You’ve got to raise an eyebrow at Auckland Transport every now and then. For years we can be going on at them about a critical piece of cycling infrastructure being required somewhere, then suddenly, without warning, a magnificent bike parking structure materialises on Birkenhead Wharf!
Wow, that’s great, AT. Clearly the message about providing cycle parking at transport hubs has gotten through, but we’re a little curious about the design and placement. So are the locals. In fact they’re more than curious, they’re ropable. They want a more appropriate bike parking facility built closer to the ferry terminal, and the current one removed. It’s causing a lot of angst in the community, and cycle advocacy is the worse for it because the current facility is under-utilised.
You see, when you put in cycle parking for 30 bikes, and only three or so bikes a day actually use it, people start asking questions. Who spends $80k to put in an asset that’s only working at 10% capacity?
The shame of this project is that it began with such good intentions. The Kaipatiki Local Board allocated funds for AT to build the bike shelter to encourage cycling and ferry use. AT got on with the job, but it seems neither the locals nor Cycle Action were consulted. If we’d been asked we’d have suggested a modest facility integrated into the existing ferry building that meets a few basic criteria:
- Convenient to the terminal
- Protected from the elements
- Adequate security for both cyclists and their bikes
- Room for growth over time.
The current bike park actually meets these criteria reasonably well, which is why Cycle Action isn’t lobbying for its removal. But we are sympathetic to the locals’ perspective. Why don’t they like it? Well…
- It gets in the way of the local yacht club, to the extent it causes safety issues
- It gets in the way of the local fishermen
- It’s generally regarded as a blot on the landscape. A large aesthetically-unappealing structure plonked just where it obstructs views of the harbour.
So what does Cycle Action think? Well, we’re not yachties or fishermen, and our sense of aesthetics is more engaged by a slender Pinarello frame or perhaps a stylish kiwi-designed SmartMotion eBike. Whatever turns you on.
What we’d like, of course, is for utilisation of the current bike park to be much higher. If we had bikes overflowing this parking facility, as at Devonport Wharf, there wouldn’t be nearly so much of an issue. So let’s frame Cycle Action’s Stage Two solution:
- Improve cycling conditions in the Birkenhead area, particularly by making Hinemoa St (the link between Highbury and Birkenhead Wharf) more cycle-friendly
- Accelerate the cycling provisions included in the Onewa and Glenfield Corridor Management Plans so they’re brought to fruition in the short term
- Run a local campaign about the benefits of modern geared bikes and eBikes. The Hinemoa St hill is daunting for novice cyclists.
Put all of those together and indeed bike park utilisation will be considerably higher. But realistically, it won’t happen overnight.
So that begs the question. What’s Cycle Action’s Stage One solution?
We’re happy to work with the locals, AT and KLB to see if the current bike park structure can be relocated economically to a location where its capacity can be better utilised immediately. There are some provisos, though:
- An acceptable cycle parking solution closer to or integrated with the Birkenhead ferry terminal building must be provisioned first.
- We mustn’t lose sight of the need to make Hinemoa St more cycle-friendly.
We think this is a pragmatic win-win solution. Cyclists will continue to have good quality parking infrastructure at Birkenhead Wharf, the locals will be happy, and another location in immediate need of good quality cycle parking can have it relatively quickly. The trick is to find that good alternative location. Suggestions welcomed!
And the lesson learned from this little saga? AT – we’re always happy to give advice on cycling investment. We have resident experts who can provide this, but more importantly we can tap into the collective expertise of hundreds of Auckland cyclists. That’s an invaluable resource.
If you have strong opinions about this issue, or about cycle improvements in Highbury/Birkenhead generally, we’d love to hear them. Rest assured they’ll be read and relayed to any working group set up.