Almost exactly three years ago to the day we were celebrating what looked to be a revolution for cycling in Auckland after the Auckland Transport board approved a 10-year Cycling Programme for 2018-28. Fast forward to today and there’s little sign of the strategy even still existing let alone being implemented.

Let’s start with a quick recap.

The programme was a fantastic, evidence based assessment of where cycling investment should be directed between 2018 and 2028 to build on the gains we had already started to see from the Urban Cycle Fund initiated by the previous government and that had delivered projects such as Lightpath, Nelson St and Quay St. If fully funded the programme was expected to see $600m invested in 150km of new cycleways over that timeframe as well as $35 million in complementary measures. Combined these were expected to help lift the modeshare of cycling in Auckland from 1.2% to 4% and return $2-4 in social/economic benefits for every dollar invested.

The programme also stood out from most transport plans in that it was attractive and easy to read, clearly and cleverly conveying the substantial analysis behind it to lay out the issues, opportunities and benefits.

For example, below are the pages debunking common myths for the low levels of cycling, for the problems the programme was designed to address, and what the programme would achieve if successful.

It’s clear not every journey can be taken by bike, but many can and the programme was to target four key types of trip

  • Short-Medium distance commutes
  • Connections to Bus/Train Stations and Ferry Terminals.
  • Trips to school
  • Local household trips such as going to local shops.

The programme itself was to focus the investment around two dozen suburbs, with some happening earlier in the decade and the rest later.

There are obviously a lot of areas of Auckland not included here as the reality is even $600 million is not enough to cover the entire region. These areas weren’t just picked at random though but were chosen following significant analysis. A summary of that is below.

Four different types of infrastructure were proposed to be used in Auckland going forward and painted lanes on roads is not one of those. The last of these is also particularly relevant given the recent COVID-19 works

So the programme looked good and things were looking even more positive in April 2018 when the latest iteration of ATAP came out. It included $640 million towards the walking and cycling programme to deliver 125km of the network and also included $260 million towards local board priorities which likely would have included a number of other cycling projects. Given the strong value for money of cycling investment, ATAP also said:

It is recommended that as further funding becomes available, strong consideration be given to increasing the cycling programme

But since then the programme has effectively disappeared faster than a protected cycleway approaching a major intersection. For starters it doesn’t even appear on AT’s website unless you have the link, by comparison pretty much every other plan or strategy they develop is – and remember this programme was one that was signed off by the board.

Shortly after ATAP, the 10-year Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) came out and included less than $500 million towards cycling projects. But even that is misleading as just over $150 million of that was to complete the Urban Cycleways projects that were meant to have been completed by 2018. Even then AT were saying it would take till 2020/21 to complete them and some of the initially announced projects have already been dropped.

A few months later and Auckland Transport then disbanded its walking and cycling team. The Herald reported:

Ellison told the Herald that active transport had become a priority for the whole organisation and a steering group, led by a member of the executive, would help ensure it stayed that way.

As I understand it, of the cycling specialists who remained in the organisation, most or all have subsequently left. Not only that, the programme has been put under the umbrella of people who don’t believe in it.

By the time of the restructure the cycling programme had already hit a snag from the issues surrounding the rollout of cycleways in Grey Lynn and Westmere. The issues there highlighted that what was often holding the programme back was not the cycleway itself but that cycling projects had really becomesafety-and-streetscape-upgrade-and-stormwater-fix-and-traffic-calming-and-pedestrian-improvements-and-retaining-parking-and-cycling“. Following that, AT seemingly took that position that if a single person complained, especially one that wears a cowboy hat and brandishes a sledgehammer, they will stop a project completely. Combined with the restructure they put the then current projects under review.

Some of those projects are finally progressing and the following ones are currently under construction.

On Friday construction was also kicked off for Stage 2 of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr cycleway but that is being delivered by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

It’s great that these are happening but we should be much further along by now. The areas in red above should have had consultation/design work completed and we should be heading towards construction.

As well as all of the other issues, some of the areas for investigation have been put on hold by the Connected Communities programme. That is intended to redesign some key arterial routes to improve bus priority, safety as well as walking and cycling. But the programme itself has seemingly become bloated and unfocused. It will probably be years before we hear much and even longer before anything is actually implemented.

