April was a short month, with a lovely string of public holidays – so while it offered bonus opportunities to get out and ride, it can be forgiven for not delivering a whole lot of progress on the ground. And we hope we can be forgiven for taking a break and waiting a couple more weeks to let more news trickle in.
Which it has, so let’s start with the best bits…
WORK UNDER WAY
The one bike project to break ground in April isn’t just for bikes, as the name suggests. Auckland Transport’s huge plan to streamline public transport along 8km from Botany to Panmure – with proper cycleways included! – is set for completion by 2026. That should give AT plenty of time to plan all the safe local links so people can connect to this cycle superhighway, right?
If you’ve driven south on SH1 recently, you’ll have spotted the new cycling bridges taking shape across the Pahurehure Inlet. They’ll create a connection between Conifer Grove Esplanade Reserve (on the north bank) and the Pescara Point Reserve (on the south bank).
This NZTA project has mostly been seen as a motorway widening since it started in 2015. But all along the western side of the motorway, the contractors have been busily building a classy new cycleway as well: 4.5km of off-road shared path, from Takanini to Papakura. (Find out more about the SCI project here, and read the latest construction update here.)
But wait, there’s more! A new pedestrian and cycle overbridge will also sail up and over the motorway, linking Karaka to Papakura, adjacent to the Pescara Point Reserve.
This path will be completed before the end of the year, so expect to join us on a celebration ride!
Also, remember the side link on Walter Strevens Drive that we campaigned for, so Takanini residents on the eastern side of the motorway would have a way to connect to the path? It briefly looked to have dropped off NZTA’s map and fallen into AT’s lap – but NZTA is now in pursuit of funding to make sure it gets built. We love bringing you the good news.
And this piece of ‘motorway cycleway’ is already inspiring locals to ensure maximum access and new connections. Read about the vision to connect communities with a bridge over Papakura Stream.
Again, not strictly a bike project, but a full-on road renewal that will create a key bike link between Wynyard Quarter and Ponsonby. The good news is that it’s on track for completion by October, with the cycleway likely complete by mid-year, and final details like the catenary lighting taking the last little while to complete. Looking good for a midwinter ride!
One thing we especially love about this project is that it shows how easy it is to build pedestrian safety into the picture, with raised crossings at the side streets. Picture this sort of thing rolled out across the city, and you can get a sense of how quickly, effectively, and attractively Auckland Transport could deliver true safety for walking, biking, scooting, mobility of all human kinds – on school routes, in town centres, in the street where you live.
Another not-officially-a-bike-project project: the revitalisation of the Oakley Creek has opened up 1.5km of pathway to explore through Walmsley and Underwood Parks in Wesley/ Mt Roskill.
Already a beloved local walk and cycle route, it will now attract weekend wanderers of all sorts – especially with the new planting, natural playgrounds, new pump/ skate track, and a direct connection from the Waterview Path. A grand opening celebration will happen in July.
We reported on the project when it began, and took a little explore-ride last weekend to check on progress. Pretty glorious, you’ll agree! (And yes, we’re following up on whether those boardwalk sections are getting an anti-slip treatment, as that seems advisable).
The Northern Corridor Improvements
Last month we reported on the situation at the Constellation Rd motorway junction, where a vanishingly narrow shared path was proposed due to space constraints. The NCI team now says it is ‘looking at what can be done to improve the provision for active mode users on this section of the network’. Fingers crossed they can find some wiggle room!
Meanwhile, on Oteha Valley Road, AT has committed to not just widening the footpaths, but building the whole shared path anew. However, NZTA has rejected adding protected bike lanes on the McClymonts Road bridge in favour of a 4m wide shared path on each side. Hard to fathom this decision – especially as NZTA has already built protected lanes as part of the Royal Road bridge, and Bike Auckland and AT are both keen to see protected lanes here. One glimmer of hope: AT is looking into what could be done using the shared path width.
DELAYED, BUT ANY DAY NOW…
This much anticipated project was originally set to kick off at the beginning of 2019, but is now funded, signed off, and expected to start by the end of May. Good news, too: despite any rumours you may have heard, reducing the project length is not on the table. Phew!
New Lynn to Avondale
As of last week, this is still out for tender. In March it was looking at a May start date; the May papers to the AT Board now predict construction in June, as always ‘subject to consent approval’. And so we wait.
One key deadline AT will want to meet: Kiwirail’s ‘pause’ in summer 2020/2021, which is the ideal time to work on – for example – underpasses. And speaking of the underpass, we look forward to seeing the updated designs which include some design changes to make it safer and more pleasant.
Tamaki Drive (The Strand to Ngapipi Rd)
This is about to go out for tender, with all consents now in – including the design for Solent Street. We’re glad that safety will be the primary goal in AT’s final discussions with Ports of Auckland.
Tamaki Drive – Watene Crescent
Another project AT has confirmed will be completed ‘this financial year’, i.e. by the end of June. These much needed safety improvements were delayed when it turned out the smart studs installed in other locations hadn’t been approved for use – but this has now been resolved, and the project is back on track.
Carrington Road Crossing
We’re reliably told this will be built by the end of June! AT is adamant this much-awaited upgrade to this crucial crossing on the northwestern cycleway will be completed this financial year – it’s just awaiting a construction traffic management plan. (And given the record numbers of riders on the NW cycleway this year so far, that’s an important part of the process.)
