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.

Remedial works under way in West Lynn village. Image: Pippa Coom
The approach to the new ramp, and new raised crossing at the top of Hakanoa Street. Image: Pippa Coom.
The newly relaid footpath and steps to the crossing (waiting for the handrail to be completed). Image: Pippa Coom.

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.

Al fresco dining at Honeybones cafe on the corner of Tutanekai Street in West Lynn village. Image: Pippa Coom.

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.

Bikes at the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market in October 2018. A taste of the potential of a fully connected network. Image: Bike AKL.

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.

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  1. They should have asked Waka Kotahi to do it. They are paying $20,000,000 per km for a cycleway in Lower Hutt.

    1. Miffy – does that cost include extending a sea wall and improvements to a heavily used railway line as well? Not quite the same methinks

      1. The interesting thing is they have spent some $40million and are arguing they need to spend another $20 million or they will have spent $40million for nothing. That is the sunk cost fallacy being used as justification.

        1. Sure sunk cost fallacy is a thing and bad, but the opposite is also true, if we let total cost (including sunk costs) cancel a project that is already significantly underway.

          If I’m a dollar short on completing a civil project , and the extra dollar puts it under a 1.0BCR and should never have been started (we should be so lucky), then obviously we should spend the extra dollar. At that point it’s getting a whole project for a dollar. Total cost is irrelevant for a decision to cancel a project, on a project already underway. The only relevant metric is how much left there is to spend to finish.

        2. Yes except here they are arguing they must throw good money after bad. It isn’t even clear you can get above 1.0 bcr from a $20 million project.

          Worst of all is other cycle projects will now be delayed or cancelled as a result or there being no more money.

        3. The thing that everyone is watching is the start of the next phase from Petone to Ngauranga.
          It was priced at up to ~$197 million in July 2021, but that seems like forever ago, and I’m expecting that this will be over $200m, potentially North of $250m… and I’m not sure NZTA budget will stretch for it…
          It would be a huge disappointment and there would be major political blowback if it were delayed or cutback….

        4. If the Ngauranga-Petone cycleway doesn’t go ahead, will the much-needed new sea wall which is the bulk of the cost still proceed? Remember that this project is really about a more resilient fortification for the railway and road, with a cycleway woven into the design.

  2. What we are seeing with all these projects be they cycleways or roads are massive ad ons which are really separate projects being added to the price of the original project and suddenly what was a straight forward affordable job becomes a gold plated monolith.

    1. No the Petone to Melling blowout is because they didn’t collect any ground data so they didn’t allow for removal of contaminated soil or allow for the services they encountered. Both issues were there before they started. The current cost is a true cost they should have budgeted for.

      1. They keep talking toll roads for the over taxed motorists while the cyclists pay nothing so why not a toll on the cycleways

        1. Because you have to move cyclists off the existing expressway. Something needs to be done, just maybe not this project and certainly not in this manner.

          I drove a rental truck from Upper Hutt to Wellington in the morning peak hour and having cyclists heads less than a meter from your mirror is simply unsafe.

          The problem is the usual wishful thinking that seems to be unique to Wellington where substandard lanes are marked. There are narrow lanes on the expressway and a cycle lane on the shoulder that simply doesn’t work.

        2. Because we* need incentives to use the bicycle more often and the wear of a ~150kg cyclist (heavy guy on very heavy ebike) on a cycleway is quasi nonexistent compared to that of 2t car.
          Tolls are raised usually using traffic cams. No way to identify bikes using those or at huge costs (camera + legislation for plates on bikes + plates) for very little income (if tolls are loosely according to wear and comparable to current NZ tolls + less incentive to ride the bike if more expensive -> less users).
          There are rather few hardcore cyclists who will take the bike no matter what. The majority of people riding bikes do it because it is cheaper, faster door-to-door, easier (parking, maintenance) and approximately as safe as driving.

          Finally: More people cycling (safely) also benefits those who do actually need a car, e.g. ambulances, tradies carrying large equipment et cetera by reducing traffic, freeing parking lots, reducing (noise) pollution, reducing stress on public health, …

          So, all in all: Tolls on everyday cycleways are a horrible idea.

  3. Well done Pippa, tirelessly advocating for change and front footing comms that AT really should be doing …

    Does any1 have updates on the construction dates for Great North Road cycle/bus/safety project? Re-consultation (really, again?) mid 2022???

    1. Thank you. Update from AT on GNR project start date (as of 9 June)
      -The exact start date is not confirmed yet but the plan is that ‘enabling works’ (minor work like moving drains or lights done before the main project work ) start later this month. The main contract is currently out for tender and will be awarded in mid-late July. After details are confirmed a start date will be set.