And of course more recently further delays have been heaped on by the budget cuts in response to COVID-19. It has mean that some of the other projects they are working on, such as Pt Chevalier Rd and Meola Rd and the next stage of Nelson St, are now on hold.

One way to highlight just how poorly AT are doing on the delivery of cycleways is to show what they’re delivering. A target for the delivery of cycleways was started in 2015/16 and other than in that year, they’ve failed to meet it. The results come from their Annual Reports and the future targets from their latest Statement of Intent (2020-23). To deliver their cycling programme they need to be delivering 15km a year and they’re not even doing 10km (they were sitting at just 2.5km for the year as of January but COVID has also thrown projects out).

Perhaps the only thing that’s consistent with AT is their strive to lower their SOI target. For example initially their 2017/18 target of 28km got crunched down to just 10km, so do did their target for 2018/19 which was initially 18km. The current targets of 5km this year, 7km in 2022 are down from 8.5 and 10km respectively – which is blamed on the budget.

In essence ATs cycling programme has been squashed by a lack of internal champions, a lack of internal knowledge, a lack of ambition, a lack of courage and most recently a lack of budget.

The need for us to deliver on our cycling programme has been highlighted even more by COVID. During lockdown we saw our streets empty of cars and even now bikes, especially e-bikes, are in short supply having flown off the shelves.

I had already started on this post but the need to deliver the cycling programme was further highlighted last week when UK Prime Minster Boris Johnson launched an inspiring £2 billion cycle programme.

The programme is not just about spending more too but significantly and explicitly raises the bar by also increasing standards. The document is an easy read probably deserves a post all on it’s own but here is a high-level summary some of the new rules.

Not only are there new, higher standards, the government will not fund or part fund any schemes that don’t meet them. A new independent body is being established to inspect finished schemes and funding will also have to be returned if they don’t meet standards or are not completed with a specified time. What’s more, and perhaps what AT would need to take cycling seriously, a local authorities performance on delivering walking and cycling improvements will be taken into account when considering other funding applications. In other words, if they don’t deliver safe cycleways they might not get funding for their other road projects.

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  1. Matt – Your typo “If fully funded the programme was expected to see $600 invested” is unfortunately pretty accurate.

  2. I can’t even say I’m disappointed, as that would mean I expected better of AT. Clearly disbanding that dedicated team has contributed to the overall lack of any progress. There’s so much we could achieve with a simple tactical approach to pave the way for a proper solutions later on. But even that’s not happening.

  3. “the programme has been put under the umbrella of people who don’t believe in it.”

    That doesn’t make sense. Why are people who “don’t believe in cycling” working for AT at all? Who in this day and age would work in transport in a city and not believe in cycling? I mean, there’s thick, and then there’s just plain bad.

    Somebody put these fossils in charge of cycling – Why? That’s thick, too. And where’s the board? Asking their usual penetrating questions?

      1. Without naming names:
        The person who is in charge of delivering cycling strategy and planning is the same person who used to work at the Ministry of Transport and who was the point-man for opposing the City Rail Link. The same person who said that it was not needed and that the rail network would never reach 20m trips per year etc. He has similar views on cycling. He is also in charge of ATs strategy and planning for rapid transit and was also the spreadsheet warrior responsible for that rogue budget a few years ago.

        Meanwhile the Connected Communities project is being run by the same person who was in charge of cycling AT from its inception till they bought in Kathryn King. He muddled about and delivered nothing of note during that time and is doing the same thing again with the Connected Communities programme. He was also the one behind the infamous shuttle AT ran between the city and their then Henderson office for their staff.

        1. Thanks, Insider.


          Don’t want my kids to die, you know. Just saying…

        2. Without naming names, we need to get Insider’s insight onto the front page of the Herald and ask questions of AT.

        3. Connected Communities from what I have seen seems to be working towards some great plans. Ambitious so far, but will interesting to see how that ambition does or does not fade after public engagement.

          It has suffered budget cuts like many projects at AT, but will be interesting to see what happens this year and next.

        4. Thanks, Other Insider. Do you happen to know the answer to any of these questions:

          Is protected cycling a non-negotiable on these corridors?
          Is the width of footpath only ever increased, never decreased?
          Is reducing traffic volumes acknowledged as a good, not something to be avoided?
          Are they designing these corridors with the benefit of low traffic neighbourhoods alongside them, to remove ratrunning problems and to increase walk-to-PT uptake and to create connected cycling journeys?

