Lightpath and the Nelson St cycleway have already been fantastic additions to Auckland with the former already racking up more than 100,000 trips over its pink surface since opening in early December. When it opened one of the questions that may have been lingering over it was whether it would attracting new people on bikes or just divert people off other routes, especially other recently introduced routes such as Grafton Gully. Four months in and it looks like we can give a fairly good answer to that question.

Auckland Transport now regularly release the figures from their growing collection of automated cycleway counters providing data as granularly as daily.

There are a mix of results from the various counters but the two that really stand out are those most closely associated with Lightpath, Grafton Gully and the NW cycleway at Kingsland.

Bike volumes on the Grafton Gully cycleway in March were up an impressive 34% on March last year

Mar-16 - Cycling Monthly - Grafton Gully

You can also clearly see the impact the project has had on the Northwestern Cycleway at Kingsland which has had a counter for many years. Volumes in March jumping around 14% on the same month last year. I’m not a regular user of the NW cycleway but I’ve heard from people who are that it has been noticeably busier this year and “mudguard to mudguard” at times.

Mar-16 - Cycling Monthly - Kingsland

Given the other results from around the region these are significant improvements and suggest there is a network effect starting to kick in and I suspect that will only increase as more and more of the cycle network is completed.

Interestingly it seems there has also been a significant increase in sales of electric bikes which is likely helping drive some of this change.

Retailer Electric Bikes New Zealand has seen a 35 per cent increase in sales in the past year, and general manager Chris Speedy says the expanding network of cycle paths around the nation’s cities is part of the reason.

The firm has been going since 2007, and “it took me a year to sell 10 bikes”, he said.

“Now we’ve sometimes sold seven in a day.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the next stage completed of Quay St which is currently well into construction.

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    1. There’s already some very clear laws around ebikes, and any review of what is and isn’t allowed should not be done in isolation because there is a very real danger that we may end up with power and speed limits out of step with every major market, and so no supplier would be interested in creating a product to meet NZ laws for such a low volume market.

      If true ebikes are limited to pedal assist only and 250 – 300 W motors then there really shouldn’t be any problems. It’s possible to ride a regular bike far too fast on a shared path, just like it’s entirely possible to drive a car far too fast on the motorway (or a residential side street). Anything over 300 W in NZ is classed as a scooter, same as 50cc mopeds, anything over 2 KW and it’s a motorbike, and neither of those classes of vehicle are allowed in bike lanes or on shared paths. “A power assisted cycle has an auxiliary electric motor with a maximum power not exceeding 300W and is designed to be primarily propelled by the muscular energy of the rider” – from NZTA. Lets worry about enforcing the adequate current laws before outlawing something just because it’s possible to abuse it.

      Ebikes will become an increasingly important way to get more people out of cars and on to bikes when more of the cycling network is completed. They completely negate the endless line of too old / not fit enough / route’s too steep / nowhere to shower and change out of sweaty clothes arguments.

    2. NZ is considering adopting ebike regulations in line with European models. See recommendations from the cycle safety panel. So the risk of us not having any options seem limited.

    3. E-bikes only go faster than expected uphill. On the flat, they are just like a quick cyclist.

      They make a huge amount of sense in Auckland with our relatively hilly terrain and some quite long commutes.

      1. I’m normally overtaking ebikes on the flat – the other morning however I was in a group of 4 commuters drafting behind an ebike heading into a stiff Easterly which was excellent. I have been using the NW in all its guises for 8 years, and its really noticeable the increase in users, the last summer especially. Its not uncommon for groups of 10-12+ waiting at the St Lukes crossing, which is a real buzz. So much better than days gone by grinding away alone through the bottom of Kingsland. And its great to see a more diverse mix of users in age and gender (though not ethnicity?) and not just the MAMILs like me. On an aside I do agree with a comment below that the NW path is really patchy in regards to being a super cycle highway – narrow pinch points, variable surfaces, overhanging vegetation, poor lighting. Throw spatially unaware pedestrians, buggys, dog walkers, cyclists of varying abilities (I ride defensively and moderate my speed accordingly) it seems a serious accident is a matter of time, if not already but unreported.

    1. Station Road in Puhinui was recently complete, Te Ara Mura is underway, Kirkbride road is in consultation. Focus with the UCF is to consolidate an area as a demonstration project.

    2. We’d definitely welcome a guest post identifying some opportunities to improve cycle provision in the south. Or any part of the city, really!

      I’ve written a bit about the issue you highlight – unconnected cycle paths that could be used for much more with appropriate local connections. A follow-up post on the issue would be useful. See here:

    3. The first motorway cycle lane is included in the current motorworks.
      Between Papakura and Takainini.
      Shame AT are not doing Great South Rd onwards to Manukau to link with the NZTA work.

    1. Interesting. Having lived and cycled in amsterdam for the last 8 months i really can’t say that ive noticed any problems with ebikes. Scooters on cycle paths are widely dislike however and i understand amsterdam municipality is trying to have them banned. There’s also a general disdain for people who dont manage their speed appropriately, irrespective of the mode they are using. As analog noted above, it’s perfectly possible for someone on a normal bike to cycle too fast for the conditions. The main effect of ebikes it seems is to enable people who wouldn’t otherwise cycle to get out there, which is fantastic.

    2. I own an ebike. The copenhagenize article is unnecessarily alarmist. The speed advantage on pedal assist bikes is mainly when going up hill. Ordinary push bikes can go fast. No issue with ebikes in cycle lanes.

