This is a cross post from with our friends at Bike Auckland.

This is a tale of two paths. We begin out west, on a stretch of the Northwestern Cycleway. This is a ‘road of national significance’ for people on bikes – a commuter path from the far west into town. But at the local level, it also makes all sorts of handy journeys possible for people like Penny and her family, who use the path to access school, daycare, and work.

Motorway-style routes have a seductive A to B directness, whether they’re for cars or bikes, but what makes them truly useful, as Penny’s family’s story shows, is the exits – the on- and off-ramps, if you will.

Of course, the Western Springs/ Kingsland stretch of the NW cycleway is especially rich in access points, a legacy of how SH16 was sliced through the heart of the original connected neighbourhood. Take the 2.5km stretch from St Lukes Rd to the Waima St over bridge that leads to Penny’s school. There are by a rough count 14 connections to local streets. One every 180m or so!

NW Cycleway - St Lukes to Waima St

This frequent access and deep connectivity (if it strongly favours the southern side) have made this section of path a busy thoroughfare, and not just for cyclists. School kids use it morning and afternoon, joggers and dog-walkers share the path, and in spring when the wisteria is in flower, it could be a slice of Europe.


Compare this with another 2.5km-ish stretch of the NW cycleway nearby, along the Causeway between Rosebank Rd and Waterview. It’s a smooth ride – but a long walk if you get a flat tire, because this Two and a Half K has zero connections to local streets.

NW Cycleway - Causeway

That’s because of course this 2.5km is mainly home to excellent bird life and the occasional stranded whale (although, that said, the planned connections to the ‘islanded’ Waterview and Pt Chev back streets on the right will be extremely handy for locals; especially Waterview, which has to contend with the moat-like Great North Road.) But all in all, it’s a long uninterrupted ride from one end to the other, and it simply connects A to B. Which is not such a problem, because on that section, there’s little XYZ along the way.

Imagine the frustration if the section of path through Western Springs/ Kingsland had no exits. Picture it. In fact, how about a thought experiment so we can really feel it. Let’s think about this distance in terms of travel time.

Google’s a bit optimistic about biking speed, but let’s call 2.5km a ten-minute ride for ordinary folk. For comparative purposes, how far could you go on a motorway in a car in ten minutes, assuming free-running traffic and sticking to the speed limit?

Google says 16.6 km. To put that in perspective, a reasonable 10-minute motorway trip under Sunday-driver conditions might take you from:

  • Town to Te Atatu
  • Town to Takapuna
  • Princes St to Princes St: from the university to Otahuhu.

Now, imagine exits every kilometre or so along those routes, analogous to the Kingsland section of the cycleway – oh wait, there are! Righto. That’s a well-connected stretch of motorway.

But now imagine if there were zero exits along the way (exactly like the cycleway along the Causeway). No exit between town and Te Atatu. No stopping between the city and Takapuna Beach. No way off between Auckland U and Otahuhu. Connectivity denied.

And that brings us to the second 2.5km path in this story: the GI to Tamaki Shared Path, currently being designed and constructed in four stages (thanks to the Urban Cycling Fund). When completed, it will run all the way from Glen Innes, through the Pourewa Valley (the green corridor once set aside for the Eastern Highway) and across and around the Orakei Lagoon, to connect to Tamaki Drive near the city.

Just as its NW counterpart has done for the west, this NE cycleway will open up huge swathes of the east to bike commuting.

From our first engagement with this project in November 2014, we’ve seen this path as not just a utilitarian urban access route for long distance commuters, but an iconic destination and local treasure in its own right. We’ve consistently made the case for linking the cycleway to existing recreational paths and nearby streets, so as to make local journeys possible and to integrate the path into the neighborhoods it passes through. (We’re also battling tirelessly for better cycle facilities on the roads that will bring people to the cycleway).

In other words, this path will not only link Glen Innes to downtown, but will also allow for smart local trips like Penny’s family’s rides – if it comes well-supplied with local connections.

Wait a minute. Did we say ‘if’? 


Because there’s a chance that Stage 2, which is the 2.5km stretch between St Johns Rd and the Orakei Boardwalk, may yet make it through construction with no side connections (only the future possibility of them).

