Davian Lorson, a Glen Eden local, says the pop-up cycleway along Captain Scott Road gave his bike-curious friend the nudge they had been looking for.
Davian has written a blog to showcase how meaningful this piece of infrastructure is for his community. Let’s give it the love it deserves!
A good friend of mine recently shifted into my local area and I was helping him with the big move. There we were, unloading furniture, him soaking up my proudly delivered opinions on what the more important features of the area were, when, knowing I did a bit of cycling, he suddenly dropped in: “And how about cycleways? I’m really looking for that extra nudge to start getting out on my bike more.”
Now, regardless of what the answer is going to be, this question will always bring me joy. Mostly because I love bikes but also because I really enjoy planning out the cleaverest, sneakiest, most efficient ways to get from A to B. But for me, that morning, rolling out a comprehensive list of Glen Eden’s cycling infrastructure brought some bitter with the sweet, because, well, that list is short. Real short. Almost entirely comprising a handful of very modest ‘short cuts’ and brief park-side paths scattered through that West Auckland suburb.
However, as I pointed out to him at the time (and as the majority of cyclists from our neck-of-the-woods would surely agree) of those slim pickings, the Savoy to Atkinson Rds cycleway would easily earn the title of most treasured.
Stretching 1.3 km, you could argue that the first half of it, running from Atkinson Rd to Ceramco Park, is less of a cycleway and is maybe better described as a tree-covered stream-side walkway, but populated with pedestrians who always seem friendly and happy to share the path. From the park to Savoy Rd the cycleway continues along a wider corridor between the backyards of houses and a lovely native-planted, 4 block stretch of Waikumete Stream, finally arriving at an esplanade and community garden.
This may sound wonderful, however, the one frustration that most users of the path have been grappling with since it’s inception around 14 years ago is that, even though the stream continues on for another two blocks before sidling up next to the town centre, the cycleway itself stops dead there at Savoy Rd, forcing cyclists, and pedestrians, to slog sideways up a hill onto busy Captain Scott Road if they wanted to get to the township.
Last month, though, this awkward situation took a positive turn. Well, positive in the eyes of some residents, at least. This came in the form of a new pop-up cycleway stretching along Captain Scott Rd, from Savoy Rd, for two blocks into the town centre.
With the help of funds offered by a number of groups, (with the biggest contributor being Waka Kotahi) Auckland Transport and the Waitakere Ranges Local Board (Glen Eden’s local board) pulled together all that was necessary to make this pop-up cycleway a reality. To offset the local board’s predominately cycle-friendly leanings, however, the reaction to this new facility on both the Glen Eden and Titirangi (which sits a kilometre further to the south) Facebook pages has been quite a different story:
“The road looks wide and open enough to safely ride a bike without all separation from cars.”Can we get a second opinion on that, please? (preferably from a cyclist)
“THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TOWN OF GLEN EDEN CONTINUES!” Obviously she used the word ‘destruction’ to come across as measured as possible. Surely ‘absolute apocalyptic annihilation’ would have been much more realistic.
“How much did this lane cost? It would probably be much cheaper to subsidise the few cyclists Uber for life…” Yes, perfect, because cyclists would much rather Uber than keep fit cycling. And having more people Ubering will definitely fix all of our city’s transport and climate issues.
“Just ridiculous and incredibly ugly…..makes the road very “busy” and distracting with all those white posts EVERYWHERE!!” So true. A line of parked cars instead would be much more attractive and definitely look much less busy. Actually, in all seriousness, for every car that is replaced by a bike, the road would literally get less busy and congested.
“Followed a hilux surf on Saturday. He used the cycle lane and flattened 2 aliens to avoid the judder bar.” No words.
Admittedly these comments aren’t completely indicative of all of the cycleway related reactions that appeared on these two FB pages over the first few weeks of its inception. There were, happily, quite a few that, although not strictly supportive of the path, were very considered and insightful. Yes, it is true that, when compared to many of the great cycleways of the world, this pop-up extension does sit quite a bit further down the list, with elements that genuinely need some tweaking. However there is no way that the cycleway’s small handful of shortcomings merit the ‘5 comments against for every 1 comment for’ battering that has so far prevailed.
What has been interesting, though, is that one of the groups, that has been most opposed to this pop-up, has been members of the local Glenora Rugby League Club, largely because the extension has removed around 65 roadside car parks that the club’s supporters would have been otherwise parked in for their Saturday morning home games. And what makes this interesting is that a few years ago the club was approached by the local board because it’s their property that lies directly between the esplanade end of the original cycleway and Glen Eden township. In short, the local board met representatives of the club to see whether there might be a way to use their land to create the ideal path extension that most people were hoping for, but the club said that no such pathway was viable mostly because the only possible route through would involve them losing a couple of spaces of their clubroom’s carpark area, and because having people using the path in that carpark area would cause potential safety issues for pedestrians.
Well, there are probably a couple of thoughts that pop straight to mind for most people when hearing this. Firstly, would you rather lose 65 parks for your Saturday morning games or two spaces (of the more than 150 parking spaces they currently have available to the public on their property). And secondly, when you normally have people walking through a carpark, dodging two tonnes of car at a time, how much more dangerous is the occasional bike (also going slow to keep on the lookout for cars) going to be?
Once again, the prevailing sentiment here is: ‘yes, something needs to be done to improve this [insert relevant community/societal/global issue] but if we are going to focus on any actual solutions let’s make sure they don’t in any way involve me actually having to make any (short-term) personal sacrifices myself.’ I will totally admit that potentially making a handful of train users walk an extra block to park for the nearby train station (which has been, by far, the closest thing to a sensible argument against the Captain Scott Rd cycleway so far) is not ideal, but studies tell us time and time again that creating a meaningful, fulfilling, and actually connected local community, while getting people fit and climate friendly, absolutely requires a whole lot more active transport than we are currently seeing in Glen Eden. And, therefore, good on Auckland Transport and Glen Eden’s local board, despite that goal looking so removed from the present reality, for being brave enough to draw a line in the sand and actually start that necessary transition.
So, yes, it brings me a lot of satisfaction to see the current pop-up cycleway continuing to be a high profile piece of Glen Eden’s landscape that brings awareness of cycling to its surrounding communities. And over the next 10 months of the trial, while the council continues to monitor the response to the project, I look forward to a range of reactions (beyond just that of a vocal, reactive fragment of the car driving majority) from folks, such as my friend, who, for example, have been looking for that extra nudge to start getting out on their bike.