On Friday I got up early so I could be at the 7am opening for Auckland’s newest and already one of our best cycleways. The Ian McKinnon cycleway connects the Northwestern Cycleway with Upper Queen St might only be 800m long but is significant for two reasons:
- It removes the steep and narrow climb up to Newton Rd, and;
- It effectively represents the first time that we’ve replaced an existing, lower quality facility.
Despite the early morning there was a decent attendance to celebrate the opening with a mix of politicians, officials, advocates and even the odd passing cyclist stopping to watch. The cycleway was opened by Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and Mayor Phil Goff with my only regret being that I didn’t record the fantastic speeches each of them gave. Like we’ve heard in other events, Phil Twyford’s speech almost sounds like on of our blog posts. He spoke of the need to build more cycleways and to give people choice in how they get around, about how we need to encourage modeshift to enable the city to continue to function and even had a few subtle references to the news of AT removing dedicated walking and cycling teams. Phil Goff made many similar comments about the need to build safe cycling infrastructure and “Take that Mike Hosking” after mentioning the NW Cycleway has seen a 28% increase in usage over just the last year.
AT put out this video about the project, I unexpectedly happened to be in the background of a few shots.
It's 800 metres, but the opening of Ian Mckinnon Drive cycleway creates a high quality, integral link to our city's cycle network. Hear @KingCyclesAkl, @phil_goff and @PhilTwyford speak about what this means for Aucklanders. pic.twitter.com/DuLSDdbjyx
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) November 30, 2018
As for the cycleway itself, it’s a beautiful piece of kit and reflects how we’re getting better at designing them. Most notably, the cycleway is 4m wide making it much more comfortable to ride along and is in stark contrast to some parts of the NW Cycleway, especially the section not far south of it. It is also very nice and smooth which is a big change from the old shared path on the other side of the road. In addition, by eliminating the hill and sticking to the northern side of Ian McKinnon Dr it saves having to cross the road, especially useful for those heading down Queen St or to Lightpath. Because of all of these factors, AT say the cycleway is estimated to save about 2.5 minutes per journey. What I also found noticeable was how pleasant the ride was through Suffolk Reserve and along Ian McKinnon Dr while you’re behind the trees.
Here’s a quick video I made of the cycleway riding home on Friday afternoon.
Sooooo much better. pic.twitter.com/OUgg75IPvz
— Greater Auckland (@GreaterAKL) November 30, 2018
If there is one ‘complaint’ it’s that it was inevitable that the factors described above that make it an attractive cycleway, will also make it an attractive route for walking. There was no footpath added. I can appreciate it would have added a lot more cost but even in the video you can already see people using it as a walking connection.
One thing I’m really looking forward to seeing is what impact this cycleway has on the number of users on the NW cycleway. Every time the cycleway has been extended, improved or new connections added, usage has grown. This can be seen in the numbers. In the 12 months to the end of Oct-2011, just over a year after the section from Myrtle St to Bond St opened, 108k trips were recorded at the Kingsland sensor. After the Grafton Gully cycleway opened in September 2014 the rate of growth increased and then accelerated even further just over a year later when Lightpath and Nelson St opened. Since then there has continued to be strong growth, helped by improvements along the causeway as the motorway upgrade completed, the connection of the Waterview shared path opened and better city cycleways, such as on Quay St improved the network. As such, as of Oct-18 over 314k trips were recorded, a 190% increase on that 2011 number.
On a related topic, AT CEO Shane Ellison wrote this piece about why AT is “committed to walking and cycling“. One of the interesting comparisons he makes is to that of the rail network.
It is easy to forget that in 2002 less than 2.5 million trips were made on Auckland’s rail network. In the year ended 30 June 2018 over 20 million trips were made.
Is it so hard to envisage that the phenomenal success stories of our rapid transport network will not be repeated on our cycling networks?
Even though it is early days we are seeing some remarkable similarities with, for example, ebikes doing for cycling what electric trains did for our rail network.
Finally, another connection that will help grow the NW cycleway, while being great in it’s own right, is getting closer. Earlier last week, AT announced they were looking for tenders for the Karangahape Rd upgrade. That project will see K Rd upgraded, including having protected cycleways.
Have you ridden the new cycleway yet? If so, what are your thoughts?