This would be a massive shame, to put it mildly. Because unlike the scenic Causeway out west, this section of the journey isn’t just for the birds.


The connective potential is huge.

In this 2.5km section, Meadowbank train station (10 minutes to Britomart) is on the route of the path itself. And, along with shopping centres, businesses and health centres, there are probably 3000 homes within cooee on both sides of the valley.

Eastern Path Section 2 - 1

More than 1,000 of those homes, in places like John Rymer Place and the Gowing Drive area, will be “islanded”, with no access to the path, unable to get along the path to Meadowbank train station –  or across the Pourewa Valley safely to St Thomas’s and Selwyn College.

Eastern Path Section 2 - 2

You heard right: there are two schools whose zones straddle the green corridor – St Thomas’s and Selwyn College. At the moment, those kids living south of the railway have to take a trip round three sides of a rectangle via urban arterial ‘trucking routes’, St Johns Road and Kohimarama Road on the east, or via Orakei Road / Kepa Road in the west. Properly connected, this path could change their lives, by making it possible to get to school while taking lots of cars off the roads (and this is pretty topical).

Some of the existing “gaps in the fence” – the dotted yellow line shows the “fence” (i.e. no access), while the circles show points of access – currently walking only – that could become side connections to the shared path. Note how cut off Gowing Drive is, below the green corridor in the right of the image – and similarly, John Rymer Place, top right.

What’s more, the Pourewa Valley itself is a unique, ecologically significant place: it’s by far the largest tract of estuarine native bush in the isthmus, and is being lovingly restored. The GI to Tamaki path runs right through it, past an established network of trails. If these trails were connected to the path, they’d get even more use, which would make for a safer and livelier space.

Imagine bridges, a boardwalk or two across the creek to make loops for walking and running, linking Meadowbank and Kepa Bush, and Kepa Road to Meadowbank Train Station. A fully connected shared path would bring this space to life. And give your kids (and you) an awesome backyard ride or walk, too. Some balance to the Xbox and smartphone sedentary seductions that we all tend to fall prey to in our daily lives.

So why is nothing proposed to be done about this right away?

We’re not saying that anyone among the decision-makers is just willfully closing their eyes to the possibilities. There are a couple of factors that make this difficult, including terrain: the gully is pretty steep and bush-clad, so creating paths, especially for bikes, is not like crossing an open field.

But the major hard issues are boring stuff: zoning and costs.

Zoning – well, for instance, we’d have to go back a couple of decades, and ask the people who laid out places like Gowing Drive what they were thinking?!? A street of over a kilometre long that turns its back to the gully and has not a single gap in the row of private properties. Not one alleyway. Not one track. Not even one maintenance access. Not a single thought given to a project like this happening one day, when people might want to explore what’s over their back fences. So this means that, short of Council buying a property to get through-access, Gowing Drive may stay “islanded” for a long time yet.

On the northern side, things look a little better. Some accesses may well be doable – but not on the cheap, because you still need to build the connecting path, maybe with the odd small bridge, etc. And that money is simply not in the budget for the main path. We’ve asked, and the cash is tight. Yes, NZTA and the Minister of Transport are putting in a lot of funding for this flagship project – but it won’t cover any additions, we’re told, especially as the project managers will need to keep some in reserve for contingencies (you never know what issues you might find once you start actually digging…)

But there’s still time to make sure this is done right

How many side connections could there be in this 2.5 km?  One every 200m would make for a dozen connections. The potential is huge. Let’s aim for at least a few, and see them built this decade, rather than the next.

As one observer noted, constructing this section of path without side links is the access/mobility equivalent of running water and power lines past houses… but not actually hooking anyone up. And the likelihood is that without ‘official’ links in place, people will try to work out how to get across as soon as the rail overbridge is in place. (Probably not by bike… but you never know!)

That’s why as transportation advocates who have been influential for lobbying for the project, we want to make sure that this situation has been well recognised and anticipated while everyone involved has ample time to do something about it.

So who needs to do what?

  • We will continue to advocate for a quality path, maximised side links, and safe connections at each end, to Tamaki Drive and Merton Road (that’s another story altogether).
  • And the Local Board could sponsor side links and prioritise their construction.

