This is a hopeful post; change could be on its way.

Auckland Transport has long known that many more Aucklanders would go by bike if they felt safer and didn’t have the stress of driving with fast, heavy traffic. Many cities across the globe have also come to this realisation.

Sixty years of misspent transport funding has left our city full of deficiencies. It is unsafe, which is stifling many people wanting to reduce their carbon emissions by cycling instead of driving. Consequently, we have a high traffic trauma rate, a population with low physical activity levels, and rates of low independent mobility for our children.

The delays to the cycling programme have become embarrassing:

(Credit via Twitter: Pippa Coom and Jessica Rose)

Back in 2014, the Future Funding Strategy Report asked the question:

What should land transport revenues cover and by what mechanism?

And found that funding walking and cycling investment from road user charges was legal and justified because:

Cyclists are legally entitled to be on the road. Motorists have a duty to pay for the facilities needed to keep them safe from motor vehicles.

Pedestrians are legally entitled to be on the road. Motorists have a duty to pay for the facilities needed to keep them safe from motor vehicles.

Ignoring their own strategy, the previous government collected road user charges from motorists but did not use them to make cycling and walking safe.

The current Government Policy Statement (GPS) has:

increased investment in footpaths and cycleways to support access to, and uptake of, active travel modes.

What’s required to fix our deficient street environment, however, is an order of magnitude bigger than what was allocated by the bureaucrats. The UN recommends 20% of the transport budget, both nationally and locally, is spent on walking and cycling.

But there are many changes afoot that give hope.

(Credit: The Guardian. Check out these cool cycling designs.)

1 Consultation is Clarified

The recent Island Bay Cycleway decision has confirmed:

The Local Government Act does not impose on the Council an obligation to accede to the views of a majority of a community or the majority of any part of a community.

This decision clarifies that Auckland Transport can concentrate on meeting their legal obligations to provide a safe transport network. Local constructive input to the design is welcome, but AT would be legally remiss to continuing allowing change-averse, misinformed vocal critics to delay or prevent safety improvements for our people.

2 ATAP is being renegotiated

On the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP), Councillor Darby said in March:

If we were doing ATAP today we’d be doing it even with more transit focus and more PT focus and more active focus

We have an unexpected chance to refocus ATAP on these better priorities now:

There is now limited funding remaining to commit to new projects, and the priority for this will be projects that deliver the highest safety outcomes, in alignment with the Government Policy Statement (GPS)… According to Auckland Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore, he has been told there are plans by the Government agency to look for savings in the ATAP budget over the next three years. But he remains in the dark over which projects won’t get funding.

The road widening projects currently funded in ATAP should be stopped; they create negative climate and safety outcomes. Since ATAP was written:

  • AT have received a Safety Review outlining our Safety Crisis, which laid out many reasons for shifting focus and funding towards the active modes, and
  • Council has declared a Climate Emergency and approved the draft Auckland Climate Action Framework for consultation. This highlights the negative outcomes from the greenfields Supporting Growth programme:

greenfield development often results in more car-dependent and carbon-intensive travel patterns, increased social isolation and disconnection. it also affects the ability of natural systems to provide climate resilience. Conversely, evidence demonstrates that quality compact urban development has many benefits. These include better and lower-carbon transport choices, reduced travel times and costs, and fewer impacts on air and water quality.

Building and widening roads to support greenfields growth is incompatible with an appropriate response to climate change. If we are being governed well, ATAP will be renegotiated within the framework of our Climate Emergency and Safety Crisis. We are correct to expect a halt to damaging projects; particularly if this retains funding for the critical safety, active and public transport projects.

3 Major road Capex programmes are cycling funds

The Safety Review said:

AT appears to have been focused on implementing the national cycling action plan and relatively smaller scale (but targeted and important) safety investments on AT’s roads. It has not been targeting the critical bigger direct opportunities: leveraging the annual AT major road Capex programme

Any Capex project that doesn’t include cycling, walking and safety infrastructure is contradicting AT’s commitment to the Safety Review. It’s also a wasted opportunity, and poor value-for money: the street will simply have to be redone later.

