This post was first published by Nicolas Reid on his Linked In page

With recent news describing plans for the Northern Path (aka Skypath) as “dead in the water”, the time seems right to be thinking creatively about how we can move pedestrians and cyclists across the Waitemata.

This post outlines a potential option to add separate walking and cycling paths to either side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge as an interim option for the Northern Path until a permanent long-term solution is built. By using minimum acceptable standards for interim facilities, it appears cycling and walking links can be added quickly and easily, without removing lanes or adding new structures to the existing bridge.

To be clear, while I am a transport professional, I’ve not been involved in this project. However, I do know a lot of thinking goes into projects behind the scenes, and I’ve no doubt there are a lot of details I may not be aware of. At my company, MRCagney, we are transport planners and urban designers, not design engineers or structural engineers. But I’m interested to hear what engineers think of this idea. Namely, do people suppose this is a possible interim option while a permanent solution is developed?

Walking and cycling across the Auckland Harbour Bridge: the story so far

A business case prepared by Beca for Waka Kotahi NZTA early last year outlined a list of twelve options for getting cyclists and pedestrians over the bridge. The details of that business case can be read here.

These options were variations on five approaches to the problem:

  1. New shared path on the existing structure: Hang a new shared path structure under one of the clip-ons (the Skypath Trust plan), or otherwise attach it to another part of the bridge above or below deck level.
  2. Widen the clip-ons: Widen one or both of the clip-ons with a structural extension, to add the shared path at the existing deck level.
  3.  New shared path structure sharing the existing foundations: Build a new bridge for walking and cycling that is supported from the existing foundations, a repeat of the same way the clip-ons were cantilevered off the old foundations.
  4. Entirely new shared path bridge: Build a new, and structurally separate, bridge with its own foundations alongside the Harbour Bridge.
  5. Take a traffic lane: Reduce the number of general traffic lanes from eight to seven, and use the space for a shared path.

Through reading the business case, reports in news media, and following industry gossip, we can follow the progression of the design issues through these options. In essence, it appears the favoured option has shifted from options 1 to 4 over time, as design difficulties and engineering issues have been worked through.

The current proposal: a second harbour bridge… eventually

The current plan has landed on the idea of building a new bridge for walking and cycling.

Compared to the other options, this seems the least technically challenging approach… but being technically straightforward doesn’t mean it will be quick or cheap. At the end of the day, this approach amounts to simply building a second harbour bridge, and there is no cheap or fast way to do this, regardless of the width. It seems Waka Kotahi agrees, as media rumours of the inclusion of bus lanes and traffic lanes swirl. The fact is, a harbour bridge with one or two lanes for active modes will cost almost as much as one that has four of five lanes, so you might as well improve the public transport and roading networks at the same time.

A purpose-built bridge taking walking, cycling and public transport across the harbour, leaving the existing bridge to carry vehicle traffic, would be a great outcome. However, there are two big issues with this latest approach. Firstly, a new bridge will undoubtedly cost far more than the current budget, and, secondly, it will take a very long time to build. This has now become a transport infrastructure megaproject. This is not necessarily a problem in the long run, the greater cost will come with far greater benefits, and the longer timeframe will leave us with infrastructure that will continue to serve the city for generations.

But in the short run, it realistically means another ten years or more without any way to walk or cycle across the harbour.

Take a lane in the interim?

This, then, looks like Auckland needs an interim option while the permanent solution is being developed.

I’m not the only one to come to this conclusion, a campaign is already underway to push on with the Business Case’s fifth approach immediately, and take a traffic lane from the bridge for walking and cycling until the new crossing is opened. Cycling advocacy group Bike Auckland reports that “while a long term solution is desperately needed, in the short term, cyclists need to be given a lane on the Harbour Bridge to use.”

I agree with the sentiment, and the benefit of taking a traffic lane is that it is technically simple and avoids the need for any major engineering and design work. The impacts on traffic would be minimal, as the bridge has more capacity than its approaches, and the movable barrier system allows a great deal of operational flexibility. This is the approach that Auckland Transport has taken in a number of places, for example the Northwestern Cycleway was extended along Ian McKinnon Drive by taking one of the four traffic lanes. As those four traffic lanes weren’t actually being used to their capacity, there has been no measurable impact on congestion in the street. Meanwhile, cycleway usage shot up markedly with the new safe and direct route to the city. The same approach of taking a lane on bridges for cycling is being progressed around the world, with notable examples in Vancouver and now in New York.

Nonetheless, while taking a lane is technically very quick and easy, I can see it being politically very difficult. Perhaps I’m a cynic, but I just cannot see government agencies quickly agreeing to take a lane off Stage Highway 1, regardless of what the data says or however many international examples are pointed to. The irony is that the fastest and easiest solution to the Northern Path problem could take years of public discourse to be accepted by the community.

An interim ‘minimum standard’ Northern Path?

So, then, is there an alternative option? To work in the short term, I think an interim walking and cycling crossing needs to meet four constraints:

  • No new structures or extensions or significant weight added to the bridge, to be technically viable and affordable as an interim facility
  • Work within the existing road designation, to avoid issues with planning and consents creating long delays.
  • No reduction in the number of lanes, to be able to proceed politically on a short timeframe.
  • Meet the minimum standards for safe operation of walking, cycling and general traffic and remain functional for a ten-year lifespan.

In effect, a viable interim Northern Path would need to be accommodated on the existing bridge deck without building any major new structure or removing traffic lanes. Can this be done? I think so, by working with the minimum acceptable standards for a temporary facility. Let’s work through the numbers of what minimum standards mean.

