Where is Skypath when we need it?

Where is Skypath when we need it?

Mary-Margaret Slack

Aucklanders using ferries and bikes are suffering from more than just the added heat and humidity of February. Pressure on deck space on the Devonport ferry service is resulting in some people with bikes being barred access because of congested bike parking space on board. This occurred a number of times last week, causing frustrations and complaints.  

Barb Cuthbert, Chair of Bike Auckland says this shows the success of policies to promote public transport and cycling, but says we can’t expect to do more of the same if we want to meet public demand. ‘We’ve got record numbers of people using bikes to get to work and for recreation; the City notched up a 16% increase in cycling in the 4 years before Covid (March 2016 – March 2020). It’s clear Auckland needs to deliver more and better cross-harbour cycling transport options.’

‘I travel with my bike on the Devonport ferries all week, and am impressed by the patience and goodwill shown by other passengers and deck hands to the growing numbers of bikes on board. I’m also aware that the increasing pressure on deck space is testing for everyone.’ 

‘It’s great that Fullers have reinstated more frequent sailing times at peak hours and extended the hours of the service. This helps to spread the loadings of bikes, but ferries can’t be expected to cope ad infinitum with the record and escalating levels of bike use occurring across Auckland.’

Ferry services across the network face timetable issues with cancellations caused by mechanical failures. In the case of the Birkenhead, Beach Haven and Hobsonville services, passengers have to adjust to late and cancelled sailings on busy weekends when that service is at capacity. This impacts passengers with bikes by limiting bike capacities on these routes. 

Bike Auckland is constantly asked what’s happening with Skypath, aka the Northern Pathway harbour bridge cycle and walking route. It would relieve mounting pressure on ferries and give Aucklanders the recreational and commuting access to the Bridge they’ve been denied for decades. 

Barb Cuthbert says ‘Waka Kotahi took over the project from the Skypath Trust in April 2019, saying they would deliver. It was allocated substantial funding last January in the Coalition Government’s Infrastructure Upgrade, but we’re worried that there is no approved design, no start date and no completion date.’

‘Bike Auckland supported Waka Kotahi’s plans for the bridge in April 2019, but issued a warning ‘The last thing any of us wants is to turn the clock back a decade and start entirely from scratch. With everything we now know about climate, health, resilient networks – and the growing bike boom – certain and swift completion of this missing link is the highest priority.’

This week’s publication of the Climate Change Commission’s report adds to the imperative for cycling to be made easier as a transport choice.

Barb Cuthbert concludes, ‘We think it’s fair to ask Waka Kotahi – “Where is Skypath when we need it? When will cycling, walking and scooting across the Auckland Harbour Bridge be a practical reality for Aucklanders?’

Photo from Bike Auckland

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