Instead of going up and back down, soon we will be going under Newton Road!
Instead of going up and back down, soon we will be going under Newton Road!

Newest blog regarding the consultation is here.

One of the key reasons NON-cyclists offer as to why Auckland currently doesn’t have more people on bikes is that it is too hilly. Funny, because we’re pretty sure that a couple of decades ago, when the percentage of Aucklanders cycling was five or ten times what it is now, Auckland pretty much had the same hills…*

*Plus, some of the flatter parts of Auckland, like big chunks of South and East Auckland, have some of the lowest bike mode share around! So maybe it’s the road environment. Just saying…

But they are half-right, of course. Hills can be a mighty bother. Not everyone has or wants an e-bike, and on some routes there are no gently-graded alternatives. So it is great that the Urban Cycleway Programme – in addition to creating a couple of big new connections like Great North Road and Glen Innes-Tamaki Drive – will also be making a couple of existing routes nicer. And in some cases, flatter.

One of the biggest such changes will be for our biggest cycleway, the Northwestern!

Existing is blue, red is new.
Existing is blue, red is new.

This is the Ian McKinnon Drive project, which will create a new cycleway on the western side of Ian McKinnon Drive. This has been mooted from way back (at one stage, around 2010, it was being talked about as part of the Grafton Gully Cycleway project!).

At the southern end, this new project will link to the Northwestern Cycleway at Taka Street, via the little Suffolk Reserve park you can see once you have struggled up the current steep ramp onto the Newton Road over bridge.

That’s right: you’ll no longer have to go up and over Newton Road, but will travel straight ahead and through the greenspace.

Taking that “up and down” out of the route will be especially welcome news to those travelling from the west, who currently have to battle up the steepest section of any of our cycleways – that city-bound ramp up to Newton Rd is over 15%, or three times the gradient of SkyPath. [Ed note: that explains why I often grind to a halt on this bit, even on my e-bike!]

Effectively, this will make the City Centre some 6m lower than before – about the height difference you can see in the first photo with the white bridge columns. Sure, right now, you get some of that sweat invested back, riding down the hill from Newton Road past the Golf Warehouse on the other side. But really, unless you are training for a hill race you will probably agree with us that “one less hill” is a real advantage, especially when it comes to getting more people on bikes, riding to work in their work clothes rather than “cycling gear”.

Ian McKinnon now (top), and an early concept of the future cycleway (bottom).
Ian McKinnon now (top), and an early concept of the future cycleway (bottom).

And the advantages of this project don’t stop there. Once you’ve travelled under Newton Road, the new cycleway will run up the western side of Ian McKinnon Drive (the eastern shared path will remain).

By taking out one downhill lane of traffic (this has already been traffic-modelled and found to be unproblematic), a new cycleway can be installed on the western side much quicker and more easily. (The exact design isn’t confirmed yet – it may be planter boxes for separation as shown in last year’s concept, or something else).

Another big group to benefit will be cyclists (and pedestrians) coming from the Dominion Road area. Currently, they have to chose between riding in 60 km/h traffic uphill, or crossing over to the east side just before Newton Road, where the northbound cycle lanes stop. Of course many of them then have to cross back to the west side at the top of the Ian McKinnon hill, so it’s the opposite of efficient at the moment.

Additionally, AT is looking at whether the project scope can be extended south of the Ian McKinnon interchange, to incorporate the Dominion Road cycle lanes from near View Road to link up to the fly-over cycle lanes. Those were pretty much ready to go, consulted on, etc… when the Dominion Road bus lane project got stopped by the Light Rail plan (although thankfully not before most of the other parts of the alternative cycle routes were built).

It would be great if AT can take up this “orphaned” project, because that section can be pretty nasty for people on bikes.

In our meetings with AT, we have also emphasised that this new Ian McKinnon path will be heavily used by pedestrians from nearby suburbs to the west and southwest, and so ideally, we would get some separation (remember this is a “temporary” project until Light Rail is built – but that doesn’t mean it won’t stay around for 5 years or more, so we need to make sure we don’t create new conflicts). The designers are from the same company that will be doing the LRT designs, so hopefully this will also improve their thinking on long-term cycle and pedestrian facilities.

It’s great that AT have agreed with us that dealing properly with potential pedestrian/cyclist conflicts should be part of the brief to designers even on interim projects.

When will we see this section completed and in use? Ian McKinnon Drive is one of the “mid-period” projects – not quite as early as Nelson Street and Quay Street in the 3-year delivery programme, but also not as long and complex as, say, Great North Road. From our discussions with AT, it seems likely that the path will be open within the next 1-2 years.

