Ponsonby Road for cyclists!

No Space For CyclistsIt is sadly typical for Auckland that vibrant areas full of pedestrians are divided in two by four-lane roads. Or that the best and greatest “cycle facility” on that road is a 40 kph speed limit!

Things may be about to change, with the Waitemata Local Board’s bold new Masterplan for Ponsonby Road. The plan – as you would expect from a local board where over half the members are keen and regular cyclists – proposes some fundamental changes.

We ask cyclists and would-be cyclists (partners, parents, friends!) to support these proposals! But what IS actually being proposed? Well, glad we can give you a quick rundown:

For the northernmost section, around Three Lamps, we get the following options:

First Three Lamps

CAA obviously prefers Option C – not only would that provide cycle lanes in both directions, it would also get rid of the angled car parking, which is always a bit riskier, when car drivers suddenly scoot backwards, not being able to see much.

Option A would also be a good improvement though, as it would provide a dedicated space northbound for cycling where currently, cyclists aren’t allowed at all. Option B doesn’t really offer anything to cyclists – in fact it would make it worse than it is…

For the centre section, north of Franklin Road, we get the following options:

Second To Franklin Road

These layouts propose to remove one southbound lane (there is only one southbound lane further north, so this is reasonably uncontroversial). However, Option A doesn’t provide any southbound cycle lane – and we would be somewhat concerned at only a single lane remaining that is so narrow you couldn’t overtake a cyclist safely here. So Option A would really only work with a 20-30 km/h speed limit, and it still might not  be that great.

Option B is a lot better – by reducing the central median, we get a second, southbound cycle lane. It’s time we built consistent facilities, so we strongly support Option B.

The working group also discussed that instead of painted cycle lanes we could get Copenhagen cycle lanes (an example image here). We’d really like to see that. Ponsonby Road seems particularly suitable for getting Auckland (and Auckland’s traffic engineers and politicians) used to Copenhagen lanes – it has few driveways, and a lot of suppressed cycle demand. Success would be pretty instantaneous, we believe.

For the southern section, south of Franklin Road, we get the following options:

Third Past Franklin Road

Well, Option A starts out with the same issue as discussed above – it is, quite literally, a half-hearted measure, with a southbound cycle lane only. No thanks. Option B – especially in the Copenhagen cycle lane version – seems to be the best option. Option C would likely really only work in the Copenhagen version anyway, as moving the cycle lane by time of day would be very difficult to communicate to drivers (and cyclists!).

The Big Picture

Ponsonby Road can only profit from cycling –  in a NYC study, the installation of high-quality cycle lanes created a 49% boost in retail sales along the studied 9th Avenue street, while surrounding areas saw only a 3% increase. Some of that knowledge must have filtered through to New Zealand, as our CAA representative on the workshop group reported that the local retailers have cautiously agreed that losing some parking might be an acceptable cost for better cycling facilities. That may sound very tentative for those among us who want more radical change – yet for Auckland, such a change in attitude, even with some hesitation, it is little less than revolutionary!

Now, this plan is clearly not the last word yet. Many things will change before the road itself changes. Some cycle changes proposed here won’t work out – or other things may become possible instead. Heck, its even possible that if we don’t push strongly enough for it, all real cycle features could die a Dominion Road-type death, and be replaced by some fig leaves.

But whatever happens, the best way to get cycling improvements, as always, is to be bold and confident and numerous in asking for them. The Local Board, CAA and other supporters of a less car-dominated Ponsonby Road have cast the dice – but the score is far from tallied, and there will be moves opposing even minor change (“greenie cycleways – who needs them“).

Please give your own comment to Council on the proposals, because we need better cycling on Ponsonby Road!

We’ll close with a great quote from a very cycling-friendly mayor overseas (thanks to Kent Lundberg for finding it):

“Urban transport is a political and not a technical issue. The technical aspects are very simple. The difficult decisions relate to who is going to benefit from the models adopted.” -Enrique Peñalosa

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Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better region. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

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