I’ve had some interesting feedback from my comments in last week’s NZ Herald story on the shared use of the new Grafton Gully cycleway. It comes in the wake of concern that the downhill section of the route, where there is a widened area, is an accident waiting to happen if pedestrians spread across the path, and cyclists travel at speed.
A number of cyclists have expressed frustration about the fact they are not expecting to see pedestrians because the pathway surface has painted cycle symbols only, indicating bikes have right of way. That’s a valid viewpoint, but doesn’t account for the attractions the path has for pedestrians. I know skateboarders are also enjoying the steep grades, so are out having fun.
The Herald story reports on the complaint from Rabin Rabindra, who is a on the Auckland Transport Board. He was abused by a cyclist while walking the path with his wife. Rabin does not view cyclists kindly- when I have presented to AT on behalf of Cycle Action, he has twice raised the issue of cyclists running red lights on Tamaki Drive as he’s driving to work. I would expect him to take a wider strategic view of his role on the AT Board, rather than raising personal complaints – in fact I’d hope he’d understand by now that AT is focused on integrated transport and that cycling is a key part of the strategy.
The bigger issue is that part of our retrofitting Auckland for more and better cycling means we are having to accept shared paths in some locations. We know that people walk along the NW Cycleway, and we make allowances for that. The Grafton Gully project is another route where we had to fit into the tricky topography of a steep narrow space left over by the motorway. It is proving to be attractive and useful for walkers connecting to AUT, Auckland Uni, enjoying the new views we now have into the bush and green space in the Gully and the cemetary, so we need to manage it for this. But it is not the template I see as suitable for all of the new infrastructure Cycle Action is working to achieve across Auckland.
Wherever possible we aim to cater for the growth in cycling numbers that will occur as we develop and expand a fit- for- purpose cycling network. We know there is increasing conflict on shared paths, as cycling and walking numbers grow. We tell Auckland Transport this when we reject plans, such as the initial design for the widening of Lincoln Rd, which included a shared path. We want more protected cycle lanes and cycle routes designed specifically for people to cycle, such as the new Nelson St protected lane coming from the conversion of one of the traffic lanes. We also need a similar safe network for people walking.
Our cycling nirvana is still in the making for Auckland. With this in mind, please look out for walkers on the Grafton Gully route and keen adjust your speed accordingly. None of us want an elderly person (who could be our grandad) or dreamy uni student plugged into their music, to be hurt. It would also help if people walking could keep to the left, put any dogs on a tight lead and stay alert for the cyclists for whom the route was primarily built.