Trying to get across the harbour by bike or on foot has been a long and frustrating saga. In recent years we’ve seen the citizen-led Skypath proposal get all the way to resource consent in 2016, only to be replaced in 2019 by a Waka Kotahi concept for a walking-cycling addition to the city-side of the bridge (which turned out to be unbuildable)… followed in 2021 by an out-of-the-blue proposal for a dedicated walking and cycling bridge (which was quickly shelved after unfavourable coverage about the cost).
More recently, advocates have begun to put the focus on the simple, straightforward and more affordable idea of using available space on the bridge – aka liberating a lane.
To that end, our friends over at Bike Auckland have just released an independent report that investigates the engineering feasibility of converting a lane on the harbour bridge for active modes.
The TL:DR version, it’s totally feasible, can be safely and quickly implemented, and would have less impact than previously claimed, due to changing travel patterns. Bike Auckland says:
Engineering Report Confirms: Walking and Cycling Lane on Auckland Harbour Bridge is Safe and Viable
An independent engineering report commissioned by Bike Auckland was released today and confirms that one lane of the Auckland Harbour Bridge can be safely allocated to pedestrians and cyclists without significantly impacting traffic flows. Link to full Smartreport here.
The report was authored by Richard Young of SmartSense Ltd, a Chartered civil engineer with over 35 years of experience in infrastructure design, construction and maintenance.
Using traffic numbers from Waka Kotahi stretching back to 2013, the SmartSense report concludes that the bridge can support current peak traffic demand with one of its eight lanes repurposed for active modes.
The report also proposes a practical design for a four-metre-wide lane for biking and walking, which addresses numerous safety concerns raised publicly by Waka Kotahi. The design includes a free-standing crash barrier which is approved by Waka Kotahi, and an unobtrusive anti-climb system used on comparable bridges overseas.
The report also concludes:
- The Auckland Harbour Bridge is no steeper or longer than many shared paths already provided by Waka Kotahi, some built as recently as 2022.
- Weather conditions would be suitable for 98% of the year, meaning an active mobility lane would be affected by adverse weather conditions at roughly the same rate as other bridge traffic, around three to seven days per year.
While lateral movement has been identified as an issue when two adjacent clip-on lanes are used in mass pedestrian events, this is not a concern with the proposed design. The SmartSense proposal only uses a single lane, and predicted pedestrian numbers are well below the level identified by Waka Kotahi as triggering the effect. Moreover, Waka Kotahi has had engineering solutions in hand to mitigate this effect since 2010.
“The SmartSense report shows that a walking and cycling lane over the Auckland Harbour Bridge is safe and viable,” says Bike Auckland chair Karen Hormann. “An active mobility lane could be rapidly delivered at a cost of only $30 million, and up and running within 8 months.”
“All major harbour cities have ways to walk or bike across the water, to the benefit of locals and visitors alike – think of Sydney, Vancouver, San Francisco. Meanwhile, Aucklanders have watched, waited and despaired for decades as plan after plan for walking and cycling across Te Waitematā has been proposed, picked apart and then cancelled.”
“This is the fastest, fairest and most affordable way to bridge the gap between the North Shore and the rest of the city. It’s time to get on with it.”
A safe design would include:
- A shared path for active modes located on the most easterly clip-on lane. The east side provides for better protection from wind (predominantly Westerlies), easy access on and off the bridge, and stunning views of the harbour and city
- The use of free-standing HV2 Steel/Concrete composite barriers with mesh fence between the shared path and the motor traffic. This is a relatively lightweight barrier which Waka Kotahi has already approved the use of in Aotearoa NZ
- An anti-climb barrier along the eastern edge of the bridge for suicide prevention, as has been effective on comparable bridges overseas
- Potential for a 4metre shared path width which is within the Austroads guidance for gradient (5%) and width with the expected usage
- Potential for dampers to be placed between the bridge and the clip-on (to prevent movement caused when a significant number of pedestrians march across at the same time)
- Potential for a 60km/h speed limit for the motor-traffic in the lane adjacent to the shared path for additional safety if considered required
Since COVID, traffic volumes across the bridge have dropped and data from this year shows this drop has been sustained, meaning the impact of liberating a lane is much lower than it previously would have been.
There’s a lot more detail in the report for those interested.
Let’s get on with it and liberate the lane.