For traffic, the Austroads design standard sets the recommended width for motorway lanes at 3.5m, plus shoulders. However, this ideal standard is often reduced further where constraints exist, down to a minimum standard of 3.1m per lane. We see this all over Auckland’s motorways already: where State Highway 1 bridges over Khyber Pass; where ten lanes were squeezed in around Gillies Ave; the extra lane approaching the Ellerslie interchange; some of the ramps through Spaghetti Junction; and not least the central four lanes of the harbour bridge itself. In all cases, the motorway lanes have been reduced to the minimum standard of 3.1m wide, with a small shoulder on the outside. The fact that the harbour bridge has an 80km/h speed limit, and that it has broad emergency shoulders between the clip on lanes and the centre lanes along most of its length, supports the use of lane widths that are less than the standard for 100km/h motorways.

For walking and cycling, the minimum standard for a bidirectional path is 3.0m where it is shared by pedestrians and cycling. However, the Auckland Transport cycle engineering design code allows a narrower minimum standard for interim cycling infrastructure intended to be used for up to fifteen years. In this case, the minimum width for a bidirectional cycleway is 2.6m. However, this is for a cycleway only and not a shared path. So with a minimum 2.6m cycleway, a second separate path would also have to be provided for pedestrians.

The proposal: a minimum standard path each side

Separate cycling and walking paths form the basis of my interim Northern Path proposal: separate bidirectional paths for walking and cycling can be added to each side of the harbour bridge without widening. This is achievable on the existing clip-on deck by using minimum-standard walking and cycling widths, narrowing the traffic lanes to the minimum standard in use across Auckland, and careful design of the buffers and barriers. This would make the paths slightly wider than the facilities on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which has a footpath on one side and a bidirectional cycleway on the other, each 2.5m wide.

The clip-ons are 9.8m wide each, with 3.5m marked lanes and relatively broad buffers and barriers either side. Using the slimmer barrier dimensions shown in the appendix of the Northern Path business case, in combination with the minimum lane standards above, retaining two lanes and adding the new traffic barrier would leave 2.3m for the cycleway or footpath, just shy of the minimum standard.

To meet the 2.6m minimum standard, a new external barrier and anti-jump screen on the outside of the bridge could be bracketed to extend 300mm beyond the existing edge of each clip on. I’m assuming this extension is small enough that it could be dealt with in the design of how the barrier attaches to the deck, rather than requiring a true structural extension of the deck itself. Because any vehicle collisions would be dealt with by the inner traffic barrier between the traffic lanes and the path, this outermost barrier is only needed to keep people on the bridge, and can be relatively light. I imagine the wind loadings will actually be the main factor, they’ll be greater than any impact from a cyclist or jogger could be.

So, to summarise, each clip on would have the following configuration from the inside out:

  1.  250mm barrier against the arch structure (central section) or emergency shoulder
  2.  300mm inside shoulder
  3.  First 3.1m traffic lane
  4. Second 3.1m traffic lane
  5. 300mm outside shoulder
  6.  435mm TL4 traffic barrier with an anti-throw screen
  7. 2.6m bidirectional cycleway (west side) or 2.6m bidirectional footpath (east side)
  8. 300mm person-barrier with anti-jump screen, on a cantilevered bracket

The attached sketches show this arrangement for the clip-ons, I’ve adapted these from diagrams drawn by Beca that were published in the WK business case linked above. This concept seems like a viable interim solution: It should require no significant structural additions and there should be very minimal additional weight and loads added to the structures. As well as retaining all motorway lanes, this approach would result in an arguably better arrangement for active modes by separating cyclists on one side of the bridge from pedestrians on the other. Furthermore, because the cycling and walking paths fit on the existing bridge deck, rather than being attached alongside or underneath, this means the approach routes on either side are much simplified.

Overall, this interim approach could be a very effective way of quickly adding cycling and walking links across the harbour bridge. While the dimensions are less than ideal, they all still meet acceptable minimum standards and could be delivered without any widening or new structures. With low costs and minimal impacts, this could be an appropriate trade-off to last a decade until a new harbour crossing is completed.

This is an idea I’m interested in people’s opinions on. Please share your thoughts in the comments for this article, or get in touch with me directly.

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  1. This is a superior idea to the ‘take a lane’ plan. For a start, taking a lane adds inconvenience to the many bus users who travel over the bridge daily, a group of people who are doing the right thing.

      1. Great to see that Greater Auckland is now giving serious consideration to the Will McKenzie proposal. It is self evidently brilliant and we should get on with it.

    1. It doesn’t need to add that inconvenience though. If buses get slowed down, then they, too, should get their lane. We’re after access for all modes, and people flow – and we can achieve both.

      I personally think this idea complements the liberate the lane campaign. It’s how you get enough space for safety: narrowing the lane on one side of the bridge can achieve a cycle lane in one direction. Liberating the lane on the other side then just needs to fit the cycle lane in the other direction and a bidirectional walking path.

      1. I’m just being realistic in terms of removing 2 x traffic lanes – 1 for walking/cycling, the other for buses. I cannot see it being politically feasible.

        1. The city must be on track with our emissions targets *in 2024* !! That’s what Council committed to this year.

          Having made the commitment – which was the right thing to do – they must now require decisions to be made in our city that might indeed rub the status quo warriors up the wrong way.

        2. Well:

          The city must be on track with our emissions targets *in ${current_year + 3}*

          That is always valid, and you never have to do anything.

        3. The Climate Change Commission’s Chair Dr Rod Carr commented at their presentation to Auckland Council “Some people will need to be upset by decisions made to achieve the end goals.”

