The Northwestern cycleway has been one of Auckland’s best cycle success stories. Over the last decade as it has been progressively extended and better connections to it built it has seen a significant uptake in usage.

In the year following completion of the section between Bond and Myrtle streets in 2010, just over 100,000 people were recorded riding at Kingsland. Since then, improvements such as Grafton Gully, Lightpath/Nelson St and more recently Ian McKinnon Dr have improved access to the city while other changes such as those associated with Western Ring Route works like the Te Atatu Rd and Patiki Rd on-ramp underpasses, extension to Lincoln Rd and the connection of the Waterview path have all helped too. As a result of these, usage has surged and as of the end of August, annual usage has soared to 360,000 trips. A great case of build it and connect it and people will come.

Usage is strongest on weekdays with people commuting with usage averaging around 1,300 per day but at the height of summer has peaked at over 1,900 per day.

But that fantastic growth has caused problems of it’s own, especially on one of the oldest sections, between Bond and Haslett St, where the increasing number of cyclists and pedestrians share a narrow path. That flared up earlier this year after reports of multiple close calls, the worst of which involved aggressive cyclists racing past and even verbally abusing children walking to school. This sparked calls from Bike Auckland for Auckland Transport to do something about this pinch point.

Now they’re consulting on plans to significantly upgrade this 850m section of path by physically separating bikes from pedestrians, including converting a section of road into a pedestrian mall.

The proposal would see the shared path be separated to a cycle path and footpath for the 850m stretch between Central Road and Haslett Street. The upgrade will enable the different users to have their own dedicated spaces which will better cater for current and future users.

This proposal is because the current path is narrow and unsuitable for the number of people using it each day says Randhir Karma, Group Manager for Network Management.
“It’s great to see so many people choosing to bike as new cycle paths are built across Auckland.”

“With nearly 1,000 bike trips per day through the Kingsland section, the upgrade is a testament to the path’s popularity and a success story of people wanting to walk and cycle where the infrastructure is available” says Karma.

Barb Cuthbert, chair of Bike Auckland says “At the beginning of 2018, we stood with Newton Central School in calling for a solution to a bottleneck on the Northwestern path. We’re delighted to see Auckland Transport answer the call by officially adding a proper footpath to what’s becoming the city’s busiest bike route”.

“In particular, we applaud the design’s separation of wheels and feet, reflecting the volume and variety of people of all ages who use this path every day. This will be a boon for all, especially at peak times when school children and parents share this space with bike commuters on their way into the city. We look forward to swift completion of this important safety project.”

Here’s their proposed improvements

  • Construct a new 850m long cycle path and footpath between Central Road and Haslett Street.
  • Separate the footpath and new cycle path with low-lying planting, berm, and/or kerbs.
  • Reconfigure the access points onto the new cycleway and footpath to improve visibility.
  • Remove five on street car parks to allow improved vehicle turning movements at the end of Bright Street and Alexander Street.
  • Reclassify the driveway at the end of Alexander Street as shared space to allow pedestrian movement through here while maintaining vehicular property access.
  • Reclassify the thoroughfare road between Bright Street and Alexander Street to a pedestrian mall to stop vehicle movements through here.

The plans show the new cycleway will be bidirectional and 3.5m wide while the footpath will be at least 2.5m wide but wider in some locations.

This looks like a big improvement and I wonder how long it will be before the same thing is needed on the section immediately west of here as far as St Lukes Rd, which is also quite busy and narrow in places.

One thing I think will be important is how well AT differentiate the two paths. We don’t want another Beach Rd situation where pedestrians usually use the cycleway as a footpath.

Consultation is open till the end of October and AT expect to release the feedback in early 2020 with works starting in the middle of next year. There are a few sessions planned to find out more with details on AT’s project page.

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55 comments

  1. “This looks like a big improvement and I wonder how long it will be before the same thing is needed on the section immediately west of here as far as St Lukes Rd, which is also quite busy and narrow in places.”

    If anything I believe that section is a higher priority, centre street to cardigan street is terrible, several near misses, one which sent me into a wall damaging my elbow (another bike came on the wrong side around one of the blind corners, for no reason). Seen a few spills too.

    Comparative to the section they are upgrading where I have never had any issue, yes it does get very busy, but everyone slows right down generally as you dont have much choice anyway. But yeah… this upgrade is great anyway, I feel like the main benefit for me will be less of a slow-down during commute in/out during the peak times, as opposed to safety. But I am sure those on foot will feel a lot safer anyway, as the volume of bikes is probably pretty daunting.

