In this recent post Matt collated some stunning photos of Auckland. More than most cities, Auckland is blessed with a wonderful natural environment. But some of the comments on Matt’s post gave me cause to pause, because they noted that all the stunning photos of Auckland were taken from approximately 300m up in the air and/or at night.

“bbc” put it this way:

All cities look picturesque from above at night, the issue is at street level which is where you actually interact with a city. At the fine-grained level Auckland is a particularly ugly city, and has a long way to go.

To which “Steve West” responded:

So true. São Paulo for example looks awesome at night yet it is a bit of a hole too. New Zealand does not have attractive cities – it is only the natural backdrop which offset the harshness of the 1980s era concrete and glass box prefab which continues to this day. Thanks Rogernomics. Recent article in a UK paper to that point – natural scenery nice but Auckland a bit crap.

Having read Steve’s comment I went off scurrying for the article he was referring to. Instead of finding that one however, I uncovered another two recent articles in U.K. that discussed Auckland. The first one was published in The Sun and made particularly positive claims about Auckland being “hobbit forming”. Nice, we’re obviously doing something right.

I then stumbled across this article in the Guardian, which was rather bluntly titled “How cities fail their cyclists in different ways.” It started off discussing Hong Kong, which was interesting, but scrolling down the page a little more you find a sub-section titled “Cities where cycling should be more popular than it is. Example: Auckland. The content that follows is, I think, worth repeating in full:

Yes, it’s hilly in places and, once you reach the suburbs, very spread out, but Auckland really should be awash with cyclists. It has suitably temperate weather and that same spread out-ness leaves plenty of potential space for bike lanes.

But wander, with the eye of a regular cyclist, around the city centre, and you’re almost immediately struck by the lack of bikes on the road. Outside peak times they’re almost non-existent, barring the occasional cycle courier. Those you do see generally sport the Lycra garb and haunted expression of the cycling enthusiast in a bike-unfriendly environment.

The city is trying to boost numbers and, according to the most recent annual cycling survey, with some success, with 30% more riders on the roads than five years ago. But the numbers remain fairly small – just under 13,500 “cycling movements” observed on one day at 82 monitoring sites. It’s not helped by a compulsory helmet law, in place since the mid-1990s.

I was aghast to learn that the city’s harbour bridge, the main link between the centre and suburbs to the north, has no way at all for cyclists to cross. They must either plonk their bike on a ferry or take a fairly long detour. As an emblem for a city dominated by cars and roads it’s hard to beat.

Like with Hong Kong, it’s not as if Auckland couldn’t do with more cyclists. New Zealand might more or less define itself through sport but it’s simultaneously one of the more obese nations on earth.

The more I thought about it the more I found myself agreeing with the basic premise of the above article: Auckland is quite suited to cycling. One of the benefits of our geography is that there are pleasant views (like the ones shown in Matt’s photos) waiting  at the top of most hills and around most corners. And it’s not like we have a winter that’s quite as cold as Amsterdam, where I used to live (and cycle!).


I know we talk about public transport a lot on this blog and it is true that Auckland can do much better in this regard. However I’m increasingly wondering if we’re not over-looking opportunities for Auckland to become more of a cycling city.

A recent presentation on the Integrated Transport Programme, for example, apparently made no mention of walking or cycling, instead referring only to major (read “expensive”) road and public transport projects. I know it’s only a presentation and that we should hold fire until the ITP itself is released, but what message does it send when the summary to a 30-year strategic document developed by almost all the government agencies involved in transport planning does not identify one signature walking/cycling project? It’s amazing to me that walking in particularly can be so over-looked given that it still contributes almost 10% of journeys to work.

And the failure to mention walking/cycling projects from the ITP presentation came hot on the heels of this month’s AT business report, which also left out cycling statistics altogether. It seems like Auckland Transport is suddenly afraid of using the “c” word?

