As I went through the details of the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) recently, I couldn’t help but reach the conclusion that cycling funding is definitely the biggest disappointment with this funding plan. But you have to dig into the details a bit to realise why the headline number in ATAP of “a $650 million ten year cycling programme” isn’t actually quite as exciting as it sounds.

But first it’s worth starting with the good news. Skypath and Seapath are funded and will be completed in the next few years. It will finally be possible to walk or cycling across the Auckland Harbour Bridge – and possibly without the toll that had previously been mooted when Skypath was a Public Private Partnership.

The other piece of good news is the overall investment level in the next three years.

With around $90 million a year of cycling investment over each of the next three years, we will be able to make some great progress on expanding Auckland’s safe cycling network – which is still pretty small. But there’s a nasty catch to the bulk of this investment – the dark blue bars. This $150 million should have already been spent by now as part of the old Urban Cycleways Programme. In a way it’s all just a big giant deferral because Auckland Transport hasn’t got its act together and hasn’t come close to delivering its promised cycling programme over the past three years.

Normally with deferrals, because the money’s in the bank still, it shouldn’t count towards budgets going forwards. So I think it’s actually a bit misleading to include this $150 million in the headline numbers for the cycling budget.

Once that $150 million is taken out, the cycling budgets going forwards don’t look nearly as exciting. This has been picked up by Bike Auckland in a recent Radio New Zealand article:

Transport figures show that 80 percent of Aucklanders support investment in cycling.

Just under $500 million will be spent on cycleways over ten years. That includes around $150m on finishing existing projects.

But it’s “more of the same”, Barbara Cuthbert of cycling advocacy group Bike Auckland said.

“They need to look up and realise what Aucklanders want. Aucklanders are telling them very loudly and clearly: they don’t want more investment roads, because roads haven’t sold Auckland’s problems.”

Auckland Transport signed off the plan yesterday after an earlier draft was sent back to the drawing board because it didn’t match the government’s transport vision.

Ms Cuthbert said the current plan still missed the mark.

Auckland will “suffer” if they don’t follow through the government’s intentions, she said.

While the “just under $500 million…” line seems to miss the projects that will be fully funded by NZTA (e.g. Skypath and Seapath), once you take out these projects and the investment that is really just deferrals from 2015-18 budgets, this leaves only around $350 million for the “Walking and Cycling Programme” going forwards. As I pointed out last month, this is barely half of what’s required to properly progress the Cycling Programme Business Case that Auckland Transport’s board approved last year.

My guess is that this funding shortfall means it won’t be possible to deliver any major cycling infrastructure to the areas highlighted in blue in the map below:

Auckland Transport’s reluctance to prioritise cycling funding is particularly strange in the current political environment, with the Government Policy Statement placing stronger weighting on modes like cycling than ever before. It also doesn’t make sense when you consider how popular cycling is with the public, as demonstrated by Mike Hosking’s recent survey of over 15,000 people:

On the bright side, we have three years to fix this funding problem – as in the immediate future Auckland Transport will be busy completing what they should have already finished, while NZTA will be busy building Skypath and Seapath. A big boost in cycling funding from 2021/22 onwards however is becoming a pretty critical requirement of future funding plans.

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  1. But will AT get geared up for the amount of work that should be happening from 2021/2022 if they’re still muddling along trying to spend what they haven’t been able to yet? Especially when Levy says in that RNZ article:

    “We are satisfied where we’re tracking with cycling and walking and we will continue to build the network and connect the network.”

    I’m not satisfied where you’re tracking with cycling and walking, Levy. Not having this funding gap might have meant so much cycleway work that it necessitated some procedural and institutional changes within AT. I think that might have been a good thing.

  2. What is Lester Levy still doing in the picture? I thought that he had resigned everything? Or did he only just resign from the overload of DHBs he had, and still retain his association with AT ?

  3. Maybe they are going to take climate change seriously and make the roads the cycleways of the future, I have always thought we are wasting a one of energy supply for person convenience instead on saving it for a rainy day which might be anytime soon. cos once it’s in decline we are in deep do do.

    1. I am just thinking about the origional cycleway that ran between Onehunga port and Hugo Johnstone drive along the waterside. It may have being built by a 1970’s PEP work scheme that Muldoon used to use to soak up unemployment at the time. One section is still there through the mangroves. Its a bit higgletee pigiltee but okay.A few projects like this could be used to upskill workers in construction skills. Concrete work etc. and provide some vital shortcuts.