    I strongly think they should consider extending this work to Cardigan St, or at least doing at as a stage 2. I guess it will be more complex because of property constrains and the noise barriers on the motorway, meaning they can’t just widen it like this section. But it still really, really needs something done asap.

      1. I do, and thats probably the safest time, as everyone is forced to slow right down, find appropriate gaps etc. Thus for people on bikes its more of a travel time safer than a safety thing. For those on foot its probably going to feel a lot safer, and probably be a lot safer (i.e. from ruthless people who make bad calls and end up hitting them) and less daunting having so many bikes around them.

        For safety of bike users I would definitely say center street to cardigan street is more of a safety issue, as visibility is a massive issue along that section. The section being upgraded has great visibility as its mostly open space without giant walls and fences.

  2. Sure, this will be an improvement. Nice to see segregated paths for once. But at least it exists. What about the eastern half of the isthmus where there are no cycle lanes at all*, shared or otherwise.

    *Except the the short, narrow ones Greenlane East / West

    1. I’m sure there are other parts of the city that need better cycle provision, but let’s not fall into the trap of fighting over scraps. This upgrade will cost a pittance in the overall transport budget. Lets fight to increase the percentage of the overall budget we spend on cycling instead of complaining when a scheme is proposed that the small amount of cycle funding used would be better spent elsewhere.

      1. I think even with a bigger budget this is a valid concern. The only issue I see here is that a few cyclists are upset because they can’t ride through that section at 40 km/h. Cry me a river. We’re still talking about less than 1000 round-trips per day here.

        Our immediate problem is coverage. Only a few percent of Aucklanders have access to any bike lanes at all. Almost nobody has access to anything connected in a meaningful way. Even a larger budget would better be spent on improving coverage.

        1. To respond to the combined climate, safety and health crises, we should be spending way more than 20% of the transport budget on active modes. Yet we’re spending a tenth of that, and wasting much of that on the business case and consultation processes. Plenty of Auckland is getting next to nothing for cycling.

          The question is what the best political way to radically ramp up the funding and get things happening. It may be, Roeland, that continuing to improve the NW to demonstrate the success of a little investment, is a faster way to overthrowing the current budget.

          Or it may be that a little investment everywhere is the better political path. Who knows? But the last thing we should do, as Tim says, is fight over the scraps.

        2. “Cry me a river. We’re still talking about less than 1000 round-trips per day here.”

          You seem to have missed the point where this project is about adding a footpath so the cycle growth doesn’t endanger pedestrians. Its really a pedestrian project as much as, or arguably even more than a bike project. Yes, it will help people on bikes and scooters a lot, but one of the biggest benefit will be in allowing the kids of Newton Primary to walk safely to school again. Growth in one active mode shouldn’t come at the cost of another.

        3. “Growth in one active mode shouldn’t come at the cost of another.” → agree with that. Adding a footpath… fair enough. I just don’t understand why this is such a problem already at current cycling numbers. The simple rule “don’t be a dick” can mitigate a lot of problems.

          Politically, your chief problem is that the age before cars has disappeared from collective memory.

          Improving this cycleway cuts both ways. Is is a success but it can also reinforce the perception that cycling infrastructure is a rich hipster thing. Point Chevalier, Grey Lynn and Kingsland aren’t exactly known for affordable housing. It is really hard to get a support if you cover only a few percent of the population. It will be interesting to see on the census data how the cycling hotspot is extending further west.

          Demonstrating the success of a little investment, if only. The precedents are bad. Note the success of the Northern Busway, and subsequent lack of one along SH16. The cycleway on Lake Road is at the same time successful and still loathed by many.

          What I haven’t seen here so far is a town centre where it actually makes sense to get around, or arrive on a bicycle (or in general, without a car). Maybe having such a town centre here, not something far away overseas, will help. Unitec is in a good spot for this, so let’s see.

        4. @Roeland, heaps of people use this from further out. I cycle through it from 23km away in Sunnyvale South on a daily basis (minus the week a month I work from home, and minus days where I am not up to it). Its not exclusively used by the Ithsmus.

          This is like the equivalent of a highway for bikes, yet it is narrower than most peoples driveways, its just not suitable for a shared path in general, but especially not for one with such high volumes.

