Crunch Time for the Inner West Network

In May, Fiáin d’Leafy, Chief Biking Officer for Bike Auckland, presented to the Auckland Transport (AT) Board. Below is a summary of Fiain’s presentation, with notes.

With the decision on the Great North Road Improvements Project deferred yet again, to the June Board meeting, Fiáin focussed on questions about the torturous process endured by this less-than-2km stretch of road.

It was a timely opportunity to remind Auckland Transport of their obligations to the community, including the promise of Vision Zero safety (no trade-offs!), and the requirement to prioritise and “supercharge” walking and cycling to achieve climate targets.

Fiáin’s presentation was complemented that day by a presentation from parents at Newton Central School, who shared some confronting stories of near misses and injuries to children on Great North Road, and their hopes for a swift, safe solution after years and years of promises. 

The good news: Great North Road is finally back on the agenda for this coming Tuesday 27 June, and the Board is being asked – at long last – to greenlight the project, as designed, as consulted and as widely supported by the community.

But there’s a catch. 

The co-funding from Waka Kotahi is still on the table as long as the project is delivered this coming year. However, AT says that due to the delays and competing claims on diminishing funds, it now appears it can’t cover its share – so staff are also presenting a “budget” option to be considered.

The budget option being offered is a “staged trial”, which may or may not be fully deliverable over coming years. It proposes ditching the majority of safety treatments at side streets, installing far fewer trees, and using temporary lower-quality plastic bumpers as bike lane separators. It’s less safe, and will have less climate impact and mode-shift effect.

A street design image with a lot of technical jargon and formatting. The design is for a section of Great North Road, and includes provisions for bus lanes, cycle lanes, and some general aesthetic and environmental upgrades.

This is an out-of-the-blue proposal that, as far as we know, hasn’t been run past any of AT’s stakeholders, let alone consulted with the public. Worse, this cheap and nasty option only saves a small amount of money in the short term – which will inevitably be spent on the required monitoring programme and mitigating fixes to address any safety failings. TL;DR, more risk, more traffic cones, over a longer period. More on this in this awesome Greater Auckland blog piece, aptly titled ‘Groundhog Day’.

We think you’ll agree this is the moment for the AT Board to step up, govern wisely, and put its budget where its mouth is. They must direct the organisation to find the funds to deliver the full consulted scheme ASAP, to ensure a safer, fairer and greener outcome for everyone using Great North Road.

Want to help? Write to the AT Board and urge them to go ahead with the full street improvement project for Great North Road, as consulted.

Send your emails to:
AT Board Chair

AT Board Secretary (with a request that she forward it on to all board members)


Head of Cycling

Also, the decision part of the Board meeting is open to the public. If you plan to attend, be sure to get there early to ensure a smooth sign-in, and secure a seat.

Tuesday 27 June 2023 | 10:00am – 1:25pm

Auckland Transport, 20 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Auckland (Room 1.04)

Presentation to the Auckland Transport Board, 30 May 2023, by Fiáin d’Leafy

Kia ora all, I’m Fiáin d’Leafy, Chief Biking Officer of Bike Auckland. My pronouns are they/them.

As I’m sure you all know, we have a unique emissions profile in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland; 45% of the region’s emissions are from transport and 79.9% of that is from light vehicles such as cars. I love these quotes from our elected leaders and transport agencies, which acknowledge that to reduce emissions from transport we need to empower people to walk, cycle, and use public transport instead of driving. And, to reach our emissions reduction targets, as identified in the TERP, we need to “supercharge” cycling.

A list of relevant quotes from relevant parties. 
2019, Council declares Climate Emergency.
Quote: "We are signalling the urgency [...] needed to mitigate and adapt to [...] extreme weather events. We have listened to the students who went on strike and demanded action." End quote.

2020, Council releases Te Tāruke-a-Tāwhiri.
Quote: "We are seeing more extreme events [...] we have less than a decade to avoid the worst impacts." End quote. Transport is Auckland's biggest source of climate-changing pollution, at 44% total.

2022, AT endorses TERP, adopted by Council.
Quote: "Reducing transport emissions is a big part of what Auckland must do." End quote. 64% reduction target includes 'supercharging' cycling from less than one percent of trips in 2019, to thirteen percent in 2030.

2023 - January, remarks by Mayor Wayne Brown.
Quote: "This was a downpour that none of us has ever seen before, or even imagined. As the Prime Minister has said, this is climate change. And I agree." End quote. 

2023 - February, Waka Kotahi CEO to Auckland Council.
Quote: "We know the most significant thing that changes [...] cycling [...] is the ability to be able to use a dedicated network and safely use that network." End quote.