Here’s the good news: the Orakei Local Board’s list of priorities for the 2016/2017 budget (see full list here) includes scoping and providing connections to the path:

  • developing cycling and walking connections to the Orakei Spine (Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive path) from Tahapa East and West Reserves
  • providing additional funding in 2016/17 for design and consents for additional connections to the Orakei Spine (Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive path)

You can help by giving supportive feedback on the Orakei Local Board’s priorities, using this feedback form (scroll down to find Question 5b about the priority projects).

Anyone can comment, but feedback is especially valuable if you’re a local and can say how adding side-links would improve your walking or biking life.

NB Feedback must be received by 4pm Thursday 24 March 2016.

This really is an important and visionary project, with massive potential to open up the neighbourhood – let’s make sure it’s accessible to as many people as possible, so they, too, can experience the happiness of having a cycleway in the back yard.

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  1. It would indeed be tragic, not to mention wasteful, to spend all this money on a fancy new route then fail to include actual access to it for local people and the surrounding area.

    Especially as it already provides the expensive bridge across the rail line, to heal the severance, so this is a great opportunity to bring Meadowbank south of the tracks directly accessible to Selwyn in particular.

    Walking and bike riding begs for freedom and choice of action and direction, not fenced off ‘motorway’ style monotonal routes.

  2. They’d find the money for motorway interchanges – not ‘future-proof’ for them. So find the money to make this useful.

  3. Ive got nothing against this project, but this just highlights the governments priorities of spending money on a politically uncontroversual off road cycleway so they can cut a ribbon.

    Where are the commitments to making our road network safe and attractive for cycling. Why cant we just adopt the dutch design manual? Isnt it obvious they do it better, full stop?

  4. I don’t understand why it’s even being built without the connections in the first place. When I complained in 2014 everyone said it would be fine and the connections would come, but we’re dealing with people that don’t get cycling as a ‘way of life’ (ie used for all/most trips, not just a lycra ride to work and back as quickly as possible) and this is going to keep happening if we give them the benefit of the doubt.

    I have another example, over a km of new cycle lane in a built up area, ignores 7 connections into densely active areas (retail, education, office space). I’m sure they will add in the connections later….

    1. Fully agree David, but the city example you’re really looking for is Grafton Gully; unlike Customs St, which can be joined or left at any point, it is actually fenced off from almost all side access; yet it passes right by student accommodation, Whittaker place, and the School of Architecture, all rich destinations and all requiring long and steep work-rounds to access.

      This new one could well turn out to be similarly fortified, you know, ‘for safety’.

      This looks like another sign of NZTA’s self conception as being only about ‘movement’ somehow completely divorced from ‘access’ and ‘connection’. A result of years of obsession with motor vehicle concepts such as time-savings, LOS, flow, and friction.

      It is time they included the actual communities they serve in their outcomes not insisting on leaving that to others to sort out more expensively in their wake. Build it well from the start.

      1. The NZTA leopard has not really changed it spots.

        They can and should designate the side accesses as part of the cycleway.
        They can do that now, thanks to a law change late last year (and which they’ve used/going to use for designating the Seapath routes I note).

        Two big physical issues exist here and and these are:
        That this is a pretty steep piece of land (which is why no one bothered to build much on it ’til now), motorway designations aside.
        Which means steep grades and soil stability issues, bridges over rivers and railways. All up this land is probably worse for building a cycleway through than the Grafton Gully.

        Secondly, there are very few side connections possible (for general public use) – without going through existing private property, which means building access ways means acquiring property, re-designating/splitting it, then selling the unneeded portion.

        For a motorway, its par for the course to do all this, for a cycleway? Nah, for NZTA its just too much effort, risk and cost and not considered by NZTA to be a part of the project, its for the local board and AT to sort out – its their area after all right?

        And you just know that AT is busy spending the bulk of those $Bs it gets each year on preserving the status quo (like private cars down Queen St) than actually improving the lot of non-motorists. So there’s no help there from AT.

        So the heavy lifting falls to Orakei Local Board.
        For those that don’t know, thats the board represented by Cameron Brewer in AC, and it is always complaining about how its provides the most rates take of any board in Auckland.
        But how little a proportion of the vast rates take that the ratepayers they represent are paying, actually gets spent within the boards area.

