From the fringe to mainstream: Presentation at the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress

From the fringe to mainstream: the politics of gaining community support and delivering successful cycling infrastructure for the future

At the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress held in Christchurch 17-20 October 2017 I presented in a session on the theme of Community Engagement in collaboration with Christchurch City Councillor Phil Clearwater. We thought it would be interesting to present our respective political takeouts and to provide a space to discuss what the politics of gaining community support and delivering successful cycling infrastructure  is looking like with other politicians, advocates and people delivering on the ground. It is also an opportunity to contrast the Christchurch way with what is happening in Auckland.

Slide 1

Slide 1:  My background is as a cycling advocate. I came to politics as a committee member of Cycle Action Auckland (now Bike Auckland) and co-organizer of Frocks on Bikes in Auckland ( shout out to Bella & Leah the co-founders of Frocks about to celebrate the 10 year anniversary next year) . When I first got involved in advocacy almost 10 years ago it was as part of a smallish but growing group of activists responding  to the question Why would anyone cycle ?  (especially in Auckland that is  of course too hilly, too wet and too humid etc). I was told there was no votes in cycling as it was too fringe!

Last week Michelle, who works for the WA state government got in touch for a coffee before the conference. She told me she was a fan of the global leadership of Auckland – I’ve never heard that before! But as we are going to hear from presenters over the course of the conference Auckland is experiencing unprecedented transformation into a cycling city.

I’m presenting my personal thoughts on how we are going in Auckland from a political perspective .

It looks like we have a number of complimentary presentations that consider bike lash and from the trenches perspectives – it is of course not all plain sailing.

Slide 2

Slide 2: I’m going to presume that non Aucklanders are at best only vaguely familiar with our unique governance arrangements.

Since 2010 we’ve had the super city of 21 Local Boards focusing on the local stuff – playgrounds, community centres, libraries etc and an advocacy role rather than a decision making role for transport. A mayor and 20 councilors of the governing body responsible for regional decision making and setting the vision and strategy for Auckland.  Chris Darby councillor for North Shore is here.

Auckland Transport – one of the arguably missed named council “controlled” organizations-  is responsible for all transport functions and operations including consulting on cycling projects.

I’m chair of this area [slide 2], the Waitemata Local Board covering the city centre and central suburbs of Auckland.  For 7 years I’ve also held the transport portfolio lead.

Slide 3

Slide 3: The foundations of the move from fringe to mainstream started long before 2010 but in Auckland the radical realignment of the cycling universe received a big bang boost with the formation of the Super City.

For the first time a pro-cycling Mayor was elected together with pro- cycling Local boards and councilors (admittedly only a few to start with).  But it opened the way for political support for an all of Auckland cycling strategy backed up with meaningful budget.

At the time we wanted to use a regular people on bikes photo in our first local board plan 2011 – all the Council’s photo archive could come up with was what looked like a man in high viz being chased by a car! This image (slide 3) was our more idealized vision of the future thanks to board member Jesse Chambers and her Green friends.

Slide 4

Slide 4: Giving the Mayor and politicians wind in their sails was the work of the advocates groups who had been creatively working away building a ground swell of support and were ready to seize the new possibilities of thinking big.   Who would have imaged that we would have a award winning magenta cycleway on disused motorway off-ramp delivered in 16 months – but it was Bike Auckland who were instrumental in planting the idea in the first place!

Shout out to our advocates:

And the many speakers from overseas introduced to us through events like Auckland Conversations and experts like Dutch Bicyle Embassy, Tyler Golly  who’ve come to Auckland to broaden our horizons.

Slide 5:

Slide 5: The awareness raising by activists has led to unprecedented public feedback supporting investment in cycling.

This graph is from the Annual budget consultation in 2015 that led to the introduction of an interim transport levy.   Cycling and walking is a close second to public transport in the transport area that submitters think Council should focus more on .

For our recent Local Board plan consultation we had 80% approval that we were on the right track.  In fact we received feedback that we should be bolder and deliver faster.

Cycling is mainstream politics!

Slide 6

Slide 6: As we know the winning combination of  strong public support and feel good projects brought the politicians with the big bucks along for the ride.

John Key came on board in 2013 with the $100m urban cycling investment fund – anecdotally I’ve heard he was strongly influenced by the positive feedback he received from all the baby boomers coming back from riding Great rides and wanting to keep cycling.   (I was honoured to be on the investment panel with Glen Koorey, Richard Leggat who are here, supported by an impressive NZTA team – Claire, Rebecca, Duncan, Gerry who did all the work )

In this photo at the opening of the Quay St cycleway there are at least 10 politicians all hustling to be seen on a bike!

