It’s a sad fact of life for engineers designing cycling infrastructure that the sacred cow of on-street parking frequently frustrates good design.  We see vociferous opposition from residents and businesses to the loss of car parking everywhere we turn – from Carlton Gore Rd to Franklin Rd to Westhaven Drive/Beaumont St to of course Queen St in Northcote.  For some, the storage of private vehicles, often at no cost, is more important than moving people safely and efficiently along a roadway.  We don’t yet live in enlightened times like our European cousins in the Netherlands and Denmark.

Northcote Safe Cycle Route
Route map

I’ve blogged before on the Northcote Safe Cycle Route, both the initial concept almost a year ago, quickly followed by a commentary when politicians started wading in.

To recap a little, Auckland Transport (AT) came up with an excellent design for a near-continuous 5.2km cycle route between Takapuna North and the ferry terminal at Northcote Point as a component of the Auckland Cycle Network, which of course will also tie in superbly to the northern terminus of SkyPath.  There were a few minor issues we highlighted back to AT, but overall we were delighted with both the concept and the design.  But there was the vexed issue of loss of some Queen St parking in Northcote Point to make room for protected cycle lanes.

So how have AT handled this, particularly when heavyweight politicians like Jonathan Coleman MP and Councillor George Wood sided with the objections of some of the local residents?

Rather well, actually, particularly if your advocacy is tempered with pragmatism and budgeting realities.

AT could have carried on with their good design regardless, and we would have supported them, but it came with the risk of the entire project being canned or delayed due to political interference.

They could have realigned the road by narrowing the carriageway, shifting the kerbs/parking inwards and making for generous shared paths on both sides.  But this would have cost a huge amount and blown the budget.

They could have done nothing, but this would have left the road feeling unsafe, particularly for children and those new to hopping on a bike.

Speed table & sharrows

Or they could have slowed the traffic down by introducing one-way speed tables with cycle bypasses, and sharrows to indicate the road is a shared space.  And this is what they’ve done – effective and economical.  Read more on AT’s website.  Sure it’s not as good as the initial design, but it’s an acceptable compromise given the low traffic volumes, and one which the locals should buy into as well.  Not only is on-street parking mostly retained, the whole area from the Bridgeway to the Point will become a slow speed zone, making the area much more pleasant for residents, pedestrians and cyclists, and reinforcing the heritage nature of the area.

The other piece of good news about this project is that the Kaipatiki Local Board is right in behind it, funding is committed, and construction starts in mid-2016 to finish the following year.  That should dovetail nicely with SkyPath!

But more than just a cycle route, this will be the catalyst for making the entire Northcote area more cycle friendly.  Think more kids cycling to school and sports facilities, more commuters taking the ferry and SkyPath, better access and more patronage for the Bridgeway entertainment precinct, and more residential trips by bike to the shopping centres for a bit of #quaxing.

There’s one aspect of the southern Queen St design that could be further improved, though.  While the physical elements will slow traffic down (especially the speedsters running late for the ferry), it needs to be reinforced by a 30kph speed restriction.  50kph is too fast to intentionally mix motorists and cyclists, particularly as there is no physical separation.  According to AT, it’s just too hard.  We’d encourage them to try a little harder, but it does raise the wider issue that Road Controlling Authorities such as AT shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to impose speed restrictions where they’re clearly warranted.

Lake/Raleigh roundabout

I’ve dwelt too much on the Queen St leg as this was the contentious part.  Let’s not forget the other 4km where AT has done a great job with protected cycle lanes, good quality shared paths, and some special design for the Lake/Raleigh roundabout. It’s great that pedestrian crossings are part of the design – but technically cyclists have to dismount and push their bikes across, which is a bit of a nonsense. What we need (and something that’s common overseas, but our traffic markings don’t easily allow for) is a way of denoting that cyclists have right of way across a road.

So all up, good work AT.  Let’s get on and build the Northcote Safe Cycle Route with some urgency, and enhance it from there.  When combined with the shared path along Onewa Rd, SkyPath, SeaPath, the Akoranga Dr/Esmonde Rd shared path, the Green Route, the Lake Rd cycle lanes, plus neighbourhood initiatives, it will turn the lower North Shore into a mecca for bikes with good connectivity to the city.  It just makes so much sense.

But we’d like to urge AT: next time the sacred cow of on-street parking wanders out onto the road, please keep your resolve when it comes to prioritising roadway space for active use!

Auckland Transport Cycle lanes Infrastructure North Shore Traffic Calming
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18 responses to “Northcote Safe Cycle Route Update – a pragmatic win

  1. Thanks Steve – you may consider updating the casual reader on the fact that substantial parts (even of Queen Street!) still have dedicated cycleways. The sharrows and speed tables are only in the southern half or so. North of that it’s a combination (somewhat inconsistent at times, but hey) of protected cycle lanes, buffered cycle lanes and shared paths. Not perfect, but also not “sharrows everywhere”.

