For experienced navigators of the city, it can be hard to remember what it was like just starting out. We get used to figuring out how to get from A to B by following the breadcrumbs, or the ant trail of other people on bikes. Once you know the way, it can be almost impossible to return to what the Zen masters call ‘Beginner’s mind’. But with Auckland Transport reviewing its paper bike maps (and looking at map apps for the digitally enhanced among us), it’s ever more crucial to see things with fresh eyes.

Enter Neil, a retired school teacher who regularly bikes around his Henderson neighbourhood for exercise. He contacted us the other day with the following good-humoured tale of woe, recounting the ‘fiasco’ of how he ventured into the city and tried – and repeatedly failed, through no fault of his own – to find his way home. Neil’s story poses a timely challenge to AT’s wayfinding team…

“Take your bike on the train to Britomart and cycle back out to Henderson,” they said. “It’ll be good exercise,” they said.

“A frustrating exercise” is what they should have said!

At Britomart there was no indication about bike routes that I could see. But I’d seen posts about the famous pink path and knew roughly where it was. So I made my way up Hobson Street, looking out for a bike lane, or signs pointing the way.

Nothing there – so I changed over to Albert Street. Nothing there, either, and the AT person at the AA bus stop couldn’t help. I pressed on up to Pitt Street. Still no signs. I explored to the Hopetoun bridge. No signs. Came back to Pitt Street ,and stopped another cyclist… who pointed me towards the top of Nelson Street!

At last! The famous pink path!

But alas! That only took me to the Upper Queen Street overbridge!

I crossed at Ian McKinnon Drive, and pressed on down the marked cycle track, only to find myself heading down Dominion Road! So I back-tracked to Queen Street where, with luck, I bumped into another cyclist.

“I’m going west, too,” she said. “Follow me.” Which I did with some difficulty as her bike was electric and I’m not. Half way down Ian McKinnon Drive she turned hard left up a little unmarked steep track which climbed up onto Newton Road and across the overbridge towards a motorway onramp and – at last! – there was the start of the cycle track out west. Thanks, AT, for making the journey so easy!

But wait! There’s more!

The track beside the motorway was obvious all the way past Kingsland and the Chamberlain Golf Course, but then…!

You come off the track onto a little suburban street, Sutherland Road, and then arrive at Carrington Road which is very busy in both directions – and there is NO SIGN visible to tell you where to go next! Thanks, AT.

(Incidentally, going the other way, towards the city on Sutherland Road, you find a sign which apparently sends you left down little Novar Street… which is a dead end!)

Emerging from Sutherland, to your left on Carrington there is a pedestrian crossing… but as far as you can see, it leads to no cycle track. Dodging through the busy rush of cars and, at a guess, going right, you do come to another cycle track… with signs you can only see from the other direction. Thanks, AT.

But wait! There’s more! After biking past Unitec and heading towards the new Waterview interchange, you come to an unmarked fork in the track; take the wrong one and you end up in Avondale!

Luckily, there was a local pedestrian who pointed me in the right-hand direction. I cycled over the Great North Road overbridge and down onto the causeway next to the motorway again, and continued on my journey west.

I’m glad I chose a day with a tail wind because it’s quite a long ride past Rosebank  towards the Te Atatu turn off. But no! You don’t come off at Te Atatu Road. You tunnel under it (through the underpass) and carry on past two unmarked turn-offs to the left, until you get to a sign post sending you off to Massey!

Once again I back-tracked to the last unmarked turn-off, and headed off upstream, south towards Henderson. Thanks, AT.

Bacause I’m a Henderson local, at Tui Glen I knew to take the unmarked turn to the right across the footbridge past the Aquatic Centre and Pak’n’Save, and then to turn left to the unmarked crossing of Great North Road, and to swing right onto the unmarked track through the Corban Estate, and across the unmarked footbridge to Henderson Park…

…and safely home. Thanks, AT?

Thanks, Neil! We bet you’re not alone – in fact, we’re keen to hear any other tales of cycleway wayfinding woe, so we can pass them on to Auckland Transport and help improve the signage around town. Please share your lost and found stories below…

Cycle Resources - Maps Humour Northwestern Cycleway
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12 responses to “Lost and found – a wayfinding fiasco

  1. Hah, when you put it like that, I can see the problem. A bit like when you go to Woodhill MTBing for the first time it’s a good idea to go with someone to run you through a good combination of tracks based on your skill. Neil was courageous, I usually explore new areas out from home so I can back track. A similar story could be told at Massey and finding the best route to the Northshore.

