Sunday morning saw a large turnout for the sod-turning ceremony to mark the beginning of works on the Tamaki Drive Cycle Route. Ever since the far-sighted leaders of the 1970s painted a line on the footpath and called it the first of many Auckland bikeways to come, we’ve all been awaiting the proper waterfront promenade our city deserves, in line with the aspirational Tamaki Drive Masterplan.
The project – which should really be billed as “Tamaki Drive Roadway Raising for Climate Change Mitigation plus Bonus Bikeway and More Space to Walk, Jog and Run” – is set to be completed by Christmas.
In investment terms, this is a vital road resilience project, with delicious cycleway icing on the top. Works will cover 2km of Tamaki Drive, from The Strand to Ngapipi Road. The plan is to lift the road by half a metre in places to protect it from king tides and rising waters, as well as continuing the two-way protected cycleway from Quay St eastwards, adding trees and more space for walking along the way. The Ngapipi Bridge will get clip-ons for walking and cycling in a separate project.
It’s worth noting that the design reflects a fresh approach from Auckland Transport, in response to strong support from the public for an alternative proposal by Bike Auckland: a victory for everyone involved.
Underscoring how important this project is to us, scores of people on bikes showed up to the sod-turning – and scores more rolled past during the official ceremonies, demonstrating the massive potential of the city’s busiest bike route.
In particular, we were happy to see families, including some with kids who will bike this route to school; the venerable Auckland Cycle Touring Association (ACTA), who’ve been out there on wheels for over 70 years and showed up in force; and Teau “Mr T” Aiturau who rode in with his group from Mangere, via a photo opportunity at the top of Maungakiekie.
Of note: we valet-parked 75 bikes (not including our own and others parked around the periphery of the site), several with trailers and kids seats, and about a third overall were e-bikes.
• Check out our gallery of photos from the day below!
• Our Chair Barb Cuthbert chats with the Minister of Transport here
We were honoured to see Ngati Whatua o Orakei kaumatua there in such large and supportive numbers for an official mihi whakatau; this is right in their back yard after all. “Our leaders were great thinkers” said one of the kaumatua, referring to the relationship between Hobson and the iwi back in the day, but also with an eye firmly on the leaders in the room.
Leadership was powerfully evident in the speeches that followed, starting with Adrienne Young-Cooper, new chair of the board of Auckland Transport, who’d arrived by ferry and by e-bike. She said that as she left the house that morning, her husband had wished her a safe journey, saying “You be careful out there.” This is a daily scenario that’s all too familiar, and as Young-Cooper noted, we shouldn’t have to say that to each other; we should be able to embark on every bike trip, confident we’ll get there in one piece.
To remind everyone of the multiple benefits of the project, Young-Cooper asked the audience to put their hands in the air “if you ride a bike, if you care about Tamaki Drive, if you’re a bit worried about climate change, and if you drive a car.” Amid a sea of hands, she concluded: “Have I got a project for you!” She also reiterated the way this section fits into the bigger picture of a citywide network, as “a great stitch in the central city to Glen Innes cycleway project.” (Yes, we know you’re hanging out for news on that front too – and we hope to have some very soon!)
Minister of Transport Phil Twyford, resplendent in his green bike jersey, had also arrived on two wheels – analogue rather than electric. He spoke knowledgeably and fondly about the project, including memories of his son Harry first learning to ride a bike on Tamaki Drive. He painted the larger picture of this project as part of the government’s ongoing investment in walking and cycling in Auckland, including secure funding for the “breakthrough and iconic” path over the Auckland Harbour Bridge. There’s “a great Auckland renaissance” under way that will “transform the shape of the city for generations to come, with walking and cycling right at the heart of it.”
Mayor Phil Goff wrapped up the speeches with a salute to the joys of riding around the city. “Why wouldn’t you ride a bike, if you could do so safely?” (He also invited a certain vocal naysayer to get “on your bike”, either literally or metaphorically.)
And then it was time to turn the sod; a simple symbolic act, given extra resonance by the presence of mana whenua. As Minister Twyford said: “With your indivisible relationship with the sea, the land, the maunga, you elevate the simple turning of a sod to the sublime.”
The gruntier work will be getting under way shortly, with the project due for completion by Christmas. And then we’ll get to reenact this gorgeous scene, in full colour, at full width!