      2. Does it even add inconvenience tho? Mode-shift is a thing. I think that’s what AT is missing when they say ‘it will minimally impact congestion’. And one of the main goals is to REDUCE car usage. The same thing should happen with the buses. How is it politically unfeasible when a huge chunk of people movement is on buses, and those buses only need such a small amount of space? And that proportion of people movement is on today’s roads, image if they could easily travel across!

        Also Bryce, that new dedicated harbor bridge could do LTAs for the entirety of Auckland… five times over or more.

        1. Also regarding the staging of it all: we need permanent solutions on the current bridge that is not at great cost, and that embeds mode-shift IMHO.

  2. “The impacts on traffic would be minimal, as the bridge has more capacity than its approaches, and the movable barrier system allows a great deal of operational flexibility.“

    Try get anyone in the general public or media to see this simple fact. Every layman I talk to is totally convinced that the bridge is the bottleneck.

    1. It depends.

      Southbound during morning peak the bottleneck is obviously the approach — 3 motorway lanes and one on-ramp from Onewa Road.

      Northbound it seems more even, with a slow-moving queue between Fanshawe Street and the bridge (ask anyone who takes the bus). I expect at that point going to 4 lanes northbound lanes on the bridge will make this much worse.

      Counter-peak the bottleneck is definitely the 3 lanes on the bridge.

  3. May sound silly, but how do you get onto the bridge cycling and walking? It was always going to be part of the Seapath being built.

    1. On the city side you can already go up a flight of steps from the new Westhaven Promenade onto the Shelly Beach Road off ramp and also go under the bridge to the Upper Harbour side.

      1. I think I’d need to see the route drawn out, the Shelley Beach off ramp is going Southbound, but the Northbound cycle lane is on the other side, so how do you cross 8 lanes of traffic from the City side? Need to consider peoples concerns around accessibility etc, no wheel chair access etc etc etc. Great idea but obviously would need fleshing out a great deal.

        1. Hi Joe. At it’s most basic the cycleway on the upper harbour side on would simply follow the clip on deck from Sulphur Beach Road to Curran Street, which passes under the bridge to join to the Westhaven cycleway and Westhaven Drive.

          The footpath on the city side would likewise follow the clip on deck. At the north end it would lead to the toll plaza foot tunnel to Tennyson Street and the walkway under the northern end of the bridge to Suphur Point Road. At the South end it would connect to the Shelley Beach Road footpath and the stairs down to Westhaven Drive.

          Obviously these would benefit from the SeaPath and other links to Northcote point, but there are no structures required to connect either the cycleway or the footpath at either end if you follow the clip on deck.


    2. From the north shore side, it is almost easy as well.

      I used to do a regular lunch time run when living in the area and there is the Sulphur point tunnel under the entire motorway giving easy flatish access to the Eastern side of the bridge. Almost just needs a hole cut in the fence if traffic was separated as planned.

      On the Eastern It looks pretty easy to get seapath hooked up through to Esmond and onto Akaranga and Takapuna, and/or use the underpass to get to the new bike lanes around Northcote.

      On the Western side, probably a little bit more difficult, but if you look at the motorway coming off the bridge from Sulphur Beach Road, it looks very doable to me.

      Maybe have pedestrians on a side that can use a lift/stairs and cyclists on the side that is easier to get ramps on

  4. NZTAWK will never do this unless ordered to by Jacinda Ardern. You need to address how to get on and off – the west side is relatively easy, but the east is not so. The deck will move a lot – heavy vehicles would need to go in centre lanes for safety reasons which will stuff up buses. There will be massive opposition from people who can’t take change, but this could be made to work.

    1. Heavy vehicles would not need to go in inside lanes. We have buses moving in 3.5m lanes hard against a kerbed footpath all over Auckland. This layout would offer significantly more protection than that.

      1. its not about protection which i agree can be made better than most streets but the last time i checked, city streets are static and its a long way down to the mantle. The clip on lanes are dynamic. I’m pretty sure there’s no way, heavy vehicles will traverse next to peds or cyclists on the same section of deck.

        1. I assume that by ‘dynamic’ you’re referring to the movement of the bridge deck. It doesn’t matter how far it is down to the mantle, a pedestrian isn’t going to get bounced over a 2.5m tall fence and the bridge doesn’t move anywhere near as much as some people like to pretend it does. It moves up to 1m throughout the year mostly due to heating and cooling, and a few millimetres every time a bus goes past.

          What is the actual risk from a bus going past with about 1m of separation on the Harbour Bridge?
          Why is that risk unacceptable when we accept it all over the network, even without the barrier?

        2. It’s a similar distance to the mantle from the Golden Gate, and they have much the same setup as what’s being proposed here. The restrictions on heavy vehicles on the outer lanes is not because they’re flexing and bouncing excessively, it’s to extend the life of the clipons

    2. Also, the eastern side is the easy side. You can loop back at Sulfur Beach Road on the northern side. You can loop back at Westhaven Drive on the southern side or come off of the bridge then ramp down to the existing promenade.

      1. looping back sounds easy but is isn’t. There’s a lot of constraints on the Sulphur Beach exit. It would need a new structure. Agree with the northern end though.

        1. Looping back is easy. We do it all of the time, all over the network. The constraints at Sulphur Beach are practically non-existent as you are essentially working above a big concrete pad and only need to loop down 3m.

        2. yes agreed, my mistake sailor boy, I mixed up the two roads (hence my post saying i agree with you about the ease of the northern end)! The problem is Shelley Beach Rd off ramp. In my view, the project will fall over at this point unless you close the ramp to vehicles (Westhaven Drive could possibly still access Curren St with a level crossing for peds / cyclists as it wouldn’t be joining a motorway off ramp) or more likely you’d have to fund a structure to the side of the ramp somehow….as i said, its just not that easy.