Central Auckland Cycle lanes General News Ian McKinnon Drive Northwestern Cycleway
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27 responses to “Ian McKinnon Drive – or how to lower the City Centre by 6m

  1. Yes, a cycle path where heaps of people have to get off and walk is a fail. This will be awesome.

  2. Thanks for the post Max, good to hear there is progress on a short but important little link, especially with the imminent opening of Nelson St cycleway.

    Am I right in thinking that the more difficult construction part of this is making a path through Suffolk Reserve, and that the actual bit on the current roadway is mostly just a case of adding some planters and repainting the lanes and providing appropriate warning of imminent narrowing to one lane for cars going into town? If so, could AT maybe advance that bit first, and give people on bikes and pedestrians the option of walking/biking up Virginia St West from Takau sooner rather than later, then adding the Suffolk reserve path later? When Sadik-Khan was in town we heard a lot about quick easy wins with things like planters, and yet not a single project that I can think of has ever happened (would love it if AT would just block off, say, Wyndham or Shortland Sts to Queen as an experiment for example…..).

    Dare say it is more complicated than all that but one can dream of not having to annoy people on foot up the eastern footpath – summer gets so busy up there.

    1. Agree, there haven’t been many “trial projects” like that at all. Its a nice idea – th only reservation I have is that since we currently don’t have a footpath on the western side, if we do a “cycle only” path on the western side (without the added footpath works that might be on the other side of the current crash barrier – if they build a separate footpath, that is, not confirmed)… …well, then I’d be worried that the footpath never gets built, and we’ll have peds walking on the cycle path again.

      But still, good point. I’ll talk about it with the project manager when we meet him next time.

      1. Oh, and it may not take 2 years until it is built. But I have become a bit more cautious with “intended timeframes” after years and years of cycle advocacy.

      2. probably worth the risk i reckon. If it is on the existing roadway won’t it have to be cycle-only and painted green? that usually is a good signal that it isn’t for pedestrians. and with the increasing numbers that will be coming to the top of upper queen and looking where to go next, now that te ara i whiti is complete, i’d say this little stretch will become needed as soon as possible to minimise conflict on the current shared path (noting your point that more permanent works might not be far away anyway).

  3. “the steepest section of any of our cycleways” – what about those of us that cycle up the cycle path on Hendry Ave – Hillsborough – I had thought this was a designated cycle way?

    None the less, this proposal is excellent thanks Max.

    1. I haven’t measured Hendry Hill – but I believe it is actually a wee bit less steep (if a lot longer, so yes, more strenous all told).

      And yeah, Hendry Hill is supposed to be part of a cycleway. With a big “i suppose” in there, somewhere 😉

    2. Agreed, the average gradient may be less on Hendry, but I swear the maximum is higher. I’m no slouch, but it’s the lowest of 27 gears for me for a big stretch. This would be less of a problem if it didn’t serve as a rat run, with riders wobbling about as they slog up and drivers trying to squeeze through on the narrow lane. Closing the vehicular through route at the turning circle by number 47 would be a big improvement. Bring on the bollards.

      Speaking of alternative routes, I go via Queenstown Road, Frederick Street & Carlton Street for a slightly less punishing climb. Rough spots are joining Queenstown from the cycleway, the Frederick/Carlton junction, with its invitingly fast geometry for drivers and having to take the lane as you crawl over the traffic calming chicanes on Carlton in the absence of a bike bypass.

    1. You can now conserve energy on this part of your commute, to travel further and find more interesting hills to climb 🙂

  4. As one of the group coming from Dominion Rd, I can’t wait not to have to switch sides. I hope they can sort something out to link up with Dom Rd – that end of Dom Rd is currently the most hair-raising part of my commute. Must be a massive barrier to uptake.

  5. This is indeed good news, and I’m looking forward to it…. there is one concern/consideration that I hope doesn’t get overlooked…

    While the vast majority of foot and cycle traffic coming into town on Ian McKinnon turns left into upper-queen… a good portion goes straight ahead on Alex Evans up to Symonds St.

    This cross-road currently only has pedestrian/cycle crossings on three of the four sides…

    The Traffic Signal design and sequence will need to be addressed for the new slower and more vulnerable peds/cyclists now being on the left instead of right side, as there are two lanes of left-turning cars to avoid…

    1. We’ve been mentioning that a lot. And yes, appreciate that perfection may elude us a while longer, as the layout of those signals is a holdout of car capacity “balancing”. Though the future plans for the area also include cycle facilities on Upper Queen and K Road, so there will be yet another option to go… – stay left, go up to K Road, go right, to get to Symonds.

