Do you bike along Tamaki Drive? Do you have thoughts about it could be improved? We know there are plenty of people on bikes who are really passionate about this uniquely beautiful and busy Auckland route. So we’re starting a focus group, Bike Tamaki Drive, to gather views from the full glorious diversity of people who ride this road. We’re a community bunch, not affiliated to any council or transport agency, and we’ll also be working with our friends at Bike Auckland and the Bike Eastern Suburbs group.
To start things off, please join us for breakfast – whether you use the road or prefer the shared-path, bike to work, or for pleasure. We’ll meet at Oaken (130 Quay St) on Friday 26 August. Drop in anytime, 7am-9am – coffees are on us!
Why does Tamaki Drive need a special focus?
- It’s a civic treasure. A harbour edge necklace of natural and urban amenities, custom-made for visiting by bike – accessible city beaches and parks, ice-cream shops, coffee-stops, restaurants, cinemas, tourist attractions & lookout points. Tamaki Drive sings with the sparkling natural, cultural and urban life of Auckland. No wonder Metro Magazine recently dubbed it one of the top 5 rides in Auckland!
- It’s Auckland’s most popular cycle route. With more than 1100 riders a day, it consistently tops the cycle counts. And not just svelte lycra–roadies, either, but all types of people riding bikes, both on the road and on the shared paths: kids & families, quaxers, tourists, city apartment dwellers heading to the beach, e-bikers and bike-ravers. It’s home to three bike-hire outfits, underscoring its appeal to thousands of tourists as well as locals.
- It’s time. Auckland’s first official ‘bikeway’ turned 40 this year. A good age to take stock!
While it feels like part of the city furniture, Tamaki Drive wasn’t always there! Check out this photo of Bastion Bay before the road went through; Auckland Museum’s wonderful image of the beginnings of the road’s construction; and hand-annotated photos of the road before and after a footpath was finally added on the seaward side.
In 1976 the seaward path was officially designated Auckland’s first ‘bikeway’ – even though it was basically just the footpath with a painted line down the middle.
It might seem minimalist to our eyes, but in the minds of its proponents this was a great leap forward for the ‘safety of pedal cyclists in Auckland’, as well as the hopeful beginnings of a citywide system of bikeways ‘as part of overall transportation and recreational planning.’ (Luckily, the Traffic Engineer and the Town Planner were not just open-minded about the possibilities, but had ‘made certain pro-cycle track recommendations in the past’!)
Well, here we are four decades later… making many of the same arguments, and riding essentially the same path.
Along the way, Bike Auckland has done a massive amount of work over the years to represent Tamaki Drive cyclists, from Barb Cuthbert’s contributions to the Tamaki Drive Working Group in 2010-2011, as well as years of pressure from advocates for safer cycling conditions at the Ngapipi Rd intersection, and at the Strand.
Those efforts have made a real difference. But while on-road cyclists benefitted from improvements about five years ago following the tragic death of Jane Bishop (and in the wake of other high-profile crashes), there are still a lot of safety issues to iron out – both on the road, and on the shared paths on both sides.
Where we’re at…
During AT’s recent cycling consultation for the inner eastern suburbs, it wasn’t surprising to see many critical comments on shared-path issues along Tamaki Drive, especially on the seaward path. This hard-working piece of Auckland biking heritage can be pretty crowded, especially at weekends. With many pinch points and a pick ‘n mix of hazards for cyclists and pedestrians, it’s way below the standards we expect for popular city cycle facilities.
Still, despite all its problems, the seaside shared-path is carrying many of Tamaki Drive’s cyclists. Here’s what Auckland Transport’s report said last year:
- Over half of the cyclists were riding on the off-road cycleway (53 per cent, up notably from 34 per cent in 2014). This is the first time since 2009 (when monitoring began on the off-road cycleway) that the largest share of cyclists were riding there. Forty per cent were riding on the road (down from 53 per cent last year).
Just going by the numbers we have, it’s striking that this tired old path by itself is busier than many other newer city routes. (NB this count, measured at the Strand intersection morning and evening, doesn’t capture the very large of numbers of local cyclists using Tamaki Drive further east, e.g. for shopping trips from Kohimarama to St Heliers. It would be great to see AT undertake an in-depth study of cyclist movements on Tamaki Drive. In the meantime, there have been several independent attempts to capture what’s happening in more detail, including this one.)
What’s more, many of the people cycling on the shared path are commuters using it as a transport route in preference to the road. You can see why: even though you have to slow down and take care around other users, riding on the path allows cyclists to zip past the queues of vehicles, and to avoid the nasty bits – the T2 lanes, the Ngapipi Road intersection, the narrow lanes between Ngapipi and The Strand, and the container trucks from the port.
And the numbers continue to edge upwards. How much more bike traffic can the existing situation manage?
The Orakei Local Board has led the thinking for the future with their Tamaki Drive MasterPlan, for which they canvassed views from many stakeholders, including Bike Auckland. They’ve suggested a separated cycleway as a key element. Further refinement will be needed to make the plans work for all cyclists, and we think a reduction in car parking will help make the waterfront world class.
What’s needed is investment that does justice to this gorgeous city waterfront, so it can accommodate all the different users along this beautiful but busy stretch of coastline. It’s a compelling vision – imagine a 40km loop around the lovely Waitemata harbour’s edge, all the way from Devonport to St Heliers, over SkyPath on the way!
What else is happening for now?
There are some major projects on the way, which will affect Tamaki Drive:
- The Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive Shared Path When complete, this wonderful new route will connect Tamaki Drive through Orakei, Meadowbank and St Johns to Glen Innes. The first stage from Glen Innes is just about ready to open, and design is underway on the sections that will eventually connect to Tamaki Drive.
- The Tamaki Drive Cycle Route Not many details are yet available, but this project is planned to provide new infrastructure between Ngapipi Rd and Plumer St, linking GI-Tamaki seamlessly to the Quay St Cycle Route, and is UCP-funded to the tune of $4.8million.
- Ngapipi Rd Safety Improvement project Major work at this intersection will provide traffic signals and other long-awaited safety improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. It’s currently out for resource consent. In the meantime, Bike Auckland has strongly advocated for interim safety measures soon to be completed, as this intersection has a long-time serious injury record for cyclists – the worst in Auckland over the years
- AT Consultation on Eastern Cycling Routes This latest consultation complements last year’s which focused on the Glen Innes and Point England areas but also gave people a chance to comment on Tamaki Drive. AT has published the resulting eastern suburbs cycling network here. Neither consultation covers specific projects for Tamaki Drive, and the Eastern Suburbs network map shows Tamaki Drive as a ‘future’ project rather than an ‘existing’ facility. We’re told this reflects AT’s longer-term intention to improve Tamaki Drive – but it’s a wee bit disconcerting not to see the existing cycle facilities included in AT’s network. In any case, it will be good to contribute to waterfront planning as it develops in the near future.
- Mission Bay Town Centre Improvements This partnership with the local business association didn’t directly consider cycling improvements through Mission Bay – a bit of a missed opportunity – although it will have indirect benefits in making this busy centre more people-friendly. We’ve been asking AT for one urgent fix – the westbound painted cycle lane that runs cyclists into the back of parked cars is a shocker that sends the message that cyclists don’t count.
So if you love riding your bike along Tamaki Drive as a commuter, a roadie, or for weekend pleasure, please join us at Bike Tamaki Drive. We’d love to see you for coffee this Friday morning – or check us out on Facebook.