The other week, the NZ Herald printed a good article on seven secret cycleways in Auckland. We covered it in last week’s Sunday reading post, but I thought it was worth adding a few more words on the topic.
In the article, Elisabeth Easther writes about her rides on the following cycleways:
- The new Westhaven promenade in the city centre
- Wattle Downs Peninsula near Takanini
- Cascades Shared Path in Pakuranga
- Conifer Grove in Takanini
- Waikaraka, Mangere Bridge, and Penrose.
While the rides themselves sounded pretty good, it’s ironic to see that Elisabeth had to drive to the start of many of the cycleways. This illustrates a tricky problem: individual cycle projects are increasingly excellent, but connectivity into the local streets is usually lacking. This makes it hard to use them to get around, as it doesn’t feel safe to get off the cycleway, back onto the surrounding streets, and out to final destinations.
As always, it’s worth taking a look at specific examples. Here’s a map of the Cascades shared path in Pakuranga:
This path offers some advantages for people seeking to travel places on bikes. First of all, it’s entirely off-road and runs through a big green belt, which means that it’s safe from traffic and not choked with fumes. Its northern branch terminates at the shops in Highland Park, and it has tendrils out to surrounding residential communities – meaning that there are both origins and destinations within reach.
However, AT’s broader map of cycle facilities in east Auckland (found here) shows that there are still many gaps in cycle infrastructure in the surrounding areas:
For context, here’s the legend on the map, which shows that most of the streets that are colored in are not in fact very useful for people on bikes. Light blue means that streets theoretically have “space” for cyclists but no dedicated cycle lanes. Yellow means that there’s a bit less traffic on the road. Roads coloured white are probably totally inhospitable if you’re travelling by bike.
What this means in practice is that it’s difficult to get to many key destinations on bikes, even though there’s a cycleway running through the centre of Howick. There’s no connection to the Botany town centre, near the south of the map, or any facilities along the busy Pakuranga highway or connecting to the Panmure rail station.
Another example from the Herald article. Here’s the Onehunga to Mangere Bridge section of the Waikaraka cycleway. (AT also has a map of the extension up SH20 to Mount Roskill.)
Once again, there are some really good things about this. It provides an alternative, non-motorised route between Mangere and Onehunga, with potential connections elsewhere throughout the southern bits of the isthmus. However, the good news doesn’t yet extend far enough. Here’s AT’s broader cycle facility map for Mangere and the surrounding areas:
Again, this is problematic. While there are some on-street cycle lanes in the area, they don’t go anywhere near the Waikaraka cycleway. They lack physical barriers or safe hit posts to keep traffic out. As a result, it is quite difficult for people on bikes to safely travel to destinations like the Mangere town centre or Otahuhu rail station.
Here’s the bit north of the Manukau Harbour:
This is not great either. There are no cycle facilities for people who want to get directly to the Onehunga town centre or rail station, let alone to head further north on Manukau Road. And there are a number of gaps on the route to Sylvia Park. I know that not everyone wants to cycle to the mall to shop, but I’m sure that there are a lot of teenagers (or adults, for that matter) who would love the option to bike there to hang out with friends or go to the cinema.
What this shows is that there are many, many gaps in our cycle networks. We need to fill them to reap the benefits from a complete cycle network. It’s not like we lack the road space to do this – the light blue lines on AT’s maps show streets with enough space to add cycle lanes. But unless we get serious about joining up the network, we’ll be left with a bunch of well-designed cycleways that aren’t useful for many trips.
What cycle infrastructure is your neighbourhood missing?