Cycling to the airport, and around the block?

We’re always happy to get requests about current cycling projects – so, welcome and thanks to Monique for making contact over on Facebook. Monique asked about cycle improvements to and around the airport, and bike parking facilities at the airport.

I’ll reply to the easy one first. (Info supplied by Stephanie Murphy, Land Transport and Utilities Planning Manager at the airport)

Cycle Facilities at Auckland Airport

• International Terminal – bike racks at Western End. There are facilities for assembling / disassembling bikes
• Domestic Terminal – bike racks on the ground floor of car park
• Other – bike racks located behind Jamaica Blue and some located around the shopping centre

Cycling Routes to, from, and around Auckland Airport

The topic of cycling to and around the Airport is a biggie because there are so many regional attractions in this area (Airport, Ambury Regional Park, Villa Maria Vineyard etc). It’s grown even bigger since the major roadworks for SH20A began last month. We posted a story in January from the NZTA about temporary route diversions to avoid the roadworks.

On a daily basis, you’ll see many people cycling on the roads around the Airport – arriving from Onehunga, via the SH20 cycleway from Mt Roskill, from Oruarangi Rd and from Puhinui Road. Here are some of the obvious draw cards in the area:

The Saturday Secondary School time trials moved here from Tamaki Drive a few years ago because it’s safer and quieter for weekend riding. The flat roads and quieter road conditions also attract other road cycling groups in the early mornings and weekends.

At the other end of the cycling spectrum, cruisy gangs of families and friends love the area’s quiet roads and off-road cycling routes. ambury-route-mapThese riders are relaxed, taking in the harbour views and admiring flocks of grazing foreshore birds, chatting over fences to the farm animals at the Park, and stopping for coffee at Mangere Bridge’s Ruby cafe. (Here’s a blog post and map describing one of these laid-back cycling trips, courtesy of Antoine at Bike Friendly North Shore).

You may think the area is quite a drive from the Central City, but many cyclists know it’s a breeze to cycle from Downtown, through Newmarket, Cornwall Park and Onehunga to the Manukau Harbour. I learnt this years ago when I visited the temporary offices at the Manukau Harbour Crossing project (the New Mangere Bridge) and found a surprising number of engineers cycled from their North Shore homes to the Devonport ferry, then biked via Newmarket, Cornwall Park and Onehunga. It made sense when they said it was usually faster and more enjoyable than wasting time in traffic congestion on the Harbour Bridge and SH1 motorway.  (Maybe if the Manukau Harbour Crossing were under construction today, they would take the Northern Busway to Britomart, catch the train to Onehunga and then jog to their office desks?)

And of course the airport itself has also been recognised as a major drawcard for people on bikes – hence the route from SH20 to the airport is part of the Auckland Cycling Network. Once the second runway is completed, we’re told the airport and surrounding businesses will have 20,000 staff. That’s a city in its own right, and logic alone dictates that a significant number of those people will want to bike to and from work.

Finally, let’s not forget that Cycle Action has been keen to add this area to Nga Haerenga/ The NZ Cycle Trail since 2010. Fullers and the NZTA partnered and supported us to prepare plans that were submitted to the very first tranche of funding for the NZ Cycle Trail. That plan connected the Airport to Central Auckland, then went over by ferry to Waiheke to link to Orapui and on to Coromandel (via ferry).

AT took over that project from us, and has written quite a few reports on the project since then. A big leap forward was made last month when AT was granted money from the Urban Cycle Investment Fund to help complete the route. We’d love to see this route signposted and publicised for use as soon as possible!

 

Naturally, with all this existing (and future) public demand to cycle in the area, we’ve been mad keen to improve cycling conditions here. No surprise that we shot our hand up as soon as the Government announced the accelerated project to “trench” SH20 to avoid the Kirkbride Rd traffic lights.

AT suggested that people cycling could wind their way to the airport on back roads, but our experience with the Dominion Rd back routes impelled us to reject this option.

We buddied up with the Transport Agency, who agreed to build a high quality, separated shared path on the western side of the motorway corridor. We take our hats off to the NZTA project team for making this happen, as the project is a tight retro-fit exercise, designed to cater for commercial traffic, cars, buses, cycling while also being future-proofed for rail….. and all of it squeezed between large new industrial buildings and hotels built beside George Bolt Memorial Drive.

SH20A Aerial Map and key_v2_sml (2)

We’re now working with the NZTA and AT to maximise local links to the new motorway cycleway. Our lucky break has been having Hamish Mackie‘s help. He’s leading the Mangere Future Streets project, and knows from sitting with local people at kitchen tables in Mangere that they want safer on-road cycling for themselves as well as wider footpaths to let kids ride safely to school.

It’s proving to be tricky to get good quality on and off-road facilities for skilled and new cyclists along Kirkbride Rd, across the new bridge over SH 20A and linking to Ascot Rd – but we’re hoping we can do it with help from AT and NZTA. The fast-tracked nature of the project – and the lack of early consultation with Cycle Action in the bridge and cycle access design – has limited some options, unfortunately.

The good news is that while the SH20A/ Montgomerie Road intersection will be closed to traffic in late 2016, a new cycle-only and pedestrian link from Montgomerie Rd is confirmed. This will link the new shared path along SH20A to the Ascot Industrial estate and to existing local cycle networks to Mangere Bridge. Hooray!

We’re realistic about the fact that this is a high-pressure, fast-delivery project, and that these accelerated road projects can be testing on relationships at the best of times. Thank heavens we’ve got good colleagues in AT and NZTA who share our goal to get the best possible result for cycling.

 

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