Slide 7

Slide 7: I’ve heard it said you need a trifecta to make cycling happen: Mayor/leadership + advocates is completed by the  “plangineers.” I credit this to Timothy Papandreou,  then Director of Strategic Planning & Policy at the San Francisco municipal transportation agency who I heard speak at Velocity 2014 but he might have been quoting  Janette Sadik Khan . A special mention to those people with the skills to plan, design and build the cycleways.

So in the western area of Waitemata covering Grey Lynn and Westmere major routes are now complete, underway or about to start.

Slide 8: Here is what we can look forward to on that blue line – known as Route 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 9: And on the pink line along Richmond Road – route 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 10: And we are underway Route 2 under construction

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 11: More of Route 2 under construction – right through the shops

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 12: Route 1 under construction. Taking the cyclelane into the shops but not through it –yet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 13

Slide 13: That is a hell of a lot of cones appearing on our streets and a lot of construction. In saying that I acknowledge that we know nothing about cones and construction compared to Christchurch.

 

 

 

 

Slide 14:

Slide 14: For me it is great to see the progress that is underway.  I feel it shows momentum after a slow start.  We can see the network effect taking shape.

When I see scenes like this I tear up. It is why I got into politics.

We’re all happy then?  Living the dream ….

 

Slide 15:  We’ve hit just a bit of a bike lash speed bump!

Slide 15

Admittedly these are the comments of one person but she is reflecting the stirrings of community dissatisfaction now that construction is actually underway and having an impact on people’s lives.

There are some key themes:

  • Consultation process.  Not hearing that any changes have been made as a result of feedback  and not feeling listened to by AT [consultation happened during the election last year so definitely not a good idea]
  • Lack of communication. eg complaints about not knowing the construction is starting
  • Misunderstanding about the “obscene” amount of money  ($200m over three years for all of Auckland has been reported as  $200 m per year in Grey Lynn)
  • Perception that Auckland Council is prioritising cycling over more pressing issues such as homelessness, congestion and sewage in the harbour
  • Dislike for change being imposed on a well loved area. “Not broken so doesn’t need fixing”
  • Don’t believe the evidence or that international experience applies to Auckland

This is not necessarily all negative.   Had to add a bouquet just to restore the balance!

As I heard said at Velo City in 2014 from a Mayoral Rep “ A good city means dialogue and controversy – getting people engaged in their environment and its transformations can only be a good sign of things to come”

I agree with Phil’s comment that we need to win the battle without losing the war.    How are we going to do that in Auckland ?  How are we going to keep the political support. How can we respond to take communities with us. A few thoughts:

Slide 16

Slide 16: Putting the construction into context

Change is a constant

Preparing for tram service on Richmond Road in 1910

 

 

 

Slide 17

 

Slide 17: Just over a hundred years later we are preparing for bike lanes on the same spot

Along with that is going to be a change in how these shops function and work as a “Village”.

 

 

 

Slide 18

Slide 18: Everyone has to have their own “see the light” experience – whether it is from travelling overseas or a direct experience of the benefits of getting on a bike

Kathryn’s team is doing a great job bringing together the data but we need more NZ examples demonstrating the economic and societal benefits.  I soak up what I hear from overseas experiences – for example the lessons from Canada shared by Tyler Golly in the photo – but there is distrust of what has happened outside of NZ and a view that it doesn’t apply here.

 

Slide 19

Slide 19: In Auckland we do have a unique political situation. I am a fan of the Super city as it has improved local democracy and stopped political meddling in delivering  transport solutions for the benefit of everyone.

But at the same time it has removed the community from the transport decision making process.

I’m looking forward to Kathryn’s presentation about the lessons from the trenches on doing engagement differently so I won’t go into that in detail here but communication and bringing the community along is definitely key. [Wellington City Councillor Sarah Free in her presentation in the same sessions made very good points about the lessons from the Island Bay cycleway experience including delivering a project the whole community can feel proud in and working closely with businesses and residents]

Of course we need to keep working to elect pro-cycling representatives.   [In the photo] Jessica Rose, fellow Frocker was recently elected to Albert Eden with her colleague Margi Watson who was instrumental in delivering the waterview path and is a recent convert to e-cycling

Get people on the inside doing the great work

Keep the tri-fecta strong – support the advocates

Slide 20

Slide 20:  I think it has been interesting to put together this presentation and attend the conference at a time of huge change resulting in bike lash.

It has been great to meet up with and acknowledge the many people on this journey.

Together I think we are going to ride this through (hopefully with renewed funding from the next government).   At future international conferences I am sure Kathryn will be doing presentations on the Auckland story of cycling success!

