Lessons from Vancouver for Auckland’s emerging cycle culture

Auckland Conversation the BruntlettsAuckland Conversations: Vancouver Cycle Chic – Chris and Melissa Bruntlett, Modacity

 The Bruntletts from Vancouver spoke at the Auckland Conversations on 4 November 2014  from their perspective as parents of young children who gave up the family car in 2010 to enjoy the health, environmental and social benefits of walking, cycling and public transport. They shared their experiences as their home city develops a welcoming cycling environment.

Their observations about what has been happening in Vancouver since the construction of a network of separated cyclelanes provided valuable for lessons for why should also strive to improve every day cycling in Auckland.

They talked about the importance of a bike friendly policy including:

  • Lower speed limits
  • Providing for bikes on buses
  • Improved connectivity

Four common complaints about cycling investment that they have experienced in Vancouver ( “bikelash”) are very familiar to what we hear in Auckland:

  • Fear about losing parking
  • Speculation that cycle paths create traffic congestion
  • “taxpayer” groups – the cost of constructionshould be considered a luxury
  • Just caters to law breakers – red light runners

However they are able to point to data that tracks the benefits for all road users of installing separated cyclelanes:

  • Just a 30 second increase in traffic delays
  • 18% decrease in collisions
  • 80% decrease of sidewalk cycling
  • 34% of people cycling are women (an important indication of success)
  • 4x increase in children cycling downtown
Melissa Bruntlett and Leah Murphy (Frocks on Bikes Wellington) riding Tokyo bikes
Melissa Bruntlett and Leah Murphy (Frocks on Bikes Wellington)

Melissa who blogs about her cycling experiences (and contributes to Momentum Magazine and other publications) advocates for the slower, simpler more civilised bike culture that is provided by “Dutch” style upright bikes. This style of bike, that I am fortunate to enjoy with my Velorbis, is ideal for  riding for utility rather than exercise at slower speeds and means the rider can dress for their destination (part of the Frocks on Bikes manifesto)

It was interesting to hear the impact of separated cycling infrastructure on British Columbia’s compulsory helmet requirements. Chris reported that as people have felt more safe and comfortable cycling there is less use of helmets and the law is becoming unenforceable.  I think we will see the same thing happen in Auckland eventually.

The presentation was interspersed with Vancouver Cycle Chic films produced by Chris showcasing everyday experiences of riding a bike.  A particular favourite features Amy and her dog Winston who travels in a bike basket.

In Auckland the conversation has only just started regarding the business benefits of bikes. Without local data we are struggling to convince retailers that bikes mean business. In Vancouver cycle lanes have resulted in increased revenue, more tourists and additional businesses popping up along popular routes like craft beer tasting rooms. The Vancouver experience made it easy to imagine the benefits that business districts like  Ponsonby Road and K’rd will reap from  separated infrastructure.

It was really refreshing to hear from non- experts (of the technical engineering and urban planning kind)  about what safe and accessible space for cycling means in practice. Melissa mentioned that being a no- car household has improved their quality of life and provides more time together as a family.

Chris and Melissa’s visit to NZ and Auckland Conversations presentation will hopefully inspire Aucklanders, especially parents, to embrace the benefits of our city’s own emerging bike culture.

Other highlights from the Bruntlett’s visit to Auckland 

Blend with the BruntlettsBlend with the Bluntletts ride on 2 November  organised by Generation Zero, Transportblog, Blend Store and the Frockers at Frocks on Bikes – Auckland

Photos of the ride by Chris Bruntlett 

Bcast Green Desk 4 November – my interview with blogger and writer Melissa Bruntlett, who lives life on two wheels in Vancouver, about Van Cycle Chic – Observations from an Emerging Bike Culture.

Kia Ora Aotearoa – Melissa’s blog about her visit to Auckland

Bike to the Future

Along with hundreds of other I went on Bike to the Future today- a  cycle ride in support of separated cycle lanes on Karangahape Road and Ponsonby Road organised by Generation Zero. I loved seeing the variety of people on the ride – there were no “cyclists” just Aucklanders of all ages wanting to be able to travel safely on the roads.

