After the government suddenly proposed and then preemptively cancelled a dedicated active modes bridge last year, Minister of Transport Michael Wood called for a trial of walking and cycling over the current bridge – saying that ideally, this would happen “over the quiet summer months or a long weekend if it can be done safely”.

At the end of last week, Waka Kotahi announced not a trial but a series of events next year.

Walk It. Wheel It. across the Auckland Harbour Bridge next year

People in Tāmaki Makaurau will have the chance next year to experience the Auckland Harbour Bridge as part of the city’s growing walking and cycling network, Waka Kotahi has confirmed today.

Supported by Auckland Transport and Auckland Council, Waka Kotahi is developing a Walk It. Wheel It. programme of events for Tāmaki Makaurau in 2023, to enable people of all ages and abilities to enjoy travelling around the city on foot, bikes, scooters and other wheeled devices.

The three Walk It. Wheel It. events in March 2023 will be free, allowing people to safely cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge on foot or using bikes, scooters or wheel chairs.

The events will be held on Sunday 12, 19 and 26 March (with a rain date of Sunday 2 April) and will run between 8am – 5pm. Sixty thousand Aucklanders will have the chance to take part, with twenty thousand free tickets available per day.

“We’re thrilled to be able to share this exciting news with the people of Tāmaki Makaurau, supporting the Government’s vision to provide real transport choice and create a lower carbon transport system,” says Deb Hume, Waka Kotahi National Manager Multimodal and Innovation.

“Opening our streets up for people to walk, cycle and scoot supports Aotearoa’s transition to a low carbon transport system, helps us keep fit, enjoy the outdoors and be more connected to the neighbourhoods we call home.

Walk It. Wheel It. event facts

  • Three free events will be held on Sunday 12, 19 and 26 March (rain date of Sunday 2 April), between 8am – 5pm each day.
  • Twenty thousand free tickets will be available per day. Access will be limited to ticket holders to manage the number of people on the bridge at any one time to ensure everyone is kept safe.
  • Details will be announced in early 2023 about how to secure free tickets.
  • Ticket holders will enjoy free public transport (bus or train) to and from the arrival areas on either side of the bridge.
  • As well as the chance to cross the harbour on foot or wheels, attendees will enjoy a family friendly atmosphere on both sides of the bridge and can grab a snack to fuel up at the food trucks on site.
  • The total investment for all three events is expected to be approximately $1 million.

The route

  • Ticket holders will travel across the Auckland Harbour Bridge on the two western clip-on lanes, with access from both the Curran St on-ramp and the Stafford Rd off-ramp. The route is 2.5km from point to point, which will take about 30–40-minutes at average walking page or 10-15 minutes by bike. Ticket holders will be given detailed information about travel to the event when they secure their ticket.
  • Using the western clip-ons allows for greater connectivity on each side of the Waitematā Harbour for people to arrive using active and public transport modes across the wider Auckland transport network and allows riders to make a ‘full loop’ of the city.

Giving the public more opportunities to cross the Harbour Bridge on foot or bike is welcome. Last year’s spontaneous ‘event’ after the Liberate the Lane rally – as well as other regular events like the marathon – show that crossing the bridge under your own power is easy, intuitive and enjoyable. The more people who experience that feeling (and those views!), the more obvious it is that active access across the water is a no-brainer, both for regular daily use and for visitors to the city.

It would also be good to be able to link crossing the bridge with the wider network, such as a trip right through to Takapuna, or opening up the whole isthmus to those on the shore.

At the same time, while highly scripted one-off (or three-off) events can be fun, and help establish that the route works for all kinds of people, they’re not really about providing a lasting practical trial. A real trial would take place not just on these three weekends (open only to those with tickets) but at a minimum every weekend, and would allow for people to, on a whim, make a trip across the harbour.

I also wonder just how much of that $1 million cost, about $330k per event, is is for the traffic management needed to block the lanes off, and how much of it is all the other stuff they’re adding on. Will there be event-specific fencing – something that could help make the bridge safer under daily conditions – and could it stick around so more definitive longer-term “trials “can take place?

And will the other bridge users, drivers, be required to have tickets too, to ensure they are safe?

Regardless, I am looking forward to more scenes like these.