Thank you, Nicole Rosie, CEO of Waka Kotahi, for noting that to empower people to cycle for transport we need to provide a safe, connected cycle network.  

The potential for emissions reduction from this is so important that the Climate Change Commission recently included in their draft advice that cycle networks in major centres should be completed by 2030 – which is less than 7 years away! 

We have all these fantastic policies and plans in place which will enable emissions reduction and empower people to cycle. AT’s Vision Zero-led Safe Speeds Programme, for example, has already shown great success in reducing deaths and serious injury in the areas where speeds have been lowered. 

Additional note: Setting safer speeds for drivers (with accompanying street changes to reinforce safer driving) is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to make a network of bikeable streets.

A network of safe protected cycleways, linked up by low-traffic streets with safe speeds of 30kmh, would make a majority of people feel safe enough to cycle for everyday transport; reducing emissions, freeing up wallets, and supporting a happier, less stressed community.

We know that people will cycle if it’s safe enough. We’ve seen that the world over, and we have seen it from survey responses: Auckland Transport’s own data says that 50% of Aucklanders would cycle if they felt safe enough. 

Additional note: Plus, as it says in one of the other papers the Board is receiving on Tuesday: “Investments made in safe, connected cycle routes continue to result in growing cycle movements.”

Additional note: Over the years, 2/3 of Aucklanders consistently support cycling in their neighbourhood [the WK link], and we know from AT’s own research that one in three Aucklanders ride at least once a month, and a further one in five would be keen – but that safety is the number one barrier to uptake.

We have a long way to go to complete our cycleway network. And to reach our targets we’ll have to speed up our delivery.

So, why are we dragging our feet on less than 2km of road? Look at the timeline:

Great North Road has already had over a decade of delay…

Pre 2010 – planning underway as part of ACC’s Liveable Arterials

2015 – John Key’s Urban Cycleways Programme funds Great North Rd

2018 – Incorporated into Connected Communities

**Lots of delay in the middle here despite huge community support**

2023 – And now the final decision from the Auckland Transport Board has been yet again delayed to the end of June meeting!!

If we take over 10 years to improve every 2km of road, we will never reach our targets.

Additional note: Waka Kotahi has estimated that at our current rate of delivery, “it will take 150 years before networks are sufficiently connected for people to get where they need to go.” That’s too long! 

In February 2023, the Auckland Transport Board was overall very positive about the Inner West Projects and Great North Road improvement project.

“The Board has reached a view that this is the right thing to do. It’s consistent with all our strategies, and all agreed plans.”
– AT Board Chair Wayne Donnelly, February AT Board meeting 2023

“On principle, this is a no-brainer for us to support. I feel that we have gone back and talked with the communities extensively. At some point we have to make a decision and show the leadership I think a lot of people in Auckland are expecting of us.”
– AT Board member Kylie Clegg, February AT Board meeting 2023

“We’ve talked about climate change, and encouraging people to use active & public transport. This project does both.”
– AT Board member Abbie Reynolds, February AT Board meeting 2023

From the March 2023 Board Paper laying out the risks of delay.

So, what’s up with this process??

In October 2021, the Great North Road Improvements Project was approved by the Auckland Transport Board to go to construction.

In October 2022, it was paused even though preparatory works had already begun.

In late 2022 – February 2023, the project went back to the Albert-Eden and Waitematā Local Boards for confirmation (received), and then back to the February meeting of AT’s Board… who then sent it to the March meeting of Council’s Transport & Infrastructure Committee.

It was supposed to come back for final decision today (at the May Board meeting), but it has been postponed again!

Additional note: The Board’s explanation for the further delay to June:  that AT is now checking if it still has sufficient funds to deliver the project. For a project they had already approved in October of 2021, and had already begun preparatory works for in 2022!

The only projects which should be paused and have to go through a process like this are ones which are not in line with the policy you have committed to, and which no longer fulfill your objectives. As you have noted, these projects are in line with your policy, and they are in line with the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway, so they should be prioritised for delivery. 

At the February meeting of the AT Board, Director Abbie Reynolds rightfully pointed out that the community has already been waiting through three consultations over 10 years. “My concern is we are asking this community to wait again,” she said at the time. “We’ve been asking them to wait a lot. What’s the timeline?” Thank you Abbie, for your consideration of the community and the frustration they are feeling.

At the same meeting, Waka Kotahi CEO Nicole Rosie pointed out that “This constant relooking at projects has a huge cost associated with it.” We absolutely agree.

This delay has a financial cost [as is clear from AT’s sudden ‘discovery’ that it may no longer have the budget to deliver what was already begun] but it also costs energy, time and trust from the wider community. It takes away the community’s faith in Auckland Transport and Auckland Council. And there is also a very real human cost. The human cost of delay is paid in injuries and lives.