In April, Council’s Finance and Planning Committee gave feedback to Auckland Transport on its Statement of Intent, criticising these details:

  • the cycling or bus priority programmes have very little detail about how many kilometres of new paths or where they will be delivered in 2019/2020, and no sense of what will be delivered in the second and third years of the SOI
  • progress of the Integrated Corridor Delivery programme (such as number of corridors with completed business cases, and outlook for delivering integrated corridors), and note which bus priority measures are to be advanced

This Integrated Corridor programme (now called Connected Communities) is a programme to make better use of the arterial road corridors. This project was supposed to be underway last year. In May, AT admitted:

Due to externalities we have not commenced the project yet.

There’s always a silver lining. The GPS and Safety Review both required cycling and walking designs to feature strongly in this programme. By delaying, the declaration of a Climate Emergency adds extra clarity: our arterials must have protected cyclelanes and walkable streets.

(Credit: Bike Auckland)

4 Maintenance Funds are cycling funds

The Safety Review also pointed out that AT has not been targeting:

the annual AT maintenance programme to deliver important low marginal cost road network safety improvement over time, and actively moving to manage free operating speeds which are in general terms too high for appropriately safe road network operation including for underlying safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

Currently the maintenance programme doesn’t allow “betterment”. Auckland Transport have had this Safety Review since January / February 2018, at which stage they knew that the first maintenance contracts wouldn’t come up for retendering until late in 2020.

Renegotiating these contracts now is an obvious and easy step towards providing more cycling, walking and safety infrastructure. Auckland Transport has taken this safety review seriously, so we should expect to see all contracts renegotiated this year. Waiting out the 2.5 years between review and the first new contracts would be a flawed response.

5 Cycling Funds are for Cycling, not Placemaking

Local communities are asserting that projects targeted at delivering safe and connected cycling infrastructure must also incorporate place-making. Until now, AT has been trying to make the cycling budget stretch to cover placemaking, which works to mislead the public about how much “cycling” costs, and to delay the projects in the programme due to limited funds. I see in the latest AT Board minutes that for the Westhaven to CBD Cycleway:

The design has been on hold while third party funding has been investigated to fund the streetscape elements.

What’s hopeful about this statement is that it signals that AT realise placemaking should not be funded from the cycling budget. Although it’s an unwelcome delay for this one project, sorting it out now will reserve cycling funds for cycling projects and prevent many other delays due to an empty purse.

Where should they look for this placemaking money? Our deficiencies in the street environment were created by over-investment in increasing road capacity for vehicles. They must therefore be fixed by reallocating funds from the misguided projects that are still attempting to do the same.

6 A New Head of Healthy Streets and Active Modes

Last year, AT had a big restructure, which disestablished the walking and cycling team. There was widespread criticism of this decision:

why are walking and cycling the only modes now set to lose their specialist focus and public champion – and see their people and budget dissolved across the wider organisation – while roads and public transport will carry on as usual?

Luckily, Auckland Transport has essentially backtracked on the decision:

While it’s a pity AT haven’t been able to fill the role in nearly 6 months, at least this gives a strong message to the CEO: No-one with the skills needed for this position wants to report directly to an obstructive boss. The position needs to be at the top table. Suitable applicants will know the organisation’s reputation, summed up in the December 2017 report about the cycling programme:

with the exception of the CIO, there was not seen to be widespread support for the programme at the executive levels within the organisation. This is particularly felt with a perceived lack of executive support to project managers when community opposition occurs, and when there are challenging cross-team issues.

I’m very hopeful that we’re about to enter a newly funded, newly directed era of cycling and walking improvements because:

  • The time for putting the active mode programmes under review has passed.
  • The time for questioning the effectiveness of separated cycling infrastructure has passed.
  • The time for finding excuses for delays has passed.

The CEO needs a few things in place:

  • He needs a Mayor fronting up to the challenges of bringing safety in the midst of media hostility.
  • He needs layers of bureaucracy pared back to allow change.
  • And he possibly needs the governing bodies to supply an overt transport strategy.

Auckland Transport’s overarching responsibility is to provide a safe transport network. People are dying while the cycling programme is delayed. If the delays continue, emergency action will be required.

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57 comments

    1. fyi Heidi – here’s an fyi I pursued about a like-for-like renewals project.
      https://fyi.org.nz/request/10267-scope-and-status-of-hopetoun-st-road-maintenance-work

      This is shown in local plans as a major pedestrian and cycle route (counter available shows over 200 on wkdays) only increasing with residential intensification, CRL entry coming to Beresford sq. Next to major park and schools, and adjacent to the proposed 30km zone.

