Last week I looked at how hard it was to safely walk around Manukau City. Today I am going to look at the cycling infrastructure that has been provided.
On the various regional cycle network maps a lovely grid of completed cycling facilities is shown (solid lines).
This is a 2011 version, but can’t fund anything newer on the Auckland Transport website. All the dark red lines are existing facilities, which are fully complete as far as AT is concerned. However the reality is somewhat different. Luckily I was walking around Manukau when I took these pictures, because I sure wouldn’t have wanted to bike along any of them, even though I am quite a confident cyclist.
This is Manukau Station Road. For starters a narrow painted lane with no buffer is totally inappropriate for a road that is signposted at 60kmh.
Things quickly go from bad to worse. While running cycle lanes through bus stops isn’t great practice it is rather common place in Auckland. However is this is not just a bus stop where a bus stops momentarily, it is a bus layover area where buses park up for extended periods of time. Potentially even hours. So anytime a bus is parked here people cycling have to veer out into 60kmh traffic.
This is Manukau Station Road again, between the MIT campus and the council offices on the left. The cycle lane just suddenly ends without warning, and there is not even a ramp that leads to the path to allow people to leave the road safely. It seems as though a dedicated right hand turn lane is more important than safe cycling
This is Manukau Station Road at Lambie Drive. The motorway on-ramp is straight ahead so people cycling need to turn left or right here. The little green patches show a narrow cycle lane up against the kerb on the left hand side. Then there is another cycle lane starting in the foreground of the picture. However to get between the two you have to veer across 2 lanes of 60kmh plus traffic. Again totally unacceptable.
This is now on Great South Road. The cycle lane is less than 1m wide. Note to designers, if you are struggling to fit the bike stencil in the lane it is definitely way too narrow. Cyclists have to chose between riding close to the debris filled drain on one side, and fast traffic on the other side.
Also on Great South Road by Redoubt Road. Again have cycle lane that is about 1m wide with no buffer next to 3 lanes of fast traffic. Again cyclists have to cross several lanes of traffic to keep going straight ahead.
These issues are of course not unique to Manukau, and I’m sure anyone that rides a bike could tell you there are serious issues all over the city. However Manukau probably the worst example of a “completed grid” that is complete rubbish. Unsurprisingly the lanes are a total failure and it is rare to see people cycling here.
This highlights a big problem with the 1000km Regional Cycle Network that Auckland Transport claims is 30% complete. Very little of this 30% is actually up to scratch once you discount shared paths through reserves. At least 5% of the network is bus lanes (not great), or even transit lanes (awful) so none of that should be counted. Then there are the many painted sections that are narrow, unsafe and disappear without warning. Bike lanes like this can be worse than nothing, as they force cyclists weave and merge into moving traffic, rather than just staying in the traffic lane and making drivers overtake. Of course this style of cycling is only for the brave, and will never get more than a hardcore cycling in these conditions. Cycling should be a relaxing everyday activity, not an adrenaline rush for the fearless.
With the opening of our first section of urban separated cycleway on Beach Road next week lets hope Auckland Transport has turned it’s back of the pre-amalgamation ways of doing things. Successful cycling requires build cycling infrastructure that everyone is able to comfortably cycle in.
Vancouver has it spot on with their Transportation 2040 Plan:
C 1.1. Build cycling routes that feel comfortable for people of all ages and abilities
Many people are interested in cycling but are afraid of motor vehicle traffic. For cycling to be a viable and mainstream transportation choice, routes should feel comfortable and low-stress for people of all ages and abilities, including children, the elderly, and novice cyclists.
Design details depend on a variety of factors, but especially motor vehicle speeds and volumes. Bicycle routes on arterials and other busy streets should be physically separated wherever possible. Routes on neighbourhood streets may require traffic restrictions, speed management and/or parking restrictions to ensure comfort for a broad range of users. Designs should ensure sufficient visibility at intersections and driveways, and minimize the potential for conflicts with car doors, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Other factors to consider include topography—by providing well-marked alternative routes around steep hills, for example—and requirements for un-conventional bikes and other forms of active transportation, including recumbents, cargo cycles, bikes with trailers, and skateboards.
The last few months has seem much more positivity about cycling from Auckland Transport and Auckland Council with talk of separated lanes along Nelson Street and a trial along Karangahape Road. Over the next year we should see if results on the ground match this rhetoric.