Welcome to our new Project Watch feature – a monthly round-up of Auckland’s progress (or lack thereof) towards being a great place to bike.
These monthly round-ups will highlight what’s happening with key cycling-related projects across the city. Our information comes from public sources, as well as from our regular meetings and close working relationships with the NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Transport, and Auckland Council, among other partners. We’ll strive to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible, and we warmly welcome your thoughts and questions.
To kick things off, we ran a survey to find out what you most want to hear about, and you came in loud and clear!
Whenever we’re talking to the thousands of Aucklanders who are eager to just get out and ride, they have one big question: why does it take so long to get anything built?
The fact we work closely with the agencies tasked with delivering safe cycling means we can help explain the challenges they face – but we’re not here to excuse unnecessary delays.
We’re in the business of making Auckland better for cycling, so we will be calling the agencies to account while supporting and encouraging the people doing the work to make it happen.
As of 1 March, the specialist Walking and Cycling at Auckland Transport is disbanded. The Chief Executive has assured us that cycling will be embedded across all AT’s activities. This means we’ll be working harder than ever this year to be close to people at the top tables of every department, asking the questions you want us to ask, and bringing you the explanations.
Because this is the year to ask – with increasing urgency – are we there yet? And if not, why not?
Of course Skypath would be top of the list! Being able to walk, bike, or scoot between the city and the North Shore has been Auckland’s #1 missing link for decades, and is an increasingly glaring gap in the landscape.
When Government announced in August 2018 it would fund the project, delivery was taken on by NZTA with the promise of a business case by mid-2019. As we wrote at the time: ‘Will it be ready in time for the America’s Cup? That’s the strong hope.’
Then things went quiet… until this week. In response to concerns expressed by the SkyPath Trust (see stories in Stuff, Newshub, NZ Herald, and RNZ), NZTA issued a media release saying the business case is ‘well under way’, and that they’re looking at ‘a number of design options’ and ‘want to get it right the first time – including the right width – so more people can use it without restrictions; as well as the best materials to build the structure.’
Despite the encouraging words, we are worried by this latest report, which raises even more questions about what’s happening with this project and has us deeply concerned.
Remember, we’ve gotten this far thanks to the gumption, ingenuity, and collective hard work of brave people who always believed it was possible, against scepticism and at times outright opposition. People who showed up again and again to give voice to the need for a connection. And people who took the time and shared their expertise to demonstrate how it could be done.
It’ll be a tight squeak to deliver on the promise of this vital link in time for the America’s Cup in early 2021. What’s not in any doubt at all is how desperately Aucklanders want this connection! So all eyes are now on NZTA to get it done.
This week’s Skypath update from NZTA also included a brief mention of Seapath:
The Transport Agency is also continuing work on SeaPath, a 4km shared path between Northcote Point and Esmonde Road, Takapuna. It is a priority for the Transport Agency to coordinate the design and delivery of both SeaPath and a shared walking and cycling path over the Auckland Harbour Bridge to create the best outcomes for the community as well for those who will use them.
It’s worth noting that Seapath is not just an extension of the bridge crossing – it will also link the eastern edge of Kaipatiki to the Devonport peninsula and Takapuna. Public consultation in late 2018 was positive; the next step is to gain resource consents. A funding gap may require a phased approach, in which case, Bike Auckland would support building the northern section first for maximum benefit. That said, we’re aligned with the public and local politicians in advocating for the entire route to be built in one go to meet the opening of Skypath.
Bikes & Light Rail on Dominion Road
The proposal to run light rail along Dominion Road – as part of the City Centre to Mangere route – brought with it the obvious question. This flat, direct, central, shop-lined route through the isthmus is a dream for bike travel. So if you’re transforming it anyway, why not go full multi-modal and enable safe cycling at the same time?
Like Skypath, this project now sits with NZTA for delivery, and has been a bit quiet in the public realm. Recently, the Light Rail team updated key stakeholders to confirm that it has been working on a business case since May 2018 and will continue to refine the business case while an alternative approach from the NZ Super Fund and CDPQ Infra is assessed by Treasury and the MOT.
Whatever the outcome of that assessment, we urge you to add your voice to the call to include bikes in the design for Dominion Road, and will share further updates with you as soon as we hear.
You’d be snoozing if you hadn’t spotted this in the news this week – the bottleneck of narrow path through Kingsland has fizzed up, with Newton Central School suspending its walking school bus because bike traffic has become too busy at peak times (including poor behaviour by some riders). Read our recent post for a round-up of the coverage, and a reminder that we first raised this issue a year ago in partnership with the school.