  2. Agree with everything in the post. I also got lost in the IanMcKinnon/Newton road area trying to use NW cycleway the first time.

    Along the Kingsland/St Lukes stretch of NW cycleway they could do with signs at each ‘offramp’ stating what street it’s coming out at, and ideally where it’s useful to get you:
    Bond St – Sandringham Rd, Eden Park, Grey Lynn
    Nixon Park/Central Rd – Kingsland town centre, Kingsland Station
    Finch St – Morningside/ Western Springs / Grey Lynn
    Bannerman rd – Fowlds Park

    I might put up some DIY ones in the meantime. Spray paint on planks of wood is probably the best I can manage though

  3. This is pretty timely – I took a break from cycling to run home last night, and used it as a chance to check out the paths joining Grey Lynn Park to Cox’s Bay. Luckily I’d checked the route on Maps beforehand! The road link crossing Richmond Road is well marked, but the other road sections you really have to follow your nose. And apart from Hakanoa Reserve, there’s no lighting along the pathways at all. Which is probably fine when you’re cycling and you’ve got a headlamp, but pedestrian’s don’t tend to pack a torch for urban commuting.

    But as the article points out, now I know and the next time navigating won’t be a problem! It does strike me though, that decent marking and signage will make Auckland’s network feel like just that, rather than a disparate series of oases that you’ve managed to discover.

  4. On bike to work day this year I finally got around to doing something I’d talked about – the ‘long way round’. Instead of taking the ferry to the city, I’d ride out of Beach Haven over the Upper Harbour Bridge and make my way in to the city on the North-Western. Even though I had notes of key street names in my pocket, I was feeling pretty lost once I got to Hobsonville. Luckily I spotted Graham, a fellow rider I recognized from the ferry, so hung on best I could until I caught up at traffic lights and explained my predicament. He then slowed enough for me to get through the tricky bit from Moire to Triangle Rd. All ended well though – we met Duncan at the Lincoln Rd lights and made it to the AT pit stop as a Beach Haven / Birkdale collective.

  5. Thanks Neil for highlighting how dire wayfinding is around the city. Wayfinding is one of my pet issues.
    I’ve been working on a few things:
    – signage to Lightpath
    – access signage on No Exit streets (initiated by Walk Auckland)
    – updating city maps so that tourists don’t keep walking up Wellesley St trying to get to the Domain (and providing the signage so they can get there safely)

    Auckland Transport has done a lot of work on the Regional Signage project over the last couple of years but it has been really slow going getting new signage rolled out. The design of signage for the Grey Lynn Greenways route is all ready to go.

    1. Good initiatives, that end of the lightpath needed some fixing up. My story is short — I arrived on Canada Street, looked around at the wasteland, and turned back. The end.

      On the other end there’s a rather pointless missing pedestrian leg between the Lightpath and the east side of Nelson Street. (long description here ? ). Is there any way to query AT, or NZTA if there’s any plan to fix that?

  6. This is exactly what happened to me – I think I’ve managed to get lost three different ways getting through Henderson to find the connection onwards to the end of the path at Henderson Valley. Same thing happens not the Green Route , signage going North to South but not the other way round. I wrote to AT about this a couple of years ago, but couldn’t make any headway with them.

  7. Great post. The changes required are pretty small in budget. Thanks Pippa for your initiatives. I wouldn’t be opposed to TLD’s suggestion of signs from members of the public until such time as AT can find the resources to put the official ones up. Creative grassroots placemaking leading the way for how we want our city to be.

  8. Sadly, does not seem to have improved much.

    Even stopping and using Google maps, I still found the experience trying to go from the ferry building, around Grafton gully to out west frustrating, as felt like a set of nice (and very welcome) well constructed cycle ways, but which are not quite connected up yet.

    Could be a few popular tourist trail, if there was more signposts, including signage for some points of interest.

    Perhaps Auckland transport should test the route finding by observing people new to the route or tourists; ask them to cycle some routes and record the experience

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