Mt Albert isn’t exactly known as a cyclist’s paradise, but it has some good rides if you know where to look. In this guest article, local rider Helen King shares the secrets to cycling in Mt Albert. (This piece originally appeared on The Spinoff, and is republished here with permission). 

Being a bike enthusiast in Mt Albert can feel like being a Labour voter in Epsom: you know you’re in the minority; that the place isn’t really designed for you. To survive, you learn to avoid the majority of the population, navigating backroads and avoiding busy arterial routes.

A recent $6.5 million village upgrade was meant to help the situation by adding a cycle path through the town centre. But the improvements haven’t fixed all the challenges facing casual riders. The new cycle path cuts through the sidewalk like an unwelcome guest, stopping abruptly just before the tennis club at the centre’s western end. Riding its short length through the Mt Albert shops can be a defensive driving exercise, weaving between the rubbish bins and avoiding pedestrians who have veered into your way, only to spill out again onto the road.

The Mt Albert shops make room for people on bikes, if you can get there. The original design featured a Copenhagen lane (lower than the footpath, higher than the road) but was redesigned for cost reasons. Without onward connections at either end, the town centre bike lane is currently a stranded piece of investment. (Image: Bike Auckland)

Despite those issues, there are still adventures to be had through the golden triangle and beyond on two wheels, provided you know where to look. These are my top picks.

Waterview Path

This path only has a three star rating on Google based on two reviews. One of the reviewers took points off because they couldn’t get access to take pictures of the Waterview Tunnel. Three stars is less than what Pt Chev McDonalds has on Uber Eats. That feels unfair. Riding this path is easily better than the remorse of eating a Big Mac and being hungry an hour later.

A section of the Waterview Shared Path at the south end of Unitec (school run edition).

I like to start at the Avondale end and head west. You’ll end up on the grounds of the Unitec campus, where I like to pay homage to the former Whau Lunatic Asylum. I’m sure I would have been a guest if I’d been born in a different era.

As you cycle past the building’s imposing brick facade, check for ghosts in the windows. I haven’t seen one yet but my friend who went to design school at Unitec says they saw a ghost during a late night painting session. I still hold out hope for an encounter with the supernatural.

From here you can venture further west by taking the rainbow bridge, ride to town on the North Western cycle path or carry on into Pt Chev.

The rainbow path, a patch of brightness along the way. (Image: Bike Auckland)

Waterview Path toward Mt Roskill

I once saw a tabby cat jumping into the flax bush on this path which is the main reason it’s included on the list. It’s technically the same path as the first suggestion, but in a different direction. You cross the railway line and then New North Road, and head south towards the Waterview Tunnel and beyond.

The Waterview Path, looking north to the Te Whitinga Bridge near the southern tunnel entrances. (Image: Bike Auckland)

There are good elements to this ride besides potential feline sightings. The path running along SH20A connects west and south. If you were feeling really enthusiastic you could ride most of the way to the airport from west Auckland on protected cycle path.

The Waterview Path feeds into the SH20 Path, shown here skirting the base of Puketapapa, Mt Roskill. (Image: Bike Auckland)

I have only gone as far as the top of the hill that heads toward Onehunga, but you can cross the Mangere Bridge and ride out to Ambury Farm. The hill coming back is quite a beast so if you’re feeling tired, there’s always the option of catching a train back to Mt Albert.

Secret path to St Luke’s Mall

Described as ‘like walking through the wardrobe and entering Narnia’, the secret path to St Luke’s mall (aka the Roy Clements Treeway) is an adventure. As a child of the 80s, I was slightly traumatised by Mr Tumnus and his furry pants in the BBC version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I’m pleased to report you are unlikely to come across strange creatures in furry pants playing the flute when you take this path. But you will avoid car park hell by riding your bike to the mall.

The Roy Clements Treeway, linking Alberton Ave to the carpark opposite St Lukes. Magical! (Image: Bike Auckland)
Looking back into the Roy Clements Treeway from, uh, parking Narnia. (Image: Bike Auckland)

The northern entrance to the path is on Alberton Ave, a little bit up from the Fresh Collective supermarket and Pyrénées Cafe. (Both are good locations to have a coffee and pastry after your shopping trip.) This route is quite narrow, so be careful of walkers. You’ll emerge at the back of the parking lot for the big box stores on Wagener Place – look for the fence adorned with colourful fishes.

Owairaka

Owairaka is the forgotten little sister to Mt Albert. It’s tucked behind the splendour of the mountain, but it holds its own charms. The paths around the area remind me of childhood adventures zipping around the neighbourhood’s cycle paths pretending to be the BMX bandits. They’re tucked away and not immediately obvious, but linked together they’re a good adventure route for confident children.

The route is complicated, so pay attention. Start on the path leading from Hendon Ave to Hargest Terrace. From Hargest, ride to Cassino Terrace, where at the end of the road you’ll find another path tucked between two houses (beware: this one looks like a driveway). It will take you up to another path that connects you to Murray Halberg Park.

The alleyway on Cassino Terrace – portal to adventure! (Image: Google Streetview)

There are two options when you get to the top. The first is to cycle a few hundred metres up the road until you come across the Plunket Path. A word of warning though: whoever designed this route wasn’t thinking about how it will fare during wet Auckland winters, when the concrete track suddenly opens up into boggy grass.

The second option is to turn right and carry on through the park. If you have kids (or are a kid) there’s a fantastic playground here. Otherwise, carry on out the carpark to Range View Rd and keep riding across the road to another path that will connect you to Stewart Rd (watch out for cars, especially on the weekends during rugby season). Turning left takes you toward Alan Wood Reserve.

The newest addition to the Owairaka bike map is the connection from Owairaka Park to Walmsley Park. The Te Auaunga restoration project extended a bike path from Oakley Creek through these parks.

A pause at the Wesley Community Centre on Sandringham Road. (Image: Helen King).

The results are spectacular. The park enables you to ride to Sandringham Rd (or carry on through the Mt Roskill War Memorial Park to Dominion Road), or cycle under Richardson Rd and into Alan Wood reserve. It’s a beautiful route, and shows expansive, people-friendly cycle paths are already available in Mt Albert. Just don’t look to the town centre.

— Helen King

Categories
Isthmus Off-road paths
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