This guest post by Councillor Pippa Coom is republished with permission from her Facebook page. It’s written in response to an article in the NZ Herald on Friday 10 June, reporting on recent work in West Lynn village to remedy a project begun in 2017 and stalled since 2018.
The paywalled article describes the resulting stranded short stretch of bike path in the village as “controversial and little-used”, saying that it has “caused a furore” and “business owners were outraged.” A business owner is interviewed in the article about issues to do with footpath dining.
Work on completing the wider local cycleway network is set to recommence in the second half of this year. Originally planned for delivery in 2018, when complete the network will provide safe arterial routes from Point Chevalier, through Westmere and Grey Lynn, linking to schools, shops, sports fields and other destinations, and connecting with the Great North Road and Karangahape Road cycleways into the central city.
Here we go again. Another cycleway beat-up.
Some of the criticism of the West Lynn project is valid (more of that later) but a great deal of the “outrage” on social media is misdirected and the reporting deliberately misleading.
It is worth going back to the beginnings of the project on Richmond Road, West Lynn (officially called the Waitemata Safer Route 2).
This was originally a safety project, responding to complaints from locals. The intersection of Richmond Road and Warnock Ave was particularly problematic because of the sweeping corner and the angle parking outside Harvest making it difficult to cross. There were calls for traffic calming due to the speeds and volume of cars. I wrote about this in 2013, and the new safety improvements that had been implemented around Richmond Road School after years of advocacy.
Designs for a cycleway on Richmond Road through West Lynn Village were first drawn up in 2012/2013, but went on hold until funding became available through the government’s Urban Cycleways Investment Fund.
When it did go out for consultation in 2016, the design wasn’t particularly controversial because it re-configured the parking rather than removed it. It also had some great features, like two new raised pedestrian crossings. The cycleway was a compromise, due to retaining all the parking, but it was there (and mainly protected on the eastern side of the road) which felt like a win. AT tried to stretch the modest budget to include low-level planting and pedestrian buildouts.
However, what came to be known as the “fiasco” of West Lynn happened for a number of reasons. I wrote about this here, including the mistakes made with the plans and construction that resulted in a non-compliant crossing and ponding in heavy rain.
This is what has now been fixed. There’s a new raised speed table on Hakanoa Street, the footpath alongside the kerb between 428 and 440 Richmond Road has been lifted to create new pedestrian ramps and a set of steps between the zebra crossing and the shops. The landscaping and lighting has been improved.
This has all been done in consultation with the businesses and the business association. It looks a whole lot better and is importantly safer. It adds to the already vibrant “Village” where new businesses have arrived since the original project was completed. For example, Honeybones is a super popular café making use of the extended footpath for outside dining and has a crossing right to the door.
Unfortunately, the remedial work has impacted on the outdoor space used by the bar on the corner, Freida Margolis. I can understand why Mike the owner is feeling grumpy and took his complaints to the media. It should have been sorted by now. (I am working to resolve this issue and hope to have an update soon). The construction was also disruptive all over again for the shops in the block opposite Harvest.
A few final thoughts on the “beat up” . At the moment, the cycleway doesn’t connect anywhere. The Waitemata Safe Routes were originally meant to have been completed and connected all the way to Karangahape Road by 2018. Despite this, there are lots of signs the route through West Lynn is actually being used by locals especially the less confident. Recently the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market offered valet bike parking, and over 40 people arrived by bike. Once connected, the numbers on the path will rapidly rise to the benefit of all West Lynn businesses.
The way the cost has been reported is deceptive. It isn’t nearly $10m for one “cycleway” (as stated in the heading). The costs associated with two routes – Richmond Road, and the Grey Lynn Greenway which was completed in 2017 – have been lumped together. Of course the mistakes shouldn’t have happened and with them the additional expenditure. But it needed to be fixed, and I think West Lynn has ended up with a much more attractive and useful landscaped area. The majority of the money hasn’t gone on just a “cycleway”.
And finally, the criticism that the West Lynn is an example of a “gold-plated” cycleway. In fact, it started out as the opposite, and that was part of the disappointment in the design expressed by people like Simon Wilson (I wrote more about this in the link above). Along the way, the costs escalated with the expectation that the project should be a design-led town centre upgrade and far more than just a cycleway (or safety improvements.
If the outraged reporting on Auckland cycleways is going to continue, it really should be about the insufficient funding, underspent budget, slow delivery, the people who pretend to care but are actually fighting against climate action, and the people dying for the lack (or delay) of safe infrastructure. Investment in safe, connected cycleways and improved pedestrian safety benefits everyone – it is good for business, good for drivers, good for children and improves health, wellbeing and the environment.
— Pippa Coom, Auckland Councillor for Waitematā and Gulf
Header image: Bike Auckland. Video below from 27 February 2018, when several hundred Aucklanders cycled the planned route to West Lynn to show their support and enthusiasm for completing the Waitematā Safe Routes.