St Lukes Crossings
Safer crossings are set to proceed on the motorway slip lanes on the south side of the St Lukes interchange (i.e. the NW cycleway) and on the north side (along Great North Road). Previously we’d said earnest things about hoping these would be done by Christmas. As the projects move into final design, that timetable is sounding ever more certain, which is great! We’re encouraged by the swift delivery of similar raised tables around the city as part of AT’s speed management programme.
SHUFFLING ALONG, SHUFFLING AROUND
Great North Road
This route was in the news in April, thanks to the media finally shining some light on the ‘cartruckparty’ campaign. We’ve covered that story here, with a guest post.
Originally due for safe cycleways by 2018 as part of the UCP, Great North Road has now been absorbed into AT’s Integrated Corridor Programme, which aims to optimise key routes for public transport and active transport (including Dominion Road, Ponsonby Road, and Broadway!).
On the one hand, this should mean quality cycleways. On the other hand, it will be at least another couple of years before we see any action. In the meantime, as stakeholders we expect to be involved as early as possible, to make sure the designs reflect best practice for the present and future boom in all kinds of micro-mobility – bikes, e-scooters and more.
… and the rest
A whole bunch of uncompleted projects form the 2015-2018 Urban Cycleways Programme are still ‘in the pipeline’. After some some ‘design and value engineering’ (i.e. reducing costs, but ideally at no cost to safety), AT is currently confirming cost estimates, timing, and funding, to go to the AT Board in June.
Projects on the list include the remaining section of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive project, the Victoria St cycleway (from Beaumont St to Nelson St), the Waitemata Safe Routes (consultation report not yet out) and the Pt Chevalier project (community liaison group currently on pause), as well as the local links in Glen Innes and a few others.
Will all of the delayed projects be progressed? To what level of quality? We’ll let you know as soon as we hear.
IN OUR SIGHTS
Te Wero Bridge/ Wynyard Crossing
A new bridge is set to replace the existing one in the Viaduct, which was always meant to be temporary. The plan is to have the new bridge ready for the America’s Cup, so the clock is ticking loudly! As we reported here, we’ve told the design team we’d like to see a clearer distinction between walking space and two-wheeled space. Watch this space.
Quay St/ Tangihua St
As part of the Downtown works leading up to the America’s Cup, this intersection is proposed for a revamp aimed at steering traffic away from the waterfront. But what does that mean for the hundreds of people on bikes who pass through here every day? As soon as we found out about this project, we knew it needed the Bike Auckland touch. Read how that went, here.
Nelson St Cycleway
If you travel this route regularly, you’ll have noticed the construction gantry. This will be in place until the end of February 2020, while a new hotel is built on that corner. A loading zone was needed, and couldn’t be put on Wellesley St (AT’s preference) as the gradient there is too steep.
Fair to say, its appearance took us by surprise, and it has attracted lots of concerned comments from our readers.
We’ve been listening to your observations and experiences, and have raised flags with AT about the width, surface, and lighting. The usable width has been deemed adequate by AT – shared paths can be as narrow as 2.5m, although that’s a challenge on such a busy route.
The surface is lightly ramped at each end, which should slow down riders. As another quick fix, we’ve suggested some solidity (e.g. a half-wall of plywood) be added to the ‘walls’ of the gantry, to prevent handlebars catching as people navigate past each other at busy times.
The site will be audited throughout construction, and if you have concerns about conditions, or issues with construction traffic, please don’t hesitate to call AT’s helpline at 09 355 3553, or register your issue online.
Speaking of busy times… Nelson St ridership was up by 48% this April over last April. This is the bike lane a certain radio host scoffed at on the day it opened, saying ‘where is everybody?’ Well, here we are!
And remember last year’s faux kerfuffle about the cycleway not meeting its ten-year target in its first year, which required us to do a little mythbusting? On current form, Nelson St will meet its 2026 targets later this year, i.e. seven years ahead of schedule. Report that, Bike Mosking!
WHAT’S COMING NEXT?
As AT’s new structure continues to bed in, here are a few key developments and resources we were looking forward to in May, but seem more likely to trickle into June:
- the release of the Transport Design Manual, a vital guide to consistent and best practice design, which was promised for delivery by Christmas 2018 but has been bouncing around the system…
- confirmation of funding and plans for all the stalled and overdue Urban Cycleway Programme projects.
- a user-friendly version of the ten-year Cycling Programme Business Case, for public reference
- the planned Auckland Cycle Network map (described, but not actually shown, in AT’s GIS system)
- progress on filling the Healthy Streets & Active Modes lead role, which will oversee strategic thinking for cycling and walking.
We’re also all ears about plans for tactical trials of cheap-and-cheerful options, as a way of unblocking the endless pipeline; and looking forward to the cycling rule change package currently working its way through Cabinet.
Just to refresh our memories of where we could be, if the momentum kicks up to match the need: train your binoculars on this colourful plan for the central city network, now awkwardly out of date, but ever lovely and inspiring. Are we there yet? And how about the rest of Auckland?
Remember, it’s local body election year… we’re now less than six months away from election day. This will get interesting. If we want more connected protected routes to ride, we’re going to have to speak up. Get ready to squawk!