        5. Heidi – I can’t answer all your questions, but from what I saw of options being looked at;
          Footpaths weren’t going to be reduced – certain areas would be widened
          Getting more efficient use of the road space were goals / aims for many options.
          Budget realities meant shifting kerbs along entire lengths of corridor would likely not occur in the short term
          Not all corridors for their entire lengths may necessarily have cycling provided for, but when they do, yes it is separated

        6. Thanks. The old chestnut of ‘more efficient use’. I so wish the Board would ask some proper questions of them and get their teeth into this – this is the reason for Auckland’s congestion.

          More efficient use to achieve the stated goals of increased active travel would ensure there are cycling lanes on all these corridors. Unfortunately these dinosaurs use “more efficient use” to mean bigger throughput. And by only counting the motor vehicles concentrating on “more efficient use” results in higher traffic volumes.

  4. Seems to me, leaving aside a couple of very high profile exceptions, much of what AT has delivered in cycling fails all nine of those British design principles.

    What’s going to change that?

    1. Yes. That’s the question.

      We shouldn’t have to put up with this shit, so who’s going to step in and change it?

      1. Rodney Hide created these CCO’s with an effectively unaccountable and opaque structure so a future right wing government could privatise them with minimum fuss. They have not been privatised but they are unaccountable. The cool banality of the reasoning behind the disbandment of the cycling team is a good example of unaccountable and bland corporate doublethink in action. Probably the only way AT will ever be forced to follow political direction will first require political action to restructure its governace to remove the anti-cycling apparachiks and saboteurs from AT management ranks.

        1. Rodney Hide did that work 10+ years ago. The council has been Labour controlled ever since and central government for the last 3 years.
          Labour have done nothing about changing the structure.
          Labour have been in charge and therefore responsible for the disbandment of the cycling team and hiatus of many projects.
          Its way to long ago to be blaming predecessors.

        2. Anthony, does that show that Rodney Hyde managed to set up a system that was difficult to manage as a CCO.
          It would appear that the recent change of Management hasn’t yet led to changes in the organisation, is there hope of that?
          how can we change/influence the situation?
          Suggestions please.

  5. Auckland does have some great projects underway & signs of more to come. The gap seems to be at the national level. So many countries have recognised the pent up demand for active modes, and cycling in particular, evident with the quieter streets of COVID. But NZ and certainly Auckland has not grabbed the chance for a new normal with active modes at its heart. So much more should be in place, in planning and being delivered & existing networks should be seeing strong improvement but it feels very different with so much slowing down or stopping. The is a great opportunity & need. So hope we can all do better 🙂

    1. Do we need to wait for the complete design of new kerbs and stormwater which nmake the cost so high when the cycle way only needs demarcation fro the traffic lane and vehicle speed signs to limit them to 30kph?
      Just maybe the removal of all the vehicle parking long the route and good parking enforcement for those who don’t comply initially.

  6. From the introduction by Boris Johnson to the new UK cycling document “Of course you can’t deliver a fridge-freezer on a cargo bike – but you can
    deliver plenty of other goods that currently come in diesel vans. I want
    bicycles to be part of an effusion of green transport, of electric cars, buses
    and trains, because clean air will be to the 21st century what clean water
    was to the 19th. ” I am trying to picture the NZ equivalent to the conservative party saying this – I dont think we will hear it any time soon from Judith Collins!

    1. I think here in little old NZ the attitudes are always a good 10-20 years behind the big cities overseas. National will wake up eventually, but will probably waste a ton of money on the past in the meantime.

    2. Boris Johnson is nothing more than a populist. He’s all about coming out with ridiculous and fake grandiose projects like “Boris Island”, a bridge to Ireland, a Garden bridge over the Thames, etc. to create diversions from the real issues and his atrocious performance.
      What’s worse is when the bumbling idiot’s plans go through like those awful new Routemaster buses.

      1. The new routemaster buses are the best urban buses I’ve been on anywhere in the world and believe me, I’ve been on a lot.

        1. These are the ones that were built without Aircon or Windows, assumed a 2nd staff member would guard the back door and have been widely derided as awful to use and massively overpriced?