        3. I think Shelly Beach end is still technically easy. You come off of the bridge as soon as you hit land and build an elevated cycle path. The ramp is about 150m beyond the shoreline. It’s more expensive sure, but Waka Kotahi had agreed to spend $360m on this.

  5. I hope this happens. There should be a directive from the Transport Minister and Cabinet to find this space for pedestrians and cyclists.

  6. This is the way to do it. Great to see MRCagney and Greater Auckland getting behind a pragmatic, cost effective solution can make a real difference sooner rather than later.

    Please watch this link from the two minute mark.

    Since Arvind Daji and I sent the proposal to the Ministers of Transport and Infrastructure in October 2020, circulated it on social media and then presented the proposal to the Auckland Council Planning Committee on 3 December 2020, we have tweaked it just a little.

    The clip-ons are 9.15 metres wide barrier to barrier. An additional 0.45 metres can be gained by moving the existing side barrier in to form the path barrier, and constructing a new side barrier to the line of the inside of the existing light poles.

    That provides 9.6 metres of width allocated from the outside:
    – 2.4 metre path
    – 0.2 metre barrier (existing side barrier moved in)
    – 7.0 carriageway: 2 x 300mm shoulders and 2 x 3.2 metre lanes

    The Waka Kotahi business case shows an option of a 7.0 metre barrier to barrier carriageway for two lanes. No safety concerns are raised by WK. On the central span 6.1 metre wide carriageways are used for two lanes.

    The gradient of 5% is the maximum suggested by Ausroads for a downhill cycle path.

    2.4 / 2.5 / 2.6 metres width is a little cosy for a bi-directional cycle path. We have modified out proposal to one way-cycling and one-way walking in the opposite direction, on each path.

    The upper level of the San Rafael – Richmond Bridge in the Bay Area was modified in a not dissimilar way to create a shared path on the 13 km long bridge in 2019, for US$20 million.

    We set a date of end of 2021 for the active transport to be available across the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Wouldn’t it be such a thrill to ride or walk over the bridge and to see many thousands of others doing the same.

    1. Hi Will,

      Thanks for taking this council.

      That comparison to Sydney harbour bridge and the golden gate bridge was pretty interesting. I’ve always noticed the central lanes on our bridge are narrower but never realised just how luxuriously wide the clip on lanes are…4.5m?!

      Both your and MR Cagneys’ proposals look like a sensible solution from my point of view. However, I wonder…why do you consider 2.6m to be too narrow for bi-directional cycle lanes? If anything my experience suggests it could be better to keep the cyclists together, as they generally move at the same speed, reducing overtaking. Additionally, pedestrians move in quite different ways to cyclists and usually have quite a different attitude to keeping left on a shared path.

      1. No problem Cavalacante. The clipons are amazingly wide. They are as wide as the central bridge is when set up for 3 lanes! They don’t feel 50% wider than the central two lanes, but they are.

        I don’t consider 2.4, 2.5 or 2.6 metres too narrow for bi-directional cycling, there are plenty of examples of it, just that it is cosy. Bike Auckland is adamant that it isn’t enough width. Having cycling one way walking the other way is probably a good use of the total 4.8 metres in active transport width anyway. Allows people to walk and cycle on both sides of the bridge, and 2.4 metres is a generous width for one way cycling and one way walking in the other direction.

        Pedestrians do have a different attitudes. However if they know, because it is painted on the ground in front of them, that they have one metre of width to walk in, in one direction only, on the outside of the paths so they can enjoy the view and they see cycles constantly coming towards them and passing them, they should remain on their side of the path. Cyclists should be going slowly enough to stop if one wanders off piste.

        Don’t exclude using one path for walking and one for cycling, experience of both option would no doubt tell a tale.

        BTW with tunnels built and planned, Sydney Harbour in the CBD area will be crossed over and under by 12 traffic lanes, 2 shared paths and 4 rail tracks. The AHB replacement proposal is for 10 lanes of traffic, to match the motorway at both ends, 2 shared paths and 4 rail tracks. That would keep Auckland moving for likely the rest of the century, but not induce road traffic increases as the peak provision of 5 lanes in one direction would not be increased.

      2. That plan doesn’t have a 2.6m wide cycleway. You have 2.6m between the barriers. That is a big difference.

        With a path you only need to keep your tyres on the path. While here you need space between the barrier and your handlebars. In practice this is much more narrow than a 2.6m path.

    2. To see “many thousands of others doing the same” might be a bit of a stretch – given the busiest points on the Auckland cycle network (flat) Average just over a thousand a day.

      I actually think this sounds like a very neat and well thought through interim compromise but it won’t make much of a dent in Auckland’s carbon emissions or lead to any meaningful move out of private vehicles. PT is the key to that not active modes.

        1. That is quite misleading.
          DM was referring to cycling vs PT. There are no cities with a population above 1m where cycling is above 25% of mode share and only 6 cities with populations above 250k where cycling is above 25%.
          Aarus, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Freiburg, Gent, and Utrecht.
          I agree that this can be a very good solution, it doesn’t cost much and will solve the problem until the AWHC (whatever form that takes) frees up space for a full lane to be made available for walking and cycling.
          My only concern would be controlling the opposing speeds between uphill and downhill cyclists and maybe some calming measures would need to be included. It would be a narrow pathway for idiots trying to get a Strava record.
          The western side will connect best with Seapath for cycling and the eastern side can use the existing walkway under the motorway by the old toll plazas.

