A Big Part Of Whau River - Copyright CC-BY-2.0 by Phillip CapperCAA doesn’t actually build any cycleways – we support others who do. And one of our core values is linking groups – departments, funders, local authorities and community organisations – to encourage them to see the mutual benefits of a great cycle network.

Many of the community groups in particular already have great visions for their particular area – and increasingly, nobody needs to tell them the value of cycling. One of those great groups we recently got into contact with is the Whau River Catchment Trust / Friends of the Whau. They are a group based, unsurprisingly, around improving the natural environment – and people’s appreciation of – the Whau River in West Auckland.

The Whau is the great estuary / river wending its way towards the Waitemata between what used to be Auckland City and Waitakere City. Like much of Auckland’s waterways and coastlines, it has a lot of modification and damage to its tributiary streams and the coastline itself. While most of it is held in public land, it is very hard to access and enjoy – almost impossible so without a boat. The trust, and their ‘Friends of the Whau’ volunteer arm, have made it their goal to improve the natural health of the area, and enable people to enjoy it.

And boy, one of the projects that they have created has really caught our attention:

Whau West Greenway MapThe Whau West Greenway

Based on the Greenways philosophy – walk & cycleways connecting our parks and open spaces in a safe and people-friendly manner – they have created a scheme that would result in a path along the western coastline of the Whau from Olympic Park in eastern New Lynn up to SH16 in Te Atatu.

Think “Twin Streams along the Coast”, following the shore for about 15 km.

Of course we couldn’t but offer our whole-hearted support. We are happy to report that in our first meeting, we hit it off well with their people, and are already discussing ways to help them push the first pilot projects for the Greenways scheme. In fact, there may even be a chance to extend it further north, and not let the idea stop at the motorway – why not let Te Atatu Pensinula enjoy that link along the coast as well?

Community Cleanup DayProjects like Whau West Greenways will take time to become reality – but unlike on our roads, where every cycleway seems to be a battle, a “zero-sum” game (at least in some people’s minds), on these projects, we all get to win right from the start.

From locals who can suddenly appreciate (and care for) the environment in their “back yard”, to school children and commuters getting a new way to avoid driving, to a new route for recreational outings by foot or bike on a pleasant days.

School Child CyclingWe look forward to another great idea for Auckland becoming true. And if you want to help, you now know where to go!

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15 responses to “Cooperation goes a long way – all along the Whau River

  1. Would be a beautiful track, and as built mostly on what is marshlands now, would have little land acquisition (but a fair bit of difficult pile driving)

    Cheers for providing a high qual image to really look close 🙂

  2. This is great, but I wish priority in this area was given to commuting rather than recreational cycling.

    At present anyone coming from Titirangi, Glen Eden, Kelston and New Lynn who wants to connect with the Northwestern cycle way has to cycle along the pure misery that is Rata/Ash Street/Great North Road.

    It really takes a high degree of motivation (and sometimes physical courage) to want to navigate the near gridlock along that route between 7.30-9.30am and then again from 3.30-6pm.

    1. We feel and share your pain, Nick. Cycle Action is trying to get improvements on this bad boy of a route – and would love you to flick your comments to Auckland Transport website. We are asking them to work more closely with us to invest now in linking up this busy skeleton of primary cycling routes. A friendly message from you saying you’re backing our request would be v helpful. Make it short and snappy message.
      This doesn’t have to mean we don’t get on board with these local community initiatives as well, we can do both and end up with options for a range of cycling.

    2. Hi Nick

      Timely that I read this just a minute after reading an article that highlights how (in the UK and US at least) many cycle advocacy groups focus on “cycle commuting” and some act as if there isnt a wider “bicycle culture” out there.

      [Full disclosure – I currently don’t cycle commute, but am planning to move out west, and then will do just that. And in fact, the route along GNR you describe is a major reason we aren’t looking to move to Avondale 🙁 ]

      To answer your wider question: There is a lot of focus in CAA on cycle commuting – witness our work on the Northwestern Cycleway, and its various routes to it. Or, as Barbara mentioned, our work on the other “cycle highways” for the future Auckland Cycle Network.