        2. No, those ones are made up. The routemasters have AC and were designed to allow an attendant at the back, but not require one.

          I’d be interested to know what the other criticisms are. They have fantastic internal circulation, great boarding and alighting. So much better than the slightly older 2 door buses in London.

        3. I never noticed the lack of air conditioning (probably because I got so used to it in London). But the other criticisms are a bit odd. Upper ceilings are low? Obviously, it’s a two storey structure that is barely 4m tall. They function perfectly well without the guard they were designed for? Brilliant, that’s a massive labour saving cost. It seems an awful lot like the greatest British tradition of whinging about nothing.

          The article is also wrong, the back door does open. I pretty much always boarded through the rear door. This is what makes them so great. You have two sets of staircases and three entry points, super fast boarding and alighting.

        4. What an absolutely ridiculous move by TfL. Ruining customer experience for everyone for the sake of 3.6m pounds a year. They’ll lose more in revenue from lost ridership.

  7. Pretty clear that not only does safe cycling no longer have a team of meaningful scale and authority dedicated to it, it also seems there are likely some pretty well placed enemies within the organisation, able to delay, divert, muddy action for this mode.

    This sorry state of affairs requires leadership. The quote above from Ellison suggests it’s time for him, or his board, to accept that the novel experiment of speeding cycling infra delivery by dissolving the cycling team, has failed. That it is past time to revert to a more conventional system, with clear authority and accountabilities, with protection from internal, shall we say, ‘sceptics’…?

    1. I don’t think a CEO would survive in a public company if they were not capable of delivering the boards key objectives in a timely way. So either the board don’t consider cycling important, or they haven’t noticed that nothing is being delivered, or they are just too lenient on management and their excuses. I imagine most of the people on the board have no real ability and are just there for the easy paycheck. None of them have any skin in the game like a private board would.

  8. “In essence AT’s cycling programme has been squashed by a lack of internal champions, a lack of internal knowledge, a lack of ambition, a lack of courage and most recently a lack of budget.”

    And thus it was foretold – lo, two years ago, when AT decided to “crumble up its expertise and experience in a highly vulnerable area and sprinkle it across the organisation”:

    (Looking ahead, because that’s what we prophets do: what better time than now to vigorously recruit a highly visible and empowered strategic champion, and a couple of dozen skilled folk from the Northern lowlands to help rectify this parlous situation??)

  9. Those 9 Key design principles from the UK are really good.

    There is one however I struggle with, “cyclists must be treated as vehicles, not pedestrians”. I get the intent, to differentiate bike riding from walking, but the idea of bikes as vehicles is surely how we’ve got to this terrible situation. Vehicles is a word more used to describe cars, motor vehicles. Bikes may approach the speed of cars sometimes but their users still have the vulnerability of pedestrians. They clearly are a third, in between, mode. Which the document as a whole supports, I just find that sentence wooly and unclear.

    1. To me those design principles are kind of like saying “all roads must be motorway standard and there is no funding otherwise”.
      There are plenty of quick wins in Auckland that can be achieved with a tin of green paint, without those we may be waiting a very long time before you can ride almost anywhere without being in a car lane. (actually now that I think about it maybe it is a classic right wing response – make sure cycle infrastructure is very hard and expensive to build and doesn’t take up any car space while also appealing to the pro cycle voters)

    2. “bicycle treated as vehicle” sounds a lot like Forrester-style vehicular cycling, which has been proven to be worthless (as policy, not in the context of extremely experienced hardcore cyclists operating in an environment with rubbish infrastructure), though I don’t think they are meaning it that way, given the other principles.

      1. Correct. “bicycle treated as vehicle” is nothing to do with vehicular cycling! It is a recognition that cycling infrastructure has its own engineering requirements, different to those that apply to walking infrastructure.

        See London Cycling Design Standards:

        “Cycles must be treated as vehicles, not as pedestrians. Cyclists and pedestrians should not be forced together where there is space to keep them apart, creating unnecessary conflict which can only increase as the number of cyclists rises.”