        Thats when they are not also busy fighting with AT about how to get T2 rather than T3 “bus lanes” in the arterials in its area while also considering frittering away the meagre local improvement money they do get on giving Stonefields residents 10 more on street parking bays at $13,000 each!. Because these residents claim too many cars are in the development and so many end up parking on the roads, clogging up the narrow streets.

        So you can see there is not a lot of love/agreement between these three parties [NZTA, AT and the OLB].

        No matter how cosy it looks at the ribbon cuttings, the daggers are out behind the scenes.

        We need to cut across this bullshit, bang some heads together and get them working for the common good.

          1. True, but it needs additional [and therefore expensive, we’re told] ground works because of the land/river/steepness issues relating to linking to the current path chosen for the cycleway.

            And because its outside the “designated” corridor, its not actively being planned for.

            A better solution is to link to a closer local road, [John Rhymer Place] – that doesn’t require people to trek through the school grounds to use it and access is possible with the consent of Watercare.

            All up I think in the rush to get it built they’re leaving all the hard stuff out, just to ensure that they spend the 1st tranche of UCF money before the expiry of the 3 year period.

            Because the [unstated] goal is to show you’ve built some cycleways by 2018, not show you’ve improved the communities they run through.

          1. Brewer is not running again.

            Whether Desley Simpson (the current Chair of OLB, and heir apparent/anointed Brewer successor) gets any competition will remain to be seen…

      2. Well, myself and others never asked for grafton gulley – Symonds Street will eventually make it a pointless scenic route. I don’t think about it much tbh with Nelson Street nearly soon to be done anyway (down Market Place, fingers crossed) – Quay Street is a block from me (and 0 blocks from you, so walking your bike to it is less of a hassle!) so it’s more critical to my day to do, or would be, if it was in any way useful.

        /Edit: To illustrate: This is the 2km cycle detour for me to get from queen/custom street to queen/quay street (~150m) with any cycle priority:

        /Edit 2: Of course, I don’t go this way – I just ride between busses and push in on the pedestrian crossing

        1. Without Grafton Gully, Lightpath would not have been built. Without Lightpath, Nelson St would not have been built.

          The fact that we can look overseas and see what we really would like doesn’t mean that we are automatically able to jump some intermediate steps (or that the intermediate steps are useless later on).

          Same with NW Cycleway – without it, the inner western suburbs would not have achieved 4-5% mode share, would not have been selected to get the lion’s share of Auckland’s urban cycleway funding, including for several protected cycleways.

          1. +1. We need to work with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is a decision-making environment (and decision-makers) that are unwilling to make sweeping changes. Sure, it would be better to fix the street grid right away – but in the current environment that’s not going to happen in the short term. So we work on making the argument and getting through to decision-makers, and meanwhile we get the stuff built that’s politically possible, like Grafton Gully. It may not be as useful as a perfectly bike-enabled street grid, but it’s not useless. (Witness the number of students walking on GG between lectures – if it were as pointless as some people say, why aren’t they on Symonds St?) It’s not great for all destinations, but it’s great for some. In however many years, I will happily ride along a bike-enabled Symonds St, but I’ll also use GG when I’m going right downtown, or riding for fun. Meanwhile, I’m glad not to have to fight the buses.

            Things like the NW and GG build mode share – not as much or as fast as Instant Amsterdam, but they do build it. That makes something fun like the Pink Path sound like a worthwhile use of money, which builds the argument for Nelson St, which builds the argument for something on Quay St for Nelson St to connect to, and so on.

            Naturally I would prefer Instant Amsterdam, but while we work on changing minds so that broad changes are possible, I’m grateful to people like Bike Auckland for advocating for the improvements we can get right now. It’s a darn sight better than what we had ten years ago when I started riding, and there are a darn sight more people out there riding with me.

