Bike Auckland have a fantastically detailed post on the long history of this project, and describe what different between this new design and the previous Skypath proposal:
Initial images show a pathway along the city side of the bridge: it’s cantilevered off the piers, and roughly level with the roadway. According to the official media release, the path echoes the shape and design of the existing bridge, with a five metre wide travel width, and three wider and spacious terraced galleries about 100m long, stepped down from the walkway and cycleway, creating a natural seating area where people can gather or pause to take in the views.
Crucially, the announcement notes that because this pathway will be attached to the bridge piers rather than the clip-on, that means “no restrictions on the number of people who can access the path at one time, and it is designed to cater for future demands”. The Transport Agency’s General Manager System Design and Delivery, Brett Gliddon, says construction could begin as early as next year.
Here are the images NZTA has released:
It seems like the design changes make good sense. The pathway can be wider and with separation between walkers and cyclists, there won’t need to be restrictions on the number of people who can use it at any one time, and there are more ways people could exit the structure in an emergency. This will come at a higher cost, estimated at around $100 million, and I hope that new resource consents are not required, but in the long run I think it’s important that we build this properly.
So what next? NZTA’s media release notes that funding for the project is already included in the National Land Transport Programme, and also that construction could start by the end of next year. Bike Auckland’s post elaborates on this further.
So, what next? When can we ride?
You’ll have as many questions as we do, especially about timing and legalities. Like us, you’ll want to know specifics about the widths and materials, the shape of the viewing areas and whether they’re covered, and the details of the landings at each end, as well as questions around operating hours and all the many other issues that were canvassed along SkyPath’s road to the Environment Court and resource consent.
The onus is now on the Transport Agency to clarify these issues as it proceeds to detailed design.
In particular, we’ll want to know about whether the existing resource consent can be leveraged, with conditions varied as necessary, to ensure as swift a delivery as possible.
Because the last thing any of us wants is to turn the clock back a decade and start entirely from scratch. With everything we now know about climate, health, resilient networks – and with the growing bike boom – certain and swift completion of this missing link is the highest priority. The Agency is talking about construction beginning as early as next year, i.e. 2020. Let’s hold them to that!
(Not to get ahead of ourselves, but: one thing we do know from Lightpath, which went from twinkle-in-Max’s-eye to actual pink path in just over a year, is that when the road ahead is clear, NZTA can build at pace!)
So what about the previous Skypath proposal? Bike Auckland make the point that without Skypath’s tenacity there’s no chance we would have reached this point by now.
A decade of work isn’t something to let go of lightly; especially when you have fought the good fight against stony-faced officialdom that insisted it couldn’t be done. On the other hand, officialdom has now risen to the challenge with a design that’s fully fit for the future, and is eager to deliver.
So it’s time to parley. Because the other part of today’s announcement was the result of an inquiry into NZTA’s correspondence with the SkyPath Trust, acknowledging that the Agency “could have communicated sooner that it was looking at alternative options.”
There are clearly loose ends to be tied up on that score, and we warmly encourage the Agency and the SkyPath Trust to work together to reach a resolution of any outstanding issues.
Whatever happens next, the story of SkyPath will forever stand as an inspiring example of ingenuity, passionate dedication, and a sheer determination.
Today’s design ultimately rests on the inspirational leadership and visionary momentum generated by thousands of dedicated volunteer hours of energy, expertise, and public spirit thanks to the GetAcross Campaign and the SkyPath Trust. We also credit the unflagging support of the people of Auckland over the years, and this government’s commitment to delivering a harbour crossing as a proud legacy for our city.
Plus, good luck getting everyone not to call the eventual crossing “SkyPath”! The name is synonymous with Auckland’s aspirations to be able to walk and bike over the bridge, and it will live on as enduring testament to the courageous legacy of Bevan Woodward and his tireless warriors over the years, who knew it could be done. They were right.
Thankfully it seems like peace is being made between the Skypath Trust and NZTA, with Bevan Woodward noting that he had a constructive meeting with NZTA yesterday, and that this coming Sunday’s planned protest has been called off.
It is super exciting that NZTA have finally put petty battles behind them, are stepping up to the plate and delivering on a key addition to Auckland’s transport system. But my final word of thanks must be to all the hard working volunteers that just never gave up over the past decade. You know who you are and Auckland owes you a great debt of gratitude.