Time to get cross… on Upper Queen Street

Lots of people want to cross here on Upper Queen!
Lots of people want to cross here on Upper Queen!

As Auckland builds more inner-city cycleways, it’s crucial to link them up and make getting on and off as easily as possible.

A decade ago, it was pretty well “accepted” that to get to a “safe cycleway” (if there was one on your route at all) you had to run a gauntlet of streets and turns and intersections that could be anywhere from really inconvenient to utterly hair-rising. The last bits were often the worst. Many still are (I am looking at YOU, Newton Road! And YOU, Parnell Rise!).

One key area of our emerging network is at the southern end of the City Centre, on Upper Queen St – especially the bridge over the motorways. With Grafton Gully Cycleway, Nelson Street Cycleway, and the Northwestern Cycleway all meeting there, it’s turning into a real hub of our cycleway system. And that’s not even including all the riders who continue straight along Upper Queen Street to K Road, or up Alex Evans to Symonds Street.

Taking a closer look at the Upper Queen St bridge, there has been an awesome reshuffle of the space in recent years. In 2014, it had 6 (!) traffic lanes AND a parking lane. Now, it has a layout far more appropriate for a gateway to the city*, with 4 general lanes, no parking, and two very wide footpaths, each with separate cycle paths.

* Alas, the plans in one concept design for a fascinating bridge gateway feature – arching over and enfolding the bridge like a cocoon of branches – never happened.

Red are the missing pedestrian / cycle crossings. Note: Aerial photo is out of date - shows situation before road diets and cycleways.
Red lines show the missing pedestrian / cycle crossings. (Note: This aerial photo is out of date – it shows the situation before the road diet and added cycleways.)

But one big thing is missing on Upper Queen for cyclists (and to a degree also for pedestrians) – a straightforward way to conveniently get across Upper Queen Street. As you can see at the right, the placement of the traffic crossings means that unless you are willing to drop back onto the road in busy, fast traffic, you are being put through a real run-around with multiple signals before you can get where you want to go.

(In fact, we know AT have had complaints by drivers in the area that some cyclists aren’t using their new cycleways on the bridge section, preferring to ride on-road so they get through the intersection in one easy move instead of enduring two long waits and a dog-leg. What can we say – we’re shocked, shocked.)

Initially, it was mainly the off-road NW Cycleway / Ian McKinnon Drive cyclists heading to and from Grafton Gully who got the short end of the stick. For these travelers, riding on the road remains a good bit faster, if you can stomach going through the intersection with vehicular traffic.

But now, there’s a wave of people wanting to cross over the other way, to Lightpath and to Nelson Street. And once the new Ian McKinnon Drive Cycleway is added, even more will arrive.

So what to do? Well, since before Grafton Gully opened, we have been asking for better west-east connections here. This obviously hasn’t happened yet; adding those missing crossings will cost car capacity, and removing two traffic lanes AND a free slip lane must have already been a pretty big step for AT.

However, we have been hearing some rumblings that further improvement here MIGHT be possible. Nothing definite, mind. But it sounds like the most realistic change could be that the northernmost west-east crossing gets relocated to the southern side of the intersection (i.e. the upper horizontal blue line could be moved to the upper red dashed line).

This means many, if not most cyclists travelling west-east through this intersection would only need to wait for a single signal crossing, not two. It also confirms the desire line from the Canada St shared path to Grafton Gully.

People looking to do a loop ride up Grafton Gully and onto the Pink Path, for example, could ride from the top of the Grafton Gully across the road in one single movement to get to the Canada St path. It would also make life easier for those looking to connect to Ian McKinnon Drive and onto to the NW cycleway.

Shifting the crossing doesn’t come totally without cost – car capacity would drop at least a wee bit more, for example. And for local pedestrians especially, keeping both crossings would be the best deal. After all, for a properly walkable city, all City Centre intersections should have crossings on all arms, something we know the Local Board is keen on.

So what do you feel? Would it be worth moving the crossing to the south (bridge) side of the intersection? Or would you insist on adding a crossing, even if this may be harder to achieve?

And when should it happen? As part of the Ian McKinnon project, or as part of the K Road / Upper Queen St lanes? (Both projects are going to be designed and consulted on this year, but our guess is that Ian McKinnon Drive is likely to be built much earlier.)

Looking forward to your thoughts…




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