  2. Hi guys. Can I just state that I’m not a fan of the speed table / bypass design. Better in my opinion just to have a 6m wide table.

    1. And rather than just paint for parking zones, it needs something a bit more, be it drains or a raised surface of some kind.

      1. I much prefer a straight line these days after having tried a few different options. Use the tables just to keep speeds down.

      1. In the drawing it appears to be 1 way. Is that correct or is it actually wider and the drawing deceptive? If it is 1 way, oncoming motorists tend to get too close to the table and pull left to let the oncoming car through.

  3. You say that the speed needs to be reduced to 30kmph and yet – still today – AT list Queen street as a safe cycle route as endorsed by Cycle Action Auckland… You need to get over yourself Steve, if you consider it safe now then nothing needs to be done to Queen Street. What a waste of Auckland rate payers money 🙁

  4. Apologies to residents further along the route – my comments are just concerned with the Queen St area. Ironically this new shared path will probably make my car journey better because the removal of a northbound lane on Queen Street will prevent masses of cars directly turning into Faulkner Road. Unfortunately this development will encourage traffic to speed along quieter back streets and probably cause queues of traffic down across Little Shoal Bay. Within a year of being built there will be accidents in the area where formerly there were none. Does adding “safe” to the name of a shared path make it safer? And then of course there is Onewa Road to negotiate. At around 1,300,000 dollars per 1,000 meters I can’t help feeling that the planners have lost the plot. So I’d say this is not good design and not good value.

    1. The number of lanes on Queen isn’t being changed anymore. That was a previous design, not this.

      And for comparison, our motorways cost over 30 million per 1000m, so getting improved footpaths and cycleways at less than 5% of that cost may not be a bargain, but isn’t exactly excessive either.

  5. Why does Queen St on Northcote Point need a cycle path? In my 40 years the only accident was me hitting a child riding a bike on the footpath coming out of my drive. Now we have the prospect of shared footpaths at one of the busiest intersection is NZ where cyclists have to share the path with children going to school. Shared paths are dangerous and deadly. In UK it is illegal for a cyclist to ride on any foot path ever. No exceptions. It is illegal too in NZ for cyclists to use the footpath and with good reason for it is the pedestrian that comes off worse in an area that they should be safe. The NZ Transport planning guide only allows it under extreme circumstances and then with restriction that the path is 4 meters + and only 200 uses per hour.

    There have been few if any accidents involving cars and cyclists in this area. I am one of the few as I hit a child cyclist who was riding illegally on the footpath. She did not stop at my warning toots and I did not expect her to be there. I know the dangers of mixing cyclists and pedestrians. Why introduce this unnecessary danger?
    Queen St is not a mecca for cyclists except of the Tour de France variety and the Postie. One can sit for hours at Sausilito and never see a cyclist. On my frequent ferry journeys I Have counted just 12 cyclists. Tow of those walked up the hill as it is so steep. Big hills. Only two cycle movements were plotted on the census and those were probably the Postie. There is no extra parking problem on the Point as there is not a park to be had most days now. But no millions of dollars are to be spent and a lot of hardship for the business who are now harder to access.

    When the accidents begin to happen, as they will with shared footpaths, I hope you will feel proud of yourselves for allowing this.

    The shared footpath at the top of Queen St has got to go and the few cyclists will have to use the road in the interests of safety.

    1. Children are allowed to use the footpath for cycling, and people on the footpath have right of way over vehicles on driveways. You are at fault in that collision

  6. I like the speed tables on Queen St bypass cost effective and appropriate for a low traffic volume dead end street.
    If I recall correctly these were promised on the infamous Dominion Rd Alt route but not delivered further reducing it’s appeal. I think the reason was some minor parking. Lets hope AT don’t cave in here.

  7. The redesign of the lake rd roundabout is still not good enough from a safety standpoint. This slip-lane-like design where cars can cross with minimal deviation from a straight line is dangerous, in effect cars have a tendency to not slow down enough to be able to yield if needed. That also gives the driver very little time/opportunity to watch what’s going on inside the roundabout, and therefore a higher chance of ‘not seeing’ a cyclist in there. These approaches should have much more marked angles to force cars into slowing down.

  8. This is a disaster, the surrounding streets are going to fill up with parked cars as people flock (in their cars) to the start of this to ride it. They’ll be urinating in the residents front gardens. And don’t get me started on that ferry wharf, if they bring in this new ferry service for cyclists then people are going to be driving to the wharf in their cars to ride the ferry and the residents will have nowhere to park, and the ferry commuters will be urinating in the streets.

    1. Could you explain your fascination with public urination and its connection to safe bike routes?

      1. According to the Northcote (minority of) Residents Association, it is common knowledge that cycle routes cause public urination disorder, refer to their anti-Skypath campign for conclusive evidence.

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