      Luckily the local board are now considering using their community safety fund to have the works include basic yet urgent safety improvements, like narrowing huge road mouths, which were identified to AT in a study they commissioned in 2016 but never pursued.

      I’m sure you’ll agree this response is not exactly heartening to the prospect that AT has internalised a new safety-focused mantra.

      1. So recent, too: 14 June this year. AT: ?? In which setting are you going to explain this?

        The most droll answer there, is:

        “The proposed maintenance work is in alignment with the current Network Operating Plan, which takes into account modal priorities for this section of Hopetoun Street.”

        Perhaps AT needs to check if its Network Operating Plan is up to standard. It certainly doesn’t seem to been adjusted for the GPS, the Auckland Plan, the Safety Review. Let alone the Climate Emergency.

      2. Ah well. So what is the plan? Do the maintenance now, and then in a few years break it up again because then it will be OK to think about cycling?

        This is why we can’t have nice things. The planning skill just doesn’t exist over here.

  1. Yes great stuff Heidi.
    Your point is well made about consultation.

    “And he possibly needs the governing bodies to supply an overt transport strategy”

    It is much more than this. There needs to be a transport strategy that is built from the proposition that Auckland needs, first and foremost, to reduce carbon emissions. That will start from setting a target: Vienna, 20% car mode share by 2025; Milan with ambitious targets in its SUMP plan. Sydney is making much more progress than Auckland; although this is not difficult as Auckland is making no progress.
    To effect real change it now looks as though there needs to be a government prepared to introduce road tolls.

  2. So many plans and talk for so long that I now think it’s all designed just to keep the advocates quiet. I’m not at all optimistic. The latest is AT holding off a signalised crossing because a building owner thinks it impacts his historical building. Seriously? These people in power don’t give a crap about non motor vehicle travel (unless it involves zero impact on motor vehicles).

    1. I hope Councillors will take that example up with the CEO. There was public consultation already – the property owner was already given an opportunity to raise any concerns. AT must not revert to being a backlash-controlled organisation.

      Having the Head of Healthy Streets and Active Modes at the top table means the protocol for responses to NIMBY concerns would have to become rational and responsible.

    2. Where is this, Bryce?
      It has just reminded me of the Hobson St mid-block crossing that was consulted on a year ago and was supposed to be in place by June 2019. It’s still not there. That project was proposed because of several fatal and serious accidents recorded. I’ll ask Auckland Transport for an update.

  3. Great stuff Heidi. For me a major issue is on-street parking and the opportunity cost that comes with it. i.e cars parked where dedicated cycleways could be.

    There is so much off-street parking in Auckland CBD now that it is almost inexcusable to have on street (save for some spaces for Loading Zones and Disability). If you must drive into the city then you need to consider walking a few hundred metres to your final destination as part of the bargain.

    In the Burbs often the on-street parking occupancy is very low. This is a direct issue with respect to increasing youth mobility by having a greater cycling network that allows home to school travel. Often a family’s crappy second or third car is just plonked out on the street, as it’s a hassle blocking the driveway. We have to analyse the opportunity cost of these cars blocking possible cycle lanes. As currently these cars often pay nothing to be stored on public land for 95% + of the time.

    The kiwi notion that you have some form of implied ownership of the parking spaces outside your house needs to change! It’s a huge mis-allocation of public land.

    1. Wookie
      Absolutely right about opportunity costs; not just for cycle lanes but also for transit lanes. Here’s an example from the Takapuna Local Board,
      Board member X recalled that planning restrictions in Devonport in the 1990s meant many fast-food outlets located at Belmont. Takeaways need parking right outside their premises, he said.”
      At a time when it seems desperate to improve access along Lake Road, and let’s hope that this is more buses and not more cars, parking spaces are important? Surely people can walk a few metres to a shop? If all the spaces were full that’s what they would do.

      Even worse the opportunity cost of providing expensive off street parking. With the ink barely dry of the Climate Change Emergency declaration Auckland Council have announced that they wish to replace the 200 space Clonbern Road car park even though most of it is still usable. What PT initiatives are going to be sacrificed for this decision? What debt ceiling?