Good news to hand: as noted in the latest RNZ report, Auckland Transport is now investigating land ownership and signalling an intention to pursue a co-design fix with Bike Auckland and Newton Central School, while also looking at other measures to slow speeds and encourage safe sharing of the path in the meantime.
We’d reiterate that this section needs separation for pedestrians and bikes, not just widening. And remember to ride more thoughtfully through here if you’re one of the 1000+ people a day on wheels who enjoy this increasingly connected route to town!
The St Lukes interchange
Over the last few years, we’ve been working with AT and mainly NZTA to get upgrades to the cycleway through here. Initially, we were pressing NZTA to deliver the southbound bike lane that was in the consented plans but disappeared when the layout was changed after the interchange was built in 2016.
Since then, we’ve been requesting more than just a painted lane. We’re also seeking better west-east crossings, and an improved pathway across Duncan McLean Link to bridge the gap to the protected bike lanes on St Lukes Road itself.
While this process has taken almost three years, we’re pleased to say the draft plans now include:
- Bike priority crossings where the NW cycleway traverses the existing slip lane zebra crossings; we are currently pushing to have them placed onto raised tables for greater safety.
- A Copenhagen-style raised bike lane southbound from the bridge to Duncan McLean Link and – fingers crossed, as this part is in AT-land – a raised table crossing where the bikeway crosses Duncan McLean.
These fixes will significantly improve safety at this key interchange on Auckland’s fastest-growing and second-busiest bikeway. Further good news is that NZTA has confirmed funding for these works; what’s needed now is confirmed construction dates.
SH16 slip lanes at Great North Road/ MOTAT
While the above fixes on the south side of the St Lukes interchange are welcome, on the other side of the motorway a safety project languishes unbuilt.
A safe path here was promised to the Waitemata Local Board in 2013 as part of the massive upgrade of the St Lukes interchange. In 2018 a plan was designed and consulted on, for safe and raised crossings over the motorway on/offramps and a path across the petrol station entrances and past the Pohutukawa 6.
The project page says construction was set to start in the third quarter of 2018. So it’s interesting – ironic, in fact – to see this exact location in an article today about Auckland Transport’s plan for safer speeds, featuring a rider hit by a driver exiting the motorway. The story focuses on speed and how the outcome would have been worse if the driver had been going faster.
The obvious question is: had the planned raised crossing on the slip lane been built already, would it have prevented the collision altogether? And with safety as AT’s new watchword: what’s the hold-up here?
The Carrington Road crossing
Another long-awaited project! We’re told this is out for tender now-ish, and set to be constructed in April. We’re very glad to hear these dates – although construction has been ‘impending’ and then delayed more than once, so we’ll hold the champagne till we see action on the ground.
NW Cycleway – Westgate extension
If you’ve travelled along the NW Motorway (SH16) to Westgate recently, you’ll see parts of the new bikeway are tantalisingly close to finished. Bike Auckland was involved in the design, and managed (with AT’s help) to have Copenhagen cycle lanes included on the new Royal Road overbridge.
We also succeeded in restoring to the plans an access ramp from Huruhuru Road. (Sadly, underpasses at either Lincoln Road or Royal Road weren’t possible, in part because the consents date from 2011!).
This extension and the Royal Road overbridge will be enormously useful, expanding the catchment of long-distance riders from the west, and creating local links between communities along both sides of the motorway and to the Westgate shopping centre. According to the December newsletter on NZTA’s project website, the shared path is on track for completion in August 2019.
The K Road streetscape upgrade
This very exciting and transformative joint Council-AT project is now ‘on track for construction start in March’, which is literally just around the corner. Expect to see shovels in the ground soon!
The Ngapipi Road intersection, on the list of the ten worst black spots in Auckland, was rebuilt in 2018 – but we’re still waiting for a couple of small yet significant safety improvements: protection from turning traffic when biking towards the CBD, and changing the location of a lamp post where Ngapipi Road meets Tamaki Drive.
Bike Auckland expects several other projects to break ground along Tamaki Drive this year, including:
- Clip-ons to the Ngapipi Bridge, providing separate facilities for bikes and pedestrians.
- Extending the Quay Street cycleway along Tamaki Drive, from west of The Strand through to Ngapipi Road. (Breaking: we’ve heard today that resource consent has been granted for this.)
- Improvements to the intersection with Watene Crescent for those using the roadway.
Also of note, Tamaki Drive is host to two of the proposed 30kmh town centre zones to be consulted on in March – through Mission Bay and St Heliers. This should provide a much needed boost to safety along this busy and much loved cycling route.