          1. Agree. The issues of safety of E-bikes, as with mopeds, comes down to speed and courtesy. If people are hoping to ride at top speed everywhere, they will be a) hazardous and b) bringing about their own demise from cycleways. This also applies to fast sports riders. Just because you are peddling a bike doesn’t mean you don’t pose a risk to other users.

          2. I think e-bikes have the potential to revolutionise cycling in Auckland by dealing deftly with two of the uniquely Auckland cycling problems, the constant westerly wind and undulating terrain. The third problem, rapidly changing weather with constant showers, Will be fixed by covering cyclists once numbers justify it.

      1. Part of the problem just now is that ebikes are huge heavy things with far more momentum than ordinary bikes. Once we’ve moved on to a time when ebikes are just as svelte and light as non-assisted bikes, I suspect it won’t be an issue. Still, ebikes users still need to be aware that they are at the bottom of the food chain on bike paths, and especially shared paths. Pedestrians > normal bikes > ebikes whenever there is a question of priority.

  1. Going up Grafton Gully ebikes may be a better way to do it. Do they have a graph for cyclists going up the Gully versus down it? Obviously the help from gravity makes a certain way much more fun!

    1. I work in Grafton and come from the Shore via ferry. I prefer to use Grafton Gully on the way there and the Lightpath on the way home. Sure the top of Grafton Gully is steep, but I’m on a quiet path while I’m grinding away, whereas I’d be doing the steep part at the bottom, unprotected part of Nelson St. in busy traffic if I came that way. Of cause, as the article points out, when Nelson St Phase 2 and Quay St. paths are complete and connected, all that may change.

      1. I’m using Grafton Gully inbound, but High/Lorne/Queen on the way home. Way quicker for me as I work in Queen St so it’s a straight line – and the ebike is excellent on the Queen St steep bit.

    2. Looked at it as part of my work for AT, and there seemed very little difference in the numbers up vs down. We’ll see if that changes as the network provides more alternative options.

      1. Grafton Gully isn’t too bad up; it’s over quite quickly, Nelson St is gentler but goes on longer; I just choose the one that gets to my destination better. As I’m westside that usually means Nelson St, except for the odd Parnell meeting when I’ll use GG.

        But, because of the paucity of links off GG, when going to and from AKL Uni, I still just use Symonds St, as it’s more direct. Two or three more connections off GG would improve it considerably [Whitaker Pl, Arch School, cemetery] change it from largely being a bike motorway to being both a quick through route and local access. And unlike a vehicle motorway there is no performance cost to adding these options.

    3. The Grafton cycleway is a lovely walk. We come from Kingsland and can walk to the cycleway, enjoy the stroll down to the waterfront, and then jump on a bus or train home.

  2. I have been working alongside the north western cycleway lately and the increase in use has been very noticeable, especially by the e.bikes.
    However, one stretch of road that urgently needs to be looked at is from the airport to Papatoetoe. Currently there is no footpath or cycleway, and it is not uncommon to see overseas tourists walking or cycling alongside the road which is barely wide enough for the motor vehicles using it. The bridges have been built for footpaths, so something needs to be done to link them up before someone gets killed.

  3. No-one has mentioned that parts of the NW cycleway are actually poorly engineered for a so-called cycle super-highway, tight turns, no lane markings, cracked pavements and not smooth, poor lighting on the St. Lukes to Unitec section, not meeting Austroads standards. Hopefully the upgrades will fix this soon. E-bikes travel at speed and are a test of this infrastructure. Then the links to this NW route can be considered, Newton Road, Ponsonby Rd,St. Lukes Rd, Khyber Pass (hell) to actually connect the city.Grafton Gully & Lightpath are oases as routes in the CBD. I work in Grafton, cycling to meetings in the CBD is quicker than driving/ parking.

  4. Lot different than in the 1980s when I used to work in Queen Street and cycle to work. The North Western cycleway wasn’t there then – even St Lukes Road to Western Springs was still being built, and let’s just say the cops – still ACC traffic cops back then – weren’t exactly encouraging. One threatened me with a speeding ticket for riding too fast in the Bond Street dip, and another tried to get me off the road altogether, because he reckoned that the roads were made for cars and not cycles, but I couldn’t ride on the footpaths either.

  5. I’ve been a regular NW cycleway commuter for around 2 years now from Glen Eden to the CBD – now via the Light Path and Nelson St. I take a 5km dog-leg along Henderson Creek to the NW to avoid the certain doom of West Coast and Great North roads.

    I agree with previous comments about increased patronage and e-bike numbers, both of which have correlated with infrastructure improvements. I am on a mid 90’s vintage road bike and a fairly ‘fast’ commuter. A few months back I was given my mother’s new 300w eBike to try on the commute as a comparison.

    The eBike was about as fast as my fastest conventional commute when on max pedal assist, with maximum rider input. It did this by knocking the stuffing out of headwinds and flattening the hills. The conventional road bike was as fast or faster with a tail wind, and much faster down hills. Pedal assist topped out at about 35km/hr, and anything beyond that was diminishing returns for pushing the enormous weight of the eBike. The pedal assist could be disconcerting because there was a slight delay between pedaling and the assist kicking in. It was particularly disturbing on tight corners at low speed, until I figured that the brakes had a kill switch, so feathering the brakes killed the assist.

    The eBike was great, but not for me. Too heavy and ponderous. Great for those who might be daunted by the Newton Road onramp hill or going up Nelson Street (or a headwind on the causeway).

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