  4. I have to admit I am right over business whining and if I ever hear from Michael Barnet again it will be to soon. But here is a suggestion for you cyclists support the business along the cycleways and demonstrate it by wearing your cycling helmets into the shops. If shop owners can see a significant volume of trade coming from cyclists then they might change their attitudes. Walkers too if you have a back pack or a trolly this separates you from the average punter who has just parked in a no parking, zone with his or her hazard lights on and raced into pick up a pie and a can of coke. Visibility commands respect if you just sail on by you are nothing to them.

    1. It’s not really ‘whining’ when their livelihoods are being destroyed in the middle of a cost of living crisis and mortgage interest spike, is it? If the comfortable, salaried cycling classes suddenly had their rather generous salaries cut by 50%, would they ‘whine’ too? This is why cycling advocates are so hated, they are blind and uncaring about the very real peoples’ lives they destroy along the way.

      1. Except it turns out every single time that those “very real people” are a myth. They do not exist. In general businesses fare better with bike lanes on their street than without. More generally they fare better on streets that have less cars.

        1. That is totally untrue. Just go and talk to people that run the shops. You seem to forget that passing trade can make up a large percentage of trade for many. Whinging cyclists show true colours when fabricating falsities

        2. “You seem to forget that passing trade can make up a large percentage”

          Geez, in that case we’d better optimise for transport modes where; its extremely easy to stop and pop in, there is better connection with surroundings to notice these businesses, and where we can cater to far more people with higher density parking with our limited street space. What mode would best serve that?

          Also really need to get onto making sure there is more housing round these businesses so there is plenty of people around.

        3. Well well well, “optimise for transport modes where its extremely easy to stop and pop in” seems the correct answer when motor vehicles/ EVs are the only form of transport that ticks the boxes. Unless of course if one is within walking distance.

        4. It is quite a PITA to stop at a local shop when driving. People who drive and who want to go shopping are going to drive to the mall anyway.

          Stopping at these shops is much easier on a bicycle or on foot. On buses it would depend on the frequency, if your bus line runs every 10 minutes you get off, do your shopping and just get on the next bus.

          It also just so happens that Grey Lynn is in this small central area in Auckland where a significant amount of people walks to work.

        5. ‘ Unless of course if one is within walking distance.’

          Out of interest, who is visiting businesses in West Lynn that isn’t local? What’s the share of people shopping and eating there that are out of town, so to speak.

          Roj, you talk nonsense, change the record.

        6. I was a retail analyst from 2008 until late last year; typically a bit over 50% of spending for a small centre like West Lynn comes from people living within 2 km (as the crow flies). Plenty in walking distance, or potential cycling distance.

        7. Bus Driver, have you followed the links from. That stuff article, they DON’T prove that cycleways are a boom for business. Is lazy journalism/fake news

      2. “comfortable, salaried cycling classes”

        Shows you how powerful the tabloid talking points are when people believe something not only without evidence, but with strong evidence that the opposite is true.

        1. Gosh. What a strange world you live in, stating that support of cycling is like supporting the tobacco industry. How many car sales yards do you own?

        2. ah that reply went to the wrong comment.

          It was to the idea of supporting local shop owners. If they think all their customers come by car, well let it be a self fulfilling prophecy. Good riddance.

    2. This is the foundation of the Buy-Cycle activations run by Bike Auckland’s bike burbs – they give out modest prizes for people who shop by bike at local retailers and take & share pics of their trip. Encourages custom by bike and helps to show shopowners that they have more customers arriving by bike than they realise.

  5. Pippa, the main reason I’m grumpy is that after 10 years of trading, because of AT encroaching into my out door-dining area, after I begged them to check, Auckland Council’s outdoor dining inspectors are now wanting to cut back my area and wind protection… things granted me 10 years ago…it’s like dealing with jackboots… they can’t admit fault so I, a small business owner pays.

    1. AT pretend to listen to people and then carry on regardless with no thought for what the masses want left alone. Instead pandering to a small group of extremists. AT call their mess ups “improvements” waste huge amounts of money and usually ignore public backlash. Yes, small business really suffer. As do customers who are not pushbikers because of parking removal. Oh, the cyclists mostly seem to ride straight past, not that there are many.

      1. such a shame that corroborated data shows, time and time again, that this is patently false. Creating better public spaces, including bike lines, typically increase foot traffic in shops and increase turnover. This data comes from both NZ and overseas.

        1. That’s only really telling half a story. That doesn’t speak to the number of people who wanted to go there but didn’t because their preferred mode of transport wasn’t available. The unanswered question is which mode do they need to better support to attract higher spend.