New Lynn to Avondale
This long-awaited project was listed in papers to the February meeting of the AT Board* as imminently out to tender and intended to start construction in March/April 2019. And just in time for this bulletin, we had it confirmed that the advance notice for the tender is being published today, with the tender itself to be published next week. Woohoo!
We’re also hearing that the underpass beneath the railway line at St George’s Rd (about which we raised concerns regarding limited sightlines for safety and security) should come through the process with shining colours, perhaps even literally. Watch this space!
*Note: the monthly Business Reports to the AT Board always include updates on bike projects – the report we linked to above also includes info on Victoria St, Westhaven to the CBD, plus local projects in Herne Bay, Pt Chevalier, Grey Lynn, and Glen Innes. You can find the Board Reports and other papers here.
Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive/ Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai
The great eastern cycleway, originally projected to be completed in 2018, is a 7km of off-road path from Glen Innes into Tamaki Drive. A section at the Glen Innes end was completed in late 2016, and progress since then has been slow.
After discussion and reconsultation at the end of last year, a new balustrade design for the Orakei Basin section (Section 3) is now in production. This section should be finished and open around the middle of 2019.
Late 2018 also saw consultation on the detailed design for Section 2 (see report on the AT website). We’re told this section of the path is on track; as is Section 4, which connects Orakei Station around the foreshore of Hobson Bay to Ngapipi Rd and needs detailed design and resource consent.
The next newsletter comes out in March – it will be available on the Transport Agency website. as well as being delivered in the project area.
It’s been confirmed that the new Old Mangere Bridge will begin construction mid-year. This is exciting! We’re also glad to report the security update for the New Mangere Bridge underpass has been well received, with 91% of respondents to a December 2018 NZTA intercept survey reporting they are happy or very happy with both the upgrades and the sense of safety.
In other news from the Mangere Bridge team: CCTV will be installed by March, and security guards will continue to be on duty (as well as watching out for people, they had a surprise treat the other week!).
Discussions are also in progress about artwork for the underpass; and a ‘desire line’ path on the south side that could be formalised is being discussed with Council.
Te Atatu Rd – a new crossing on the Peninsula
Just before Christmas 2017 came the tragic death of John Bonner while crossing four-lane Te Atatu road on his bike near a pedestrian refuge. This was the last straw for the community, which had been pleading with Auckland Transport for years to make this road safer.
AT proposed a new crossing design in October 2018. Local advocates Bike Te Atatu brought their knowledge to the table and made the case for a better location, with our backing.
The good news: AT listened, and is now pursuing a new spot for the crossing near the location Bike Te Atatu helped identify as the desire line (slightly offset to account for driver sightlines).
However, this does mean the project has been pushed into the next financial year – albeit hopefully the first half, i.e. before Christmas 2019. It also likely means another round of consultation.
In the interim, AT says it will look at more immediate measures, for example replacing the current speed feedback sign and installing another on the other side of the road, or adding coloured ‘threshold’ treatments to the road. If these interim measures go ahead, it’s vital for AT to be clear with the community that this is not all they are doing, and that a full signalised crossing is on the way.
While East Auckland continues to be a bit of a desert for safe cycling options, in coming years the AMETI project will create a river of access. We’ll be looking to you to add your voices loud and clear to our call for safe local links – bike tributaries to connect people towards the new main route and create a flowing network of access.
In the meantime, there’s a proposal to introduce T2/bus lanes on Pakuranga Road to make the peak hours more efficient, although some Local Board members are apparently ‘yet to be convinced’. While not strictly a cycling project, this would have the added effect of a bit more breathing room for people who ride on-road, as they’ll be able to use the lane. As our strong local voices from Bike East Auckland have said, ‘it might not be perfect, it might not be liked, but it is the best possible current solution.’
And lastly, in unequivocally good news: the spectacular Tirohanga Whanui bridge is now formally open. This walking and cycling bridge reconnects Spencer Road to Albany, and will be a key link in the Northern Shared Path. It’s also a beautiful piece of design and has already been nominated for multiple awards.
You may have driven under the new bridge already, but if you’re keen to check out the new crossing on foot or bike, it can be accessed from the west side via Corinthian Drive on a completed path, and from the east via a temporary 3m-wide path. There will be signage on site explaining the wider plan and the timeline to completion.
And that’s Project Watch for February. We hope this whets your appetite for news. We also hope it gives a sense of the magnitude and value of the task, and the urgency of accelerating delivery wherever possible if Auckland is to deliver on its promise as a great place to go by bike.
If you’d like to help expand this courage, we welcome donations to keep the project going. As little as $10 goes a long way towards supporting our volunteer-led work!
Let us know what else you’re keen to hear about, and tune in again next month when our little pukeko family will ask, once again: are we there yet?