        2. Daniel – no more misleading than your comments. Copenhagen has a metro population of 2 million, while Amsterdam is 2.4 million, both greater than Auckland.

        3. I don’t believe so Jezza. Sailor Boy was talking about cities, he said ‘Many cities have 25% active mode share’. If you include walking (which DM was not talking about), 18 out of 68 cities with more than 1m pop have active mode share 25% or above. Only Beijing has cycling above 25%. (I missed that earlier).
          28 out of 70 cities with over 250k population has an active mode share of 25% or above.
          What that data shows is that we need to spend more money on footpaths and less on cycling as the preferred active mode is walking.
          In any case, SB doesn’t seem to understand how our CO2 is generated. Less than 20% of NZ’s CO2 comes from transport (source MOT Green Freight document), of which a quarter is from Heavy Transport.
          Our total transport CO2 is 16.6 MT (source Climate Change Commission report), so as we are not mode shifting heavy transport to bikes and backpacks, that leaves a total of 12.45 MT.
          If we mode shift 25% of that, it only saves 3.11 MT (across all of NZ).
          The cost of building the cycling infrastructure does not justify the CO2 reduction and that enormous amount of money would be better spent on PT – exactly back to the point DM made.
          The 350m that The Northern Path was estimated to cost would pay for 60 brand new electric busses.
          Of course, Nicks idea is a low cost solution to a problem that doesn’t concern many Aucklanders, but as it is Low hanging fruit (like the pink path), why not do it. Just don’t kid ourselves that it’s about CO2 reductions.

      1. The observation that cycleways like the northwestern are still relatively quiet is correct. But I think this is not a problem with the cycleway itself. We don’t have much bike lanes and quiet streets around it, so almost nobody can reach the cycleway.

      2. “I actually think this sounds like a very neat and well thought through interim compromise but it won’t make much of a dent in Auckland’s carbon emissions or lead to any meaningful move out of private vehicles. PT is the key to that not active modes”

        I disagree. Although the success of the two systems (active and PT) can be heavily linked for optimal results.

        Cycling offers several advantages, its very cheap per ride, its very fast for distances <3km, and you can leave immediately rather than every 15 minutes or whatever.

        Cycling to and from urban rail stations hugely increases the catchment of said stations. Meaning you can have greater station spacing, more consolidated frequent routes, and faster overall trips. Obviously a balance to be struck.

        This guy explains it well. But the general idea is that walking 1.5km for example would take 18-20 minutes but that same length on a bike would be 7 minutes.

        We hardly take advantage of this at all in Auckland. If the glen innis to tamaki drive route ends up well connected then it could partially provide for this kind of trip. But an some initiative like along the length of sunnynook road and with plenty of bike parking at the station, we could really provide a much better overall experience.

        But with most trips in auckland being so short and often spontaneous, bikes offer many advantages that make them better for this than PT.

        However I dont see a major bike route mirroring the best PT spine in the city as the most optimal way to increase mode share. It would have to be done eventually anyway though. I would prefer spending be directed to arterials intersecting PT spines (although sometimes the best way to the station, is mirroring the line itself), and bike parking at said stations. However this seems politically undoable at the moment 🙁

        1. You are talking about cycling to PT, but unless there is top quality PT in place, people will drive.
          As an example. We could have spent 350m on the Northern Pathway and had 1000 cyclists a day using it (unlikely), or we could dig a tunnel and have fast trains to the North Shore and move a lot more people.
          I cycle all the time, trains and buses don’t have problems with rain, headwinds and lack of showers at work.
          This is a good solution because it doesn’t take away a road lane and does allow cycling and walking. To be honest, this should have been the go to proposal from the beginning, it would probably have been done years ago.
          Meanwhile – where is Skypath? Where is the Northern Pathway? Yep – both in the bin.

  7. Hard to see WK agreeing to this,they weaponized the cycle path ,to get a new harbour crossing on the table,(who wouldn’t want that on their CV.)lts OK to squeeze lanes to fit another traffic lane,but won’t be doable to fit active modes,this will require political leadership.

    1. People have been wanting this for a while it seems…

      as summarised on wikipedia…

      On Sunday, 24 May 2009, thousands of people crossed the bridge as a part of a protest by GetAcross against the bridge not providing walking and cycling access, and against what the group perceives to be the authorities’ negative and obstructionist attitude towards such access.A crossing either as part of the protest or as part of the official 50-year anniversary celebrations had been forbidden by NZTA because of the costs and traffic difficulties claimed for a managed crossing. However, after several speeches, including by Auckland Regional Council Chairman Mike Lee, several people made their way around the police cordon onto the bridge. At that stage police closed the northbound lanes to traffic, bringing State Highway 1 to a stop. The remainder of the protesters moving onto the bridge, which was not resisted any more by the police. No accidents, violence or arrests were reported, and protesters left the bridge approximately an hour later, many having crossed to the North Shore and back.

      The protest created a wide spectrum of responses in the media and in public perception, from being labelled a dangerous stunt representative of an increasingly lawless, anarchic society to being considered a successful signal to authorities to give more weight to the demands and the public backing of the walk and cycleway proponents. Authorities noted that they were investigating whether any of the protesters would face fines or charges. NZTA representatives noted that they were disappointed at what they considered the broken word of the organisers of the protest, and remarked that it would take 30 more years before walking and cycling could likely be provided (see also “Second Harbour Crossing” below). NZTA were criticised as having brought the situation at least partly onto themselves by choosing the easy route of forbidding the protest crossing. Several political protest marches (especially hikois) had been allowed to cross the bridge.