Generation Zero have ran a creative, effective campaign pushing for bike lanes (the petition is still open) with the support of the Waitematā Local Board and the K’rd Business Association.  The good news is that Auckland Transport is currently at the investigation stage. The turnout today really is a positive indication of the level of support for making Auckland a great place to cycle.

Thank you to everyone involved for organising Bike to the Future.


Grafton Gully Cycleway opening

Auckland’s biggest ever cycle infrastructure project was opened yesterday (Saturday 6 September 2014) by Barb Cuthbert, Chair of Cycle Action Auckland, the PM and the Mayor Len Brown.  The Grafton Gully cycleway links the NW cycleway via Upper Queen Street Bridge to Quay Street via new separated cycle lanes on Beach Road.  Transport blog recorded the opening speeches. There were many people to thank and acknowledge for the successful completion of the project after many years work (much of it behind the scenes to keep the project alive)

I’ve never been so excited about a cycleway opening before. Grafton Gully sets a new standard for design, safety and connectivity. It is beautiful to ride and gives a glimpse of what should be possible across Auckland to make cycling pleasant and easy. I especially love how the route has opened up all the  long forgotten bush in the gully and provides a stunning view down to the Harbour (the Waitematā Local Board has plans for walking connections into Symonds St Cemetery which will open up even more of the native bush).

What was a bit lost in the applause for NZTA’s work on Grafton Gully was that Upper Queen Street Bridge (the removal of general traffic lanes and slip lanes to provide a new shared path)  and Auckland Transport’s Beach Road cycleway was also opened at the same time. The project teams have worked extraordinarily hard to coordinate the opening of all three sections and deserved far greater acknowledgement.

In March I reported that Auckland Transport was 6 months behind NZTA and that Upper Queen Street Bridge was not even at the design stage.  The Waitematā Local Board’s advocacy was instrumental in both projects being brought forward. We also funded the installation of a drinking station on the corner of Upper Queen Street and Ian McKinnon Drive ( a location suggested by Cycle Action Auckland).

I think we can now look forward to a fabulous summer of cycling in Auckland especially once Waterfront Auckland’s Westhaven Promenade opens later in the year.


Transport Blog – the completed Grafton Gully Cycleway (lots of photos and videos)

Cycle Action Auckland  – Go have ride – Grafton Gully and Beach Rd open

NZTA media release – Big boost for Auckland cyclists with opening of central city link

Vernon Tava – opening of the Grafton Gully cycleway

Submission on the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2015

UPDATE: As I have acknowledged in my September monthly report when I made my submission on the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport  I was convinced it was a waste of time however I was proved wrong – on 19 August  the Prime Minister John Key  announced $100 million in new funding to be made available over the next four years to accelerate cycleways in urban centres after a record breaking number of submissions were received on the GPS supporting cycling investment. It is proposed that an Urban Cycleway Investment Panel will investigate opportunities to invest in urban cycleways that would expand and improve the cycling network.

What is significant is that for the first time the National government has acknowledged the benefits commuter cycling and the need to provide connected infrastructure. The challenge to Auckland Transport will be to ensure that robust investment proposals are ready to go so that Auckland can tap into this fund (which does not require matched funding from AT).

I made a quick submission yesterday on the draft GPS on Land Transport with one minute to spare before the consultation closed.

I was hoping to present a fuller case for investing in walking and cycling but ran out of time.  Thankfully I was able to draw on the submission from the On Yer Bike campaign  which encouraged  a record breaking 3,400 responses.  Sadly I don’t think submissions on the GPS will make any difference to the government’s crazy obsession with building uneconomic roads & motorways at the expense of all other transport modes but I wanted to join those demanding investment in cycling.

Dear Minister Brownlee,

I am Deputy Chair of the Waitematā Local Board representing the central suburbs and city centre of Auckland of almost 80,000 people.  The latest census has demonstrated the benefits of investment in public transport and walking/cycling in the Waitematā read. Where people are provided choice in Auckland they are leaving their car at home.

