The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has come a long way. When Transit NZ (motorway builders) merged with the LTSA (Land Transport Safety Authority) to form the NZTA back in 2008, it was pretty clear the motorway builders were still in control, and consideration for public transport, walking and cycling was far from their minds. Times have changed over the last seven years, although you still see vestiges of the old guard down in Wellington trying to construct a monstrous flyover around the Basin Reserve.

Northern-Corridor

We have a much more enlightened NZTA team in Auckland.  The motorway builders are still at it of course, in this case connecting up the Western Ring Route with SH1 at SH18/Constellation Drive on Auckland’s North Shore.  But they’ve come to realise there’s more to the “Transport” in their name than cars and trucks – in fact you’ll even see a whole section of their website devoted to PT, walking & cycling.  The realisation that cycling is now a valid transport mode with the potential to relieve congestion by switching mode share is now well and truly acknowledged.

We first met with the NZTA team to discuss the Northern Corridor back in December last year.  We had a few simple pleas for them then:

  • Please can we share the corridor ALONG the motorway sections
  • Please can you provide opportunities for us to CROSS the motorway sections (this counters the huge severance effect motorways have on our communities)
  • Please work with Auckland Transport to identify and design routes linking popular origins and destinations for cyclists and tie these in, i.e. cycle routes linking bus stations, schools, tertiary institutions, shopping centres, employment zones, and residential areas
  • Please design for novice and less confident cyclists as well as swift commuters
  • Please design for cycling as a transport mode, ie direct links rather than meandering indirect routes.

So what have we got?

  • Motorway bits for cars and trucks (no surprise there)
  • An extension of the Northern Busway from Constellation Bus Station to Albany Bus Station (great news for our PT colleagues, as this bit was initially going to be excluded). It would be great if they could drop another bus station in the middle too.
  • And on the cycling front, our pleas have been heard…

Firstly, have a look at the map, then we’ll go through the highlights.  Click the map to see a higher resolution PDF:

NCI Cycleway map

Please can we share the corridor ALONG the motorway sections

Why yes, you can!  Take a look at that solid green line running alongside SH1.  That’s a confirmed 5m wide corridor, allowing a 4m shared walking and cycling path.  But hang on – some parts are dotted green lines, which according to the key means they’re only “potential” connections.  Does that mean they won’t be built?  No, not at all.  They will be built, but NZTA has to jump through a few more hoops as they don’t have full authority over components of the corridor.  As they say,

The NCI paths in both solid and dotted green form the recommended proposal being put forward by the NZ Transport Agency. The parts shown as dotted are depicted this way only because they fall outside the agency’s current designation, and due process will need to be followed to apply for and receive designation rights before the exact placement can be firmed up“.

So that means we’ll get shared paths along SH1 between Oteha Valley Rd and Constellation Rd, with on/off ramps at Greville & Rosedale Rds, where currently there’s nothing.  As for SH18/Upper Harbour Hwy, you’d be a very brave cyclist to attempt to use its narrow shoulders at present with traffic roaring past at 80kph.  The shared path will be very welcome there as well, to link up with Albany Highway.

Now, what about that intriguing dotted line heading south along SH1 from Constellation Drive?  Does that mean we’re going to get another shared path linking to SeaPath at Esmonde Rd?  Well, nothing is cast in stone, and it’s certainly not in scope for this project, but that certainly seems to be the intention.  The “Future Proposed Northern Cycleway” running between Oteha Valley Rd in the north to Westhaven cityside in the south via SkyPath.  The vision is there!

Please can you provide opportunities for us to CROSS the motorway sections

There’s no doubting the severance effect of any motorway, but a review of the map shows at least some porosity in those heavy blue motorway lines.  The link at Greville Rd is particularly welcome, as this is a pretty hostile cycling environment at present.

Please work with Auckland Transport to identify and design routes linking popular origins and destinations for cyclists and tie these in

This is another pleasing aspect of the design.  NZTA has been working closely with AT to identify popular destinations, with schools, tertiary institutions, sports facilities, shopping centres and bus stations marked on the map.  The ball is now in AT’s court to turn those dotted orange lines to solid ones with good quality linkages.  This will take the 5km of committed NZTA paths and add 25km of AT paths – which is where you come in.  During the consultation process the NZTA/AT team is going to want the public to help prioritise those paths, so start thinking.

You might also like to identify a route that’s completely missing from the map. For example, Apollo Drive is crying out to be included, particularly due to its proximity to the Millennium Institute and Rangitoto College.

Please design for novice and less confident cyclists

The important thing here is to have some element of physical protection for cyclists.  NZTA’s 4m wide shared paths certainly have this, but unfortunately when we get out onto AT’s street network, protection pretty much disappears.  A typical example is Rosedale Rd – shown as a connected cycling link from Albany Highway to East Coast Rd, but all cyclists get is a 1.5m wide cycle lane separated from traffic by a line of white paint.  Okay, it’s better than nothing, but we can do better now.  An extra 600mm would provide for a painted buffer and plastic posts, resulting in a much greater perception of safety for novice cyclists.

Please design for cycling as a transport mode, i.e. direct links

That’s the beauty of motorways – they’re straight.  But even the other links shown on the map are reasonably direct.  What we don’t want is another Dominion Rd where motorised traffic gets a direct link, but cyclists unwilling to share a bus lane are forced into a meandering zigzag of narrow side streets.