  8. Miffy, the walking and cycling paths are an interim solution until the bridge can be replaced for $2 billion, or a tunnel dug for $10 billion, or some other solution implemented.

    Please have a look at the link above that shows the bridge replacement proposal at the end of the five minute presentation. The proposal is, and was, to replace the existing 8 lane bridge with a new bridge on the existing piers with exactly the same size as the current bridge but with the appearance of the original, before the clipons were added, when the bridge looked as its designers intended it to look which was much better than it does now.

    As the replacement would be a new bridge, it is straightforward to incorporate a lower level, within the steelwork, and still retain the appearance of the original bridge. The lower level would have 10 lanes, to match the existing motorway approaches and egresses, and the upper level would have 2 shared paths and 4 rail lines. Then the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932 it had 6 lanes, 2 shared paths and 4 rail lines (2 train and 2 tram).

    Replacing bridges on their existing piers is as common around the world. Would be great to see it happen in Auckland. Based on overseas examples such at the Milton-Madison replacement, it would cost $2 billion at most, and would take maybe 5 years to plan, consent and replace. Resource consents would be relatively straightforward to obtain as the new bridge would occupy the same footprint as the existing.

      1. FYI have a look at the replacement proposal at the end of this five minute presentation that starts at the two minute mark of this link:

        The proposal is to close the bridge entirely for 6 to 10 days from 25 December in one year to do the final pieces of work to connect the motorways to the bridge heads in the bridge’s temporary location.

        Then, 2 or 3 years later, the bridge would again be closed entirely for from 6 to 10 days from 25 December to slide the new bridge east 40 metres to its permanent location and connect the bridge heads to the motorways in the bridge’s permanent location.

        These two stages of the Milton-Madison replacement to around that length of time.

        1. Will and Arvind, this sliding bridge idea is absolute genius! – and saves (at least) about $8 billion for other projects vs an equivalent tunnel.* And because it fits within the existing ‘footprint’ of alignment and profile but will look even better than what’s existing, surely nobody can complain.
          To me it ticks all the boxes.
          (* 5 lanes each way in tunnel/s under water has not been done, as far as I can find, but if ever an actual additional road crossing is needed, it could be a much more commonplace 2 or 3 lanes each way bridge or tunnel, maybe going between Devonport peninsula and Grafton gully to bypass the CBD, and any heavy rail crossing to the North Shore and onwards to Warkworth and Wellsford can be on a longer-approach/lower-gradient bridge or tunnel (probably tunnel))

  9. Bryan R, FYI officials from Waka Kotahi, the Ministry of Transport, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and Treasury received a slightly updated version of the December 2020 presentation linked to above, in February 2021. They asked informed questions but of course have no comment on this or any other proposal.

    I agree with you that political leadership is required. However politicians are not the only the only people with political power and a responsibility to provide leadership. Senior officials and board members of various transport agencies could also grasp the opportunity, make it happen and be able to put active transport on the AHB for $20 million on their CVs.

      1. Our mayor would want to ask NZTA to do it while also blaming NZTA for doing it.
        Just like he wants to make streets safer while not slow down drivers.

  10. All that is needed is buses to carry pedestrians and pushbikers across, say every twenty minutes, or as bus fills up. Well, there are already buses that carry pedestrians so the jobs half done already. This option is probably too easy for NZTA and AT to consider?

  11. Great post Nick. I can’t see any technical reason why this couldn’t be made to work. But getting the buy-in from a car-addicted society is the perennial challenge. Reminds me of my idea of making Wellington’s Inner City Bypass into a 2-way-traffic configuration, same as the Terrace Tunnel which feeds it. The benefits of getting that traffic out of CBD streets and onto the bypass would be huge, but it just doesn’t happen. So many innovative things are do-able, but are prevented from being done by those with the power to block them, who basically just don’t want them.

  12. Just take a lane or do this, and swap some general lanes to bus lanes. Permanently, I mean. I don’t understand that version of logic on ‘minimal impact on congestion’. Some people that drive across will sometimes switch over to walking or cycling or PT. It’s called mode-shift. There have been studies on multiple cycleways in London, which that swap out general lanes, and it’s all good. Modeshift may take a month or two tho.

    But the biggest thing I’m concerned about is that new dedicated harbour bridge will cost the same as rolling out LTAs across Auckland entirely… FIVE TIMES or more. You could potentially do all of New Zealand for it too!

    And what does it mean that swapping out lanes would be politically difficult? You would get screeching from tabloids that it will end Auckland as we know it for a couple months, then all goods as those people take or allow their children to cycle across it.

    1. And it is worth considering why are we even complicating this at all just to keep some general lanes? it feels like we are bending over backwards by 1-2 BILLION dollars to keep a couple general lanes! And isn’t one of the main goals to REDUCE car usage? It’s like the current NZTA thinking: you want a cycleway, we’ll expand or build a new motorway!

  13. I’d say add 900mm to the sides (only a light structure remember – and restrict numbers ie no crowds for NYE etc).
    Why? Well 3.1m might work on other parts of the motorway, the harbour bridge is a different beast. Strong cross winds, lack of visual reference points, gradient etc. The original lanes are slightly better and can (and do) get narrowed. However the clipons could realistically only be narrowed to 3.4m but with the correct protections in place (to protect the bridge structure and the new pedestrian/cycle lanes).
    If this isn’t possible then will have to scrap the cycle lane since pedestrian lanes can be narrower. Cyclists can still walk their bike over the bridge – which many will be doing when it’s windy anyway).