      3. Patrick,

        >> unlike Customs St, which can be joined or left at any point

        This is strictly true, but only in the same way that vehicular cycling can enable people to travel all over Auckland by bike. Simply saying that the user is free to join or leave the path at any time doesn’t make it easy, convenient, intuitive, inviting, obvious, self-evident, encouraging, low-stress, non-improvisational, universally-accessible, or other such adjectives. Putting the path closer on the side nearer to more front doors does gives you a lot of that for free (though careful attention to detail would make it still better).

        >> yet it passes right by student accommodation, Whittaker place, and the School of Architecture, all rich destinations and all requiring long and steep work-rounds to access.

        Sorry, got to fact check you there.

        To enter Grafton Gully from the South to exit at Whitaker Pl, you’d need to have climbed up to Upper Queen St anyway, in which case you might as well have rolled downhill along Symonds to get to these places. If you enter from the North on Grafton Rd, you’ll save a short climb if your origin is downhill in the first place; otherwise if your origin is closer to Symonds St, you don’t save anything since you’d be climbing up some portion either way (and Symonds is a gentle, consistent ridge climb too*). If you enter further North at Alten Rd, you’re in for a huge climb.

        So no, Grafton Gully doesn’t save you a “long and steep work-round” to these places. Certainly not worth the disbenefit of bypassing all that sweet frontage directly on Symonds St.

        * Note: remember that Symonds is an old street, favoured for climbing the ridgeline in the horse & trap and streetcar era, not to mention as a walking trail long before that. The curving grade up the sharper Anzac Ave segment, and then the monotonic climb up Symonds, are pretty much optimal. This path is a real asset for cycling in the area, and is tragically overlooked.

  5. 1) The seductive A-to-B directness of a motorway-like path is only true for those few who are lucky enough to be exactly at A and who are travelling exactly to B. However, for mass cycling, we all have different travel patterns (especially considering local cycling), so the only suitable network geometry is a grid. i.e. many A’s to many B’s, not one A to one B.

    2) Paths that are detached from buildings (like the Northwestern) are inherently poorer for access — even if you pepper them with entries/exits — than a bike-enabled street that literally connects between the front doors of buildings. Direct frontage exposure is key to genuine accessibility for mass cycling, enabling everyone to get milk “effortlessly”.

    3) The benefits of entries/exits for connectivity are recognised in this story, but why stop there? If connections are so good, why not have more of them? Intersection density is also important in a network, and the most reliable way to reach the most intersections is not along motorway or rail corridors (which aim to minimize intersections) but the network of main and local streets (which thrive on them). If the “connective potential” is huge for some rail trail tucked away from the built-up areas, then that potential is hugest right in front of those buildings on main streets we already know and love.

    4) The only justifiable portion of the Northwestern cycleway is the bridge that crosses a legitimate geographical barrier, with bonus wildlife etc. No problem there, as it adds to connectivity where no better option exists — just like SkyPath (but not SeaPath), as well as crossings across motorways (not in parallel like Lightpath).

    Where can we find a network that satisfies these criteria for mass cycling in a wide area (not just in long linear corridors)? The public street grid, of course. It’s gridded; it’s inherently exposed to almost every front door; it has all the intersections without need for ramps; and it traverses most geographical barriers we care about. Why not focus on bike-enabling that first? Why go out of our way to build something off-grid, just to then resuscitate it with a smattering of “connections” that even then risk not being built?

  6. NZTA don’t always build it all. When the NW m’way was joined from Westgate to The Upper Harbour m’way & the Nth Shore there was no link put in for east bound traffic coming down from Kumeu/Huapai to turn left at Westgate and go to the Shore. It was forced instead to use Brighams Creek Rd through Whenuapai. BCR was already a rubbish piece of a road, no more than dust tar over an old track. Well it’s f….d now and one lane of traffic is being diverted up Trig Rd to the on ramp no one wanted while BCR is restored. Maybe they are trying to train us. Additionally there’s no off ramp east bound from the start of that motorway (from the west) until you get to Lincoln Rd; no off-ramp at Westgate or Royal. I sympathise massively with the cycle lobby on this one and agree with Patrick that the NZTA myopia is one of flow over connection.