          St Lukes to Lincoln Rd is a fair bit wider, yet that all feeds into this narrow corridor between St Lukes and Ian McKinnon.

          Most people go slow when they see there is a lot of congestion along the path, the “dicks” a few far between, but as with all modes – they exist. But I have yet to see one along here as I cycle through. However I am sure pedestrians would as they spend much longer in the corridor than cycles would.

          Personally I think just widening it would be good enough, but separation is welcome, and I guess that would future proof it for even higher volumes. Lincoln to Westgate will soon feed into it, so will New Lynn to Avondale (via Waterview) and eventually Te Whau and any further expansion of the western cycle network.

        5. Heidi, is it really a budget issue though?

          Auckland’s cycling modeshare is 1%, compared with Gisborne’s cycling modeshare of 11%. That’s a big difference, yet Gisborne has significantly less cycling infrastructure investment, so I’m not convinced it’s a budgeting issue.

          Similar in Napier/Hastings where cycling modeshare is 7%. Their VKT numbers and vehicle ownership per capita numbers are skyrocketing, and PT use is plummeting, yet cycling uptake remains much stronger than Auckland’s.

          I would suggest other factors are restricting Auckland’s cycling modeshare.

        6. Yes Geoff it is a budget issue for Auckland. Gisborne and Napier/Hastings have considerably smaller populations and don’t have the traffic pressures that Auckland does – which in my anecdotal experience leads to more risky driving.
          They also don’t have the physical size of Auckland and so a lot more destinations are within a rideable distance.

        7. @Geoff yeah Auckland has high traffic volumes, gnarly roads, impatient drivers and the travel distances, at least for commuting are much longer.

          The numbers show areas with a decent cycle network have much higher mode share for cycling. For example the northwestern, however it is quite underutilized due to lack of feeders i.e. Henderson Creek isn’t particularly commute friendly due to lack of width and a bit bendy (I generally use Edmonton Rd). Te Atatu Pen only has a link to the shops, Te Atatu South is hopeless, Lincoln only has some on-street lanes feeding into it from Triangle/Don Buck (not particularly safe). Soon to be extension to Westgate has nothing feeding in at Royal or Westgate (apart from some random stuff around the North West mall – but thats all shops, no residential). Despite all this; it has really good numbers, its mostly used by those living along the infrastructure and a few brave people who are willing to battle their way towards it each day.

          If we want to get more cycling modeshare in Auckland we need to build more infrastructure. I commute door to door, 23km from Sunnyvale South most days 35-45 mins by e-bike vs 1 hour or more by car vs 1 hour 20 min+ by train+bus or train+walk. Although I brave the roads to get the the NW, most other people just wouldnt consider it as there are three barriers:
          – Knowledge of mode, travel time, route etc.
          – Initial investment of buying an e-bike (a normal bike just wont cut it from this distance, unless you give yourself heaps of travel time and work up your fitness etc… but thats not going to be appealing to most people).
          – Safety, fair they will be hit, not confident etc.

        8. Geoff, I’m curious where you get your cycling mode-share figures for Napier/Hastings and Gisborne – none of them are that high. But it is a truism that all other things being equal, proportionately more cycling naturally happens in places with less traffic and shorter travel distances (i.e. not Auckland). Better cycling provision can then help to redress those imbalances.

  3. Great to see this, but also difficult to understand why it starts and stops where it does, and why some details appear fudged still.

    – Takau Street is increasingly an area of conflict, and appears to have space alongside the road to form a separated connection to the new Ian McKinnon stretch. This *should* be easy to fix.

    – As Matt says, the stretch to St Lukes has some serious issues. Like Peter, I have witnessed serious incidents here which are due entirely to safety issues such as width and sightlines at side junctions. This is hard to fix, but at least commununicating intent would be welcome.

    Also, I’d really like to know how the long driveway in the penultimate plan image above is dealt with. A single property on western side of the bottom of Buchanan (left side of page) is accessed from Alexander (right side of page) in the position where the pedestrian path is located. Are AT really proposing that pedestrians share this vehicle route?

    I was thinking about this as I cycled past this last week, hoping that this driveway would be dealt with as part of this project. It would appear possible to reconfigure the bottom of Buchanan to provide a driveway – why is this not being implemented? The levels are challenging but not impossible.

    Yet we have a proposal here which compromises pedestrian safety for only one driveway to one property. What is going on here? Is this yet another AT safety project which is compromising on core intent? Would love to hear to the contrary.