      However, projects such as Greenways will help us get cycling anchored in the wider population, rather than be seen as the domain of some lonely warriors braving the roads during rush hour. In the long run, that will do more for commuing cyclists than focusing on their specific needs only. That person trying to agressively overtake you on the road now may still be driving to work in 10 years. But he will be much more likely to have just come back from a weekend bike ride with his family, and see you as a fellow being, rather than an obstacle…

      Even more importantly, Greenways will not “steal money” from any other cycle initiatives. The project runs 95% through local parks and reserves, and as such doesn’t come under the classical cycle funding, nor even typical transport groups. And we certainly will look to ensure that the Greenways is useful for commuters, even if that is not their primary purpose (that said, a lot of school children will commute on them).

  3. Hi, it’s great to know that it’s not a matter of either/or, and I completely buy the argument that making more provision for family biking might create a more cycling-friendly environment generally.

    Besides this, I think the proposed cycleway looks like a great place to walk, too (when I’m not on my bike I am an ardent pedestrian).

    I’ve sent what I hope is a constructive message to Auckland Transport.

    I never intended to cycle into work, when I moved out to Glen Eden from a flat in the CBD 18 months ago. However, I figured out last year that it took me the same time to bike in to the CBD, as it did to catch the train in from Fruitvale Station and then walk to the university at the other end. That saves me over $200 a month and has the added benefit of getting me a bit fitter.

    However, I’m still not sure that I’m going to manage to keep going through the winter, because negotiating the rush hour traffic along that route is still occasionally the stuff of sweaty palms.

    1. Have you thought going up Rosebank Road, and joining the Northwestern Cycleway there? I know it adds at least 3km, but for the Mt Albert area that I am looking to move to, avoiding the worst parts of New North Road may also end up costing me several km extra, and the peace of mind is likely to be worth it for me…

  4. Thanks for that suggestion. I saw a guy heading up that way a couple of weeks ago and thought that I must investigate it. It could be the solution once winter comes.

  5. I support Nick’s comment about recreational cycling. Even if in this case it may not be an either/or all the same shared paths are a worry. They are singularly useless for commuting anywhere useful, or for that matter riding to to shops and yet at the same time they risk pandering to the absurd comments that you read in Auckland whereby some car drivers want to get cyclists off the road.

    Besides.. Why do we need to restrict our thinking to either shared paths for families and small children on the one hand vs on-road commuters on the other? What about cycle paths? Proper ones, European style. Try *walking* in one in say Berlin or Munich and see how long it takes to get shouted at by an indignant cyclist. Even if that’s not feasible (though I don’t know why) where are the forward plans for decent on-road lanes? Strewth, a bit of paint and moving some parked cars would be transformative.

    Sorry for ranting.. we need to get real, all the while the National Government is pouring billions down the so-called RONs drain.., $ 3 bn of it on the Kapiti expressway tied up for generations, for next to no benefit.. it is beyond a joke, what you could get for 10% of that in terms of cycling would be awesome, even spread around the whole country.

    1. Hi Tim – on a path like this one, it doesn’t really make as much sense to segregate pedestrians from cyclists as in some other locations. While CAA will help ensure that it is as useful for cycle commuters as possible, that is not the Greenway paths *primary* purpose. Still, on a weekday morning, you are likely to find few pedestrians on them, so moderate-speed commuting should be well possible, if being safety and relaxed is worth some smaller detours in your mind.

      I fully agree with you that as we move towards a more mature cycling culture, we will need to move away from shared paths, which are a bit ‘neither fish nor fowl’, and towards more cycle-only infrastructure. That is why CAA is so keen to see Albany Highway (north) being built – 3km of fully segregated cycle infrastructure that we can point to as an example for further projects.

