From Gladstone Rd to St Stephens Ave – the ups ands downs of the Parnell Cycleway

Cycleway consultations are coming thick and fast at the moment, and no wonder, because the ‘must be built by mid 2018‘ deadline for the Urban Cycleway Programme is getting closer and closer!

The initial key route for the Eastern inner suburbs runs through the eastern part of Parnell, starting at the intersection with Parnell Road, and then running along St Stephen’s Ave, down Gladstone Road past the Rose Gardens, reaching the Quay Street Cycleway via a short section of The Strand.

Here’s the project page, and here’s the link for feedback (closes 23 December 2016).

And here’s the route up for discussion…

parnell-cycle-path-mapThis cycleway is intended to serve a number of functions – from giving local school kids the oppportunity to cycle to Parnell District School (Primary + Intermediate) off Gladstone Rd, to giving locals a way to safely ride down to Tamaki Drive for an ice cream in Mission Bay, to getting bike commuters into the CBD or Newmarket offices.

It’s been chosen for other reasons, too – mainly that it’s a lot less steep and (let’s be honest) less controversial than putting a cycleway along the Parnell Road shopping strip. (Sorry local businesses, but we’re sure the day will come when Parnell shops will be the place to be seen with your new e-bike…).

Some other routes were considered but discarded this time round, including this option through the Parnell Tunnel. It was nixed (for now) for reasons of cost and ‘personal safety’ – and perhaps because, as a short-cut, it would mainly benefit Newmarket and the City Centre, and do little for Parnell itself.

The St Georges Bay Road route was also discarded because it is very steep and sees intense traffic – including lots of heavy trucks – at the bottom end near The Strand.

Still, the favoured St Stephens / Gladstone combo is not *quite* without complications.

In particular, the road is too narrow to fit a proper cycleway without parking removal and/or kerb changes – making the project potentially costly and controversial. Earlier this year, Bike Auckland and Transport Blog met with Auckland Transport to discuss some early design options for the route, and we quickly crystallized one key comment to AT:

If you have to have an argument about removing car parking, it needs to be for a protected cycleway. No use fighting over a few licks of paint which won’t attract new riders.

And it’s great to see that in the end, AT came to similar conclusions.

So let’s see what’s being proposed. Moving from south to north:

  • typical-parnell-cross-sectionAT will add protected cycle lanes to the whole of St Stephen’s Ave from Parnell Road to Gladstone Road, and then the whole of Gladstone Road. These will be 1.5m wide, with an 0.3m buffer zone from parked cars. The door buffer is a bit on the narrow side, but the key thing is: protected! bike! lanes!
    • Also note the smart thinking behind AT putting pretty much all remaining parking on the east side – this means no parking on the downhill, where riders tend to be faster.
  • At key side roads, the lanes will be placed on raised tables to slow down crossing or/turning traffic. See Brighton Road, and the Takutai / St Stephen’s Ave / Gladstone Road intersection. This is great!
  • Several pedestrian crossings along the route will also be raised onto tables (at Parnell District School and south of Stanwell Street). Good stuff.
  • At Gladstone Road / The Strand, the oversized triangle intersection will be simplified and signalized (this will be done by NZTA, as The Strand is a State Highway)
  • There’ll be limited works on the bridge that crosses the rail line to Quay Street (this is not unsurprising, as a bridge rebuild would suck up more than the project budget alone). So, traffic signal crossings will be added at The Strand / Gladstone, and then we’ll have shared paths on both sides of the bridge, for those riders who prefer not to mix it up with the very heavy truck traffic heading to and from the Ports of Auckland.
  • To fit the works in, a few other changes will be needed:
    • on the southern side of St Stephens Ave, a short section of footpath will be narrowed (to a still generous 2.4m)
    • parts of the existing flush median along St Stephen’s Ave will be removed
    • around 95 car parks on both roads are to be removed, most of them on the western side
  • To reduce concern about the loss of car parking – and to deal with existing high levels of commuter parking in the suburb – AT proposes to implement a residents’ parking scheme at the same time. While our friends at Transportblog have some concerns (under the logic that car parks on public land belong to everyone, rather than just the immediate locals), we’re a bit more neutral on this. If it helps get the cycleway through… Anyway, up to you whether you feel it’s a good or a bad idea.
Protected lanes for your ride to and from the city or the beach!

Overall, it’s a good proposal. Not quite as spectacular as the K Road proposals – but also a good bit more grunty and substantial than the works on the Westhaven to City route. In our view, this meets both the “significantly better than before” test and the “will attract new cyclists” test.

In addition to the parts we support, there are a couple of things we feel could be improved or refined before construction.

  • parnell-bus-stop
    Come on, you can do better than such bus stop gaps in the cycle lane, AT.

    The bus stops on the route are currently shown as simple gaps in the cycle lane protection. While this bus route is relatively low-frequency and the gap is relatively short, we still feel It doesn’t have to be like this. So we are asking AT to review options for improving the cycle lane protection at bus stops. Maybe via detours around the back of the bus stop, or, where this may not be possible, by raising the cycle lane to footpath level (cyclists would give way in the rare instances when a bus is at the stop).

  • There are still a few side streets that are very wide but aren’t planned to have raised tables to slow down traffic. Right turns tend to be especially dangerous for people on bikes, as drivers often concentrate more on finding gaps in car traffic. So we are asking AT to add raised tables or narrowed side road entries at Canterbury Place, Judges Bay Road and at Balfour Road. At the latter location, some smart thinking for bike safety may be needed, due to the fire station.

The short version of things to cover in your feedback:

  1. Yes to protected cycle lanes for safe and relaxed city riding!
  2. Parking removal as needed – gotta be done! (Also, say whether you support the residents’ parking scheme)
  3. Yes to signalising The Strand / Gladstone Rd – safer intersections rule!
  4. Better cycle lane treatments needed at bus stops – no gaps please! 
  5. Yes to raised table side roads as proposed – AND please add them at Canterbury Pl, Judges Bay Rd and Balfour Rd!

Add your voice as soon as you can. This is not an uncontroversial route: the Parnell Business Association has already opposed the scheme. And one of the biggest local-resident champions of new cycleways – John Key – isn’t Prime Minister any more. Like all projects that shake up the status quo, this one might not happen if people like YOU don’t turn out to support it.

Feedback is open until Friday 23 December 2016. Here’s the link again! 

Header image: dapper gents from the Sunday Best Ride, at the Parnell Rose Gardens, 2015.

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