University choice great opportunity for cycling?

University choice great opportunity for cycling?

Bike Auckland

As just in from the newspapers, University of Auckland is getting serious about purchasing the old Lion Brewery site in western Newmarket to create a large new mixed-use campus. If the purchase actually occurs (there’s hints that other buyers are also interested, and the deal is not yet all finalised), this might be an interesting opportunity for cycling in Auckland.

Students traditionally are much more willing to cycle than other populations. They are more likely to struggle with the financial tithe required to maintain a car in our tarmac-centric society. They don’t buy into the “ride a bike and you’ll probably die” scare nearly as much as the rest of society. They tend to live closer to their work (i.e. lecture hall, lab, library…) than the rest of the Auckland population. They love the flexibility of a bike to zip around between various destinations over the day.

As this is an expansion, not just a consolidation, we can hope that we will have a window of opportunity for an actual mode shift, not just some cycling trips moving from one part of Auckland to another (by the way, while the move and closure of the satellite campuses (campi?) probably makes a lot of sense for the university, one can’t but think that this will cause some economic pain in Epsom and Tamaki).

A huge new development also always goes hand in hand with changes to the surrounding transport environment. If instead of an university, we would be seeing, say, offices here, we would likely see some traffic engineers and policitians call for – nay, consider it mandatory – to massively upgrade the surrounding roads and intersections. Anyone who knows Khyber Pass Road knows that it’s already rock-bottom in amenity and safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Could it become any worse if this road was further widened (yes).

This is not to say that there won’t be the some of that same pressure for a university. “Some will need to drive” will be the catchphrase. Okay, but that doesn’t mean this should dominate the transport vision. A new university campus would offer the chance to push for a much stronger active mode component.

Recently, I attended (via a local resident’s group, rather than for CAA) a meeting during which Auckland Transport’s corridor management plan for Khyber Pass Road was discussed [it is still in development, which now turns out to be a good thing]. The bad state for walking and cycling was one of the key issues identified, but there was not much yet on how this could change, seeing all the other pressures. Well, walking and cycling in the area may just have gotten a lot more important. Lets make sure that this gets carried over into action if it turns out that we are indeed getting many thousand new students into the area.

I note that separately, Auckland Transport Blog also has a post on this item – concentrating on the public transport aspects – that is well worth reading. It also highlights how the campus locations that are to be closed are much easier to reach / park at with a car, so that too could encourage cycling, comparatively speaking, by removing the “driver subsidy” of free or cheap(er) car parking.

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