  7. Sad that the railway station proposed below Selwyn College has still not eventuated as that would have enabled a lot of the school population in Meadowbank and Remuera to access the 2 schools along Kohi road and also those coming from Glen Innes and Tamaki. The Orakei Board and Selwyn tried hard to make this happen and their was an initial scouting of the area by the Transport Board. Even the revival of the old Pourewa station closed in the 1930s would be helpful if a connecting bridge over the Pourewa valley could happen. A cycle path from Tamaki Drive to Glen Innes doesn’t help all the population needing access across the valley. And part of that valley below the Pony Club is very steep.Not to mention the destruction of the regenerating native bush that has been carefully nurtured over the last few years. Surely Auckland Council can do better.

    1. In the last several years, Selwyn College has transformed: it’s now so popular that it has its own zone. The link in the blog post takes you to a map which doesn’t extend as far as GI or Tamaki. So I can’t foresee any interest from Selwyn College (or for that matter St Thomas’s School) in the station idea.

      In any event, a station deep down in the Pourewa Valley would inevitably come complete with access roads, bus turning loops, car parks.. hectares of tarseal and all the noise and pollution and everything: it would utterly and destroy much of the upper valley once and for all.

      By contrast, the Path though the Pourewa Valley is being designed to minimise its impact on the native flora (both during construction and thereafter) with elevated bridge decks rather than embankments (like those being used on the other side of St Johns Road) and so on.

      I like your idea of a bridge at the Pony Club: I guess you mean the St Heliers Pony Club, west of Kepa Bush. A high level structure across there would be amazing. Well, first let’s get the Path built and linked in locally.

      1. There is a huge amount of privet and other rubbish growing in the valley that new paths actually offer the opportunity to remove and maintain access for further nurturing of the better regenerating bush. But the problems of connection aren’t easy are they?

        Going Drive and Tipene Pl look completely sealed off from the cemetery, which would otherwise offer a nice walk to connect to path and the station. And on the other side, only the College looks like it has unrestricted access to the path, and happily there does seem to be a direct route up to Kohimarama Rd along the edge of the school site. perhaps there’s an unbuilt site at the bottom of John Rymer Pl? needs a proper survey, of course. Love the idea of a bridge across to Pony club land and Kepa rd, but agree that could come later.

        Very excited about moving through the treetops and over the tracks on that elevated section; that’s going to be grand.

        1. Patrick, that’s a good point. The privet is really out of control all around Orakei Basin and on the southern bank of the Pourewa Creek. The northern slopes are being well managed by the volunteers; the southern bank inaccessible: but right where the Path is planned to run. The apparently undeveloped site on John Rymer Place looks like a Watercare pumping station to me….

  8. A link from Meadowbank towards Selwyn College and St Thomas’s has the ability to hugely reduce ‘school related’ vehicle traffic. There are a number of valleys a path could go up from the new path to Kohi Rd (John Rymer Place looks good). Grafton cycle path is a good example of what not to do (no side connections from Wellesley St onwards). I have jumped the fence with my bike a couple of times….

    1. Indeed Terry, John Rymer Place looks like the ideal connection to Kohi Road. My guess is people will “jump the fence” wherever it makes sense to do so, as soon as the Path is open. People were running / walking over the Orakei Boardwalk when it was barely half way across (no one paid any attention to the obligatory orange construction fences)… I even saw someone carrying their bike across the mud flats.

  9. Even if just one bridge connection from kempthorne st to purewa cenetery (and maybe a path along to selwyn college) would improve this projects connectivity. It would almost as quick to walk/cycle to eastridge than to drive.

  10. Making the local road connections to GI-Tamaki safe for cycling has to be a high priority too. As well as the huge potential for Pourewa Valley cross-links, local cycling connectivity via the road network is crucial to make GI-Tamaki accessible. Without local cycle-friendly connections, it seems families will have to access the GI-Tamaki entry points at St Johns Rd and Orakei Rd by car or via rail stations– not by bike.

    There may be upgrades at the two end points, at Merton Rd and Tamaki Drive (7km apart). But there are no safe local cycling connections at St Johns Rd and Orakei Rd or any funding to provide these in the near future. The one disconnected cycling lane provided on Orakei Rd is truncated and cut off by major roundabouts at Shore Rd and Ngapipi Rd, effectively denying safe access for cyclists. These roads are a long way from bike friendly.

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