      I am interested to hear locals views of what this car park is used for because my perusal of the net shows that in many cases it is for other than shopping.

      1. Regarding the Clonbern Road car park- I live in the area and am a user (and yes, I drive a Remuera tractor). My use is invariably part of a journey to do other things. If we want to just shop, we walk the 3 km from home to the village. For me, the car-park is an entirely useful fall-back as part of a multi-purpose journey. Over the last 25 years, my observations are that the car park is mostly used for short-term parking to support the village.

      2. I’m a local who parks there 2-3x a week. 90% of the time I’m using it for the supermarket. I think people blame the parking for the failing of retail in the area but I don’t think that’s why. There’s generally easy access to parking in the area, and a number of empty shops anyway. A bigger carpark isn’t going to make people flock to this relatively dreary area. I

        1. Oh, and my trips there are generally part of a trip between work in Remuera and home in Ellerslie. I’ve experimented with taking the bus but it’s considerably slower. And half-hourly frequency means that if I get off and pop into a shop to buy something, or pick up a prescription, I’ll be waiting quite a whole for the next bus home. It would be good if there were more bus lanes and/or they were properly enforced. I’ve driven along here every day for 2 years and I only ever see a camera in one spot right by St Marks Rd.

    1. And the sooner the better. But how, the howls of outrage from self entitled motorists is deafening at times. Think the island bay ‘residents’ association.

  4. I completely agree that the progress on cycleways is too slow and communication of the construction schedule is very poor. These are just glorified footpaths and it shouldn’t be that hard or take long. Avondale-New Lynn has been talked about for a lot of years now.
    Prioritising cycleways over road widening is nice to say but I can’t actually think of any road widening projects that I’ve seen happening anywhere in Auckland since Maioro/Tiverton/Wolverton/Clark St. AMETI is bus lanes. Who knows what’s happening with the East West link / Neilson St.
    I really do wonder what all the council people are actually doing.

    1. I think Albany highway was more recent. There has been widening on Hobsonville Road in that time. Loads on state highways too.

    1. Yes thanks, Harry. I read that last night and was tempted to try to add these bits into my post:

      The commissioners also call for an end to car-centric transport planning and a move towards investment decisions that “account for the true cost of car use to society”. They argue that current economic appraisal models used by the Treasury to decide whether to fund a new motorway or a segregated cycle lane “do not take full account of the negative consequences of making private car use easier, nor do they take full account of the benefits of walking and cycling on our health, wellbeing and environment”.

      This approach has led to “systemic undervaluation and underinvestment in sustainable transport,” they argue, and urge the Department for Transport to change its appraisal methods “to focus on efficient use of road space and total people movement, rather than being based around capacity and journey times for vehicles”.

  5. The reason why there is no progress on cycle way is because the original cycle/active team was sacked and disbanded.

    1. Surely we must be getting to the point where we stop entering Lightpath in awards and start building more cycleways to connect to it?

  6. The head of active modes and healthy streets role is not at the top of the table – it’s a figure head role and scapegoat position around W&C planning and AT’s pending shortfall in this area. This is the reason that the position hasn’t been filled as all internal applicants from AT know full well that their career will effectively be over once the CEO has to blame yet another engagement screw up (i.e. another Grey Lynn) on a ‘high up’ in the W&C space. There’s nowhere else for the ‘successful applicant’ to go after this role internally – which was graciously demonstrated by the previous head of W&C.

    Any external applicant will have asked the question at point of interview how well supported this ‘new role’ would be within AT and no doubt have been given a response that they could not put any confidence in – again knowing that a fall from this position would render any further career in their area of expertise untenable at least locally, perhaps nationally.

    This position should have read: ‘Fall guy or fall woman required for CEO’ at least it’d have been more honest. It really is a telling indictment of the level of commitment from AT to the W&C space at the ‘top table’.

  7. How does the removal of traffic lanes and slowing traffic gel with the declaration of climate emergency?

    1. I would imagine it would be to do with inevitable reduction in traffic. Put it this way in light of a climate emergency certainly wouldn’t be to add more lanes.

    2. Interesting you needed to ask this, Christopher. Obviously we need more posts on the subject. Traffic evaporation from road reduction is established in the field of transport planning. But it’s probably true that many people, even some regular readers of the blog, may have missed this.