As a cyclist myself I’m obviously “biased” – but on the other hand let’s not ignore than a person on the other side of the world felt sufficiently motivated to use Auckland as an example of a city where “cycling should be more popular than it is.” This point is worth ramming home: A journalist in the U.K.  – who could have chosen any city in the world – choose Auckland. That’s not something to be proud of my friends, and it’s not something that will help us to become the world’s most livable city. While Auckland has and continues to make progress on many transport fronts, in my view our investment in cycling still lags.

In my opinion Auckland needs to become vastly more welcoming to cyclists before it can lay claim to being the world’s most livable city. And only then might you start to see beautiful photos being taken at ground level.

Share this


  1. Could not agree more. It is striking how few cyclists there are in Auckland. But with so much work to do, it might just be too daunting of a task to provide a proper cycle network. At the moment, I think there is no real decent (according to my warped Dutch standards) cycle path in Auckland. Even the North-Western cycle “highway” does not cut it. Tamaki Drive should and can be one of the most amazing cycleways in the world, but why is it so narrow, so bumpy (do not underestimate how important that factor is) and who puts sign poles right in the middle of it? Auckland Transport should put a few more eggs in one basket to show Aucklanders what a real cycleway looks like. Hopefully Waterfront Auckland will get their proposed boulevard to link up with the Skypath right…

    1. I fully agree – Tamaki Drive could be an absolutely amazing walking and cycling route. Instead we squeeze space for non-car modes down to the point where they can’t ride side by side. Hell there’s parts of that “cycleway” that are completely blocked by lamp posts.

      Imagine the outcome if you were to provide a consistent and high-quality cycle path from Skypath along the waterfront and into Tamaki Drive? That would be an amazing, world-class cycling facility that I would want to ride almost every day.

  2. Case in point,
    Recent Eastern Bays Courier article about how unsafe Ngahue road is for cyclists, since its a 4 lanes speed monster with barely enough room for 2 lanes each way and but with a nice fat flush median down the middle for the 80 or cars movements in and out of the houses along that road twice a day.

    Heres a link to it –

    And that article links to this one that was raised when Naghue Drive was widened in 2011 to 2 lanes each way, from the previous 1 lane each way plus area for cycling.

    Mayor Len brown even gets a quote about how important cycle safety and off-road provisioning is.

    AT’s response is “…preferred option is an off-road shared path from College Rd to the entrance of Waiatarua Reserve”
    Of course its not built yet, so what to do in the meantime?

    The stupid thing is that Ngahue Drive was widened 2 years back to cater for Stonefields induced traffic and paid for by the Stonefields developer as part of the original Environment court ordered consent.
    [as well as the lights on the intersection of Ngahue Dr. Lunn Ave and Abbots Way]

    The fact it was a developer put up job shows in that the developer did the bare minimum to comply with the consent requirements to widen the road – only enough for an extra lane each way plus flush median.
    Nothing more, nothing less.
    And they only put in minimum width road lanes, making all 4 as narrow as they could get away with to minimise the cost and then no footpath on the western side (on the basis I expect that there wasn’t one before so why should they pay to add one?).

    They never even repaved the entire road – only the “new bits” they added to widen it, which puts messy joins and road surface inconsistencies in the path of any driver and cyclist.
    Making the western side a small obstacle course of manhole covers, badly added road edge seal and a general patchwork looking making a nearly new road look about 40 years old.

    Of course AT hasn’t helped much either here either by letting it happen and not actually trying to improve the set up afterwards.

    As one of the commentators in that article says:

    “It is disappointing that the council is trying to push cyclists off the road, or at least make no accommodation for them on the road.”

    And the article also points out::

    “Her (Dr Macmillan’s) recent PhD research on cycling to work concluded that shared off-road pathways lead to an increase in cyclist and pedestrian injuries and a lack of driver awareness of cyclists.
    This results in more vehicle-cyclist collisions when the two modes eventually do have to share the road, for instance at side road crossings and intersections.”