      Also we are aware that in the future Auckland Cycle Network, Copenhagen lanes (or protected lanes in general) are one of the standard treatment for the “cycle highways” routes. So that thinking is quite present, it is just not being built in many places yet. Rest assured we are fighting for it!

      As for the money question: Amen.

      1. I agree three’s no problem with sharing paths early morning with a few walkers / runners.

        But what is Greenways about.. aren’t they also promoting links in the Auckland cycle network? e.g. Purewa Valley. The Whau river path is a Good Thing itself but is obviously not intended to be a “link”.

        My worry is that the developments like the Whau river paths will get reported simply as N km of nice new off road bike paths created and everyone congratulates themselves on how liveable and bike-able Auckland is getting.

        1. Hi Tim

          Don’t worry – Greenways normally don’t go on roads (except possibly some small parts that are on-road to link sections where no greenspaces exist between parks and reserves). This also means that in general at least:

          a) they are not part of the “Auckland Cycle Network” (at least not in any current planning sense)

          b) their funding doesn’t come out of the transport pot, but instead directly from Council and parks departments

          c) they aren’t designed, built or maintained by Auckland Transport.

          So don’t you worry – even where we may disagree (because I would say the Greenways will very much make Auckland “liveable and bike-able”!) – Greenways are “cream on top” – and we certainly won’t let Auckland Transport get out of doing their bit.

          Greenways taking off are a symbol of cycling moving out of the narrow focus of half-heartedly doing something for cycling because some guideline somewhere says that transport should support “sustainability” – instead cycling is becoming seen more as a people thing again.

  6. Oh, and in addition – where Greenways DO overlap with the Auckland Cycle Network, they will be designed to also suit that function. Again, I don’t believe they are in any way mutually exclusive – but you are certainly right that a path targeted at commuters as (one of) its core functions needs some additional design criteria that some Greenways won’t meet.

    And that’s okay – horses for courses.

  7. All good, thanks Max for your reply. I’m impatient.. don’t we also want some big wins too? And I mean generally not only the harbour crossing. Why isn’t this happening? When the BCRs of most “proper” cycle routes are 10x or even 20x arising from the health benefits of active commuting.

    Is it, as one commentator to this article states, because “the 1% [i.e. the decision makers and policy setters] don’t cycle”? Is that ever going to change here? Seems like we’re decades behind the UK which is decades behind continental Europe.

    1. Hi Tim – I have been 5 years in cycle advocacy.

      When I started helping CAA around 2007 here in Auckland, I sometimes felt that decisionmakers really didn’t KNOW anything about cycling. As far as they went, you might as well have been asking them to provide better facilities for people to zorb around town. As a cycle advocate, one never got asked for one’s opinion, and cycling was treated as a figleaf thing. Major newspaper editors called cycling ridiculous and outdated, and not worth spending a cent on.

      5 years after, the tide has turned quite strongly – CAA is drowning in consulting on cycle projects of all stripes and sizes (including a big number of “big wins”, as you mention them, ranging from AMETI to the Waterview Cycleway).

      However, right now, a lot of that is still preparatory work, planning & design. Not enough has been built yet for the person out on the street to see that much difference. But its definitely a wave building – we just see it a lot more clearly from the (half-) inside that others can see from the outside.

      I am not too cynical about the long delays between planning & construction – I have worked in civil engineering for almost a decade now, and projects just take a heck of a long time to get through all the various steps (and that’s not a government thing – most private-sector projects I have worked on also take 3-5 years to go from inception to opening, much of that due to internal back and forth with the client).

      Many of the projects coming are connected to big other transport projects, or total road rebuilds. The next big hurdle we need to work on is to go back and do the hard yards and fix the gaps and broken parts that were created over the last decades. I reckon that that’s enough advocacy work to keep everyone going for another 10-20 years…

      As for why the very high BCR’s don’t achieve more money for cycling – well, I have the address of a National Party minister in Wellington for you, who decides how much money is available…

  8. Fantastic idea. Have always wondered why Te Atatu south closed itself off to the river.

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