Notes towards a pre-history of Skypath: voices from the 1970s

Jun 24, 2015
Notes towards a pre-history of Skypath: voices from the 1970s

Bike Auckland

Something that became clearer than ever, over the course of the Skypath resource consent hearing, was how long Aucklanders have yearned to solve this missing link for our city. To be able to walk and bike over our most iconic harbour crossing would be an immense gift to our city, its people, and its visitors.

In our files, we found some eloquent evidence of this longterm longing for a shortcut from Shore to City. We’re not just talking about a decade ago, when Bevan Woodward signed the petition asking for a feasibility study. We mean even further back than that.

Back in 1979, PATH (Pathways Across The Harbour) was set up to advocate for a cycleway across the AHB, and made a bit of a splash in the local papers with an article by Michael Bland of Friends of the Earth (following the lead of FoE in England, they were proto-cycle advocates in Auckland).

Here are five fabulous examples of the many letters PATH received in support.

1. From an unnamed correspondent with excellent penmanship and even greater stamina (alas, the second page of the letter is missing):

At present I cycle to work in the city twice a week via Greenhithe, a round trip of approx 80K taking approx 1 1/2 hours each way. I would do this more often but it is not possible due to the time factor etc. If I was able to use the bridge I would probably cycle one way across the harbour on say two working days per week and both ways on two days, travelling by other means on the fifth day to transport clothes etc. If bridge access is to be provided, it should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

Skypathletter
2. From a Mrs Groome, who sweetly apologises for her choice of stationery:

Dear Mr Bland,

Having just read your article “Would you cross Pathway” in today’s Advertiser, I’m most intrigued. What a good idea!

The two centre lanes, covered in, would be ideal for both pedestrians & cyclists, a pavement in both for the walkers.

There would, of course, have to be some safe approach devised from the motorway to Fanshawe St.

I’m all for it!

Good Luck!

Beth (?) Groome.

P.S. Sorry for note paper. Gift! Has to be used.

Beth Groome Pathway

3. From a young correspondent in Takapuna with impeccable logic:

I think that people should be able to cycle over the bridge in all weathers. If there was a separate lane it would be fine. I also think you should be able to cycle both ways. Not one way, because how would you get back again?

Sarah Blundell

Kids Letter 1979

4. A pair of flatmates from Glenfield, who are doing their bit for the petrol shortage, and can’t see why the Harbour Bridge Authorities shouldn’t help out, too:

Skypathflatmate1

 

Skypathflatmate2

 

5. And, on splendid letterhead, from Mere Roberts on behalf of – goodness gracious! – The Northcote Residents Association:

Dear Sir,

Our association has read with interest your article in the North Shore Times Advertiser 27-3-79 concerning your efforts to promote a bicycle-way across the Harbour Bridge. We are vitally interested in all forms of alternative transport and recently invited Mr Harry Julian of “Blue Boats” to a public meeting to outline his firm’s proposals for a ferry service to Birkenhead.

In addition we are writing to the Birkenhead Residents’ Association seeking their support for a bike-way across the bridge, with the aim of then asking Mr Brannigan of the A.H.B. Authority to set aside a trial Sunday for all interested cyclists to attempt a bridge crossing. Your article is therefore timely and most appreciated.

We wonder if the best course of action would be for the Residents’ Associations on the Shore – namely ourselves, and hopefully Birkenhead – to cooperate with your organisation in a joint approach to the Harbour Bridge Authority with a view to implementing a bike-way over the bridge? We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Mere Roberts,

Secretary

Northcote Residents Association Letter 1979

As we wait for the outcome of the resource consent, it’s fascinating to consider an alternate world in which the question was promptly sorted out 35 years ago – perhaps even by granting a whole lane of the bridge itself to active travel modes.

What would have been the flow-on effect of prioritising bikes and pedestrians on our premier piece of infrastructure? How would that have changed the way we felt about our local streets? How different might Auckland look and feel today!

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