Waitematā is set to be the big winner from a significant package of walking and cycling projects that are underway or about to start. Once complete we can look forward to a range benefits flowing to the whole community. A large part of the focus is on connecting the places people wish to go; shops, schools, places of work and community facilities. Contractors have already started work on a separated cycleway and footpath upgrade that will connect Surrey Crescent to Pt Chevalier via Garnet Road, and to the Grey Lynn Greenway via Richmond Road.
Stage 2 of the Franklin Road upgrade is also underway including new footpaths and cycle lanes on both sides of the road that will connect Ponsonby Road to the planned Midtown cycleway at Victoria Park. A project on Great North Road between Crummer and Ponsonby Roads, will bring in improvements for pedestrians, those on bikes and bus users. The Karangahape Road enhancements project includes a separated “Copenagen” cycleway and significant streetscape improvements.
This all means that by 2018 new travel opportunities will have opened up via a connected and safe network. The “network effect” is already achieving results. Additional connections in the cycle network have created a 44% increase in people on bikes using the Northwestern Cycleway and a total of 45,600 new cyclists in 2016. There is growing demand from a majority of Aucklanders to cycle (and walk) if the conditions are right.
The funds for these projects comes from a combination of investment by NZTA, Auckland Transport and the government’s Urban Cycleway Fund and is expected to be about $200m over three years. It is great value for money for ratepayers who contribute $1 for every $2 from the government. In addition, the City Centre targeted rate is part funding the K’rd project.
However, the changes do bring a period of inconvenience and concerns from businesses and residents along the routes. In West Lynn I’ve been attending meetings organized by a group of retailers who have come together to work with Auckland Transport to minimize impact from the construction and improve access to parking for the shopping precinct as a whole. I’m on the Community Liaison Group, established by Auckland Transport to continue engaging with key stakeholders through the delivery of the Franklin Road project and to address issues like safety.
There is now compelling data to show that Waitematā will reap big rewards from investment in walking and cycling. Everyone benefits from slower speeds, safer streets, less pollution, fewer health costs and less congestion, when leaving a car at home becomes more of a viable option for more people. A recent study from the UK of a quarter of a million people, found that cycling to work is linked to a lower risk of developing cancer by 45% and cardiovascular disease by 46%. There is also a direct link between safe, active transport and economic prosperity. Recent research indicates that in Auckland a 1% increase in city centre walkability leads to a $43m increase in localised GDP. We want to ensure these impressive results also extend to our town centres and local shops.
For more details of the walking and cycling programme, visit Auckland Transport’s website: at.govt.nz/cycling-walking.