A map of the intended Inner West Improvements. There is a red dot on Great North Road which is used to identify a spot where someone was hit by a car while riding a bike. 
There is an orange dot on Great North Road which is used to identify a spot where someone crashed their car into both a small tree and a bus shelter - something which could have been mitigated with proper protections.

The red dot on this map shows where someone riding their bike was hit by a car on Great North Road just days after the Board’s February meeting – where it had been decided to postpone their decision once more to seek Council feedback. 

The orange dot on the above image shows where a tree and bus stop had been crashed into and severely damaged, just days before the Auckland Transport Board’s May meeting.

Ironically, this is the exact location that Mayor Wayne Brown was photographed riding on the footpath for his Great North Road site visit. 

We have heard from numerous others about their dangerous experiences walking and cycling along Great North Road. Experiences which would likely be avoided if the full Great North Road Improvements Project went ahead.

Additional note: The full project includes safer road crossings on side streets, improved sightlines for drivers, safer bus stops, more loading zones for businesses, improved stormwater, trees, and, of course, a protected cycleway.

Twitter post reads:
Yes. Newton Road to Surrey Crescent is hair raising, especially after Bond Street.
I've had a close call at the site mentioned by [redacted].
My father regularly rides this stretch and I've tried to persuade him not
to. but it's too direct to pass up & I'm very concerned for him.

Twitter postreads:
Yup, the driver of a big ol' bus got grumpy having to pass me so squeezed me out of the lane and into the opening door of a parked car. Love my brakes - just pulled up short of hitting the person getting out of the car.
Fun times on Great North Road.

Twitter post reads:
I would be way too scared to cycle down Great North Rd, largely because of the chaos of the Williamson Ave intersection. But also. as a pedestrian I was nearly hit by a van coming out of that building site.

Twitter post reads:
Yes a very close shave just two weeks ago.
It got me thinking too: what if everyone who experienced close calls or actual collisions were to publicly register these incidents, say. by
reporting to police. then AT would have stats on how dangerous
these routes are?
Collage of Twitter posts from people who have had near-misses while cycling Great North Road
Twitter post reads:
Cycling down Great North Rd yesterday I was almost hit by a van turning into the Hadlow construction site. Not sure if they didn't see me (in the middle of the lane because of parked construction vehicles in the bus lane) or just didn't think they needed to give way to a bike??

Twitter post reads:
Yes, yesterday, a close-pass by a bus. I usually avoid GNR & cycle 2kms further on safer NW shared path/East Street cycleway whenever K Rd is my destination, but in a hurry to get to the @BikeAKL #bikebreakfast at Zeki's [face-palm emoji] GNR section of Inner West projects is sorely needed [prayer hands emoji]
Collage of Twitter posts from people who have had near-misses while cycling Great North Road

The time for a safer Great North Road is now, before anyone else gets hurt!

Delaying further, or watering down the design, invites multiple risks: 

  • Harm to people, especially schoolchildren, and people walking and using bikes
  • Loss of co-funding from government partner
  • Extra expense to ratepayers due to rising costs and any redesign and reconsultation
  • Loss of confidence in Council and AT

The benefits of going forward with the full project as is are clear.

You’ve seen this image before. These 50+ organisations want you to complete the Inner West street improvement projects, including Great North Road and the Waitematā Safer Routes. Give them an opportunity to celebrate.

Additional note: The organisations include the Grey Lynn Residents Association, Karangahape Road Business Association, nearby schools, and businesses like Urgent Couriers whose employees drive and cycle this road for their work.

The community is waiting for you to take leadership and show you can deliver on the strategy and plans you have committed to.

On a personal note, I would like to celebrate a cycleway along Great North Road by extending Yarn for Pride along it. This is a project we do every February where we decorate the cycle parking along Karangahape road to celebrate the cycleway and Pride Month. We would love to extend it along Great North Road – but we can only do that if there is a safe protected cycleway there. 

Give us the opportunity to celebrate and we will take it. 

Want to help? Write to the AT Board and urge them to go ahead with the full street improvement project for Great North Road, as consulted

Send your emails to:
AT Board Chair

AT Board Secretary (with a request that she forward it on to all board members)


Head of Cycling

Also, the decision part of the Board meeting is open to the public. If you plan to attend, be sure to get there early to ensure a smooth sign-in, and secure a seat.

Tuesday 27 June 2023 | 10:00am – 1:25pm

Auckland Transport, 20 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Auckland (Room 1.04)

We’ve written A LOT about Great North Road and the Inner West network. A selection here for your perusal:

Join us

Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better region. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

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