    1. I have heard they intend to do Takau street but are following a different procedure in consulting that section, as it is considered a roadway. Although I am not sure how the pedestrian mall is included then?

      Takau St is pretty bad because nobody gives way coming off Ian McKinnon cycleway, I have had a few people overtake me while I slow down and look left for cars coming down. Once someone cut off a car right in front of me whilst I was giving way and waiting for the car to pass… Also Takau St with parked cars makes for a pretty narrow area to cycle in, with people also just walking on the road as the footpath is useless and often blocked by cars or rubbish bins etc.

      1. The low-volume NB Virginia St traffic should have to give way to the Takau St/cycleway movements because those are the primary approaches, based on volume.

    2. We understand the intention is to do Takau St as a separate project. If done as part of this, the combined cost would exceed the limits of project size at which it doesn’t need an extensive formal business case / the money would need to come out of a different pot. Sadly, that would be a recipe for further delays (and as I understand it, the issue is unavoidable under our current funding / co-funding by NZTA rules).

  4. This cycleway good and bad. Good, very good in fact that its usable and a true alternative to cars to those for whom its practical and capable of using it.
    Bad because for the people of a large part of West Auckland that’s it folks, that or the private motor car and eternal gridlock.

    Successive governments have failed the west most especially the previous government failing to add rapid transit lanes to the north western when they easily could have during the rebuild. And the current government for promising light rail in our times in a Chamberlain/Twyford redux and then not only failing to deliver on that promise but delivering exactly zero alternative anything to rub the populations face in it.

    And on days like this, arriving at work soaked to the skin is something our elected representatives would never consider!

    I can only hope the voters of Te Atatu pay that back in kind next year!

      1. From my Te Atatu Peninsula home, according to Google Maps at 11am on a Monday, my choices to get to Britomart are;
        Driving 20mins
        133 Bus 47min then 7min walk, 54mins total
        131 Bus to Henderson 26min, 4min walk, 46min train, 76min total, not including waiting for transfers which appears to add around 25mins at this time of day.
        Or an hour by cycle.

        1. Te Atatu is close enough to town we should be able to expect it to be well connected. Obviously we need to decrease that bus time with bus priority measures. Even still, plenty of people do take the bus from there.

          Is the cycling out of the question? Good for fitness (obviously). Or getting an e bike?

          Where would you park if you drove to town and who is paying for it?

        2. I was commuting into Newmarket from Te Atau Pen for about 3 months, generally it would take about 40mins to get in and this was after Waterview opened.

          In that time I would see about 1 bus a week and maybe 2 cars a day using the bus shoulders.

          It seemed strange that they were such under used facilities. I guess it was just such a slow slog along Great North Rd that they just weren’t that much of a benefit.

        3. Te Atatu does deserve to be well connected, it’s proximity to the city suggests it should but no one cares.

          The motorway binding up, especially after Waterview in the morning and from Rosebank at night is the issue and only patchy priority lanes. Real shame and so very typical of blind ideology that the rebuild did not include priority lanes.

        4. “Real shame and so very typical of blind ideology that the rebuild did not include priority lanes.”

          Except for the fact it does include priority lanes, assuming your talking about bus priority?

        5. Richard, as I said, patchy. There is no complete priority or bus lane on SH16, only parts of one on the motorway between Pt Chev and Te Atatu, but mostly between Rosebank Rd and Te Atatu and virtually none in West Auckland suburban streets.

  5. AT seem to only respond to direct pressure, this has been a shocker for a while. But of course the obligatory consultation. Just build it now with separated modes and pedestrian or cycle priority on respective paths. Note that Pt. Chev -Westmere cycle lanes, parking and road consultation took place from 27 March 2017, still no action, despite numerous incidents and forced 10km/hr vehicle speed on narrow Meola Road, which still has parking 2 sides in section, and 2-way bus travel (Outer Link) all in a 9.6m wide carriageway. This carriageway would have to be 10.8 metres to meet AT’s own standards, without dedicated cyclelanes. AT gives itself a pass on deficient infrastructure.

  6. As long as they don’t make it like the beach road separated path. Peds use the bike path asit is slighty more direct. They may as well swap the bike and ped paths outside scene building. Most peds are in bike path so bikes go on ped path.

