It was back in September 2014 when we blogged on SeaPath – the proposed 3km shared path around the harbour that would form a critical link from the Harbour Bridge towards Takapuna. Back then, we wrote about Forest & Bird’s NaturePath variation, designed to skirt around the dotterels and other delicate features, and we looked at the various design constraints NZTA would need to consider. We concluded with the comment:
“In due course NZTA will share their design with us. As soon as it’s in the public domain, rest assured, we’ll let you know”.
Well – we have to say that you’ve been very patient! NZTA have been quietly mulling over three different design options, and are now delighted to announce the arrival of their public consultation document showing their preferred design option.
We’re delighted too! Not just because this is a vital walking and cycling path linking Northcote Point with southern Takapuna and the Devonport Peninsula, but also because it complements the Northcote Safe Cycle Route in providing an alternative access to SkyPath. This in turn will reduce the pressure on Queen St, and will no doubt be welcomed by Northcote Point locals concerned with the influx of pedestrians and cyclists to their leafy suburb.
So what possible paths did NZTA consider? Heading towards the Harbour Bridge from Esmonde Rd (i.e. from right to left on the following map), all three options initially began by following the inland side of the motorway across the Tuff Crater entrance (via a new bridge) up to the existing Heath Reserve pedestrian overbridge that spans the motorway.
From there, the path split into three alternatives:
- a Landward option, which stays on the inland side of the motorway (the purple line on the map)
- a Coastal Edge option, on the sea side of the motorway (the red line, with access to be provided via an upgraded Heath Reserve bridge)
- a Boardwalk option, extending some metres out into Shoal Bay (the yellow line, with access as above)
A number of possible alternatives then see all routes converging back to arrive at Northcote Point near the ferry terminal/ SkyPath’s northern terminus.
So now for the big reveal. Which is NZTA’s preferred option?
Why Landward? Three major reasons for this decision:
- Cost The Heath Reserve pedestrian overbridge isn’t currently suitable for cycle access. To make it so would cost many millions – money better spent on other cycling projects.
- Environmental sensitivity Shoal Bay is an environmentally sensitive area, home to the endangered dotterels. Construction and usage of seaward routes would have a significant environmental impact.
- Local connections By definition, a Landward route more easily connects to current and future walking and cycling paths.
NZTA’s network integration also focuses on the bigger connectivity picture, showing how SeaPath links to other areas of the Shore as well as routes into the isthmus from SkyPath’s southern terminus.
Bike Auckland’s opinion
We’re still studying this just-released material in detail, and of course we’ll be making a detailed submission (as we expect you to do, too, as part of the public consultation process). In the meantime, we’re keen to hear your opinions in our blog comments section so we can take on board anything you say.
We do have a few immediate opinions to throw into the mix:
- We’re delighted NZTA is pressing ahead with SeaPath.
- We understand and agree with the reasons the Landward option has been chosen.
- The path should be 5m wide, future-proofed to provide pedestrian/cyclist separation.
- Observation decks should be built at selected scenic viewing locations, both as a tourist attraction and to give milling pedestrians a place to stand or sit that doesn’t block the path.
- The northern terminus shouldn’t just end at Esmonde Rd. There needs to be good access to the Akoranga bus station and AUT, and the Esmonde Rd shared path needs some serious upgrading.
- We need grade separation at Onewa Rd, so pedestrians and cyclists don’t need to cross a busy motorway interchange. We’re not fussy whether it’s under or over. NZTA have shown us how well they can do cycle underpasses at Te Atatu!
- We like Southern Landing Option A adjacent to SkyPath’s northern terminus. It’s more direct, and a gentler gradient too.
NZTA’s consultation feedback form can be found here, with feedback due in before the closing date of 29 April. (Stay tuned for a quick-submission form that will make it easy to summarise and add to the points we made above – we’re working on that with our friends at Generation Zero.)
And there are 3 drop-in information sessions at Onepoto Primary School Hall, 17 Fraser Avenue, Northcote:
- Thursday 31 March: 6-8pm
- Saturday 2 April: 10.30am – 12.30pm
- Wednesday 6 April: 6pm – 8pm
LightPath, SeaPath, SkyPath – we’re on a roll here. Our transport authorities have woken up to the fact that walking and cycling have an important part to play not just in providing transport choice, but delivering on health, environment and community benefits as well. Let’s give SeaPath the endorsement it deserves, and credit to NZTA for acknowledging that the T in their name really does stand for all modes of Transport.
[Header image via Reset Urban Design]