Here’s something to look forward to, all going well! The first stage of the Southern Cycleway along SH1 should be ready to ride by Christmas – and there are solid plans to extend it southward to Drury over the next few years.
What “Southern Cycleway”, you ask? We’re talking about the 4.5km of shared path taking shape along the western side of the motorway from Takanini to Papakura, as part of the Southern Corridor Improvements.
Even before Covid-19 reared its ugly head, things were running later than initially expected. But Waka Kotahi/NZTA has a good record of finishing what they start, so we weren’t too worried – and it’s good to hear completion is expected by the end of this year, as per the latest project update:
The full walking and cycling pathway alongside the motorway and pedestrian bridge over the motorway at Pescara Point are expected to be opened in November/December, including the additional Walter Strevens Drive link.
That last bit’s in bold because we’ve been especially glad to hear of progress on the crucial extra access point that we made the case for, with your help! Preparatory work on that begins this month, with construction to follow in October/ November.
On the ground: site visit, July 2020
Back in July, our chair, Barb made a site visit with our membership secretary Jane. They came away with very positive impressions: a good wide path, with significant native planting to come, some magnificent iwi artwork and storyboard signage to look forward to, and a dedication to getting the job done.
It was a chance to remind the team how important the extra access link will be, too.
The latest pics
These fresh photos from the project team at Waka Kotahi (thanks Jenni!) give a sense of progress since July. Pouring of the concrete path surface is progressing northward, and the balustrades are going in on the bridges across the water.
Moving northwards through the photos below, you can see how the path will link neighbourhoods together – from Papakura and Karaka, past Conifer Grove and Waiata Shores, and up to Takanini – bridging the motorway and the mangroves along the way.
And, just in case you’ve forgotten the full extent of the path, here’s a handy map showing how it fits into the local landscape of schools, shops, stations, playgrounds, and paths.
(Edited to add: just to the right of Wattle Downs on the map is the Waiata Shores development, but these neighbourhoods are currently separated by the Papakura Stream. Locals are advocating for a walk/bike bridge across the stream, a small fix that would make an enormous difference – find out more here.)
A full 4.5km from end to end. And this is just the beginning…
But wait, there’s more! Onwards to Drury!
One of the first “shovel-ready” projects to get stimulus funding at the beginning of this year was extending the “extra lanes and new interchanges” project further south along SH1 (this is with an eye on providing more road capacity for the new residential suburbs and town centre planned around Drury).
You know we’re pragmatically of two minds on these projects. Continuing to add motorway capacity in one of the most car-dominated cities of the world, in the middle of the most crucial time for climate action via reducing transport emissions, is not a great thing.
On the other hand, after years of advocacy and alliance and action in Auckland – from the NW cycleway to the Waterview Project – it’s now standard practice for Waka Kotahi/NZTA to include good bikeways whenever it widens or extends a motorway. As Barb said at the time this funding was announced:
The reality is that motorways and expressways have easy gradients and provide hugely valuable connectivity for longer commuting rides across Auckland.
The booming workday numbers using the Northwestern Cycleway show that we need more of these safe, fast and convenient intra-regional commuting cycleways for South, North and East Auckland – along with easy and safe local community connections along the way, for more bikeable neighbourhoods.
Learning and iterating and building better
The other advocacy win is that Bike Auckland is now regularly invited to bring a quality-control perspective to the design and delivery of those big cycleways. In a meeting with Waka Kotahi earlier in the year, we made three key points about the planning for the next section:
1. Make all crossings safe and separated
- For ease of travel, and above all for safety, people walking and biking shouldn’t have to cross multiple traffic signals and motorway on- and off-ramps every kilometre or three. The path should be grade-separated (i.e. go over or under roads), at the very least for north-south journeys parallel to the motorway – and ideally for west-east trips too.
- Waka Kotahi needs to apply the lessons learned from Lincoln Road and Royal Road on the recently opened Northwestern Cycleway extension, where – despite strong petitioning from Bike Auckland at the early stages – the interchanges were designed so that people walking and biking still have to cross paths with traffic pouring on and off motorways. We frequently hear from you how frustrating and dangerous this situation is, on what’s otherwise a quality long-distance cycleway.
- Looking at the early designs for the Papakura to Drury section, we identified several locations for improvement on this score.
- With several years lead time, and many of the interchanges essentially being new builds, Waka Kotahi has ample opportunity to plan ahead and get this right.
- Waka Kotahi was receptive to our case, but haven’t fully committed yet. Rest assured we will be following this up.
2. Build the noise wall… in the right place
- Noise walls are designed to protect people from noise – and that should include people on the path.
- Putting the cycleway between the noise wall and the motorway leads to a double dose: the motorway roar and the bounced-back echo.
- In the past, we’ve heard the argument that it’s “safer” for the pathway to be on the motorway side, so you can be seen and helped if something were to happen to you. We don’t really buy that.
- In our experience, it feels more isolated to be next to high-speed traffic, with handy neighbours hidden away behind a wall – and safer to be on the side of people, houses and local access.
- So, where noise walls are involved, better to put them between the motorway and the path.
3. Create connections
- Build in as many access points, overbridges and underpasses as possible, to make sure as many people as possible can get to and from the path… and all the places along it.
- Thankfully, this point-of-view has already taken hold – so in this case, we didn’t have to ask for any extra connections.
When can we ride?
Work on the extension from Papakura to Drury will start as early as December this year, although most of the shared path section sits outside the current legal extent of the motorway and involves some separate design and approval. We’ve been assured that the money for all works, including the cycleway, has been approved.
So, all going well (the motto of 2020 and beyond!) look forward to riding safely from Takanini to Papakura on 4.5km of path before the end of this year – stay tuned for details of the opening! – and all the way to Drury on nearly 10km of path by around 2024-25.