    Which also raises a point – do you seek to separate cyclists from road traffic everywhere, or do you seek to mix them safely on-road to make the overall environment safer?

    Right now we have neither, but we need to decide and then get on with it.

    1. Interesting that it mentions Alex Macmillan’s research; I peer reviewed the modelling she was doing to assess all the costs and benefits of implementing cycle infrastructure in Akld. One of the options was to complete all of the strategic Akld cycle network – cycle lanes, separated cycleways, lower speed limits & traf calming, etc. The pricetag was about $600m, which sounds a lot but of course is “loose change” for some of the RoNS (or rail link) projects being touted about. The Benefit-Cost Ratio of this option? 22…

      1. 22x$600m is $13.2billion.

        There are $13.2 billion dollars worth of economic benefit to get the city cycling infrastructure built???? Now that is a huge number. Of the same magnitude as the cost of all the road projects but a benefit not a cost.

        I bet our dear leaders mix up their plus and minus signs again and follow the wrong path.

      2. Futhermore, I did a little back of the envelope sum and came to the conclusion that around $100m would buy us all the main off-road “cycle highways” in a network basically running alongside the rail lines and motorways. That sounds like a bargain to me. $20m a year for five years?

    2. Good commentary and analysis guys. In response to your question Greg the only appropriate response is “horses for courses”. I think cyclists would Ideally be separated from the road but it’s not always possible. Even in Amsterdam you get used to a variety of treatments depending on the street environment.

  3. One of the better ways to get around is on an Electric Bike, the hills disappear and you don’t arrive at your destination as a dripping lycra clad sweaty mess.
    I seem to remember someone somewhere mentioning that if cycling infrastructure was put in and people actually used it that would be cheaper and more efficient than the CRL

  4. The secure bike parking at every station part is vastly underrated. Almost every commuter train station in Japan has bike parking, sometimes run by the council but often run by private enterprise (typically a retiree). A few dollars a week to have your bike locked up undercover in your own space, ready for when you come home, is not much.

    Many suburban station surrounds in Auckland have the space available. Are there entrepreneurs ready to try? All we need now is decent train services… with EMUs maybe, with the CRL definitely. It’s a critical mass issue – the CRL is the killer app for Auckland transport in so many ways we just don’t realise…

  5. (oops posted too soon by mistake!)

    The secure bike parking at every station part is vastly underrated. Almost every commuter train station in Japan has bike parking, sometimes run by the council but often run by private enterprise (typically a retiree). A few dollars a week to have your bike locked up undercover in your own space, ready for when you come home, is not much. Massive increase in convenience for users and catchment area for trains, at minimal cost.

    Many suburban station surrounds in Auckland have the space available. Are there entrepreneurs ready to try? All we need now is decent train services… with EMUs maybe, with the CRL definitely. It’s a critical mass issue – the CRL is the killer app for Auckland transport in so many ways we just don’t realise…

    1. Have it done by council. While I have nothing in principle against a private company running such an operation, the fixation here on short term returns (which is driven by high interest rates and Government monetary policy) means that the price would be unreasonably high, the uptake would be much lower than it could be, and we’d see little of the benefit.

  6. It’s hard to disagree with the sentiment that Auckland should be a fantastic cycling city. Non-existent and poor infrastructure is to blame for it not being so. And this shows little sign of improving — whenver major upgrades to major roads are proposed, cycling sems to be forgotten (see: Dominion rd, Symonds st). There are some great projects coming along (The Grafton gully cycle path, possibly the Skypath) but those big projects, where cyclists can safely claim a part of a major thorouhgfare or city street are sadly lacking.

    1. Agree – the major projects like Grafton Gully and Skypath are useful to the degree that they are critical network links that will also raise cycling’s profile, but they’re generally at the “highway” end of the cycle infrastructure spectrum. I think Auckland’s next big project needs to be putting a segregated cycle lane on one of Auckland’s major thoroughfares. Great North Road would be my pick given the space available within the corridor. Contra flow cycle lane perhaps?