        This is consistent with best practice. See also: ‘Designing for Cycle Traffic: International Principles and Practice’ by Professor John Parkin and ‘Design manual for bicycle traffic’ (a.k.a. CROW Manual)

    3. I’d be more keen to study Denmark or the Netherlands. The UK’s pretty far from any paradigm of Urban planning.

  10. What happened to Great North Rd in Grey Lynn? Be great to have somewhere to ride on from K Rd when that’s done. That went out to consultation and everything, years ago… has it been subsumed into the great do-nothing of Connected Communities?

    Wouldn’t it be actually helpful for that programme to have an actual live example? Assuming of course that the intention is to ever do anything with this programme? To significantly shift priority to PT and active modes on our arterials?

    1. It’s locked up in the Connected Communities programme.
      From what I’ve heard the CC team have taken it over and are busy trying to downgrade the designs.

        1. My apartment block is on the route, and the last update we had is that they’ll be commencing public engagement in September 2020, originally planned for March 2020.

      1. I have the revised designs under the OIA (from earlier this year). Happy to share them with anyone who wants them. They look pretty good to me.

        1. That’s an improvement from previous design. Particulary the intersection with Ponsonby Rd. Although I assume the road will no longer be able to be called Great. A bit ironic that there is parking on a road full of caryards.
          Did they release the estimated cost for the project?

        2. Thanks Jack. It is amazing that the estimated cost is $15M or $10M/km!
          Looks like most of the work is (or could be) achieved within the current roadway. Starts to make the East-West link look cheap….. I look forward to a fact-based blog about the high cost of these projects.

        3. Yes, well, what we could achieve if the tactical approach was used…!

          What they need to do is roll out bus priority and protected cycle lanes without moving the kerblines, all over the city. Work out the circulation plan for the arterials at the same time, to work with the comprehensive low traffic neighbourhood plan, so that if necessary, there are one way sections or bits where the bus priority is achieved through modal filters reducing traffic volumes rather than bus lanes.

          Then when it’s provided everywhere, look at what is needed to improve it.

          Not this expensive kerb and drain moving exercise that wastes money.

        4. If you’re not retaining the existing kerblines then there is little point in keeping it at the level of the roadway and raising it at every side street. That is going to cause a whole bunch of drainage issues and debris accumulation. Raise the whole cycleway and make the outer edge of the cycleway the new kerbline.

  11. Well NZ seemed to forget and forgive John Key’s promised “national cycleway” from 2008. Remember that anyone?

    1. That morphed in ~24 nationwide cycle trails and a bunch of Heartland Rides connecting them, so I’d say that a lot of folk are actually quite happy how that panned out…

    2. I’m no fan of National but that was actually pretty successful. No there isn’t a national cycleway but there are a lot of cycleways that are legacies of this promise.

  12. What really, really, worries me is that AT’s improvements so rarely include cycling.

    The cycling programme should be about adding cycling where there isn’t any and there’s little other work going on, sure.

    But that’s not the extent of AT’s interest in cycling. All new works should include cycling and all street renewals should be inserting cycling into the mix. Anything less is failing in AT’s basic task, which is to provide a safe network for all modes.

  13. Lack of action on cycle ways is especially surprising given Auckland Councils climate emergency and goal to reduce climate emmissions by 50% in 10 years.

  14. And yet, just to depress things even further, at least Auckland Transport is doing better at rolling out cycleways than are the Council in Wellington, home of the world’s biggest cycle path cock up: nobbled by two Island Bay rabid anti-cycle-campaigners.

    I can honestly say that I am impressed by how much Auckland has got done, compared to the Nothing Done that WCC has achieved….

    1. This should be a warning for those who support disbanding AT and going back to having the council do this work.

    2. Wellington and Auckland both have the same problem: practice determined by legal fear instead of by a strategy formulated by working out how to achieve a vision.

    3. You might want to look around; Wellington has rolled out Crawford Rd, Hutt Rd, Rongotai Rd, and is currently working on Evans Bay Parade. Design-wise, they’re not too bad…

  15. “As I understand it, of the cycling specialists who remained in the organisation, most or all have subsequently left. Not only that, the programme has been put under the umbrella of people who don’t believe in it… In essence ATs cycling programme has been squashed by a lack of internal champions, a lack of internal knowledge, a lack of ambition, a lack of courage and most recently a lack of budget”.

    This is pretty damning.