  6. The steep section of cycleway from Newton Rd to Takua Rd might be a pain for cyclists to climb, but it is positively dangerous for pedestrians walking down! The path is very narrow and heavily used by bikes and pedestrians. On the downhill, bikes have to brake very heavily to maintain a safe speed and not many of them are prepared to do it. I ride to work on my bike everyday and am very keen on cycling, but this sort of path is no good for anyone. A friend of mine was recently knocked down the bank by a bike on this path and broke her neck in two places (C2 and C6). She has spent 12 weeks in a Halo brace and really is very lucky to be alive.

    1. Hi ETC – fully agree, the path is not great for anyone. I’m hoping to drag some improvements to that ramp into this project, but we’ll see whether its feasible. We got a lot more money suddenly, but also a lot to do…

    2. I remember seeing an ambulance on that path one evening a few weeks back – looked like bike versus pedestrian or bike versus bike, so perhaps it was that same incident. Very sorry to hear about your friend, and I hope she recovers quickly and fully as possible.

      For those not familiar with this part of the NW cycleway, apart from being narrow and steep, the ramp surface is abominable – it’s covered in huge gouges at the steepest part of the descent. They are more than big enough to throw riders off on the downhill, and avoiding them (whether climbing or descending) creates the risk of collision with people going in the opposite direction.

      We’re well past the point where “rider beware” is an acceptable approach for cycling infrastructure in Auckland. This section was dodgy enough when the NW was quiet, but it’s now obviously unsafe and AT need to take action before anyone else gets seriously hurt. Max – if there are opportunities to help you in persuading them to do so, I’m all ears.

  7. This is going to be a fantastic improvement for the North West cyclists, but as a Dom Rd commuter i am concerned how this will pan out when heading home. Currently you choose between the shared path or the road. Coasting down the hill at 50km/h i find far too scary on the path with it’s bumpy surface and pedestrians in the mix so stick to the road. Currently that’s two lanes, and as you observe traffic is pretty light and so i pretty much have the left hand lane to myself. Once it’s down to one lane, are we going to be pushed into choosing between the shared path, or the new two way cycle lane on the north side (which would mean stopping at the bottom of the hill and crossing over to link into the south bound dom rd cycle lane)? I hope the remaining southbound traffic lane is wide enough for cars and bikes to comfortably share.

    Going into town however it’ll be a great win to have some more space between me and the cars as i slog up the hill.

    1. Hi Dan – the downhill lane in the current sketches will have some buffer, so hopefully there will be no major issue with cars going around a downhill cyclist. But still it is a good point, and will look closely at that once the first sets of drawings come across my virtual desk…

  8. those poor cyclists with disabilities such as not being able to go up a hill by themselves. Why not design a pathway to carry them on clouds and rock them to sleep. Sure we have the money, just cancel that facility for the disabled thing, no one needs that.

    1. If you want more funds freed up in the health system for disability care, you should be happy to spend on removing barriers to cycling and encouraging a more active population. Less resources wasted on unnecessary, deadly inactivity related illness means more for every other health and mobility need.

      Go bug the motorway builders if you want to really confront wasted tax money. Compared to any of those works this Newton Road project’s almost cheaper than your sarcasm.

    2. Yet it is okay to flatten all the hills for motorists. It must be so tiring for them to have to change gears, or put extra pressure on the accelerator. How tiring is that?

  9. I’d just like to chip in with praise for the rapid response (less than 48hrs) by AT to a request for a tree trim on the Ian McKinnon shared path, near Frances St./Dacre St. The overhanging branches had really narrowed the path and were causing rider/walker conflict, not to mention the possibility of somebody braining themselves on the way down. If you spot something unsafe, let them know on the website and if possible send a photo. Well done AT.

    Good to see some progress on this section, though I agree with dantheperson that the downhill ride is safer on the road (clocked myself at 65km/h when I had a green light from Alex Evans, not even trying…). The slow toucan phase on Newton Road makes it attractive to pound down McKinnon and use Devon Street as an entry to the Northwestern, because the wait is much shorter on the Piwakawaka St lights. If you cross and use the cycle lane there, you’re salmoning and risking a head-on with downhill riders, so I take the right hand slip lane, which has its own problems. I hope we get a sensible arrangement down there!

  10. So, riding down the NW/Takau St ramp last night in probably the worst conditions I’ve encountered this year, with my brakes struggling to control my already pretty minimal speed, I remembered this post, and a recent reference to consultation about to begin soon on the Ian McKinnon bike path, including through the Suffolk Reserve. Anyone know when this consultation is likely, and what the possible timeframe for this bit of infra might be?

    1. A perfectly timed question, Ed! Watch this space (on Monday, most likely) for news about the consultation, with construction planned by mid-2018.

      1. Thanks and look forward to seeing it on Monday! I mean, it isn’t the most crucial bit in creating a network, but on nights last night, something which is inconvenient becomes pretty hazardous. Roll on some better weather and longer evenings…

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