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.
- 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.