Summary

So all up, well done NZTA and AT.  Your first cut looks pretty good, but as we all know, the devil is in the detail.  But there’s lots of good stuff in there.  A particularly good outcome would be to galvanise AT into bringing forward some of the critical missing connectors on the Auckland Cycle Network.  If for example, Albany Highway South is brought forward, we’d have an excellent north/south link to the west (including renovation of the appalling Upper Harbour Drive intersection) coupled with a major east/west link along the SH18 motorway providing access west to the Greenhithe Bridge.

A request to our readers: let us know what you think in the feedback section of this post below.  We’ll review your comments and use them to supplement our own formal submission.

Timeline

First step is public feedback closing in mid-September, with detailed design and consents taking us to mid-2016.  Construction will be done in stages, with sections completing from 2018 to 2021.

Where to go for more information

Project overview: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/the-western-ring-route/auckland-northern-corridor/

Design map: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/projects/auckland-northern-corridor/14232-NZTA-Northern-Corridor-Latest-Design-Map.pdf

Have your say direct to NZTA (by 5pm Friday 18 September 2015): http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/the-western-ring-route/auckland-northern-corridor/have-your-say/

Categories
Auckland Transport General News Infrastructure North Shore NZTA Regional Auckland Cycle Network
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12 responses to “Northern Corridor Improvements – what’s in it for bikes?

  1. I cycle north to Albany for work. This look amazing! Simply having a cycling highway up and down SH1 to connect to will make a huge difference. All the other connections look good but I’d hope they put in protection, not just the painted lane or shared path that are dangerous.

    1. Thanks Richard – we’re pretty excited about the Northern Cycleway proposal as well. It will do for the Shore what the North-western Cycleway does for the West. The NZTA’s shared path here looks pretty good at 4m wide – certainly better than some parts of the North-western where you’re banging handlebars with approaching cyclists.

      But it’s the street network which is more problematic. Our preference is for physically protected cycle paths (ie Copenhagen lanes), but it’s always a battle getting them in where there’s limited road reserve space, particularly if it involves on-street parking removal. Sometimes we have to compromise to any sort of connectivity, even if sub-optimal, then press for upgrades over time once cycling numbers pick up.

      Cheers – Steve

      1. I appreciate CAA’s actions and interventions on our behalf, and I’m sure you are improving outcomes… AT and NZTA make the right noises, but then…….. I hope the below does not happen in this case…

        You make a great proposal, it’s accepted and fast-tracked, they ask for public consultation… People are happy and respond to your consultation … and then “the powers” impose a Gulag-style view-blocking trench that was never proposed or consulted on in the previous public communications, but it’s too late to change it now because it’s already ordered?

        http://publicaddress.net/hardnews/the-sky-trench/

        http://transportblog.co.nz/2015/08/24/barrier-to-a-view/

        How do you combat this… ???

        1. Good point, Fletcher. The walls on the Nelson St bridge are certainly overkill and will detract from the amenity of the cycle path. Any ped/cycle bridge over a motorway will need to conform to some sort of safety spec, with weather protection and aesthetics also needing to be taken into account. Sometimes NZTA do a pretty good job on their bridge designs, sometimes poorly.

          For the Northern Corridor Improvements we have the ability to submit, and can do so on this specific topic. Cycle Action will also ask to be a key stakeholder in the design process so we can review the draft detailed designs prior to sign-off and construction. This particular NZTA team has been approachable and receptive to Cycle Action input, and I’m sure we’ll get a say as they work through the process. No guarantees, but we’ll do our best.

          Cheers – Steve

  2. Seeing that they are building a new road from Paul Matthews to Carribean I assume that they will be putting a protected cycle lane on that road?

    1. Hi George – on the main map they state “Local road connections to Upper Harbour Highway still under investigation” so it’s not exactly clear if local roads are going to cross the new motorway. I suspect not – it’s just too expensive for road bridges for the limited demand.

      Certainly the cycle underpass from Rook/Barbados to Paul Matthews will remain, and it looks like crossings get enhanced by up to three other cycle crossings (bridges the way they are drawn) so the cycle path can switch from one side to the other. I’m curious about the Unsworth and William Pickering bridges as they’re fairly close together. Will try and flesh this out for the submission. Cheers – Steve

        1. Yes, you’re quite right, George. There will be some sort of road linkage between Caribbean Dr and Paul Matthews Rd – whether a bridge or underpass is still subject to investigation. Certainly we’d have no appetite for funnelling cyclists into a roundabout, so that certainly needs to be a focus of our submissions.

    1. We’ve taken AT to task before on defining some pretty marginal infrastructure as an “Existing cycle link”, Bryce. Rest assured this pressure will continue. See it as a progressive improvement exercise. Roll on the next tranche of the Urban Cycle Fund so we can commit a bit more money to the Shore. Cheers – Steve

  3. I feel ill, yet another massive motorway project with all its dreadful consequences (complete with 1950’s style fly-overs) to get a few improvements to Auckland’s neglected PT & active transport network.

  4. This is great stuff! One thing to consider. East Coast Rd is currently very popular for cycling and cyclists often use Spencer road to get to Albany Park and Ride. Would be nice to have a connection from Spencer Rd to the new corridor.

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