Auckland Transport’s official March 2016 bike count data is up, and it makes a pretty compelling case for the old saying ‘if you build it, they will come.’ And also, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’

Check out these graphs our brothers-in-arms at Transport Blog compiled. The first confirms that if you think the Northwestern Cycleway has been feeling busier than ever lately… you’re absolutely right.


Some quick thoughts on this one:

  • we’re seeing  >10% growth year on year
  • whereas previous years show a significant drop-off from November to December, in 2015 there’s barely a dip. Is this the magnetic effect of the Pink Path and the new protected lanes on Nelson St drawing people into the city?
  • the best month in any given year always beats the previous year – i.e. if you draw a line between the high points, you can see the ‘high tide’ steadily trending up – whereas the minimum ‘low tide’ has a flatter growth pattern… until 2015.
  • what’s new: the mid-winter ‘minimum’ in July 2015 is notably higher than in previous years, indicating that more people are cycling year-round.
  • all of this suggests that 2015 marks a turning point in commuter behaviour as well as absolute numbers – with people more likely to keep going through the colder months, and less likely to stop cycling over Christmas.
  • also worth noting that absolute numbers are up despite a series of complicated works along the Causeway (kudos to the Causeway Alliance for maintaining a direct connection despite some challenging conditions) and the six-month detour at St Luke’s (cheers to the crew there for getting it finished by Easter) – another testament to the perseverance of our growing community of bike commuters!

Meanwhile, over on Grafton Gully:


  • Look at that leap from Nov to Dec 2015 – the complete opposite of 2014’s Nov-Dec dip! That can only be the Lightpath effect, with the GG path now officially part of a loop for recreational riding towards a dramatic destination. And look at how it keeps on heading up!
  • This certainly accords with the impressive Lightpath trip data – as well as with the anecdata we keep hearing about all ages of people being tempted back onto a bike and into the city for the first time in years.
  • Also, from earlier data, we also know that Grafton Gully is not in a zero-sum game with Symonds Street – the combined trip numbers are on the up and up – plus, we know that Grafton Gully is attracting people who are new to bike-commuting.
  • And remember: Grafton Gully’s only been open a year and a half, the full Beach Rd cycleway is only six months old, and we have Quay St and the second half of Nelson St on the way by the middle of the year… so there’s plenty more network effect to come!

Now, it must be said both of these graphs end on a cliffhanger. Traditionally, cycle trip numbers drop off in April with the end of daylight saving, regardless of what the weather does. (Pro tip: get your bike lights and reflective gear sorted ASAP).

[It must also be said that this is a snapshot of the busiest paths. There are many more stories to be told in the data from across the city – if you’re a numbers fan or a data-viz whiz, get in amongst it and send us your thoughts and pictures!] 

In the meantime…  will our new cohort of steadfast citybound commuters and gleeful weekenders thin out, now that winter is coming? Or will the numbers just keep on climbing?

Tune in next month to find out!

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4 responses to “The network effect – boom!

  1. Also worth noting that the lowest month for cycleway usage in 2015 is higher than the highest month in 2011.

  2. Certainly accords with how it feels out there.

    With the increasing numbers, it was timely I thought to see the AT people out there yesterday round Upper Queen doing a survey about the ‘share with care’ campaign, given these numbers are all happening on shared paths. I was a bit surprised to discover though that the message of the campaign was supposed to be ‘pedestrians keep left, cyclists use your bells’ given those decals on the ground don’t have bells or keep left messages on them….odd.

    As the numbers rise, and assuming shared paths are still to be with us for some time until AT sees fit to install protected lanes on the main arterials, sharing properly is a message that needs to get through. Without wanting to single out one group, I have to say that those on electrics need to be particularly careful. There seems a distinct reluctance to slow down by some of them, and if any of you know the chap with the bike that sounds like an aircraft and wears Katusha lycra and an MTB full helmet, please tell him that travelling on the northwestern at 40kph+ at 8.30am is not cool…..young kids and their parents, and those of us who are riding at a more sedate pace, find it bloody scary when you hoon past. It’s expected on a road….on a quiet path, not so much.

    Anyway – on a positive note, i’m loving how many more people there are out there. Feels like we’re all part of something good!

  3. Real congestion problems on the NW cycleway (or is it shared way?) within years, at the current growth rate.
    But positive problems in the grand scheme.
    An underpass or two might suddenly be not ‘too hard’?

  4. I would be quite interested in how they come to the figures in this graph. How are they counting these figures? Have they used the same amount of counting devices in the same places for each count? I love cycling and hope the number of people cycling is rising but I’m sceptical to accept these numbers blindly. Just because we are recording more on new cycleways does it mean people are new to cycling or just that people are changing their route to work?

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