Pohutukawa-6The since approved removal of 6 Pohutakawa trees at the St Lukes Interchange (by Auckland Transport, for an extra turn lane) was in the news a lot recently. CAA did not submit on the notification of the proposal, because at the time we were too busy with other projects, and thought that this was solely about trees alone and thus a bit out of our core subject area.

However, now that Auckland Transport is claiming that providing a cycleway is one of the main reasons / benefits of the tree removal, we feel we need to state our position on this:

  1. We do not support the trade-off – the trees are worth more than the (minimal) cycle improvements. In reality, the “cycleway” proposed here is just some 110m of shared path extension, on one corner of the intersection. Even ignoring that shared paths aren’t ideal for an urban area, there are currently no cycleways east of this short extra stub – i.e. people have to ride through the massive intersection / motorway interchange (opposite the speedway), and past wide petrol station driveways to even get to it in the first place. Only confident road cyclists – who tend to ignore shared paths anyway- are likely to do so. The path thus provides little benefit to increasing cycling or making it safer. Auckland Transport are also not providing cycleways on the northern side of the intersection, despite rebuilding the whole layout. In short, these six great trees are not going in support of cycling.
  2. We believe other options are feasible. While we have not been involved closely enough in the project to speak confidently about the alternatives already discussed, we consider that where there is a will, there is usually a way. One option mentioned recently is putting a walk/cycleway behind the trees, on the southern side. AT responds that existing car parking there prevents this. This does not seem to us a sensible argument on a main arterial, and we do not believe the parking loss would be that massive anyway.
  3. This “trees or else” choice offered to Auckland is a consequence of more car capacity. The various CAA blogs about motorway cycleways – and the good cooperation we had with NZTA over the last years – should not hide the fact that we never supported the new motorway capacity in the first place. These motorways – directed by government – are sold to Auckland as taking traffic off local roads, and keeping us all moving. In reality, their flow-on effects mean larger motorway interchanges, leading to more local road traffic etc…. Then you add in trying to keep buses and cyclists and pedestrians running, and something has to give. In this case, Auckland Transport decided it had to be the trees. We do not agree – especially not for a turning lane which we understand will mainly be added to cater for car traffic 5-10 years in the future. Why make it easier to drive now by adding this capacity up-front? Induced demand is Auckland’s story – lets encourage public transport, walking & cycling first.

[Regarding the further process: After the removal of the trees has now been approved by comissioners, AT has stated that they intend to proceed. However, there will be an appeals stage, where (only) the original submitters can decide to go to the Environment Court. We understand that some are planning to do so]

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  • Damian D

    It’s ridiculous for AT to suggest that cyclists would benefit from the tree removal where getting put on the footpath which has to stay anyway. The additional slip lane is for motorists this is reason the trees the trees are being chopped down!

    • BenL

      Yes but cyclists make an easy minority group to blame. That is AT’s game here – blame a minority group for a very unpopular decision that only benefits car users and will create more congestion, not less.

      Terrible politics and unfortunately most people will only hear AT’s statements and never question them.

      AT’s cycling credentials are rapidly disappearing.

      • EWIL

        Really does AT have cycling credentials to lose?

  • Jacques

    Thanks for doing that! Just because it’s got the word ‘cycle’ on it doesn’t mean that it’s good and endorsed by the cycling community. AT need to get out of their holes and talk to people

  • B. Knell

    i hope they are still there when I return to NZ . Anybody else would be fined for removing such lovely old and established trees!

  • Tim

    Today’s statement from AT is frankly Orwelian..

    “We regret that the trees will be lost but a major benefit is that they will make way for cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge and for an extended bus lane and bus priority measures in Great North Road.

    Making travel by cycle and bus more efficient and convenient is consistent with Auckland Transport’s drive to encourage the use of public transport. This will bring long-term environmental benefits as more people choose alternative modes of transport, to the car.”

    • BenL

      Orwellian is one way to put it. An outright lie would be another.

  • Chrissy Glen

    The removal of car parks argument is ridiculous when you take into account the 100’s of car parks included in the proposed development of the golf course just south of the intersection.

    • Damian D

      Yes if the foot path or as AT call them cycle lanes were the issue then there’s space behind the trees for a path, maybe without even with out removing car parks. Of course it’s the extra slip lane for motorized traffic that is the issue. I guess AT don’t see it as there job to come up with solutions to save trees or create fit for purpose cycle lanes.

  • Bryce P

    Great post guys. What can we do to also get AT/NZTA to have another look at the entire intersection? Quite frankly, as you’ve noted, the present design is good for no one who is not in a motor vehicle.

    • Darius

      Seeing that it is being built right now (second bridge mostly complete), and that Waterview will create lots of extra traffic here, I don’t think there’s much chance of this changing, really. Best we can get at this stage is some tweaks around the edges (and save the trees). Then take the fight as an example for future fights.

  • Mark Graham

    If you want to help support the resistance to the tree removals, like us on Facebook here: https://www.loomio.org/g/Q4IAzpOq/pohutakawa-savers

    and join the conversation around action here: https://www.loomio.org/g/Q4IAzpOq/pohutakawa-savers