 

 

 

 

 

Quay Street Cycleway opening

It would have been hard to imagine even a few years ago politicians flocking to the opening of a cycleway.  In fact there were hardly any cycleway openings in Auckland until the PM opened Grafton Gully cycleway in September 2014.   However that all changed when serious investment in cycling got underway thanks in part to the Urban Cycling  programme. The additional government funding matched with Auckland Council interim transport levy funding  is starting to have an impact.  As the network of cycleways grows on busy routes cycling numbers are increasing with a doubling of numbers coming into the city centre in the last year.

Protected cycleways like the new one on Quay Street feel safe and pleasant to ride. They attract commuters, recreational riders, tourists and families with children.  They unleash the huge latent demand for opportunities to ride safely.  They are good for businesses , good for health & wellbeing and good for improving the liveability of Auckland*.  It is not surprising politicians of all colours want to celebrate when new cycleways open!

 

 

Auckland Transport Media Release

8 July 2016

Auckland’s waterfront will be an improved urban space and an even busier cycle route following the opening of the Quay St Cycleway today.

The Prime Minister, Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown and a large group of people on bikes, were the first to use the city centre’s newest cycleway. The opening was preceded by a dawn blessing with Iwi representatives.

A new cycle counter on the promenade, a first for Auckland, will highlight the number of people cycling along one of Auckland busiest routes.

On the waterfront side of Quay St, the 1km, two way cycleway goes from Princes Wharf at Lower Hobson St to Plumer St. The $2.18m cycleway is being delivered by Auckland Transport and has local funding and an investment from the Government through NZ Transport Agency and the Urban Cycleways Programme.

It will benefit everyone who spends time at the waterfront and will encourage more people to start cycling into the city centre says Kathryn King, Auckland Transport’s Cycling and Walking manager.

“Having a dedicated cycleway like this means there is more space on the promenade for people to walk and enjoy the harbour views. The planter boxes, which provide protection from traffic, improve this wonderful space by adding some greenery.

“The cycle route into the city centre along Tamaki Dr is the busiest route in Auckland, and this will make cycling from the east even more attractive. Providing a protected cycleway on Quay St gives people working in the downtown area greater travel choice and an excellent cross-town route that avoids a lot of city traffic.”

Mayor Len Brown says it’s another important chapter in his vision for Auckland as the world’s most liveable city as it transforms the city centre into a pedestrian and cycle friendly destination.

“This project is another example of Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and the Transport Agency working well together to achieve a great outcome.”

Bike Auckland, chair, Barbara Cuthbert says the cycleway is a great addition to downtown Auckland. “It’s hugely exciting to have a safe separated space for people cycling and those walking close to rail and ferry services.”

The three-metre-wide cycleway connects with the Beach Rd Cycleway at Britomart Pl and by the end of 2018 will link with the Nelson St Cycleway and Westhaven to City Cycleway at Princes Wharf and the Tamaki Dr Cycleway.

When phase two of Nelson St Cycleway is constructed next year, the city centre cycle loop will be complete. This loop includes Lightpath, Nelson St, Grafton Gully, Beach Rd and Quay St cycleways.

Auckland Transport is working with project partners Auckland Council and the Government through the NZ Transport Agency and the Urban Cycleways Programme on a $200m programme of cycle improvements from 2015 to 2018.

Quay St Cycleway

  • The Quay Street Cycleway is delivered by Auckland Transport and is one of the projects funded in the 2015-18 Urban Cycleways Programme (UCP).
  • Auckland Transport is working with project partners Auckland Council and the Government through the NZ Transport Agency and the Urban Cycleways Programme on a $200m programme of cycle improvements from 2015 to 2018.
  • The UCP involves central government partnering with local government to accelerate the delivery of $333 million of key cycle projects around New Zealand over the next three years
  • The $2.18 million cycleway is funded from $0.70M Central Government, $0.75M National Land Transport Fund, $0.73 million Auckland Transport. This project is part of the wider Auckland city centre package project announced through the Urban Cycleways Programme.
  • The one kilometre long, three metres wide, two-way cycleway goes from Princes Wharf, Lower Hobson to Plumer St. The majority of the route is on-road, physically protected from traffic with concrete separators (similar to Nelson St Cycleway) and planter boxes.
  • This cycleway connects with the existing shared path on Quay St in the east. By 2018 AT will have delivered another cycleway that will connect Quay St Cycleway at Plumer St with the start of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Shared Path at Hobson Bay. People will be able to cycle and walk from Glen Innes to the city centre.
  • Beach Rd Cycleway connects with Quay St at Britomart Pl allowing people to cycle all the way to the Northwestern Cycleway via Beach Rd Cycleway and Grafton Gully Cycleway.In the west, people can now cycle over Te Wero Bridge to Wynyard Quarter and around the Viaduct. Ultimately it will connect with Westhaven Dr to City Cycleway and Nelson St Cycleway when they are completed in 2017.
  • When Nelson St Cycleway phase two is complete next year, a city centre cycle loop will be complete including the pink Lightpath, Grafton Gully Cycleway, Beach Rd Cycleway and Quay St Cycleway. The project team is currently working on how best to connect Nelson St Cycleway (which currently ends at Victoria St) with Quay St Cycleway.

