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Conversation with Auckland Transport’s Walking, Cycling and Road Safety Manager, Kathryn King

Kathryn King web

We put some of the common questions that have been asked about cycleways, the opposition to them and the future of Auckland’s streets to Kathryn King, Auckland Transport’s Walking, Cycling and Road Safety Manager.

Why are cycleways being built now and not earlier?

Making it safe and easy for people to get around Auckland on foot and by bike has been a key priority of the Government and Auckland Council for the past 3 years. The aim is to give people more choice in the way they get around their local areas, how kids get to school, how we get to work and to get onto our public transport network. Given the rate that Auckland is growing, we need to invest in ways that move people more efficiently, and make best use of the available street network. This means allocating more road space to public transport, building high quality footpaths and safe cycleways. Overall this investment will make our streets safer and more attractive places to live and enjoy.

Why does Pt Chevalier need changes for people walking and cycling?

There are already a lot of people walking and cycling in Pt Chevalier, and local people have told us that many more people would walk or cycle if we made it safer. We have a focus on making it easier to walk or cycle to schools in Pt Chevalier, and to the town centre, and to the attractions along Meola Road. This will give local people more choice for the way they travel around the neighbourhood.

The cycleways are part of a growing network of connected, safe routes for people to get around our city. There will be connections to the North Western cycleway so people can ride to the city centre or to Henderson, or via the Waterview Shared Path to Mt Roskill or New Lynn. To the west, the cycleways will connect through to Grey Lynn and Ponsonby beyond. This network will enable people to ride to a great many destinations, including the study and work opportunities in the city centre within just 30 minutes.

Meola Road needs considerable rehabilitation works, and this is an opportunity for us to make it work better for the people who travel along it every day, for the many people who travel to the soccer club or the dog park, and those who use the road for exercise.

There seems to be strong opposition to cycleways in Auckland

Whilst some people have told us they don’t want changes made to our streets, and some people who are concerned about some of the details of our proposals, there continues to be large support for making our streets safer and healthier. Many people want their children to be able to walk or ride to school and around their neighbourhood safely and independently, and people want alternatives for their daily commute. In fact 80% of Aucklanders agree with investment in cycleways, and over half us all Aucklanders would ride if our streets were safer.

Since our investment programme started three years ago, we have heard from many Aucklanders about how we can get the details right on our network of cycleways. We appreciate that we could have done things better on some recent projects and are working hard to get the details right for local people. We also realise that we need to spend more time listening to the community’s concerns.

Auckland is not alone in struggling with growth and congestion. Cities all over the world are building cycle networks because they work. People often refer to Copenhagen or Amsterdam, but if you look at cities that are starting from a similar point as Auckland, Seville and Vancouver have invested in a connected network of cycleways and these are making streets safer and more attractive for everyone.

For suburbs like Point Chevalier there are no perfect solutions for these issues and every decision that is made on a project like this is a trade-off. Aucklanders want free flowing traffic and lots of convenient parking on tree lined streets, but often that’s not possible. The problem that Auckland Transport is trying to solve is not which trees or carparks need to be removed, it is how we can best use the space we have to work for the people who live there.

How will the pedestrian and cycleway improvements be paid for?

There are a number of mechanisms that fund cycleways. While Auckland Transport and Auckland Council will contribute some of the cost, NZTA, and the government are all are committed to making it safer and easier for people to get around by bike and on foot.

In 2014, the National government announced $100 million to fund cycleways in urban centres. That funding runs out this year but the Labour coalition’s recent transport policy clearly indicated that cycling and walking will play an important role in creating liveable cities.

The Government and Council are committed to making walking and cycling viable options for Aucklanders to get around, and the recent agreement on funding prioritises a significant amount to deliver on that objective over the next ten years. That’s not just improvements to our streets. It is important to ensure there are places where people can safely store their bikes, and offer training to school children and others who want to use cycleways.

We need to remember that cycling infrastructure is an investment is good value for Aucklanders, and as such we expect a return of around $4.00 for every dollar that is invested.

Do you actually think people will use them?

I do. Some people are concerned that they sometimes see empty cycleways, but we are only just embarking on our journey of building a connected network of cycleways for Auckland. Where our routes are starting to connect we’re seeing significant increases. At Upper Queen Street for example, where the North Western cycleway meets the City Centre network, there has been a 406% increase in people cycling since 2013.

A generation ago, riding your bike to school was what we did and we didn’t think about it, however the number of teens who ride to school has dropped significantly since 1990. Back then over 30% of teens rode their bike to school and now it is down to about 5%. There are a number of reasons for that but safety concerns from parents has played a significant role.

As the population and number of cars increased, kids were literally driven off the road. I believe that it’s important for our children’s health for them to be able to walk or cycle to school safely. . In fact every Aucklander should be able to choose if they want to walk, ride or drive to get somewhere and not have to worry about safety.

The school communities in Point Chevalier have been working with us for some time now to support their children to walk and cycle, and we’re pleased to be able to make these changes to make it safer for them.

Is Auckland Transport trying to force people out of their cars?

No. Auckland Transport is developing a transport network that will give people transport choices. We have limited space on our streets and we are trying to make it easier for people who need to drive to get around. This includes those important deliveries we need, people driving for work and our emergency services getting around. With an integrated transport network people will have options to walk, to cycle, to get the bus or to drive. It’s about giving people choices to travel the way they want to for the journeys they need to make. It’s about providing healthy and safe streets for a growing Auckland.