Spend $20m to speed car travel – threaten cyclists, slow buses

AT is planning to spend big money this year to widen part of Whangaparoao Road for cars, but cycling safety and bus travel are off the menu for this project. The plan was hatched a decade ago by the former Rodney District Council, but you have to wonder about AT’s commitment to integrated transport when you hear the details of the project. They are scary!

Whangaparaoa Peninsula Road

The project will widen the road from East Coast Rd and Red Beach Rd, turning 2 lanes and a wide flush median into 4 narrow lanes – where have we heard such a scary scenario for cyclists before? But have no fear: the project proposes to sign an existing 2m wide footpath next to a 60km/h speed road as a shared path. Regional Cycle Network link: Done.

The plans ignore the renaissance of cycling happening in Orewa and the big bucks about to be invested in faster direct bus travel from Orewa to Central Auckland. Cycle Action has stated it’s opposition to the road widening plans in our submission to the project team (Whangaparaoa Rd submission Jan 2013). It focuses on the inadequate shared path and the narrow kerbside lanes, which will be lethal for on-road cyclists. Bus travel will suffer as well, as bus drivers will have to negotiate cyclists in the new narrow lanes and meet them again and again after stopping to pick up and drop off passengers. It’s Dominion Rd all over again, with a $20m price tag.

The Whangaparaoa Peninsula has long been a political football for transport. It was developed as a series of bach settlements served by a single main road on the ridge. Over time housing has spread over the slopes as dormitary suburbs for Auckland, with infill for retirement villages and shopping centres. Whangaparaoa Rd is currently a mix of 2 and 4 lane sections, plagued at peak hours by long queues of single occupancy cars attempting to reach East Coast Rd and the motorway to Auckland.

At the end of the Peninsula a fast ferry connects the upmarket suburb of Gulf Harbour to downtown Auckland. A new bus terminal is on course to be built at Silverdale to extend the Northern Busway. Despite being on the Regional Cycle Network, the Peninsula has no connected, attractive cycling routes. New cycling infrastructure around Orewa is encouraging more people to use bikes, but it’s not connected to communities or transport nodes.

The Penlink project, providing a new bridge and road for the Peninsula connecting to the south, offered relief to motorists on the Peninsula. However, as construction is not funded in Auckland’s transport plans for the next decade, AT is delivering this booby prize.

We will report back when AT responds to our feedback. Will they invest in more & faster car travel, and ignore the dire need on this corridor for safe & convenient cycling and better bus access to the regional bus and ferry terminals?

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