  7. A truly liveable city is in my mind all about the small things: being able to cycle to your nearby supermarket to pick up a few small things, biking to the local rugby ground or indeed cycling a few kilometres to work. But there seems to be so much focus on long-distance commuting when it comes to cycling projects. Most existing and proposed cycleways are indirect and unconnective routes best suitable for long-distance commuting or training for a tour. Focusing on local connections foremost, connecting communities, would lower the barrier for the uptake of cycling, which is a good starting point to further promote cycling and build a wider network.

    1. completely agree, it’s the short trips that matter most. And when you build a network in a community, branches can form that connect them. But the focus should be on short trips (of which the potential cycling mode share is vastly underestimated in my experience).

      1. Yes, some suburbs need to be picked to become cycle friendly in a big way. Traffic slowed on local roads, dangerous parking removed, busier roads to have high quality grade separated cycle lanes, smaller roads to have decent on-road facilities, connections made through reserves, school cycling buses set up, what have I missed? Surely this is affordable and worth a go.

      1. replace “not” with “before” and I’d agree with Gian. National Cycleways is a nice initiative but it’s definitely an initiative that is targeted at recreational travel .. no different to a cruise ship terminal ;). Mind you at least the National Cycleway directly benefits many more locals, who actually use the thing.

        1. There are lots of projects I’d knock off the list before I got rid of the National Cycleways. They really are differnt things from each other and come from different budgets.

        2. I would not knock them off either.

          But I do find it somewhat galling that the same government that has slashed NZTA’s cycling budgets (which would be used to develop facilities for residents) then turn around and develop a network of cycle lanes mainly targeted at tourists. The very same tourists would cycle around our cities, if it was safe – and in the process they’d get to know locals like me.

      2. One of the odd things about the National Cycleways is that visiting tourists would expect to cycle to the start and from the end of them. That is certainly not for the faint hearted. As a local I am terrified of our “out of town” roads.
        Here is a link to some comment about these National Cycleways ( It seems they may be too tough for the average tourist.
        How have we managed to get cycling infrastructure so wrong? We spent enough money on it, and got b*gger all that’s useful to locals or tourists.

      1. And this
        “The Plan confirmed that no new road capacity would be built as population grew, and that modes of mobility would not be balanced, but rather prioritized, in this order – walking first, then biking, transit, goods movement and finally vehicles. As we often say, we rarely ban cars, we just prioritize them last”

    1. Funny thing is – most cyclists I know in Auckland are not expecting anything too grand. Just a bit of common decency insofar as sharing the available road space more equitably would be good. There’s so many places where a good stretch of cycle lane would be provided simply by taking out a couple of car-parks.

      1. The basic improvements required could be done relatively cheaply, e.g. more cycle parks, spaced dividers for cycle lanes, dedicated cycle maps such as the “Cycle Tube Map”. The wider benefits to health from reduced emissions and obesity rates pay for the cost indirectly anyway. Cities are starting to develop services like this which is something Auckland could look at.

        Amazing how most of the motorways built in New Zealand these days seems not to include any cycling provision which could be easily added “behind the barriers”, it does not even need to be sealed and the earth works have to be done anyway.

        1. Tour de Manurewa, I too, have often wondered about the feasibility of cycleways down the side of motorways. Even single two-way path on one side would be good. The Porirua motorway north of Wellington is a good example.

          Alas, I soon heard the “reasons” why not, sigh. The two biggies seem to me to be: 1) allows pedestrians to access the motorway corridor, 2) how to handle the conflicts at entry/exit points.

        2. There’s also the noise which makes for unpleasant riding, and if it is not separated (ie just a shoulder) than with traffic at 100 km/hr then it is simply unsafe. I therefore think motorways are unsuitable for cycleways. And another bugbear of mine is motorways as rail routes, such as is done in Perth, or on the yellow line in Pasadena, California. Those stations that are in between motorway lanes or right next to them are unpleasant to wait at (noise and air quality), and not very walkable to or from.

