The news that Auckland Council has tripled its budget for walking and cycling infrastructure for the 2014-2015 year is good news for the city. The new budget of $32 million is still just a small part of an overall transport spend of $825m, but it seems enough to start a transformation.
Exactly where the money will go isn't yet clear, but as Cycle Action Auckland, which broke the news yesterday, points out, there are indications that this new level of investment will continue into future years. They're expecting four protected cycleway projects to be completed in the near year -- and note that one of those, the Beach Road stretch of the city extension to the SH16 cycleway, began this week. Here's a picture of the work.
So what's top of the to-do list? The proposed Karangahape Road protected cycleway that's currently the subject of a campaign? Or less-sexy suburban projects?
It would be nice, I think, if some more thought for cyclists and pedestrians was to go into NZTA's big new St Luke's Road overbridge project at Western Springs. I'm not unaware of the need to upgrade that intersection to deal with increased traffic flows after the Waterview Connection opens. I'm a driver as well as a cyclist in the area and I know that intersection has significant capacity and design issues already.
But it's also tricky even for confident citybound cyclists to get from Great North Road over to the SH16 cycleway -- the route we're already spending on improving. And from what I can see -- via Transport Blog and this 18MB PDF on the council website -- that's not fixed at all. And you're still dicing with traffic passing through the intersection in the other direction too. The shared paths on both sides of the bridge are good, but it's largely going to be a bigger, more onerous intersection for self-powered travellers.
Much of the attention has been focused on the loss of six big pohutukawa on the eastern side of the intersection, but I could swallow that (trees can always be replanted) if it made room for something visionary in an important recreational area -- one where people are actually walking and cycling -- but as it stands, NZTA's plan just does not do that.