When AT and NZTA approached us about the “East -West Link“, we were a bit sceptical – what did this have to do with cycling? After all, this project – a last-minute addition to the Auckland Plan – was all about freight on trucks. Trucks between Onehunga, Mangere and the airport in the West, and East Tamaki in the East, to be more precise (white area at right).
And indeed, AT and NZTA are currently considering a whole range of new/widened roads in this area – some rather massive. Auckland Transport Blog discussed it, and it’s fair to say that they had concerns (link 1 and link 2) – mostly about the cost, and the impacts on surrounding areas.
During the presentation that AT & NZTA gave to a CAA public meeting some week ago, they clarified that the project was led by, but not exclusively for freight, however. There would also be substantial PT and walking/cycling packages in it.
Okay – so nowadays new roads usually come with cycling improvements, something we have battled for a long time. Sometimes we win big, sometimes we win some substantial concessions, sometimes we lose on points. But still – if new roads get built, we now expect cycling to feature, with certain minimum standards.
So it was interesting to hear that the walking/cycling and PT parts of the project would not necessarily have to overlap. I.e. if it made more sense withing the project area to improve the East-West cycling connections by plugging a gap in the existing cycle network, then that would be considered too (and would come out of the project budget, not the ever-cash-strapped cycle budget). At that point, our ears did perk up a bit.
They are now asking for input from the cycling community as to where, in the white part of the map at the top, the key needs for improvement are.
In our view, the key links that need improving would be:
- Connecting the Waikaraka Cycleway over the rail line to Great South Road (and onwards to Sylvia Park) – this would turn a great recreational cycleway into much more of a regional connection. A quick sketch at right, with the missing blue links shown.
- Improving the links between Onehunga and Mangere Bridge – particularly the dreadful section crossing Neilson Street and Onehunga Mall south of Neilson Street. CAA tried hard 3 years ago to get at least basic cycle facilities included here, but was rebuffed. Maybe this time, “connectivity” will be the watchword? After all, Mangere Bridge’s bridge is in the Top 10 of Auckland’s cycle count locations – and is the ONLY “South Auckland” site in the Top 30.
- Connect the fragmented Highbrook Path sections – as few people will know, there’s an existing cycleway on the eastern side of SH1 in Otahuhu/Highbrook. Nice – but pretty useless, as the onwards links simply don’t exist, or are very poor. We have thrown a few possible improved links in blue onto the map for discussion. This also features as part of the Tamaki Trail Greenway.
- Providing a high-quality cycle link between Mangere & Otahuhu – Various routes would be obvious connections. In an ideal world, we would get them all cycleable, including a foreshore path on the southern side of Mangere Inlet (along Favona). But it seems that (unless AT/NZTA really go for the option of pushing a large new road through this particular area), the most obvious route would be providing good cycle facilities on Massey Road.
- Provide a high-quality cycle link between Onehunga and Penrose along Mt Smart Road / Station Road – Its all nice to have the Waikaraka Cycleway further south, but that is too out of the way for many, unless you are going long-distance/ recreational. So we think the RCN plans for a cycling route along this route need to be dusted off and proceeded with. It would also help link towards the SEART Cycleway to Sylvia Park.
So those are our priority items we are considering to provide to AT/NZTA in a week or so. Have we got it right? You tell us.
We will also highlight a variety of concerns with the plans:
- There is to be bus priority on Massey Road, Coronation / Kirkbride Road and Church Street and Mt Smart Road. All good – but as we all know, bus lanes help only a small fraction of cyclists & potential cyclists. For the big majority, they may as well spell “here be scary monsters”. How will AT/NZTA ensure those don’t become no-go routes for cyclists?
- One of the big issues that the project is to deal with is west-east freight routes. What about locations like Onehunga Mall / Neilson Street intersection getting even more trucks – how do cyclists cross that? Do we need grade separation for cycle paths here?
- Where cycle routes WILL go along future new roads / roads upgraded for freight – how will cyclists be buffered from truck traffic? Will we get protected cycle lanes?
- How much funding are we talking here? The usual 1% of the project budget for cycling? Or is there a more significant effort proposed to be really multi-modal?
CAA will keep working with authorities to make sure some real cycling change comes out of this, even if it very much starts out as a trucks project.
UPDATE: We are aware that some people see this post as “support” or “endorsement” of the East-West-Link project – and its potentially quite destructive effects on large areas of housing in South Auckland. To make it clear – we do not endorse the project, even though we are admittedly keen to use it as a chance to fix some key missing links in the cycle network.
However, on projects like this, CAA always faces a hard choice. If we fundamentally oppose them, and have nothing to do with them, then we have no ability to provide input closely to the planning teams. We could hope that overall opposition was strong enough to simply not make the project happen at all. Our experience of the last 5-10 years has sadly shown that that never seems to be the case – mainly due to pressure from Wellington, these projects happen. On the other hand, where we DID get involved, like on Waterview, we won substantial concessions for cycling, and we and others are building on them.
We are aware that to some, such compromises make us “beyond the pale”. But they are not compromises we make easily.