          As for your specific example it is currently possible to ride from Tawa to Pukerua Bay without getting near the motorway, with only one section of main road (on Kenepuru Road) by using the Tawa Path, the tracks along the Porirua Stream, Papakowhai Road, and then the cycleway from Mana. It is almost all linked up to avoid traffic, with a few pain in the arse exceptions (like at Plimmerton Station). South of Tawa the cycling isn’t safe on Middleton Road (more for rocks fallen on the road that you can’t see at night, and a bit for speeding traffic). Through Pukerua Bay isn’t safe, and along the Coast Road it’s only safe on the footpath if there isn’t any one else on it as it is too narrow to pass.

  8. Would be great to see a bike track(even MTB one) down Purewa Valley from St John’s Rd to connect up with Orakei Basin. Would be an easy route for St John’s, Meadowbank, Kohi cyclists. Walkers too could connect with the train stations there from both sides of the valley. Better than a motorway there!

  9. Unless you can take a shower after every ride Auckland’s geography is not suitable for cycling.

    Although I enjoy donning Lycra to the detriment of any passers by and blasting uphills like scenic drive every weekend, not many would enjoy the sweat inducing slog from the CBD up to ponsonby, K rd, Parnell, etc, etc.

    Me thinks this chap has mistaken us for a flat European city

    1. I often have 1 hr rides without needing a shower. Its all about pace :-). If the city is flat enough for rail lines, its flat enough for cycling. Use the terrain, don’t fight it.

    2. I tend to disagree VT – it’s all about how fast you try and cycle up hill. I can get up College Hill in work gear (reasonably smart consultant stuff) without breaking much of a sweat. You just need to drop down into low gear and ride it out. Of course, if you try and pump it up massive hills then yes you will sweat.

      Mind you – most people would be cycling *down* hill on their way to work, so not too much of an issue.

  10. Sure, a leisurely cruise along the waterfront or the northwestern bikeway is fine on the weekend (and I’d heartily recommend it, that bikeway is an awesome way to get around), but good luck spending an hour cycling along the railway lines to and from work each day.

    1. Two responses, one it is possible for many who are not too distant to do this and two, lockers and showers at workplaces are an important part of the cycling support system. Very common overseas and becoming more common here. Lobby your employer.

    2. Railway lines are close to completely flat, with a max grade of about 1 in 40. That’s why they make such good corridors for cycleways too. You can ride for an hour without much grief at all if you set a appropriate pace. Plus an hour is a really long commute by bike on a cycleway, like further than Westgate, Manukau or Albany to the city.

  11. Here is a great video of cycling around Assen in the Netherlands. Now don’t get too hung up on the cobbled streets as the idea could actually be implemented, for minimal cost, pretty much anywhere with a bit of paint, some planters and maybe some bollards. Note, this is not a ‘shared space’ in the Fort St sense but a space that is for cycling and walking that cars are allowed to visit.

  12. I agree it’s possible to cycle really slowly, it’s possible to bring extra clothes to work if there’s a shower, it’s possible to cycle to outer suburbs via st helliers (the only flat route out of the cbd – I was being facetious about cycling through the train tunnel to Newmarket rather than up Parnell or Symonds St). My point is that this is often yet another hassle in peoples’ busy lives. Add the weather: humid in the summer, frequently wet in the winter (Akld’s rainfall is double London – 650mm vs 1240); and the far from flat Auckland CBD – from Queen st imagine a mtg at the Uni, or a law firm up shortland street, an engineering firm up Pitt St, designer’s office on K’Rd, etc.

    I’m not saying Akld isn’t failing cyclists. As a recreational and part-time commuting cyclist (and former inhabitant of cycle-friendly Denmark) I understand there are many options for facilitating more cycling. Accident liability laws are certainly one – in Dk the onus is on motorists to avoid cyclists and to prove it wasn’t motorists’ fault in the event of an accident. But there are real limits to uptake because of the factors I’ve just bored you with. I doubt we’ll ever have the same % of cyclists as cities that are dead flat. I guess, given these issues, maybe I’m more interested in the cost-benefit payoffs to potential cycling projects rather than the views of some visiting journo.

