It has been interesting, if a little annoying, over the past couple of days to see the fallout from Sunday’s Harbour Bridge Crossing. Interestingly, the NZ Herald has actually been one of the better reporters of the whole incident, with plenty of photos, a controversial story that relates to “when’s this happening next” (you can even see me in the photo for that story) and even a nice personal story about someone who crossed the bridge 50 years ago when it first opened and finally managed to cross it again yesterday. However, the TV news has generally been pretty negative about the whole thing – both TVNZ and TV3 – which is rather disappointing.
I don’t think Get Across have helped themselves particularly much either in the last 24 hours or so. It seems like they were so bewildered by the passionate support they got that they’re really not sure where to go next. Should they get in behind all those who crossed the bridge and lump the blame on NZTA, or should they try to distance themselves from those who crossed the bridge so that they can try to restore a better relationship with NZTA? I agree it’s a pretty tricky situation for them, but unfortunately they have been stuck in the middle a bit, with the best quote from them being in relation to another protest in the future “making this one look like a walk in the park”. That gives me a lot of hope that this won’t be one-off event and that eventually we will get what we want: a permanent walking/cycling way across the Waitemata Harbour.
It is interesting to have a good look through the Get Across website in a bit of detail, as they have clearly put a lot of thought into their movement, and have come up with a pretty detailed design. A few photos from their website of a possible walkway/cyclway are included below:
Now I’m a bit 50/50 on whether it should be an indoor link or an outdoor one. I imagine an indoor one (like what is proposed above) would certainly be preferable in that it would protect people from the wind and rain and would potentially be safer. However, an outdoor one would certainly make you feel much more connected with the bridge and connected with being in one of the most scenic spots in Auckland. Enjoying the weather (which admittedly was fantastic) and the view was a large part of what made yesterday’s walk so awesome.
NZTA will tell you that this option is impossible, and that any walkway/cycleway that is added to the Harbour Bridge will significantly reduce the life-span of the clip-ons. However, with a bit more digging it is clear that this is simply not true – and NZTA themselves have admitted this as recently as last year. Let’s have a look at what NZTA have said in the past about this:
- Transit CEO advised Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee in a letter, dated December 11, 2007: “the work required inside the clip-on box girders to enable the walkway/cycleway will be included in the upcoming upgrade of the clip-ons.”
- May 2008 LTNZ Board Paper (Agenda No. 6c), advised in paragraphs 7 & 8:
“Transit NZ has undertaken some investigation to to ascertain whether whether future proofing for a walkway/cycleway is possible during the upgrade. While carrying out structural analysis of the AHB, Transit included a loading case involving a cycleway/walkway. The analysis found that a cycleway/walkway, which partly used the existing carriageway and also included a slight extension on the operating width, was structurally feasible.”
- Bryan Jackson, NZTA Board member wrotes in a letter to ARC’s Christine Rose, 19 May 2008:
“…structural elements will be incorporated into the current strengthening works to future-proof the clip-on lanes and allow for future walking and cycling options on the box girders.”
“the purpose of the structural upgrade of the clip-on lanes is to ensure they stay in good condition for the next 20 to 30 years. I assure you that these works do not preclude the addition of a walking and cycling facility.”
- The May, 2008 Transit Board Paper 6173 “AHB Strenthening project” states in Item 4:
“Through innovative thinking, further structural elements have been incorporated into the current strengthening works at relatively low cost to future proof for future walking and cycling options“
- Transit CEO, Rick van Barnevelt writes in a May 14, 2008 letter to Hon Judith Tizard:
“Transit acknowledges that the provision of appropriate access for cycles and walking across the Waitemata Harbour is a priority for the Auckland region”
“Provision of a walkway/cycleways is one proposal that will help the Auckland region increase the mode share of walk and cycling, which is a key requirement of the draft Updated New Zealand Transport Strategy”
“Given the likelihood that the next Waitemata Harbour Crossing will be a tunnel the Auckland Harbour Bridge strengthening project must specifically include the detailed provision for a future walkway and cycleway”
“Structural elements have been incorporated into the current strengthening works to future-proof for walking and cycling facilities on the box girders“
So on a huge number of occasions NZTA have previously stated that provision for walking and cycling would be part of the upgrade to the clip-ons. Clearly it is possible from an engineering perspective, otherwise they would never have even raised the chance, it’s just a lack of will on their behalf. I wonder how many times protestors will have to shut down the motorway before they re-assess that position?