    The new bridge needs to be built ASAP. With new technology and different location, it can still provide the same amount of clearance underneath while being 1/3 the gradient of the existing bridge making it suitable for any form of passenger rail at around 1.5% (Wynyard-Onewa).
    Any new bridge should have room for 2 rail lines, 2 bus lanes, 2x 3m cycle lanes, 2x 3m pedestrian lanes.
    So looking at around 26m width or about 10m narrower than the existing bridge.

    1. What Of speed was reduced to say 60km/hr (or less when required)? Perhaps that is enough to allow for the side winds and lack of visual queues. It drops down in windy conditions yesterday.

      1. “Well 3.1m might work on other parts of the motorway, the harbour bridge is a different beast. Strong cross winds, lack of visual reference points, gradient etc. ”

        We already have 3.1m lanes o the bridge with no shoulder. This proposal is 3.2m plus shoulder. The fence on the left side and the whacking great bridge arch on the right are then your visual points of reference.

        1. One narrow lane next to the moveable barrier. The other lanes aren’t that narrow. The inside lanes are also more protected from the wind and have better visual cues with the overhead and sides giving it a tunnel effect. It’s fine for cars but it’s a different story for truck and buses especially DD buses (which already informally don’t use the narrow lane according to one DD operator because of this).
          An accident on the bridge f%%ks the whole motorway network up for hours so reducing safety margins further isn’t very wise.
          If a 300mm addition is viable then so too is a 900mm one.

        2. “However, this ideal standard is often reduced further where constraints exist, down to a minimum standard of 3.1m per lane. We see this all over Auckland’s motorways already: where State Highway 1 bridges over Khyber Pass; where ten lanes were squeezed in around Gillies Ave; the extra lane approaching the Ellerslie interchange; some of the ramps through Spaghetti Junction; and not least the central four lanes of the harbour bridge itself.”

          It’s actually all four lanes in the centre span at 3.1 m. Nic Reid’s proposal is asking for 3.5m lane+shoulder and, as I clearly stated in my comment above, the pedestrian fence will help contribute to that tunnel effect.

  14. Can we please get this man to become a meatier of auckland. He thinks of solutions while all the auckland council does is push pspers and gets paid.

    Love the idea. How do we make it happen ?

  15. Sounds a good idea. Yes either a mixed cycle/pedestrian lane on each side as Will McKenzie suggests or keeping them apart would both have there merits. I think with e-bikes mixing with peds on a scenic but also arterial route would lean in favour of keeping bikes separate. I can see the newspaper headlines now: “pedestrian injured by speeding cyclist on Harbour bridge”.
    Also fellow cyclists or general walkers/runners would likely want to say “I’ll meet you at the top of the bridge”…which is a bit hard with a one way of each mode setup.

    1. 100% separation is required, bikes going downhill won’t stop quickly no matter what speed restrictions are imposed

    2. Quite a unique circumstance – the people with bikes just push them on the walking side.

      It’s almost as unique as saying. I might feel like a big mac when I’m driving over the harbour bridge. We need a McD’s on the bridge please.

  16. Why not a shuttle service? Perhaps a minibus with a custom-built trailer for the bikes etc. It should already be happening. They can afford to run empty buses around Hobsonville, and a shuttle would get way more use.

    It would be a great time to push for this as an interim measure because it would be seen as a much easier option. It could even be a better option for commuter travel.

  17. Nicolas – fantastic work. Comments team – brilliant. Still reading “what if” comments, and great engineering concepts/idea’s. Auckland Harbour Bridge has no footpath for a reason – in the face of huge demand and so many climate and social benefits. See you 30th May for protest action, not another 50 years conversation.

  18. Looks like MRCagney staff have copied / re-presented the ideas and sketches that Will McKenzie presented to Council 5 months ago. Auckland is too small a town for transport planning type people to not have known about this

    1. Perhaps a case of great minds think alike or some such? It’s an obvious option so convergent evolution is bound to happen.

      I had not heard of Wills presentation until I got reposted and read his comments here. They are both identical in concept to the very first Skypath proposal back from 2008, and I took most inspiration from a similar option that was one of the long list items from the business case listed above. The sketches are my own, made by modifying the Beca diagrams published by WK in the business case, as the citation says.

      Transport planning type people follow what is happening in the industry, but we don’t follow every amateur presentation that goes in front of local government without making any headway (there are a lot!).

      Wills proposal is fine, but I think it lacks a little by maintaining wider traffic lanes than the minimum while not achieving the minimum cycleway width.

      1. As Nick says, we developed this idea around 2008 but NZTA said it wouldn’t work primarily because shifting the traffic load off the centre line of the box girder would create problematic torsion to the structure holding up the clip-on lanes.

        Given the ongoing delays, we’ve asked NZTA for a 3-day trial of liberating the western-most lane for walking & cycling. We believe that reducing the road capacity will cause traffic to ‘evaporate’ and combined with the mode shift to active transport, the traffic flows will improve across the network. Worth a 3-day trial?…

        1. If you and others developed the idea in around 2008, good on you, I’m interested to read the documentation. My email is

          But if NZTA actually told you that it “wouldn’t work” and you actually believed them without NZTA providing conclusive evidence, that’s worse than not coming up with the idea in the first place!

          If the clipons are so sensitive to torsion that shifting the centre lines of the two lanes of traffic about 3 feet inwards is not possible, how on earth could one of the clipons be reduced to a single lane of traffic on the inward side, even for an hour, let alone the 3 day trial you are asking for, the 3 month trial that Bike Auckland is asking for, and then permanently?

          Also, if the clipons are so sensitive to torsion, how on earth could Skypath ever have worked, even in theory?

