The other day, I set off early, dressed in my butterfly dress, pink helmet, and matching sandals. A picture in pink, ready for a string of meetings in town, on a perfect day for biking.
It was a sunny start to the day. For one thing, the Devonport ferry was packed with bikes, and for another, Bike Auckland’s monthly Bike Breakfast, hosted by Duncan, announced its presence with stacks of bikes tethered outside Scarecrow Cafe. (Really? You haven’t been to one yet? Diary it now, 7.30 – 9.30 am, first Thursday of every month. That’ll be 5 May next time.)
Then I stopped in at a few bike shops around the waterfront to ask them to promote the SeaPath Quick submit form (are you passing the link around? Feedback closes end of April!). Hooray for Bike Lab and VBike – so can-do and willing!
Feeling in love with the world, I cruised back through Wynyard Quarter to the ferry terminal. A smooth harbour trip on the Bayswater Ferry set me up for the perfect ride up Lake Rd, along Esmonde Rd and over the motorway to my next appointment in Kawana St, Northcote. At SH1’s northern Esmonde Rd motorway exit, I nodded ‘hello’ to the future starting point of SeaPath…
…while also reflecting on the madness I’d just endured on the 100m or so of shared path between Esmonde Rd and the start of SeaPath. FIVE road crossings, with FIVE sets of traffic lights!
Who thinks that’s good local connectivity for a brand new multi-million dollar cycleway??! SeaPath will definitely need smoother and safer connections to welcome the walkers and cyclists from the wider catchment of Northcote-Takapuna-Devonport-and-beyond. (And it’s easy to tell NZTA that with our simple response form, nudge nudge)
After my Northcote appointment, I left Kawana Rd to return to Devonport – and that’s where my mood took a cloudy turn.
Now, anyone who knows that route will be familiar with the short climb up Northcote’s Lake Rd to the roundabout. The road has sections of yellow no parking lines – with vehicles parked in the occasional gaps. It’s quite narrow, so as I rode past a parked van I inadvertently blocked the way of a car that was fast approaching my rear. I got a sharp blast from the driver’s horn. Riding on past Hato Petera College I had to swerve to avoid a car exiting front-first at speed from a driveway between parked cars. I got another blast from a car as I stopped at an orange light at the Akoranga Drive intersection, where clearly I was blocking the way of a Very Important Person.
I reached Takapuna Grammar and Belmont Intermediate (a champion for biking), just as school finished. Students on foot and bikes poured onto Lake Rd. Amazingly, the cycle lane outside the intermediate school was blocked by a car. I knocked on the window, as a flood of bikes bore down on us… but the driver merely pointed to her phone and kept talking.
It seems the absence of ‘no stopping’ lines translates to ‘yes stopping’! Most of the Lake Rd cycle lane has dashed yellow lines where it passes the schools, left over from earlier markings… but right outside the Intermediate School, nada. This will change next month, when AT’s new policy of retro-marking all cyclelanes with yellow dashed lines comes into play. Will future chatty drivers take note?
All of this left me wondering… I’m on my bike most days, riding to Bike Auckland events and meetings across Auckland, and in one day I’d met more rudeness and arrogance than I’d encountered in the past year. Is this symptomatic of the Shore, or have I just been lucky until now?
It’s true that the Shore has very hit-and-miss cycling infrastructure. Our talented Bike Auckland colleague, Steve Southall, who leads our infrastructure work on the Shore, laments the lack of North Shore projects in the 2015-2018 Urban Cycle Programme – and notes the fierce opposition from locals to projects like Northcote Safe Streets.
And, while we support the logic of investing around the Central City for the first tranche of UCP money, we know AT has the ability through its road safety budget to make smaller improvements for walking and cycling across the city. Bike Auckland is currently working with AT on two projects to ease safety for walkers and bikers at Browns Bay and Milford. So far, unfortunately, we’ve seen AT raise a white flag and retreat from its initial good initiatives into something resembling the status quo.
Change will come to the Shore. SeaPath is a sure sign of things to come (have you sent your quick response yet?). And the energetic Bike Kaipatiki bike burb group is working some tactical urbanism miracles with the Local Board.
We can also give local cycling culture more of a boost at this year’s local body elections. Now is the chance to get more informed and committed attitudes to biking on Local Boards, all across the city, not just on the Shore. Are you interested in standing? Do you have a mate with time and talent? Let’s start the ball rolling – with more enlightened local representatives who will help hold AT to account, what couldn’t we achieve?
Interested in standing for election to your Local Board? You’ll need to be a New Zealand citizen aged over 18 and enrolled on the parliamentary electoral roll. Start here – and this useful booklet has everything you need to know. Nominations open 15 July 2016, and close 12 August 2016.