All cycleways are not created equal: or, when to say yeah-nah

Apr 09, 2017
All cycleways are not created equal: or, when to say yeah-nah

Bike Auckland

Simon Wilson at The Spinoff has written a cracker of a piece about the East-West Link, the Onehunga roading project currently facing a Board of Inquiry at the Environment Court to see if it will be allowed to be fast-tracked. Of the extremely large number of public submissions (you can see the analysis here), the vast majority (85%) oppose the plan.

Simon’s article is a pretty great round-up of why. Among other things, the projected $1.85bn budget could go a long way towards all sorts of other transport projects that would help Auckland, including the rail and bus network. Or imagine, for example, investing that same sum in a cogent network of connected cycleways, protected bike lanes, wide smooth footpaths, and traffic-calmed safer streets in all of Auckland’s neighbourhoods.

Productivity comes in many many forms, and a well-exercised, well-connected community freeing up space on quieter, less-polluting streets would surely score highly on the cost-benefit spectrum for a 21st C city.

Anyhow: as you know if you’ve been following along, Bike Auckland was among the 85% of submitters who opposed the project, for a multitude of reasons.

You can read our submission on the East-West Link hereEast-West Link Bike AKL Submission March 2017 (Note: we took the opportunity to provide extensive feedback for the ‘Even If’ scenario, on the grounds that the existing design is still far too compromised for people on bikes and on foot.)

The short version: in our view, the costs significantly outweigh the benefits, and not even the promise of additional cycleways was enough to shift that position. In this case, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. There’s an existing path for bikes and walking along the shoreline here (and for piquant irony, it was constructed on an ‘amenity strip’ created in mitigation for an earlier reclamation project).

Although the new project proposes adding more walking and cycling amenity, in our opinion, it subtracts far too much in almost every other respect. This image, circulated late in the consultation period, gave an unintentional taste of why we found it relatively easy to not support this project… [Note: NZTA has told us they will look closely at whether they can design for fewer shared paths and more pedestrian / cycle separation.] 


For Bike Auckland, this was one of those ‘a friend would tell you’ moments. In the ongoing push for a more bikeable Auckland, we are proud of working productively with NZTA on cycleway projects that run through the motorway corridors they administer. In recent years, NZTA has become increasingly clever at threading cycleways through some incredibly challenging spaces  – not least Lightpath and Grafton Gully; the great eastern Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive path which is currently under construction; and of course the granddaddy of them all, the Northwestern Cycleway.

Given the size and spread of Auckland, we think these ‘backbone’ cycleways are a hugely important part of the wider picture, especially for giving Aucklanders a choice of commuting by bike (with the other two legs of the infrastructure tripod being protected bike lanes through town centres and along arterials, and safer neighbourhood streets for local trips, like biking to school).

So we are constantly working with and encouraging NZTA to create more cycleways – especially through the Bike Bermuda Triangle of SH1. But with this proposal, we simply could not see a solid case.

Of course, there are motorway-projects-with-bonus-cycleways that we can and do support. Around the same time we were busy with our East-West submission, we were also working on a response to the Northern Corridor Improvement project on the North Shore.

You can read our submission on the NCI project here: NCI Bike AKL Submission March 2017. As you’ll see, in this case we opted for ‘Support – with modifications.’ In other words, we offered qualified support for the project as a whole, and would confidently see it built with the suggested modifications.

Why? The NCI project is significantly different to the East-West Link in several crucial respects:

  • unlike the East-West Link, it’s less duplicative of existing routes
  • it effectively turns an existing heavily trafficked state highway (SH18) into a formal motorway, with an interchange at SH1
  • this has a lot of spin-off benefits for resiliency and diverting through-traffic from the central city when the western ring route is complete…
  • …which should reduce traffic demand over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, leading to more informed decisions on any future additional harbour crossing (ideally, one that’s optimised for public transport/rail)
  • it includes a busway extension to Albany, so it’s a more multimodal project than EWL
  • it doesn’t cut off a harbour!
  • and SH18 is currently a significant barrier to walking and cycling – so the creation of fully connected shared paths for biking and walking improves the existing situation considerably.
So there you have it. Kudos to our hard-working infrastructure team (especially Max and Steve) for their epic work on both submissions, written late into the night and up against deadline. We hope our logic here is clear. And along with the rest of the city, we await the outcome of the Board of Inquiry into the East-West Link.

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