        2. We should have air strip(s) on K-road

          There are a significant number of people with private plane licenses that would want to call in on the way past. We should demolish blocks of K-road buildings in order to build a strip.

          aside from your abstraction including all kinds of modes that are more obviously impractical (which private cars are swiftly coming to be included in):

          You’re correct, but it’s not really that relevant. In the case of K-road for example it makes far more sense to expand modes that buy far more capacity per m of space. Given the fixed amount of land constraint, we should maximise for long term “customer delivery” by choosing higher density modes, and building a lot more housing for that transport to serve.

          Regardless, trying to maximise for private cars is a dead end for these business areas. Firstly, there is no room for substantial growth, there’s a max capacity with constrained land, and max capacity has been realised for some of these high streets / local centers, and will inevitably be met for almost all.
          Without improvements in PT, traffic will continue to spiral. People that spend an hour and a half + each way commuting, with brutal traffic outside the shops, don’t tend want to pop in or do more driving. The only way is down long term for the car centric local shops / services model, let alone dream of achieving any substantial growth.

        3. “people who wanted to go there but didn’t because their preferred mode of transport wasn’t available”

          Sure, there was no way to get there by car. That must be why the cycling numbers were so high before the cycleway was built.

        4. The demand is for free parking boyo and parking ain’t free. Pay your way and you’ll get a car park bulding. At Grey Lynn land prices you’ll only have to pay around 75K per space, so start lobbying AT to bring in the paid parking and ramping up prices pronto so they can raise the necessary funds for your car park. Pick out a couple of businesses or houses to demolish for the new car park building and let the lucky buggers know, I suggest you do it in person. In the meantime just park on the side street and walk you lazy sod

        5. @woke
          You’re right it only tells half the story. After the parking was reduced in K Road they had their best year ever

  6. Thanks for the post rebalancing discussion. Don’t forget that cost-cutting on the streetscape improvement originally left a crossing that was impossible to use in a wheelchair. The current improvement not only makes a pleasant outdoor space improved for everyone except a couple of square meters of (whose?) footpath needed for people to pass through. An incredibly difficult 3D design of the footpath to be wheelchair accessible, including a novel speed table in Hakanoa St that doesn’t send wheelchair using hurtling down the middle of the steep side road, has also managed to deal with footpath ponding. Yes, it does affect a windscreen, but everything else works now.

  7. Thanks Pippa – keep up the essential work.
    I would love to be one of the generations ahead who can take this cycling infrastructure for granted. My generation should have been in that situation. Instead, keep fighting for a share of our public spaces for mobility for our kids and non-car owners or those who soon wont be able to afford private car travel.

    On BCR’s and Petone. Maybe we should BCR the BCR. There is a $4M charge incurred on the ($63M) 3km cycleway – just waiting for a BCR to be recalculated, which in turn dropped its own BCR below 1. While its an important metric – its meaningless if basic project management processes are not employed. If cycleways are getting the B or C teams for implementation, then NZTA are not the team for the job.

  8. Our world has become very one sided. Discussion and decisions have turned into Cars OR Bikes, where it should be about enabling both Cars & Bikes to build healthy thriving communities.

    I’m sure the surrounding streets may relish the idea of more safe bike lanes etc, but unless cars are also catered for in some way, us who live further away will indeed rather frequent a mall where parking is plentiful. And I’d much rather support these smaller businesses, joining friends who do decide to cycle if that’s their thing.

    1. “but unless cars are also catered for in some way,”

      They already are, in every single street in the country, we’re trying to get bikes catered for in say 1% of them and it’s a battle for some reason

    2. Your idea of “car-bike equality” is unfortunately not accurate. Cars have hogged far too much of the transport priority pie for far too long, and squealing over the slightest

      The car is not suited for urban transportation, and thus its use in urban contexts should be greatly reduced; reserved for when strictly necessary. There should be no need for gaping multi-lane traffic sewers in central cities and residential areas. Ideally most urban roads should only need 1 general traffic lane in each direction.

      There should be much more catering for carless lifestyles. Greater urban density. Walkable mixed use neighbourhoods. High frequency public transport. More space dedicated to safe walking and safe cycling.

      Cars work best when there’s fewer of them. That’s what the evidence says.

  9. Yikes, you can borrow a post off Facebook but the Facebook follows it wherever it goes, by the looks of things.

  10. Most trips in Auckland are apparently 6kms or less. We could be biking a lot more without too much trouble. But its OK, no one will be forced onto a bike. Rather, should no longer be forced to use a car each and every time they want to go somewhere.

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