With consultation on the Northcote Safe Cycle Route under way, in the media spotlight, and drawing comments on social media, you might be forgiven for thinking this is an “us versus them” or “all or nothing” scenario. Fortunately it’s not – this is just an issue requiring stakeholder feedback so the best compromise solution can be engineered, hopefully without political interference.
I had the opportunity to attend AT’s consultation session at the Northcote Library yesterday (Sat 9 Aug), and it was great to see the AT team out in force, with large maps explaining the proposed design. There were a good number of people coming through to have a look, including Councillor George Wood, and Jonathan Coleman MP, who I’d had the chance to chat to a little earlier. It was great to see them there, because both had expressed reservations about the design, but to their credit were anxious to talk to AT and to listen to feedback from residents.
And it’s here I was a little surprised. While of course there were some Northcote Point residents concerned with the loss of on-street parking, a message coming through loud and clear from most residents was, “We don’t feel safe cycling at the moment. If this cycle route goes in, it’ll be much easier for my family and me to get out on our bikes”.
And that’s exactly why AT have designed this route in the first place. Not just as a commuter route for existing cyclists, but as a safe environment to encourage more local residents to get out on their bikes and travel around their neighbourhoods safely.
George and Jonathan are consummate politicians and are still guarded about wholesale endorsement or criticism. They both know that safe cycling is good for their communities, but don’t want to alienate their conservative power base, some of whom will be disadvantaged by the loss of on-street parking, and some of whom don’t want to spend any money at all on “left-wing greenie” initiatives. So I’m happy to give them a little more time to make an informed decision, once community consultation has taken its course.
Another surprising revelation was to learn that most Northcote Point residents aren’t hostile to SkyPath – in fact most are looking forward to it. One local resident told me he figured it was running around 70% in favour of SkyPath, with even the Northcote Residents’ Association (NRA) coming around to the majority viewpoint. This augurs well as the SkyPath team are currently submitting the resource consents.
So let’s have a look at the issues and how we can deal with them.
I’m picking up on feedback from Jonathan here, but he believes AT needs to:
- Review it’s consultation process, and consider consulting for longer and in more depth.
Of course this could just be a delaying tactic. Based on the feedback received from the scheduled sessions and existing submission process, AT will be able to determine if extended consultation is required.
- Identify how the Northcote Safe Cycle Route relates to and integrates with Skypath.
This is difficult for AT to do. SkyPath is not a done deal, and the consenting process is just starting. I agree with AT when they state this design stands on its own merits, SkyPath or not. But in my opinion, if/when SkyPath proceeds, the design of the Northcote Safe Cycle Route will be both adequate and necessary for SkyPath users to travel between the Bridge and Northcote/Birkenhead. It just requires the additional design of the linkage between Queen St and the touchdown point. It also resolves another key parking issue for SkyPath. Why would SkyPath cyclists want to drive to Northcote Point and park there if they can instead cycle on a safe route?
Picking up and responding on some of the concerns and suggestions from Northcote Point residents:
- I’ll suffer hardship if I lose on-street parking
Make a submission to AT so they can design a solution. There’s a resident parking scheme on Queen St at Halls Beach where some residents don’t have any off-street parking. AT may be able to extend this concept, or come up with another solution
- There are so few Queen St cyclists south of Stafford Rd. It’s already safe for cyclists. Why do anything? Why not “share with care” footpaths and keep the parking?
It doesn’t feel safe for cyclists, which is why there are so few. There is no cycle infrastructure at all, so cyclists have to mix it with the traffic, and this takes experience and confidence which novice cyclists lack. In my experience on Queen St, cars pull out suddenly from parking, overtake too closely, and travel too fast when running late for the ferry.
“Share with care” is a last resort design option where there is inadequate width and no other choice. It makes life difficult for cyclists and pedestrians alike. In the case of Queen St there is sufficient width for dedicated cycle paths if some on-street parking is removed. AT surveys have shown that on-street parking is under-subscribed, so dedicated cycling infrastructure is clearly the best design option. It also provides consistency with the design on the northern section of Queen St and further on to Lake Rd, another key design goal.
So this comes down to a simple engineering solution. The current design is sound, but it should consider the needs of those residents who will suffer hardship through the loss of on-street parking. This is not an insurmountable problem.
Unfortunately politics shouldn’t come into it, but it will. And this is where we ask you, dear reader, for assistance. If, like us, you think the Northcote Safe Cycle Route is a great idea, tell AT. Tell George. Tell Jonathan. Then the engineers can get on with the job.