    1. Part of the Beach Road design’s issue is that it is often more convenient to stay on the bike path, plus there’s not enough riders there to result in a natural “sorting out”, plus there’s a lot of people who walk there only occasionally (i.e. once a week or once a month). Yet on, say, Symonds Street south of K Road, up to Alex Evans the path is narrower, separated by a painted line only, and still most pedestrians keep to the footpath side (not that that path has many other things to recommend it). So it really depends on context. I think once space is provided through Kingsland for everyone, things here will separate themselves out nicely.

      1. Imo part of the issue is the lack of vertical separation between the modes; if you had to step down a small kerb into a cycle lane that was a completely different colour to the footpath, I reckon you’d have higher compliance.

  7. This is a good start. Obviously this treatment will need to be extended along much more of this cycle highway. If bikes can move at 40kmh, they should be allowed to do so (I can’t quite manage that, no battery in the budget). Properly separating the path on such a popular commuting route makes. A commendable first step. Hopefully we will have some more cycling advocates in local government after this election to fund some more good ideas.

  8. It does look rather nice, but it does raise the questions “why here” and “why now” and “what is a pedestrian mall”.

    I’ve only ever been along this path in the weekends for which it seemed pretty good, however the design seems to stop at what are the worst areas being Takau St and the dodgy ramp coming down from Newton Rd. It seems they saw they had some space and so thought they may as well spend some money.

    I’d say a treatment like this is more urgently needed along Tamaki Dr than here.

    On a side note, I was told the other week facilities like this treat cyclists and pedestrians as 2nd class citizens, but I’ve always liked it.

    1. “Pedestrian mall” is a legal term defined in legislation.
      They’ll be using this because it is relatively simple to leave the road designation in place but restrict access to non-vehicle user classes as a ‘pedestrian mall’ road. That’s compared to the arduous process of lifting the road designation and creating a new separate designation for a walkway.

    2. Richard, we should be seeing a contract signed in the coming weeks for a separated cycleway along Tamaki Drive to the Ngapipi Intersection. Construction won’t start until January though

  9. “the worst of which involved aggressive cyclists racing past and even verbally abusing children walking to school”
    I’d strongly disagree with that statement, the worst I observe is e-bikes. The worst crash I’ve seen was also an e-bike, I used to see her most days but not since she was lying still on the ground covered in blood. I cycle that section twice daily, rain or shine.
    The proposal has some strange kinks in the cycleway. Cycleways should be as straight and flat as possible, for improved sightlines and safety, as well as reducing pedal effort. I’d hope there is a plan to ease the grade at Haslett St and continue the cycleway through to Newton Rd, also easing the grade.

  10. This upgrade totally makes sense being the highest use spot. I’ve used it a few times mainly off-peak though just to check it out & even then it has high pedestrian use compared to other sections. Combined with the school wanting to use it, it’s a no brainer.
    Other section upgrades I’m sure will come over time.

  11. How about we get some coverage elsewhere before we gold plate the already functional west ?

    South and east are in desperate need of coverage

      1. No, just a busway that you got a decade before everyone else and chip on your regional shoulders about anyone else getting *anything*.

      2. What about the North Shore? Hopefully in the not too distant future we get the harbour bridge crossing and Seapath. From there, you can already bike to Northcote shopping centre or all the way to Devonport on mostly bike lanes.

        Of course the most (in)famous bike route on the Shore is the bike lane on Lake Road. The biggest problem with this one is probably not a lack of upgrade plans, but the vitriol from locals it keeps attracting.

    1. I *wish* there was evidence of active intent to “gold plate” any cycle facility anywhere in Auckland.

      As others have pointed out upthread, this is mainly happening as a response to specific direct pressure in this area – the cancellation of a walking school bus due to user conflict and related media coverage.

      Let’s not kid ourselves that the fixes here will take place at the expense of action in other areas – we’ve had years of funding for cycle projects across Auckland going unutilised, opposing the upgrade to this section out of a sense of fairness to the north/south/east won’t magically unblock the systemic barriers to cycle infrastructure progress across the rest of the city.

  12. genuine curiosity here – but why does AT need to consult on this? It seems a straightforward upgrading of an existing paths…
    Do they not trust their own designers and engineers?
    And why did it take more than 18 months to actually get any action after the school and Bile Auckland both complained loudly.
    It seems that AT need a dedicated cycleway repair, maintenance and upgrade/extension budget, and the teams of workers to actually do said work. It really should not take so long for AT to see and resolve a problem (even if “consulting”).

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