51% of people in Waitematā travelled to work on census day by means other than a car compared with the Auckland average of 16%

25% in Waitematā do not own a car compared with 19% in 2006 (rising to 51% in the city centre)

The draft GPS does not reflect Aucklander’s demand for transport choice.  The draft Government Policy Statement proposes to spend well under 1% of the budget on walking and cycling.

I therefore request that the government allocate significantly more funding to PT and walking and cycling in the 2015 Government Policy Statement on land transport.

In particular I request that the budget for active transport is increased from $15-30 million per year to $45-90 million per year for the next 3 years with progressive increases after that. This is a small increase relative to the total budget of $3.5 billion per year, but would start to make a real difference for cycling. The NZ Transport Agency should take an active leadership role in improving cycling.

Auckland Transport’s surveys have indicated that almost 60% of Aucklanders would cycle if they felt safe. Completion of the Auckland Cycle Network would give people a viable choice about cycling and provide more people with access to PT.

Investment in cycling is also consistent with the proposed three priority areas in the GPS

A strong and continuing focus on economic growth and productivity

Internationally competitive cities are now recognising is that a good walking and cycling environment is a pre-condition for an economically healthy city. It means higher rents, increases property values and creates economic benefits.

Road safety

Investing in cycling infrastructure creates a safer roading environment for all road users

For example, after a parking-protected bike lane was installed on Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue, all traffic-related injuries dropped 50 percent. Injuries to pedestrians dropped 29 percent and injuries to cyclists dropped 57 percent


Investment in cycling infrastructure represents excellent value for money. In the UK the average BCR is estimated to be 19:1 (and this is without factoring in all the possible environmental benefits such as the reduction in air pollution and the health benefits)

By providing transport choice the road system is less congested and provides for the movement of freight and the people and services that need to be on the road.

The roading investment as proposed in the draft GPS is low value for money.

I ask the Minster to consider the data from New Zealand and internationally and transport trends to finalise a GPS that is economically responsible, environmentally sustainable and will meet the transport requirements of  Aucklanders now and for future generations.

Skypath open day

It is very exciting to see progress being made on the Skypath designs which are going to be on view for feedback on Saturday.

Open Day sessions:

10 am to 12pm:        Westhaven, beside AJ Hackett’s ‘Bridge Climb’ base, Curran St.

1:30pm to 3:30pm:   Northcote, under the bridge at Stokes Point, Princes St.

The images are available on our website: http://www.skypath.org.nz/media/for-the-media/  with link to Dropbox  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/macqljz5uagkz73/nbYfLfCELj

The open day is in preparation for SkyPath’s Resource Consent application which will be fully notified to enable anyone to make a submission.

Skypath open day

Resetting the compass for cycling in Auckland

Cycling celebration after the infrastructure committee meetingA fantastic collaboration of the Transport strategy unit at Auckland Council,  Auckland Transport, councillors, Greenways Project, Generation Zero, Cycle Action Auckland, Transport Blog, Walk Auckland, with NZTA and AA in support came together at the Infrastructure Committee chaired by Cr Mike Lee on 12 March.

After years of feeling like we are making very little progress, as Cr Chris Darby said “we reset the compass for cycling in Auckland” when the Infrastructure committee voted to support a significantly enhanced effort to improve cycling infrastructure in Auckland with the following resolution.

a)    acknowledge the importance of cycling in contributing to the vision of creating the world’s most liveable city particularly through enabling Auckland Plan Transformational Shift #3, “Move to outstanding public transport within one network” and Auckland Plan Transformational Shift #4, “Radically improve the quality of urban living”

b)    working with the Auckland Development Committee, support greater financial commitment within the Long-term Plan for cycleways, including the preparation of an integrated regional implementation strategy.

c)    encourage Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to explore innovative trial projects in the near-term that increase safety and attract a wider range of people to cycling

d)    request staff to review baseline data monitoring and its adequacy in understanding cycling and walking contribution to transport, and further to provide recommendations on key performance indicators (kpi’s) that may then be incorporated into the Auckland Transport Statement of Intent (SOI)

e)    endorse that the committee Chair writes to the Chairman of Auckland Transport forwarding the report ‘Role of Cycling in Auckland’ and communicates the Infrastructure Committee decisions on the need for a significantly enhanced effort to improved cycling infrastructure in Auckland.