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29 comments

  1. The tickets sound like a way to reduce the uptake, a barrier to entry. The last thing Waka Kotahi would want is for these ‘events’ to be popular.
    Imagine how much less traffic there would be on the roads each day if you had to book in advance with limited tickets!

    1. I think that’s a bit cynical. They did tickets for the Waterview walk through before opening and CRL do the same. I imagine they need to control numbers for safety.

      1. Unlike the Waterview walk-through, this was supposed to be a trial to replicate potential daily use. Limiting how many can use it, that’s not a trial.

        Or maybe we should start limiting who can drive on our motorways each day, to “manage safety” and bring down the road toll?

        1. Skypath estimated 5,000/day would use the bridge so 20K seems – numbers-wise at least – to represent a worthwhile exercise.

          The events themselves though are a jamboree that in no way serves as a trial or tells us anything.

          WK regularly closes two lanes of the bridge over Xmas for maintenance. Could they not have used that period for something a bit more meaningful.

          However, that closure does sort of put the lie to the notion that you can close two lanes of the bridge and not cause traffic chaos. I can remember the maintenance being delayed a week and even in the quiet times of early January the loss of two lanes caused major gridlock. So, unless tens of thousands are going to abandon their cars for active modes a better solution needs to be found.

        2. dm, see Miffy’s comment below abiut revealed preferences. A well planned and communucated trial would not only have been about walkers and cyclists, but how motorists would respond as well.

          I doubt lane closures have much impact in that regard because they would be perceived as temporary and not enough to drive change, unlike a 3mth trial.

  2. “Imagine how much less traffic there would be on the roads each day if you had to book in advance with limited tickets!”

    What a great idea – decide how many cars a given point on the network can cope with at any given time and hold an online auction for tickets a day in advance…

  3. I was hopeful these events would show how popular cycling and walking over the bridge could be, but then I read about the limited tickets. So frustrating.

    1. WK needs to limit just how popular this will be.

      Agree on a trial
      Drop the trial for just three individual days
      Limit the number of potential participants.

      It would not surprise me if they overengineer the access and safety aspects that just causes a bottleneck for all users and then say, “See? It can’t be done efficiently.”

  4. Yeah not a trail, a box ticking exercise to make it seem like a fun event rather than a practicle and emission reducing transport option.

  5. An event is cool and people will enjoy the experience. But it doesn’t achieve the original intention. A true test would require closing a lane during a typical working week in March or April. That might give us some revealed preferences.

    1. Not only a week though. If a lane was permanently open, people might invest in bikes and adjust their travel. If you only do a trial for one week, you will have weird numbers because a) no new bike owners will try the bridge, b) some people might give it a one-off go as a novelty and c) the weather will play a large role. 3 months Feb – May would be a good start.

    1. Well, you had to pay a small toll, so arguably they did. But you didn’t have to pre-register your crossing beforehand and be limited to 3 timeslots a year… somehow they understood that transport needs to be accessible 24/7 (or nearly so) to be transport.

  6. The timing of these events appears strange, surely traffic is lighter in January?
    I do wonder if the timing is more aligned with a political announcement around future crossing options.

    1. I’d be amazed if more than a few urban roads in NZ met worksafe standards for pedestrians and cyclists (oh, wait, I forget – Worksafe considers those outside of their purview, and sez “Nothing to do with us, ask the RCAs”)

      [And also, raising a barrier is easily fixed. Fixing a culture of finding reasons not to improve walking and cycling? Not so easily.]

  7. What if it was made permanent and you could pay to cross the bridge as a ped/cyclist and the lane earnt more money than it does as a traffic lane…

  8. What purpose does this serve? It is just recreation right? For Million dollars? That and NZTA continuing to play the minister.

    Also tickets lol? Hilariously how NZTA care so much about safety, when it suits them.

  9. ‘events in March 2023 will be free’ wow WK is so generous to Aucklanders.

    Seriously ‘ticketing’? Sounds like a joke to me. Opportunity to actually use a bridge in the city is an ‘event’? With tickets? Is this how other countries work with their roads and bridges or maybe pavements? I very much doubt it. We can be grateful that it’s ‘free’. They could have charged you like for Guns n Roses event.

    1. Despite their claim of it not being safe for walking & cycling (hence we can’t have a trial), NZTA will use the AHB for walking & cycling once they’ve been allowed to build a road tunnel.
      The current Minister of Transport would rather only allow a rail tunnel.

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