          The clipons were built with luxurious 12 feet (3.658 m) wide lanes and 3 feet (0.914 m) wide shoulders, a total of 9.144 metres, 30 feet of width for only 2 lanes when the centre span has only 40 feet of width, barrier to barrier, for 4 lanes! The fact appears to be that someone, anyone, could have looked at the clipons at any time in the 50 plus years since they were completed in 1969 and said, “the clipons are way wider than they need to be, put a path on the outer edges of them for walking / cycling” not taken no for an answer, and those paths could have been used every day for as much as 52 years. Someone could have, but no one did. Let’s make it happen, this year.

        2. Many thanks GK! Full credit to Bevan Woodward of the then Cycle Action Auckland, now Bike Auckland, for coming up with the answer, back in 2006! It’s a great shame that the Bike Auckland 2006 proposal wasn’t implemented in the 2000s or the 2010s, but there is absolutely no reason why it can’t be implemented now.

          I rang Bevan this morning, on the number on the document, and had a chat about the proposal from 15 years ago. What a legend. I apologised to him for my jibe about him believing what NZTA told him back in the day. Sorry Bevan!

          The top image on the “2008 Optimised Design” document shows 300mm shoulders and 3200mm lanes, a total of 7 metres exactly from barrier to barrier. That is a good choice as it is the width that Waka Kotahi provides in their February 2020 business case study in which no safety concerns for traffic were noted, so 7 metres has WK’s has approval. The 2008 Optimised Design shows 500mm wide barriers, but the barriers on the clipons right now are only 200mm wide, have done their job without fault since 1969, and on the northern side already have top mounted screens.

          As in an earlier comment, there is 9600mm available on each clipon between the existing inside rail and the inside of the existing light poles. That allows for a 7000mm carriageway, the existing 200mm barrier moved in or a new barrier of the same design, and a 2400mm path.

          The two paths could be put in place by the end of 2021 for $20 million, probably less, and would provide 4.8 metres of width for cycling and walking. However cycling and walking is arranged on the paths, two paths a total of 4.8 metres wide is perfectly adequate for two-way walking and cycling.

          The Bike Auckland 2021 proposal is to “Liberate a Lane”. One lane of traffic on a clipon would require 2 x 300 mm shoulders and a 3500 mm lane, wider per lane than with two lanes because there is only one lane. That’s 4.1 metres in total. Even with moving the 0.2 m wide outside barrier in, that would leave 5.3 metres for two way cycling and walking. That’s only 0.5 metres more width than the Bike Auckland 2006 proposal, but reducing the vehicle capacity of New Zealand’s most critical piece of transport infrastructure by 12.5% would generate huge opposition, not just from petrol heads, so is unlikely to ever happen. Lets get on with it and liberate around 1/3rd of each clipon for cycling and walking, by the end of 2021!

        3. Surely any torsion could be countered by some optimally-placed struts, which would be minimal in weight vs strength.
          (And surely there is already uneven loading when a heavy truck is on one lane of a clip-on and a motorcycle is on the other lane.)

      2. Wow Nick R, this is great work! And likewise Will and Arvind, and Bevan, before – truly a case of great minds thinking alike!
        I tend to agree with Nick R regarding widths*, and separating walkers/joggers/runners(/wheelchair-ers?) from cyclists/scooterists(/skateboarders?), etc.
        But that takes nothing away from Will and Arvind’s and Bevan’s vision before.
        * If WKNZTA dug their heels in for 0.3+3.2+3.2+0.3=7.0m, then there may be able to be some innovation to reduce the barrier widths by (at least) up to 0.1m each, and/or the 0.3m bracket could be widened by (at least) up to 0.2m, to compensate (0.9m may be a bit too far for a bracket, but 0.5-0.6m should be doable), or both if future buses really need 3.4m (perhaps 3.3m would be a good compromise for buses, half-way between 3.1m and 3.5m, especially if not-so-much wider future buses were selected/specified).

        1. Thanks Jamie,

          My idea with the difference between a ‘bracket’ and an ‘extension’ is that a bracket could be designed so that it can’t be walked/ridden on and therefore doesn’t need to take a significant loading other than holding up the outer barrier.

          With the cycleway in particular, the outer 300-500mm are just providing clearance between shoulders/hips and the wall, it’s a literal shoulder buffer that couldn’t actually ride on even if you wanted to. A curved or stepped profile at the bottom corner that effectively angles out, that you literally can’t walk/cycle on, might even be appropriate. I’m thinking something like a rib that curves out from the deck by 300+ mm at hip-shoulder level then curves back overhead to prevent climbing/jumping. Something like this, but twice at tall so the rail is overhead

          With a 900mm extension you definitely have enough space that people can stand/walk/ride on it. At a crowding situation like watching fireworks or americas cup finals, you could get 4 or 5 people per square metre which adds up to a lot of live weight. No idea if that’s actually problem or not for an extension.

  19. It’ll never fly. It’s no where near gold-plated enough and there’s no opportunity for building a big headed engineers legacy.

    Far too reasonable and modest. Please try again.

  20. Great to see that Greater Auckland is now giving serious consideration to the Will McKenzie proposal. It is self evidently brilliant and we should get on with it.

  21. This is the definitive answer- far better than either a Clip on or stand-alone bridge. Combined walking and cycling lanes are dangerous, because of speed differences- Even as a 76 y/o cyclist I would be able to do 40 kph on the downhills, younger colleagues much more. With the increasing use of E-bikes especially for commuting, most would be able to do 25 kph on the up-hills.
    Political- this option avoids the political argument of “Motorists vs Lycra brigade” or “Motorists vs the greenies” which would be enflamed by a billion dollar stand-alone cycling/walking bridge

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