The hot sun beat down on the Nelson St off-ramp on Friday, making for steamy conditions for the Minister of Transport’s event on the off-ramp to announce the first allocation of $$ from the Government’s Urban Cycleways Fund.
I felt sorry for all the blokes in suits, especially as they were shown up by Simon Bridges, who arrived looking relaxed and dressed for cycling. Once the formalities were over, he approached me, keen to chat. Luckily Max, our cycling design guru, was nearby, so I could introduce him as the source of Cycle Action’s inspiration to get the Nelson St project underway last year.
Simon began by expressing admiration for the thousands of submissions we’d generated with Gen Zero and Transport Blog for SkyPath. He didn’t need to be told about SkyPath’s strategic value to Auckland for transport, leisure and tourism – he was fully up to speed and supportive.
Cycle Action’s plans for the Nelson St off-ramp and protected cycleway were launched in May to coincide with Janette Sadik Khan’s 3 day visit to Auckland. We saw it as a perfect illustration of her New York pilot projects.
We’ve been collaborating with AT and NZTA for the past 6 months to turn the project into reality. Both bodies have been wonderfully supportive …Special thanks to the NZTA’s Regional Director, Ernst Zollner for his early leadership in calling the first meeting and giving us confidence the project would be delivered as fast as possible.
We’re delighted that NZTA and AT regard the project to be so worthwhile it will be built as a permanent addition to the city’s cycling and walking networks. Instead of our suggested ‘bailey bridge’ connecting to the K Rd over bridge, (which would have compromised structural components of the bridge), the NZTA is well underway with a tender for the design and construction of a 160m bridge to the off-ramp from South Street, behind K Rd. This opens the route (via Canada St) to and from the Grafton Rd- Upper Queen St link, and allows us to promote faster action to improve Ian McKinnon Rd, the ‘glaring’ weak link in the NW Cycleway- Grafton – Beach Rd cycling route.
This evolution of the Nelson St project to a permanent cycleway brings us back to the Urban Cycleways Fund, as permanent structures need serious money. Here’s the list of projects that Simon Bridges announced will benefit from the first allocation from the fund. (We’re beaming, as key projects that Cycle Action helped to get underway last year for joint AT/NZTA delivery, are on the list.)
The Minister also announced the members of a new Panel to approve the Fund’s future allocations. We warmly applaud the appointment of Pippa Coom as a local government representative, Glen Koorey, (Canterbury University academic with superb credentials for bringing about safer cycling communities from his pro bono work) and Cynthia Bowers, Deputy Mayor of Hastings. Cynthia is a modest, effective champion for cycling, who has been influential in the success of Hastings as a model community for cycling.
After our chat with the Transport Minister and the overwhelming public support for SkyPath’s resource consent application, it’s clear that SkyPath will be a prime candidate for future allocations from the Urban Cycleways Fund. Fingers crossed on this!
As an aside, I was bemused to hear Mayor Brown announce in his Off-ramp speech that 2015 will be ‘The Year of the Cycleway’. How can he say this only days after he launched the Council’s draft 10 year budget, which kills the prospect of new stand- alone cycling projects in Auckland for the next decade!
I’ve been telling media recently that 2015 has to be one for major cycleway delivery. My faith rests on NZTA’s excellent and growing record in funding cycling in Auckland. The Minister of Transport’s visit has added to this confidence. Contrast this with the Mayor’s current plans to bring cycleway building to a screaming halt!
On that note, I give another cheer for the Urban Cycleways Fund and our new Transport Minister who is comfortable on a bike and engaged with our plans to change Auckland for cycling.