The Wrong Side of my Car

A blog about Auckland City, its streets, and culture shock

28 Oct 2019

Riding the Northwestern Cycleway

At last, I made it onto the Northwestern Cycleway. It skirts the Northwestern Motorway all the way up to Henderson. Mostly. This cycleway made it to the news a couple of times this year. Let’s see what the fuss is about.

For me that first requires a ferry ride. Which is pretty limiting in the weekends — having Skypath built will make this a lot easier.

Crossing the CBD became a lot easier when the Hobson Street Cycleway was completed. This brings us straight to Lightpath…

to Upper Queen Street — where at last the parking lane was converted to a wide bike lane and footpath.

Here you can take a moment to contemplate the size of the Spaghetti Junction, before continuing on one of the more recent additions, the Ian McKinnon Drive cycleway.

That leads to the oldest section of the path, in Kingsland. A few sharrows on Takau Street. That is a bit stingy. The Dutch often have the same arrangement, but they paint entire coloured strips instead of a few stencils.

You can just make out the ramp to Newton Road, which was the main route before Ian McKinnon Drive was finished.

That leads to the oldest section of actual cycleway. This was immediately recognisable for me. I used to rent a place in Milford. This path has a twin on Shakespeare Road. Same 2.5m width, same slightly crooked centre line. This one is missing the odd traffic sign and bus shelter.

See all those signs? This stretch was in the news, and not in a good way. Bike Auckland saw it coming a long time ago and pointed out a footpath should be built. Stuff hit the fan in February, when a nearby school cancelled the walking school bus. AT apparently didn’t see it coming. Maybe they did, but usually any dollar spent on bicycling or walking will draw out the angry horde.

This is not helped by our poor understanding of large numbers. “zOMG almost a million dollar wasted on that cycleway”. Most people do not intuitively understand this is substantially less than 2 billion for some motorway that should obviously get built yesterday. Both numbers are merely a big pile of money.

The weird thing is… only about 800 people pass by here in the morning on the way to work. Not really a trickle… but also not really busy. In the linked articles above, you can see that although it is a bit busy, it is far from crowded over there.

Of course, you’re not going to do this stretch at 30 km/h. Sorry darling. Stop shouting at those school kids, learn how to use a bell, and stop embarrassing yourself and all your fellow cyclists around you.

The good thing is, after half a year of this horrible fuss, a separate footpath is being planned now. Coming in 2020. Maybe. “Call for improvements”, prints Stuff. It is quite unusual for mainstream media to support anything bicycling. Of course the obligatory consultation follows. Consultations often are like open invitations with a note to Bring Your Own Torches and Pitchforks, so they can be quite dodgy for this sort of project.

But actually, the rest of the path is not particularly wide either. I wouldn’t go full roadie speed anywhere. Plenty of blind intersections with streets and curves to get into gnarly accidents.

A little unofficial rest stop here.

Don’t forget to occasionally stop and look down into the abyss.

And look, the Unitec building.

Big Plans for a development on hand here. I haven’t seen the plans in detail. This is a superb opportunity to have a meaningful destination for those arriving without a car. But I did already notice the stupid mistake of providing car access everywhere. The usual townhouses in a sea of parking anti-pattern. Uh, whatever. We’ll see.

A ramp over Great North Road leads you past the Waterview Heritage Area.

Well, this is not the usual backdrop for your landscape pictures.

I turned back at the causeway. Freshly rebuild and raised, ready for another few decades of sea levels creeping up. That rebuild was a good opportunity to put in a busway, similar to the Northern Motorway—

Nah, just kidding. They didn’t. The National government back then wouldn’t be caught dead overseeing construction of a busway.

One last look at the sheer size of those ramps. I am not actually sure why they are this size. Motorway interchanges don’t need wide curves like that. There is nothing wrong with a much smaller set with a design speed of 60 km/h.

The nearest town centre where you can stop for a coffee is Point Chevalier. One of the things you can do over there is press the button on a signalized pedestrian crossing, and then see the nearby traffic light go through its cycle, twice, before getting green light.

Whatever. You get used to this stuff over here.

I am also endlessly surprised at how easy it is to avoid getting other humans in the frame, even on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

If you arrive back at Upper Queen Street you can continue via the Grafton Gully cycleway and Quay Street.

Imagine how impressive that bridge used to look, back when this was still a forested gully.

Here’s another forgotten corner of the city, caught in a limbo as nobody knows whether the nearby Stanley Street will morph into a motorway or a boulevard.

The trip through the CBD was a bit awkward. Here is a few things I learned.

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