Generation Zero, as one of the groups presenting, made some compelling points:

  • Auckland’s per capita cycling investment spend is $6.05 compared with Christchurch’s $38.47
  • With the current budget it is going to take 40 years to complete the Auckland Cycle Network (the Auckland Plan target is completion by 2030)
  • Just by increasing cycling to 5% mode share of transport trips will lead to big health benefits (such as avoiding 116 deaths a year from increased physical activity)
  • Cycle lanes are the best tool in the urban tool book for attracting young talent to cities.
  • The US experience is that the number one thing tech companies want is cycle lanes

An excellent officer report “Role of Cycling in Auckland” (search on the agenda for the Infrastructure Committee) was also presented to the committee. I highly recommend this report for providing a comprehensive analysis of the benefits of investing in cycling.

The decision of the committee is great news as it means we are going to see a very different integrated transport plan come out of Auckland Transport and increased funding in the LTP.

What my mum knows about cycling

Barbara Grace with her electric bikeMy mum, Barbara Grace, has had a lot of time to think about what would make Auckland a great place to cycle. When we immigrated to NZ in 1982 she brought her bike and since then hasn’t stopped cycling for transport around town. Today she has three bikes – her folding Brompton, her bike for performing with the Velociteers (New Zealand’s only synchronised cycling performance group ) and her electric bike which is her new pride and joy. She rarely uses her car as she also has a convenient bus stop right outside her house and a goldcard!

It wasn’t that long ago people used to say to her “I know you, you are the lady that cycles around Ponsonby” – she was recognised because so few people were on bikes. She has been waiting a long time for Aucklanders to appreciate the benefits of cycling and for the roads to feel safe for everyone.  She’s  had a few scary moments herself – most recently knocked off by a guy who “just didn’t see her” as he turned out of a side street into her path (despite being  “high viz” as she  was lit up like a Christmas tree).

Barbara Grace performing with the VelociteersSo my mum has been following with particular interest the recent debate about cycle safety following the tragic fatality in Parnell early in January. I think she nailed it with her most recent letter to the NZ Herald that was published last week.

Dear Editor

Thank you NZ Herald for having a week of bike related stuff.  So many opinions from the daft to the very useful.

This is what I know:

  • A small but significant proportion of all road users don’t  obey the rules and are ill-disciplined and arrogant. Trying to work out whether motorists or cyclists are worse is impossible and  pointless. An important difference is that its the motorists who  kill and injure on a regular basis.
  • Cyclists contribute as much as anyone to road maintenance etc. and provide a positive cost/benefit.
  • Because the number of cyclists is increasing all the time (hooray!) we need to get our act together and have bells and lights and show more respect to pedestrians.
  • Every year cycle tourists from overseas, leave NZ shaken and horrified at the way they were treated on the road, this is no help at all to our tourism industry.
  • In spite of the problems, cycling in Auckland is the most efficient and enjoyable way to get around the city.

Thank you

Barbara Grace

Barbara Grace taking part in the 2013 Pride Parade on her Brompton


Build it and they will come: Grafton Gully cycleway stage one opens

Stage one of the Grafton Gully cycleway was opened this morning by NZTA.

The 300-metre long section between Grafton Road (by the business school ) and Alten Road provides a small experience of the joys of riding on a safe, dedicated, high quality cycleway . Stage two on Churchill street is currently under construction. Stage three should start in October providing a continuous connection from Beach Road to Upper Queen Street and the NW Cycleway.



Letter to the editor: Cycling myths

Peter Calder’s excellent opinion piece on cycling last week ( $10 billion for transport but how about bikes? ) provoked a typical letter to the editor along the lines that cyclists should be registered and are bludgers.

I fired off a quick response to the NZ Herald and was surprised to see it published today:

The view that cyclists do not deserve to be on the road because they do not pay for them is based on a myth. Cyclists along with everybody else contribute by paying taxes and rates. It is time for Aucklanders to embrace the huge economic, environmental and social benefits to be realised from investment in cycling infrastructure