On Sunday the Open Streets event along the Waterfront was held and this is a mini review of the day as I saw it. In particular I think there were a couple of really good aspects about the day and a couple of failings that absolutely have to be addressed when the event happens next year.
Overwhelmingly the day was good and I think a lot of fun was had by the many thousands of people who came along. I haven’t heard any official figures for the number that attended but it was definitely significant. This would also have been helped by the fact that Japan Day was being held on Queen Wharf which added a wonderful additional cultural element to the mix.
I enjoyed bumping in to many readers and friends as well as checking out some of the events that were on.
In addition to the thousands of people strolling around, many of people also brought their bikes of all shapes and sizes along. It was clear both from observations and conversations that there is a large amount of latent demand for more cycling in Auckland if we can make our streets safe to do so. This was also highlighted along Beach Rd (and Grafton Gully) where the new separated cycleway has clearly made safe enough that parents are happy to let their kid’s cycle on the road with them, something you don’t see on cycle lanes made of just green paint.
There was a considerable improvement from the previous event in that this year the trains were running – last year’s event coincided with an electrification shutdown. That meant it was much easier for people and families to get their bikes to the city centre. Just imagine how many more would ride to the station to go to events like this if there were safe cycleways to stations (and family passes).
There are a lot of photos on the #OpenStreetsAKL
Even the Police joined in on the action with a couple of friendly officers on police bikes.
There were a couple of areas that definitely could have done with some improvement and/or our public agencies being a bit bolder. The most glaringly obvious of these was that Auckland Transport only closed the eastbound lanes on Quay St, leaving the two lanes on the southern side open to traffic. This had a few immediate impacts, it meant:
- there simply wasn’t enough space. At times it was a struggle to even move on foot let alone on a bike
- that the stalls and events that had been organised felt a little crammed.
- more active traffic management including staff standing at key intersections. It also meant fences were needed the length of the closure of Quay St to stop people walking into the westbound lanes accidentally which I imagine would also have mean it took more time to set up/return to normal.
I can kind of understand why the section from Queen St (Albert St post CRL) to Hobson St needs to be open so the North Shore buses don’t grind to a halt however the section from Queen St to Tinley St/Tangihua St should have been closed. Next year AT absolutely must close the full width of the street (except for what’s needed for bus operation). It probably also needs to ensure that there is a dedicated space for people to cycle else they will just create the typical shared space scenario of a few pedestrians ambling across the entire road width.
I think we also still have a way to go with when we open up our streets. It still seems like it can only be done if there are lots of events going on to keep people interested. It would be good if we could get into the idea of just blocking off a few roads on a regular basis without all of the other activities that have been added (maybe just allow the street food vendors.
It was also interesting to see the impact that the event had on pedestrian numbers are some of the automatic counters scattered around the city centre by Heart of the City. As you’d expect the pedestrian volumes closer to the waterfront are significantly higher than they usually are while the further south you get the more normal they are. Here are a couple of examples.
Overall I think that despite the issues, once again a day like this has proven that Aucklanders are keen to embrace our city and it’s ever improving urbanism. Give them people friendly spaces and they’ll jump the chance to enjoy the city in new ways. I expect those from AT and the council to be bolder the next time this event is held. More space is needed to be opened to people and not just on Quay St either.
Did you go to the event? If so what did you think and if you have any pictures please add them to the comments.
Update: Auckland Transport estimate about 30,000 people attended the event