When the USO Bike Ride passed through Auckland last week, there was never any doubt they’d stop over in Mangere. A mighty fit bunch of guys traveling from Bluff to Cape Reinga on bicycles with sponsorship from the Cancer Society, their aim is to raise health awareness among Maori and Pasifika peoples. (‘Uso’ is Samoan for ‘brother’, whence the team theme of Understanding, Strengthening, Overcoming.)
All along the ride, the ‘band of brothers’ stopped in towns and cities to connect with people who share the vision of how bikes can be a huge part of healthier lives and a healthy community.
So naturally, when the USOs rolled into Mangere on a Monday afternoon, they got an ‘USOme’ extra warm welcome from Teau Aiturau and his Triple Teez whanau.
It was a meeting of minds: Teau is the powerhouse behind the Mangere BikeFIT movement, which aims to make Mangere the ‘Bike Capital of the Pasifik’ by encouraging people to take charge of their fitness and their freedom by using bikes to get around.
The USO riders in their blue-and-yellow gear were welcomed at Teau’s HQ at the Mangere Community House in Centre Park, then joined up with the cheery, orange-clad all-ages parade for a ceremonial ride to the Town Centre for even more of a party. This was followed by a massive community fono at the Roskill Youth Zone in the evening.
The next morning, Teau and co planned to send the team on their way with a group ride as far as Mangere Bridge – although true to form, they couldn’t help going the extra mile. The extra many miles in fact! After all, you can’t have visitors without showing them around town properly.
A 40-strong bunch (including Joe Viqasi from Auckland Transport, and Walter Togiamua from the Local Board) accompanied the USO riders into town via One Tree Hill, along the waterfront, up and down Queen St, a quick hoon on the Pink Path, and then out to Te Atatu – before heading back to Mangere.
Teau reports: “The whole thing was out of this world. It was awesome to have them there. The kids loved it – they were really inspired.” He’s inspired too, and is now dreaming of a similar ride to raise awareness about obesity and diabetes, and to share his own story of the life-changing power of bikes.
Mangere as Bike Capital of the Pasifik is a powerful vision – and an achievable goal. Teau’s enthusiasm is contagious, as is the energy of the kids, friends, and families he’s converted to the idea of getting around by bike. Local businesses and supporters of all kinds swing in to help with sponsorship and logistics for events and holiday programmes. People power: no problem.
But how about infrastructure? Currently, there are a few existing painted bike lanes, and a walking/cycling link across the motorway. The SH20a project will bring a “high quality, separated shared path on the western side of the motorway corridor,” between the airport and Kirkbride Rd. Which is great, especially as the airport expansion brings a bunch of new jobs to this part of town.
But it’s the local level that will make the big difference. Mangere’s streets are ripe for reclaiming by bikes – flat and wide, with links between parks and schools and churches and shops.
And that’s where another long-planned project comes to fruition this year: Te Ara Mua – Future Streets, brainchild of Hamish Mackie who started out with a bikes in schools project at Nga Iwi Primary School.
Te Ara Mua is equal parts redesign and research. The goal is to make streets safer, so as to make it easier for people to choose to walk and bike, and – this is a key part – to measure the outcomes. This is a large-scale, long term study: Hamish and a largely Auckland-based team of researchers will be working with a $3.2m budget from MBIE to track effects on the improved streets compared with unimproved ones nearby. The idea is to add robust new data to the existing economic evaluation tools used by cities when they weigh up the costs and benefits of upgrading streets.
The improvements on the ground are being delivered by Auckland Transport, the NZTA, and the Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board. They include protected bike lanes on a major thoroughfare, plus upgrades through green spaces and existing paths. The design has been refined over the last few years with plentiful consultation across the wider community.
The first stage creates a safe-circuit community trail in Mangere Central that connects Nga Iwi Primary, the leisure centre and swimming pool, and the town shops and fabulous arts centre, Nga Tohu o Uenuku.
Construction is already under way, reports Auckland Transport:
- The footpath in Pershore Place between the entrance to Windrush Park and Mascot Park has been replaced with a 3 metre wide shared walking and cycling path, and similar work has also been carried out in Windrush Close, along with street lighting upgrades.
And to come over the next few months:
- A walking and cycling route to improve the connection between Waddon Place and Mascot Avenue. It will have markers along its paths and will run along Windrush Close and Pershore Place through green space, before connecting with Mascot Avenue.
- Mascot Avenue will be upgraded to incorporate a combination of dedicated cycle lanes, raised pedestrian crossings, raised speed tables, widened footpaths, improved bus stops and landscaping to make a safer and more user-friendly environment for getting to school, work or the local shops.
- The pedestrian connection between the reserve and the mall within the Mangere Town Centre will be enhanced and the pedestrian connection will be emphasized with raised tables, widened footpaths and plantings alongside.
- Wayfinding signage in the Town Centre will show the significant sites, marae and education facilities in the area, as well as 10 marker posts identifying and locating maunga in Mangere.