    1. That tunnel between Newmarket and Parnell. There is a real possibility it could one day be used for cycling / walking.

        1. Parallel to the rail one, its an older bricky version. Blocked up.

          Instantly links Newmarket with Parnell and then Domain. Needs then to be a viaduct over the traffic violated Stanley St and bingo, straight to Uni, and without unnecessary ups and downs, as well the cafes and plaza of the coming Parnell Station. And BTW that is a lovely gully.

        2. Unfortunately the bricked up tunnel is on the opposite side of the tracks to the Uni, so some sort of crossing for cycles over/under/across the railway tracks would be needed to access a viaduct over Stanley St.

        3. That’s why a grade separated pedestrian / cycle crossing at Sarawia St is so important.

        4. And of course, it would be relatively easy to get a bridge across the tracks to the Domain and then another ped / cycle bridge across Stanley St to link to the Grafton gully cycleway. Where’s the money tree? 🙂

        5. Should’ve incorporated a cycle lane in the tunnel at the new Parnell Station…

        6. Hi OrangeKiwi

          The good part is that the underpass was widened from what they originally intended – because CAA and a Parnell group both called for better cycle provision across the rail line here. The bad part is that there seems to be still very little effort to incorporate cycle access into and through the local area into the train station project itself.

  13. Yes but Stu’s point is valid is it not? Ak may not be flat but it isn’t snowy either: both places have their disincentives to cycling so it should even out in the end.

    Very good point about liability. There’s certainly something that should change.

    1. Cycle Action has done blog posts on some of these topics:

      Motorist liability – should we change the default culpability IN A CRASH?:

      Side road priority – should cyclists get the right of way across side roads

      Personally, I agree that hills will always be a bit of a deterrent – but the key to whether they will be a big deterrent can be seen in the fact that at the moment, the old “Auckland City” has much higher cycle numbers than the old “Manukau City”, which is a lot flatter. If one did a reductio ad absurdum, one could use the cycle numbers Auckland has in these two areas to “prove” that hills ENCOURAGE cycling in Auckland.

      1. On the issue of snow and hills evening out in the end – I guess my opinion is I don’t think so, at least not entirely. I think in those flat high popn density cities cycling is just so practical it’s a mainstream activity, whereas here it’s more for those who have a particular fitness and/or environmental bent. That’s not to say there aren’t many things we can/should do to get rid of the barriers to more people cycling, just that if we made it more attractive, the city wouldn’t be “awash with cyclists”. but that’s just my view, would be very happy if I’m proven wrong one day.

        There’s some great stuff on that Cycle Action site, thanks for the links

        1. You know Amsterdam used to be a car choked, cycle-unfriendly city in the mid 20th C. They simply decided to change that fact, they didn’t arrive at where they are now by magic.

          If Auckland was really serious about changing it’s funding priorities, infrsturcture and laws, the culture will change too. We could do exactly the same.

  14. Or maybe we just need to starve the citizens until they can only afford to buy a bicycle.
    Rome has seen its cycling mode share rise from 0.4 to 4% from 2010. Over 60s have a 10% cycling share. For the first time after the war bicycle sales are more than car sales.
    Rome is as hilly as akl if not more, very hot in summer and colder than Akl in winter.
    There is basically no cycling infrastructure and the public transport ticket increased 50% in the period (from 1 to 1.5 euro).
    Fuel sales dimished 10% in the period.
    Rome has had a right wing mayor for years now, with a very “hands off” approach. Meaning people has to find solutions themselves…
    The centre of Rome is ZTL though, wich means only certain vehicles (deliveries, police, residents, mafia bosses/politicians…) can enter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *