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.

The Good

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.

Transportblog Bike Gang
The Transportblog bike gang stopped for a drink at Imperial lane before heading to Open Streets

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.

Police Bikes

The Bad

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.

Open Streets Crowds

Open Streets Crowds 2

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.

Ped Counts

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.

open street 2015_2

Update: Auckland Transport estimate about 30,000 people attended the event

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  1. I thought the best bit was the box stack with kids throwing boxes onto the pile and enjoying the box avalanches. Hours of fun for young and old and at very little cost. The AT CRL bus was almost empty every time we passed it. Can’t AT think of something interactive? Perhaps a simple program on a nice big screen where you put your train journey in and it shows you the before and after CRL timing and an indicative car journey time.
    Almost forgot – we got the bus there, and the train home!

  2. Why the spikes in pedestrian numbers around midnight the year before – was there a concert on. If so, and assume they got there the same way, the prior year figures are not a typical weekend comparison as it was caused by an one off event. Having said that, Ed Sherian was on on Sunday night so it must have been a big event to exceed that.

  3. Well it was half a street. So it was OK, but not what it was actually billed as. The whole point of Open Streets is giving streets back to people for a day. It didn’t do that, and the cars actually felt more intrusive than normal. People were crammed into a narrow space with not much room to move, let alone cycle, hemmed in by barriers. On the other side of the barriers cars zoomed past at high speed, while security guards determined when and where people could cross the road. Some of the stalls were good, but Quay St has far more of an open streets feel on any other day of the year.

  4. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it but it is interesting to remember back to Auckland Anniversary Weekend and it was possible to close down the width of Quay street (Commerce to Lower Albert) and most of the first block of Queen street (Quay to Galway) for the weekend yet open streets which is all about reclaiming the streets couldn’t do so?

    It sounds and looks from the description and photo like it would have been better staged in the cloud which is a sad indictment on the car first attitude. Surely part of the idea is to encourage people to try active transport and that is defeated if the event has to ensure motorised transport is not impeded.

  5. Gotta say: that cop’s got some pretty sweet tattoos. Law enforcement seems to discourage that in most countries!

    1. He was quite a nice guy too. Said the only thing they have to stop people is the loudness of their voices i.e. no lights (other than a bike light) and no sirens. It would be good if there were more of them on bikes in the city

    2. I beg to differ. If you insist on marking your skin, have the decency to cover up and look professional at work. Common as muck.

      1. I beg to differ with your view – do people who mutate their hair by by dying it also have to cover their heads? Or men that shave? Common as muck; trust you’re a hairy mongrel.

        1. Obviously no original thoughts inside your fruity tattooed body. I don’t follow every trend, but am capable of making my own decisions.

      2. That’s a really funny attitude in a country where one in five people comes from cultures with long-standing and widely accepted tattoo traditions.

        Please spare us your bigotry and homophobia (“fruity”).

        1. Fruity is a response to feijoa, a straight-forward connection to some. Don’t put your own slant on.

  6. We took the opportunity to check out under the harbour bridge and the board walk to quay street and to have a nosy up Beach Road and Grafton Gully. It was great to see all of the improvements made since last year and the seamless connections that could be made.We didnt catch the train because we made it into an ah well we are going into the big smoke lets do some other things while we are at it and the connections for bikes just aren’t there yet. Clearly cars still trump bikes even when the roads are closed. We still have a way to go so that it feels like a bike friendly city. eg riding on the board walk and cars turning right across the footpath in front of you – because they can. I always thought pedestrians and shared path users had right of way but clearly not. Lots of people great. Cool activities for kids and adults. Learnt heaps and found some new rides.

    1. Pedestrians and bikes do have right of way, but drivers generally always refuse to give way. Where’s the awareness campaign from AT on that topic?

  7. Good summary Matt. Definitely a very successful event in terms of the number of people there, but it was pretty squeezed being limited to one half of Quay St.
    Re: those pedestrian counters, this is great data that Heart of the City are now collecting – but is the “previous 4 days”, “previous year” etc corrected for the different days of the week? I imagine that Sunday is usually the quietest day, so if anything it’s an even bigger boost on what we would typically expect.

  8. I would agree that it was a squeeze and would argue that for public safety the whole road should be closed, but that would cause problems for access to the Copthorne Hotel.

    One aspect that is not good is how the event disrupts public transport. I noted a number of people struggling to get out of the ferry terminal. With the proposal an event space in the middle of the new transport interchanges this will only encourage people to avoid public transport due to the hassle when interchanging.

    1. I think you would close the entire road east of Queen St (Albert St next year after buses moved for CRL works). That still gives access to buses as needed

  9. It sounds and looks from the description and photo like it would have been better staged in the cloud which is a sad indictment on the car first attitude. Surely part of the idea is to encourage people to try active transport and that is defeated if the event has to ensure motorised transport is not impeded.

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