A short while ago I asked for an update on the Auckland Harbour Bridge shared cycleway and walkway from the good folks running the Getacross campaign, Kirsten Shouler sent me the following summary of the project and it’s current status:
Since May 2011, NZTA and the AHB Pathway Trust have committed significant resources to identify and finalise the optimal design for a walking and cycling Pathway on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. NZTA has now signed off on the structural feasibility of the Pathway concept design. NZTA has advised they won’t allocate funding through the NLTP to construct walking and cycling access across the AHB, but they will permit the construction and operation of the Pathway as a community facility.
What happens to the Pathway now is in Auckland Council’s hands. On May 15, Auckland Council’s Transport Committee will decide the future of the Pathway project. A potential funder has been identified, and a naming rights sponsor lined up. There is virtually no cost to Auckland Council but we need Council on board as a project backer to finalise the contracts.
The AHB Pathway Trust is asking for Council to consider the Pathway proposal as a transformational project and as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) which is funded by revenue from a toll on users and the sale of naming rights to the Pathway.
The Pathway is an example of a private initiative which has a very strong foundation, including agreement with NZTA and a robust business case….It will:
resolve the most critical gap in Auckland’s walking & cycling network
- provide a flagship project for uptake of walking and cycling in Auckland (similar to the way Britomart Station provided a catalyst for rail patronage)
- deliver a significant tourism attraction that will encourage longer stays by visitors to Auckland
- use an innovative funding proposal in line with goals of with Getting Auckland Moving & the Auckland Plan
- provide projected net surpluses – which are estimated to be substantial
- enable Auckland Council to take ownership of the Pathway once the construction loan is paid off.
As you can see it all sounds like very promising stuff. They have NZTA on board allowing the structure to be added to the bridge and private funder ready to pay for construction. All it needs now is the OK from Auckland Council and the pathway becomes a reality. Fingers crossed for May 15th, great job Getacross!
Now it would have been good if the various agencies responsible for transport in Auckland could have somehow funded this out of their not insignificant budgets, but there’s no point splitting hairs if this PPP model is the one that actually gets it built. At the end of the day a small charge for a great ride and a wonderful view isn’t such a bad thing… although I must wonder if we’ll have the dubious honour of the only bridge in the world where it is free to drive across but a tolled for those on foot!
Anyway, this pathway will make an excellent addition to the transport and tourist infrastructure of our city, and as Kristen says it will end up in the hands of the people once the construction loan is paid and the investors have made their money back. Looking at that list of benefits, I really think numbers 1 and 2 are the killer outcomes of this project. As a shoreboy I can say I would love the opportunity to walk or ride into the city and home again, and there is obviously a huge problem where a full quarter of your city cannot access the other three-quarters without using motorised transport (or a lengthy swim!). But the flagship-project effect is perhaps even more important, it’s one thing to simply meet the current demand for walking and cycling, it’s another altogether to open that option up to a lot more people, to advertise it, promote it and to make it a real part of the way people get around our city.
Like most other Aucklanders I cycled around my neighbourhood a little as a child, but gave it up in my early teens in favour of being driven – and later driving myself – everywhere instead. For a good ten or twelve years I didn’t give cycling another thought, not until I moved to Melbourne. There I chose to live car free and could do so relatively easily with a transit pass and some comfortable walking shoes, but in some cases I found it quite time consuming to make trips across town that were a few kilometres in length. They would take thirty or forty minutes on foot, and often just as long on the tram once you factor in a little wait time and a connection or two. The solution I discovered, along with thousands of other Melburnians, is cycling. Cycling has gone from strength to strength there, not only in sheer numbers but also in image. Hipster kids aren’t concerned with cool cars, but you should see the flash fixies and cruisers lined up at the pubs and cafés all over inner Melbourne every afternoon. In Melbourne riding bikes is not only effective, its fashionable too.
One thing I noticed in Melbourne is that they have well used shared cycleways along every motorway, rail and river corridor in the city, and quite frankly there’s no reason we can’t do the same. We already have our own prototype along the Northwestern Motorway, and a few other short sections, so why can’t we do the same on the motorways and rail lines to the north, south and east too?
The great thing about shared cycleways is that they are very cheap to build: all you need is about two metres or so of spare width out of a corridor, the design geometry is pretty lax and if you get stuck in a tricky pinch point there’s no real problem diverting the route onto a nearby street or using a pedestrian crossing. As a general guide a price of $1 million a kilometre would be generous for a cycleway, yet there is so much potential for benefits. The Northwestern Cycleway currently carries over six hundred people a day, one wonders if you could add anything like that to the motorway for a mere million per kilometre? The BCRs of cycle projects must be huge!
At this point I should probably make a little observation. In Melbourne I used just regular streets and roads to travel about on my business, and only occasionally used the flash cycleways for a bit of sport on a sunny day. So is this the right path to take? Instead of corralling cyclists into off road paths so they can get out of the way of good honest car drivers, should we aim to normalise cycling on road so that people can just ride anywhere they so chose? Well yes and no. The ability to safely and easily cycle on any street to any destination should be the end goal, but we can’t get there without off road cycleways. The simple fact of the matter is that cycling is currently a niche mode in Auckland and it’s really only done by enthusiasts. To broaden the appeal and normalise cycling we need to get normal people on to bikes, and the best way to do that is to provide a safe and easy network of cycleways. Perhaps people start riding on them for a bit of fun, or they buy a commuter cycle to fly past the motorway traffic, but at the end of the day they get a bike and start riding it. Once we have that off road network stretching out to the four corners of the city, then it’s time to get serious about on street riding.
There’s certainly room along the Northern Motorway once the bridge crossing is complete, there are a few sections of board walk along the eastern rail line that could be extended into a route all the way from Panmure to Quay St, there is space along the Southern Motorway for something similar down to Otahuhu and beyond. In fact our city is covered with transport corridors that could have a smooth concrete path added to one side, it should be a requirement of any new or upgraded motorway to build one in. Another interesting idea I had heard is about the potential to leverage off the electrification works on the railways. Apparently they have had to establish a series of small access roads and work sites all along the railways to install the new equipment, so why not link up a few of these access ways and pave them into long corridors for cyclists and walkers? It can’t cost a lot and the pathway would still provide excellent access for maintenance crews in the future.
So what’s holding us back on these cycle superhighways, why aren’t we spending the relative pittance to cover our city in a network of cycling and walking paths? It might only take a few tens of millions to get a thousand commuters off the road at peak times, so why the hell not? Let the commuters of Auckland burn fat instead of oil, and perhaps even have some fun while doing it!