The pain of broken glass and debris – help us sweep clean!

Apr 07, 2015
The pain of broken glass and debris – help us sweep clean!


Glass on the road 


Step up to make cycling safe from glass and road rubbish! 


If there’s one issue that unites everyone on a bike in a  hymn of fury, it’s broken glass and debris on the roadside and on the cycleway.


Nothing punctures the good mood of a good ride like an actual puncture. Especially when it’s the result of ignorance or neglect.


If I sort my email at any time for “cycle lane sweeping” or similar, a huge list emerges: of regular complaints, my responses and Auckland Transport’s explanations and excuses for delays and inaction.



First, a nod to Easter by way of a Christian analogy. Lately I’ve begun to think of my job with Cycle Action as having two distinct phases: “Before” and “After” the arrival of Kathryn King.

Before Kathryn (BKK), Cycle Action’s work with cycling staff at AT was like pushing our bikes through deep mud. We usually arrived at our goal or destination, but the pushing and cajoling soaked up so much time and effort, we sometimes wondered why we bothered.

Since Kathryn’s arrival (AKK), it feels like we’ve entered a new era of responsiveness and cooperation. There’s a visible, physical change in the cycling staff – it’s great to see smiles, and jaunty walks. We’re now dealing with people who have a sense of mission, who are trusted and given direction to be creative and think independently. I’m going to be rash and say it relates to the the vision, warmth and commitment that is Kathryn’s signature style.

AKK  – we also now have the energy and confidence to tackle tough, persistent issues that bedevil our life on bikes in Auckland.

 We need your help to target glass and rubbish hot spots on Auckland’s cycle routes.

In fact, we need your help on this particular issue, urgently.

You know why, but let’s run through it again. This is what we’re talking about:

  • On most roads, we’re already biking close to the kerb, with its permanent hazards of drains, manholes, and the ever-increasing bumpy edge between the original concrete gutter and the latest layer of tarseal.
  • Add glass and litter, whether thrown from car windows or left lying around after fortnightly recycling collection, and you’ve got a serious hazard for everyone who cycles.
  • On hills or in dense fast traffic, glass and litter present a major hazard, forcing cyclists to make swift lane changes without time to indicate or check for following traffic, leading to a constant risk of dangerous falls and crashes.
  • The sheer volume of glass and rubbish constantly swept to the side of major roads by vehicle wheels is horrendous. Kerbside litter _resizedParticularly notorious: Tamaki Drive at weekends, or on any day on many South Auckland heavy traffic routes.
  • With autumn upon us, deep piles of leaves build up in gutters and spill out into the road, making the surface slippery and hiding broken glass, in a doubly nasty surprise.
  • And in each of these cases, we’re at extra risk because surrounding drivers often resent cyclists joining their line of traffic instead of sticking to the cycle lane – or as it effectively is on most roads, the “ghastly gutter obstacle course.”

Talk about the loneliness of the long distance cycle-lane user!

Now, in theory, requests to AT and NZTA call centres to remove broken glass are classified as warranting emergency attention. In practice, we know the response times are highly variable. (NB this doesn’t mean it’s not worth making the phone call – it is always worth the effort, as your call could prevent another cyclist’s serious injury, so please keep phoning it in!)

But this whole issue is overdue for a shake-up. So Kathryn and Cycle Action are starting a new project to improve cycle lane and kerbside sweeping and to ensure broken glass gets the highest priority treatment.

Kathryn has met AT’s Road Maintenance Area Managers to learn about existing road sweeping regimes and hot spots for glass. They’re keen to collaborate, but are working with tight budgets that need to be massaged. Their schedule reports quite a bit of regional variation, ranging from cycle lanes being swept every fortnight, to once every two months. The Northwestern Cycleway is the celebrity route, getting swept 3 times a week, which is vital not just because it’s the busiest cycleway in the country, but also because of the construction work and density of wind-blown and people-thrown material coming from the motorway.


We need more eyes on the street for this major safety issue.

So we’re asking for one volunteer from each part of Auckland’s 5 regional areas (Central, North, South, East, West) to provide local knowledge to help me, Kathryn and the Maintenance Managers classify the cycling hot spots for more consistent sweeping. This will include off-road and on-road facilities, including new cycleways like Beach Rd and Grafton Gully.

We’re seeing this as a month-long project, starting in a fortnight with about 4 meetings. They will be held during working hours, but depending on your availability, could be at the beginning or end of the day (7.30am, or 4.30) in town, at the HSBC Building at Britomart,1 Queen St.

Please help us! Contact me at





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