Grafton Gully cycleway on the up and up – the new numbers

Grafton Gully cycleway on the up and up – the new numbers

Bike Auckland

Auckland Transport’s central city bike counts for August are reporting an increase of 7.3% in bike movements compared to August last year, with the morning peak count up by 9.7%. This is the second month in a row that monthly counts have begun to rise again after a couple of slow months.

Also, TDG, a consultancy working for Auckland Transport, has surveyed the Grafton Gully/Symonds St corridor. This is the first study to look closely at the new cycleway and compare it to cycle counts done before it was opened.

A few things that leapt out at us from the latter report:

Numbers are up overall from this time last year. The combined Grafton Gully/Symonds St corridor now carries “significantly more cyclists overall on the two routes than on the single route before.” In other words, total bike traffic is higher than you’d expect if riders had just shifted from Symonds St to the newly built GG cycleway.

Counts are indeed down a bit on Symonds St (roughly 15-25%, depending on which intersection you look at), suggesting that some regular riders are choosing the new cycleway over Symonds St – but there are also plenty of new riders in the mix: the total use of this corridor was up by > 50% over the comparison day of a year before, with the morning count particularly strong, up by 66.7%.

The counts had to be done in winter to be comparable to the original surveys last year – which had been done just before the opening of the cycleway. This means that we can expect summer numbers to be much higher than the 190 cyclists counted along the centre section of the corridor during the 2.5 hours of the morning count (approximately 100 on the cycleway, and 90 on Symonds St). And of course, like all still-new cycleways, Grafton Gully will keep rising in use – especially as the surrounding network gets better.

As part of the counts, people were also interviewed about their perceptions – and the Grafton Gully cycleway was rated highly by cyclists for safety (8.7 average out of 10 maximum score). Which probably helps explain the numbers above – we know that quality bike paths attract fresh users. General cycling in the City Centre scored significantly worse (only 6.1 out of 10).

And here’s an extremely striking figure: 28.8% of riders (interviewed at Upper Queen St) now said they’re “new to cycling” or “somewhat new to cycling” (this number is way up, compared with 10.7% of riders stating the same in 2014), which suggests that safe bike routes like Grafton Gully are attracting even those who haven’t previously thought of themselves as regular biking folk.

Also of note: there’s a striking weekday/weekend split. Grafton Gully gets much more use on weekdays than weekends. This makes sense: these are the work/university commuters, who also tend to be regular riders. Weekday reasons for riding were mainly “work” (90.4%) and “education” (8.4%), and 85% of weekday riders saying they ride the route 2-3x weekly or more.

But while Grafton Gully numbers are lower on weekends, more (indeed most) of the weekend riders are recreational cyclists. And it’s a safe bet that this kind of bike traffic will only increase once the Nelson St flyover opens, as the paths will start to form a safe circuit that families and recreational riders can use as a safe link through the CMJ, allowing more people to explore downtown on bikes on the weekends, especially over the coming summer months.

Next trick: to persuade some of those weekend recreational bike riders to jump on a bike the next time they need to head to the dairy, or school, or work… But all in all, some very encouraging numbers indeed.

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