          1. Does your evidence show just how much two lanes into one (or the closing of left turn slip lanes to accommodate cycles) is slowing down traffic, and I’m not talking CBD here? Does it show that cycle lanes in some suburbs are totally unused (and nobody can prove otherwise because AT don’t monitor them?

          2. The evidence shows that reducing traffic lanes creates congestion for a few months, and then people adjust to it by driving less and walking and cycling more because the environment for doing so is more attractive.

            The evidence shows that left turn slip lanes were almost criminal in their heightening of danger to vulnerable road users, and should be removed as quickly as possible.

            Your final question simply reveals your lack of understand of the needs of a network. Would a road amongst fast and erratic tanker trucks, and unconnected to any other road, be well-used by car drivers?

        1. Do you have evidence to overturn the evidence gathered from dozens of cities worldwide on this topic? If not, perhaps it would be best to listen to experts even when their opinion doesn’t suit your pre-determined view, as we all do on every other topic.

    3. “removal of traffic lanes and slowing traffic”

      Traffic includes bikes. Bikes flowing better and more reliably helps people to use them more, improving climate impacts.

      1. Climate impacts are not improved because there is no reduction in MOTOR VEHICLE traffic.

        Some of you people need to venture south of Ellerslie sometimes

        1. Do you know anything about Barcelona’s air quality, Christopher, and what they did to improve it?

          The city wasn’t meeting European air quality standards. It experimented by removing traffic lanes in a few areas, and monitored it very closely. It worked so well, they are rolling out traffic reduction measures across the city.

          1. I’m not in Barcelona, I’m in Auckland

            “Your final question simply reveals your lack of understand of the needs of a network.” Typical of most on this board, and of Aucklanders in general – attack the person

          2. No offence meant, sorry, Christopher.

            For the sake of our children, could you take the responsibility on board of coming up to speed on the subject? Slowing traffic down to make the city more safe and walkable cuts traffic volumes, and cuts carbon emissions. Resisting the evidence on this commits our children to danger, pollution and further climate change.

            The subject is too important to allow myths to continue.

  8. Well put it this way. Adding more traffic lanes and speeding up traffic will certainly increase emissions, thereby speeding up everybodies descent into the climate change emergency.

    1. “Adding more traffic lanes and speeding up traffic will certainly increase emissions, thereby speeding up everybodies descent into the climate change emergency.”
      Everywhere apart from Lake Road it seems. I was told by two elected representatives that cars sitting in traffic is the cause of emissions increasing and if that can be eliminated then so will much of the emissions problem.
      Stunning that one person can believe that, but incomprehensible that the first person can convince the second.

      1. Sure if would reduce the static element on Lake road, that’s a given. However you’ll only move the problem more rapidly to the next bottleneck. It’s obvious that more roads simply do not work in reducing pollution, as proven in every country in the world. Lake road takapuna is NOT an exception.

        1. Maybe… those elected representative should fulfill their obligation under the local government act to plan for present and future generations … by educating themselves on the subject … and stop talking out of their armpits.

      2. Being across the water and on the end of a peninsula they live in a bit of an alternative universe there. They have a different reality with alternative facts.

      3. JW – I’m assuming those two were on the Taka/Devo local board? If so, would you mind naming said councilors?

        I’d like to make sure neither of them gets my vote later this year.

      4. The Devonport-Takapuna LB is the most reactionary and lazy board in Auckland. I have heard that from the people at the Council who work with them. The only one I have any respect for is (not coincidentally the youngest member by some way) Jenny Mackenzie.

        Bike Devonport went to them with suggestions for improving cycling for 5 years. They never did anything and were incredibly hostile.

        1. Good lord they’ve got it bad over in the UK, haven’t they? Incredible, scary reality that hatred of change is blocking acceptance of evidence.

  9. The design in the picture is inherently unsafe & dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists and should be banned. I relies totally on driver behavior and is symptomatic of the low design standards in NZ.

    Where I currently reside there would either be:
    No priority junction – it would be left in left out only, or
    Every approach would have speed humps

  10. Great post thanks. Was reading That letter from Shane Allison to Chris Darby & Pippa Coom on the weekend, getting my head around the delays to the cycle program. Seems he has the right structures in place for going forward. Fairly confident this will happen if they have or soon fill that position.

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