulting with the affected locals.
North of Victoria, timing and options in the second stage to get to the Waterfront have not been finalised – though it looks like AT feels the “yellow route” via Sturdee Street looks more feasible in the short term. AT will include cycle crossings in their plans for new signal pedestrian crossings at the eastern side of the Nelson Street / Sturdee Street intersection to future-proof this.
Also visible in the map shown by Council is the Pitt Street link – yes, Pitt Street is also intended to get a cycleway as part of this project (but not in the first stage, which is why we are currently discussing with AT how to make it easier to reach the southern starting point of the Nelson Street off-ramp cycleway from K’Road).
Beaumont Street Cycleway
This cycleway between the popular North Wharf areas of Wynyard Quarter and the start of Waterfront Auckland’s “Westhaven Promenade” has seen some significant pushback from local property owners. Originally intended as a two-way cycleway as on Beach Road, this “interim” scheme has now changed to a shared path.
A sad outcome for this flash new suburb of our city, and not very bold for Wynyard Quarter, where the District Plan itself intends a 70% mode share for non-car traffic. We understand that AT’s designers have at least managed to provide a door buffer zone in addition to the shared path, so you don’t get the Tamaki Drive experience of car doors opening into your way.
We hear this is intended to go to construction early in 2015. Exact date unknown.
Quay Street Cycleway
Now this one’s a bit bolder again. A proper cycleway on Quay Street along pretty much the whole urban length. It is great to see that this is now proposed to be a Beach Road style design, where the difference between the pedestrian space and the cycleway is very clear.
As we discussed in a recent article, a pedestrian-heavy zone like the waterfront is probably the worst spot ever for a shared path. It is great that AT and the City Centre Integration Group seem to agree that pedestrians and cyclists both will be better off with people on bikes being given a dedicated space.
Timeframes are unknown – and while quite cheap, we don’t know yet how strongly AC/AT want to push forward with this. It seems however from these designs that it could proceed without needing to waiting on the wholesale Quay Street renewal planned by Council, which would make it more likely to happen early on, rather than in 5-10 years.
West-East Cycle Route
This scheme has been signalled for a while in the City Centre Masterplan-related project studies, for example in this study. This is supposed to become the key inner-city west-east route, and is to be a combination of protected one-way lanes (Victoria), cycle path (Kitchener) and shared path (in the Wellesley East tunnel under Symonds Street).
It will be a complex project, shown among other things by the various designs along the route, and the pricetag – at almost $8 million, the highest by far in the whole list. We probably shouldn’t get our hopes up about seeing this all too soon, especially as it likely would go hand-in-hand with other City Centre renewal roading projects, instead of being done on its own (this link to other projects could be both a boon or a problem).
However, a part of the easternmost section under Symonds Street to link to the Grafton Gully Cycleway could be done much faster – the tunnel is already wide enough.
K’ Road Cycleway
It wasn’t too long ago that AT actually removed the centre part of K’Road from the Auckland Cycle Network (we never found out why…). Well, K Road cycling is back front and centre on Councils agenda, and plans are to make cycling much safer along this route which is already very busy with people on bikes (though less confident riders still steer away at the moment). And of course this would tie in beautifully with Nelson Street and similar projects.
The proposal mentiones protected one-way lanes, though the imagery seems to show (paint)buffered lanes only. We won’t take this too seriously yet, as we will engage to get better protection, and an artist impression isn’t anywhere near the final word.
Interestingly, they are proposing a bus stop design here that has been used in Australia, which basically creates a raised table shared space between the pedestrian waiting zone and the bus kerb. Cyclists have to slow down here, and give way to pedestrians who are boarding or disembarking a bus.
Not absolutely ideal – but lightyears ahead of any design where cyclists have to merge into the general traffic lane when a bus veers into their cycle lane to stop. Confident cyclists may still overtake buses on the outside, but otherwise this may be a good design for a constrained cross-section where cycleways would be difficult to fully separate around the back of a stop.
Thanks in a good part to our friends among Gen Zero who successfully interested many local retailers in getting more cyclists to K’Road, this cycleway project may happen earlier than the long-sought Ponsonby Road cycle lanes. Wonder whether the Ponsonby critics will get the point when K’Road becomes hipper and busier than their street? A real competition of ideas & style!
Ian McKinnon Drive Cycleway
This last project, unlike most of the above, is all about improving an already existing (and busy) route which has some key faults. Creating a new cycleway on the western side of the corridor would make it much easier to get to the city along both the Dominion Road and the Northwestern Cycleway route. For the latter, the new cycleway would also remove the need to first go up onto the Newton Road interchange overbridge and then immediately be forced to drop down again – which would be much appreciated by anyone who isn’t training for a hill-climb race.
It would also ease the conflicts on the shared path on the eastern side a bit. Lots of pedestrians and cyclists combine here, not always perfectly.
An interesting tweak in this latest scheme design is that one of the southbound lanes on Ian McKinnon Drive might be removed. Yes, we could see that working – IF stakeholders can be convinced that it wont bring the evening peak traffic to a halt. The alternative option would require some costly retaining walls along the motorway to support the new path. The bolder approach like this could save a lot of money, and also reduce the racetrack nature of this road.
One of the key items we have been pushing for improvement for are the signals on Upper Queen Street – with the current layout, many cyclists ignore the wide cycleways between the two ends of the bridge, because the cycle signal phases to get to them are much slower in practice than riding on road. CAA is still trying to get a Barnes Dance arrangement or similar here. This project may be our best bet to get this included.
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So there you go – some interesting schemes for the City Centre. Lets hope that 2015 brings us progress on these and other schemes.