    2. =$4000 per metre. Assuming 3 metres wide its $1333 per square metre.
      If I’d spent that much on my driveway it would have cost $93,000 instead of $6,000

        1. cheaper than transmission gully motorway at $42 million per km though…

        2. Better value yes. Cheaper? No not really. $42m / 4 lanes = $10.5m per lane km. The lanes are wider too and they also have shoulders and barriers and over/under passes. Not to mention they are built around 4x as thick for trucks etc.

          Cycleways really need to be built faster and more cost effectively for what is effectively an oversized footpath.

        3. Seems to be an affliction of governments recently. The previous one somehow managed to make the $950 million Transmission Gully motorway cost the taxpayer $3 billion, I guess it’s easy when it is someone else’s money.

        4. Dead right Vance, why they even gave half a billion to some Hollywood slebs! Oh wait – that was Key.

    3. You’re absolutely right that the price is exorbitant. But then again, the price is not just for the concrete being poured. There is a considerable amount that has to be spent on planning it, and then consulting on it, and then replanning it to take into account of the objections, more for moving, removing, or replacing the services and vehicle crossovers etc. and then consulting again and again etc. etc.

      Here in Wellington, we have the misfortune to have had the Island Bay Cycleway debacle – which is going to end up costing over $6million, for about a kilometre, mainly because of two grumpy trolls who have caused a massive amount of issues for the council. Council was going to spend a small to reasonable amount, doing a fairly basic and logical cycleway, as the Island Bay Parade has a mixture of parallel parking on it, and angle parking near the shops. The notional cycleway used to run next to the cars on the drivers door side, and the proposal was to simply move the cycleway to the passenger door side. Less chance of cyclists getting killed, or knocked into the lane of a bus along that route. Less chance of getting doored by a driver. A 600mm wide gap on the passenger side to avoid any possibility of getting doored by a passenger. Consulted fairly widely – local flyers, adverts in the national paper, Open Day in a local church etc. All go ? You might think that would be a simple thing to do.

      You’d be wrong. Trolls kicked up a god-awful fuss, labelling it a “killer cycleway” proposal, and lamenting loudly to anyone who might listen. Unfortunately one or two of the simple-minded local councillors took their side, and it has now become the poster-case for how NOT to do cycleway consultation. Hence, councils and AT etc are all running for cover, spending millions to counteract the effect of potential local trolls in every community.

      The alternative to this democratic response however, is a different approach – that of a benign dictatorship. Less (or no) consultation and just imposing of cycleways everywhere. Cheaper than $4m per km, but at what price the right for locals to have their bitching session?

      1. Those island bay nimbys are a pack of whingers alright. Why they got so much oxygen is beyond me. Hopefully lessons can be learnt from this for overcoming these bellends in the future.

  4. I’m ecstatic at this news. As if we need more of hugely successful cycle lanes like the one on Puhinui Road.
    Rip it out and make it a bus lane or put the money into rail.

    1. Nah, lets put all the money into big projects like Waterview instead.

      They last a lot longer than crappy old cycle lanes will, oh unless they are the cycle lanes built in the ’70s in Onehunga as mentioned above, those used special concrete that last forever! And they’re out of the way so no one knows if they are actually being used or not and no one can drive their car there so that they don’t use up any road space by existing.

      On the subject of Waterview, hows it working out for ya? One year on since it opened?
      I see the Herald reporting that NZTA is basically admitting its not working as well as it used to these days. Getting a bit sluggish.

      Cos all those additional trips if encouraged are clogging up the Waterview arteries now.

      Won’t be too long before we need to build a second Waterview to fix up the congestion the first one induced.

  5. It is so hard to say that cycling is the biggest loser when in year 10 there is only for buses a small spend on bus lanes. And a miserable spend for trains.

  6. It’ll be extremely backwards if you end up having to pay to walk across the harbour but can drive across for free. Surely to achieve the desired decongestion outcomes the reverse should be true?

    1. Absolutely right Tommo – let’s toll the Harbour Bridge for calls to pay for the new light rail crossing. There is much more hope of it happening that way than entrusting it to NZTA.

  7. This discussion seems to be overlooking the even more recent announcement of a new funding assistance rate for ‘high priority’ projects. Essentially it will provide about a 75% subsidy for certain projects, likely to include some cycling. Because this was announced after council LTPs were finalised, there will have to be some further juggling of trpt programmes to accommodate the extra funding available.

  8. I’m sure 80% of Aucklanders support lots of free stuff from government.

    Good to see Skypath is happening. It will be a really great connection for the Shore to CBD.

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