Quay Street, Level Up [Bonus Star for Design Upgrades]

Level UpThe story of cycling on Quay Street could be likened to a video game, where you start out as a powerless beginner, and slowly acquire more and more upgrades. With challenges, setbacks, and a fair bit of ‘grinding‘ along the way.

Some decades (?) ago, the first shared path was added along the north side, east of the ferry terminal. It was a pretty low-key and partial effort. Just some bronze plaques added to the footpath to say “bikes allowed here”. Still, +1 to Biking Level.

Then, a couple of years ago, we got some smaller upgrades. Greened advance boxes on the road. And a few sections of painted extensions to the shared paths. Another +1 to Biking Level.

Looking way way ahead, after a fair amount of grinding in the CRL cave level still to come (and once the money is found, always the old caveat), we will ultimately get a harbourside boulevard with permanent proper cycleways. WIN!

We’re currently at the bit before that. Late last year, AT showed us the plans for an interim design to last the duration of the construction of the City Rail Link, with a protected, two-way off-road cycleway. Not bad! But the draft design also came with some highly criticised gaps, most strikingly a 100m section that put cyclists back on the footpath along a crowded stretch that was already a real bugbear before for people on bikes and foot alike.

Still, +1 to Biking Level, once it’s constructed by the middle of the year.

But wait – there’s a bonus level! We met recently with AT to discuss all the comments and change requests Bike Auckland had made to the design (including comments you sent us, and others you submitted directly. Huge thanks for taking part on such a scale).

The great news is that a number of key requests can be accommodated – thanks to AT’s willingness to be fleet on their feet despite tight timeframes*, and thanks to some changes to bus routes around the Britomart block and the Ferry Terminal which made it a bit easier to find the space for improvement.

*Remember the cycleway’s gotta be built by the end of May 2016, or the window of the CRL works slams shut! Timed level, GO.

Quay StreetThat troublesome shared path section is… well, not officially out of the picture, but currently stuck in a box a la Schroedinger’s Cat. That’s why the official consultation response shows the former shared path section greyed out.

We’re pretty sure it’s dead – or at least, we know AT is working hard to make it so. But also, it’s technically still alive, because AT still needs to get some agreements finalised with some stakeholders before they can officially confirm that it’s gone.

So we can’t peek into that box just yet. But the chances are really high this section won’t be a shared path. And timeframes (see above) haven’t changed either – construction is just around the corner.

Happily, a number of other positive changes have also been confirmed:

  • Widening of the signalised cycle and pedestrian crossings at the western end near Hobson Street, so it’s not as much of a squeeze to share with pedestrians
  • Stronger physical material differentiation at the western end, where there’s a short section of path alongside the footpath (non-shared, but at footpath level)
  • Kerb ramps at traffic signals that allow riders to pull off the cycleway to wait at the crossing, so cyclists can access the various side roads (full “turn lanes” for cyclists sadly didn’t fit)
  • Traversable buffers at the section of off-road path from the Tinley Street petrol station eastward – this is so confident cyclists can decide not to go onto the footpath, and continue on-road
  • At the same intersection, turns will apparently be phased to ensure the off-road cycle signal gets a good share of the time and can run often (let’s hope so – it’s quite irritating when you try to use a cycleway but the road cyclists and cars going the same way still get priority over you…)
  • At Plumer Street, the raised tables will get zebra crossings. Technically, this benefits pedestrians more than cyclists, but the law for zebra crossings may allow exceptions in the near future anyway…
  • The rubber buffers will be replaced with (removable) concrete buffers, similar to the ones on Beach Road. Turns out rubber buffers were actually much more expensive than concrete. Go figure!

So all in all, we think this is pretty great – especially if the shared path section can be resolved. And as noted, construction timeframes are still tight and fast. Building is scheduled to begin in March, and you can expect to be traveling along this new cycleway by the end of May!

You can see the updated plans here: Quay St Drawings G301-G307 Set 2016-02-16

And here’s the official press release:

The final design for the Quay St Cycleway was announced today, with the opening in late May. The two-way separated cycleway, which will go from Lower Hobson St by Princes Wharf to Plumer St, will make it even easier to cycle into the city centre says Kathryn King, Auckland Transport’s Cycling and Walking manager.

“This cycleway is being fast-tracked so it will be constructed prior to works beginning on the City Rail Link in the downtown area,” she says.

“As these important works begin and the network of cycle routes in the city expands, the growth in the number of people cycling into the city centre is expected to continue.”

“People are choosing to cycle into the city because there is a certainty of travel time, it’s cost effective and for some people, it’s quicker than driving or public transport.”

“The pink Lightpath, Northwestern Cycleway, Grafton Gully Cycleway and Tamaki Drive are already popular routes for people cycling. Over the next three years we will add to these existing routes creating a network of cycle improvements which will give people better travel options.”

Construction on the Quay St Cycleway will begin in early March. A short section of the cycleway from Queen St to Commerce St has yet to be finalised.

The cycleway will join with the existing Beach Rd Cycleway at Britomart Pl. Future connections to the cycleway include Tamaki Drive Cycleway in the east and Nelson St Cycleway and Westhaven to City Cycleway at Lower Hobson St.

Cycling and walking paths are an important way the Government, through the NZ Transport Agency, is creating better travel options, says the Transport Agency’s Auckland Regional Director, Ernst Zollner.

“Projects such as these make travel for everyone including those in their cars more reliable and safer,” says the Transport Agency’s Auckland Regional Director, Ernst Zollner. “That’s why the Government is currently investing so significantly in the Urban Cycleways Programme. Our aim is to grow the number of cycling trips by more than 30% over the next three years.”

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