  16. This is expected. There is a structural accountability problem for AT. Common for a bureaucratic organisation.
    The whole CCO structure need to be redesigned with better accountability, incentives to perform, and responsive to people needs.

  17. Christchurch, Nelson and Napier/Hastings have cycling levels that beat the pants off Auckland, so perhaps AT should send some people to those places to learn from them?

    In Napier/Hastings they’ll find a full network linking Napier, Hastings, Clive, Whakatu, Bay View and Havelock North.

    In Nelson, they’ll find a “cycling expressway” that runs the length of Nelson and has priority over road traffic. Like a railway, it has level crossings with roads, in which cars have to give way to cycles, who have right of way with no requirement to stop or give way.

    And unlike Auckland’s cycleways, which meander and curve for no reason, they build them in straight lines. It’s “let’s make them curvy for recreational fun” vs “serious transport mode”.

    1. To be fair, Nelson’s main cycleway south runs along an old railway corridor; hence the reason for it being so straight…

      A key weapon to use? Count data. Christchurch has been monitoring its network for over 4 years (see,-43.53288,13), so anytime that some naysayers say that the cycleways are a waste of money that no-one uses, the staff and elected members can point to the double-digit percent growth pa…

  18. This is truely depressing. So the fears of the disbanded specialist team did become a reality.

    Now we are set back even more years and need catchup if it ever gets sorted.

    Hope the person overseeing this is changed. AT seems really f*^#£€ked up sometimes. Good thing some other cycleways etc are getting done under NZTA.

  19. I remember the Walking and Cycling team. They were the plonkers who would turn up at a hearing demanding developers widen collector roads to make them bigger than an arterials, demand separated cycle lanes either side and demand a ‘no access’ restriction so the developer would have to then build a local road either side to get access to sites. We don’t miss them.

    1. Silly eh? :/ They should’ve stuck to evidence and turned up to demand the developers not be allowed to build new sprawl development at all, and that they concentrate on intensification.

      That’s how you make a cycling friendly, low carbon city.

      1. The best part was they would say they needed the developer to pay for it all as it would never come close to having enough benefits to meet their own funding requirements. It’s amazing how little value they thought other people’s money had.

        1. I guess the only way the AT dinosaurs can imagine safe cycling and ample walking space fitting into the existing city streets is if they can bowl the properties to widen the corridors. So or course this naturally means they want to have wide corridors wherever new roads are built.

          Solution being for them to start reallocating space properly within the existing city so they realise what’s reasonable to demand.

    2. Think you have the wrong team there. The w&c team didn’t do that, can’t recall them ever having to go to a hearing.

      1. If it wasn’t them at the hearing then they had certainly done a good job on the AT consents planner who they sent along to extort the developer.

  20. An interesting discussion.
    The problem is that no matter how well intended, apart from the legal aspect, the presenters were all just enthusiasts. There were no actual experts.
    The Government is already well informed of what the options are through exhaustive studies by its agencies. The current thinking is that the light vehicle fleet will transition to BEV and that will be assisted by the Frebate (bound to be reintroduced if the next Government doesn’t include NZF) and from investment in charging stations and upgrades to the power grid.
    Heavy transport will be addressed with HFC and advanced biofuels.
    What The Central Government and AT do not have available is ‘pie in the sky’ solutions. To think that we could somehow ban all ICE imports from 2025 and ban all ICE use in 9.5 years is crazy.
    With a pandemic to pay for, neither the public or private sector can afford this.
    Paul Winton acknowledged that the farming sector have loans and cannot afford to transition from animals to trees, it’s the same for fleet operators.
    Without the rose colored glass view, AT knows that there needs to be a Low carbon solution for the bus fleet that has 18 years life left, before these current new buses can be replaced with Electric or Hydrogen power units.
    Some of the problems can be reduced by changing our oil refinery to be able to co process waste as well as crude oil and other problems can be solved with imported clean fuels.
    We need to look at what is being done in other parts of the world. The EU with RED2 and the US with LCFS and RINS. I was disappointed that none of the presentation dealt with this, other than to say that the UK had reduced by 40%. It’s actually 38% and 36% of that was just moving away from coal powergen.
    As I said, interesting, but mostly wrong conclusions. Also, what is the point when the next Government (assuming Labour) and AT are already on board?

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