As we learned a few months back, it can be challenging to improve cycling infrastructure in existing parts of the city – especially when you have so many competing uses for the same space. It requires strong design and, ultimately, a lot of investment. The results of this are highlighted in a recent Herald article, which touches on the latest plans in Grey Lynn and Westmere:
Auckland Transport has plans costing between $23 million and $35 million to fix a controversial cycleway through Grey Lynn and Westmere that hardly anyone uses.
Preliminary designs for the 3.2km cycleway were unveiled to a community liaison group on Wednesday, described by one participant, Gael Baldock, as “utterly ridiculous” for a few cyclists…
…Sources at the meeting said AT conceded it only had $6m for the $23m to $35m project, work would not happen before 2020-2021 and fixing the debacle at the West Lynn shops would take nine months.
How can a cycleway end up being so expensive? Well, ultimately because it ends up being way more than just a cycleway.
Grey Lynn Business Association co-chair Irene King said the preliminary designs were “very, very stunning” with beautiful urban design and landscaping…
…She said it looked like the $15m upgrade of Franklin Rd with dual separated cycle lanes and Ponsonby Rd with raised speed tables at intersections to slow traffic.
For reference, here’s what the Franklin Road upgrade looks like. Once again, while this delivers cycling it’s way more than just a cycleway. Essentially it’s a whole street upgrade:
Yay! One stretch of the Franklin Road cycleway is open, and it’s lovely. It’ll be all shady through the spring and summer. pic.twitter.com/YUundqAGQe
— Russell Brown (@publicaddress) September 8, 2018
While there are some opportunities to do “quick and cheap” cycling improvements, it seems that frequently what’s really required to fix a street is far more than just a cycleway. Communities are also starting to demand much more than just a cycleway – which ultimately ends up being very costly.
Scaling this up to the regional level and it’s easy to see how the “cycling budget” increasingly has the wrong name, and therefore probably far less money allocated to it than is required. It seems that this budget is really the “safety-and-streetscape-upgrade-and-stormwater-fix-and-traffic-calming-and-pedestrian-improvements-and-retaining-parking-and-cycling budget”.
It’s probably too early to do away with the idea of a dedicated cycling budget altogether. I don’t yet trust Auckland Transport to not spend all of a more general “streets upgrade” budget on road widening. But over time it seems that we probably do need to move towards the approach London takes, where all of these kind of upgrades form part of their Healthy Streets approach, and are funded through a single holistic budget. In the meanwhile it seems like the cycling budget – the most disappointing part of the Regional Land Transport Plan – will need a big boost in the next few years if it’s required to stretch to do so much more than just cycling.