Cycling in Auckland by numbers

  • 750 cycle trips per day on pink Lightpath since it opened December
  • A doubling of the number of people cycling into the city over three years.
  • 50% increase in people cycling in Symonds St/Grafton Gully corridor following opening of Grafton Gully Cycleway in 2014
  • 20% increase in people cycling on Northwestern Cycleway in May 2016 compared with May 2015.

Upcoming cycle projects in Auckland

  • Mangere Future Streets opening late September
  • Mt Roskill Safe Routes opening late October
  • Ian McKinnon Dr Cycleway public consultation starts July
  • Karangahape Rd Streetscape Enhancement and Cycleway public consultation by August.
  • Great North Rd Cycleway public consultation by the end of 2016.

Related reading

Key unlocks Quay Street – Transport Blog

A gray, sunny day for lots of joy on Quay Street – Bike Auckland

Prime Minister John Key geared up on Auckland’s Quay Street cycleway – Auckland Now

*Benefits of investing in cycling in New Zealand communities – NZTA

The lightpath to our cycling future – Te ara i whiti

Freemans Bay primary school Auckland has a stunning new icon.

Te ara i whiti – Lightpath opened yesterday to rave reviews and a huge turn out of people excited to experience the world’s first ever pink (officially magenta) coloured cycleway created from a transformed disused motorway off-ramp.

The day started with a dawn blessing that allowed for a contemplative walk with iwi reprepresentatives along the route to admire the new art works and take in the newly created vistas of the city as the sun came up. 

opening BFm photo
Photo: 95bfm

Hon Simon Bridges with the help of super hero riders from Freemans Bay primary school offically opened Phase One that includes a new swirling Canada Street Bridge connecting to the magenta-coloured Nelson Street off-ramp that joins the cycleway that runs down the length of Nelson St to the intersection of Victoria St. Phase 2, to start early next year, will take the entire Nelson St cycleway to Quay St. 

In the evening thousands gathered on foot, on skateboards and on bikes to enjoy the “first hoon” and interactive light show that runs along one side.

It was a really happy day for Auckland and wonderful to take part in the celebrations for the magic that has been created in an incredibly short time.

Nelson St off ramp before/after - City Centre Masterplan image
Nelson St off ramp before/after – City Centre Masterplan image

Since the Nelson St off ramp closed in 2005 people have looked down on spaghetti junction and imagined what could be possible to break up the endless grey motorway that dissects the city.  The idea to re-purpose the off -ramp took shape in the City Centre Masterplan 2012 (CCMP). It was visualised as a NYC style Highline with an urban garden.  In 2013 Matter Architects installed hundreds of bikes as part of an award winning Designday installation which raised further questions about how the off-ramp could be used.

Janette Sadik-Khan inspirational Auckland Conversation presentation in May 2014 provided the platform for a challenge to city’s leaders to get behind a “quick win” transformational pilot project. Paul and PippaBarb Cuthbert and Max Robitzsch from Bike Auckland (then Cycle Action Auckland) were ready with just the right project – a concept for the off-ramp as a cycleway connected to K’rd (also supported and promoted by Transport Blog).  Fortunately the timing was perfect with a new Regional Director at NZTA willing to make the idea a reality and Auckland Transport agreeing to get on board to tackle Nelson St to provide a business case for the off-ramp as a key connection in the city’s cycling network.  The crucial funding arrived with the Government’s announcement of a $100m Urban Cycling Investment Fund in August 2014 followed by confirmation that

Photo: Phil Walter
Photo: Phil Walter

Nelson St would be included in the programme in January 2015 (I was a member of the Urban Cycling Investment panel that recommended the programme to the Minister). Political support came from the Mayor Len Brown, Councillor Chris Darby (the Council’s political urban design champion) and of course the Waitematā Local Board! (our small financial contribution was to fund a drinking station on route)

The final part fell into place with the decision of the City Centre Advisory Board to use the targeted rate paid by central businesses to fund the WOW factor for the project.  This gave Auckland Council’s urban design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid and the Auckland Design Office the opportunity to get creative and follow through on the potential identified in the CCMP to make sure Auckland ended up with something really unique.

photo: Bike Auckland
photo: Bike Auckland

Following public feedback the concept was created by Monk Mackenzie architects and LandLAB, in association with artist Katz Maihi. Māori patterns annarrative form a core part of the designs, following discussions with iwi. The path includes Nelson St cyclewayetched carvings at intervals along the length, with a 6-metre pou at the entrance. The colour (by Resin Surfaces Ltd) represents the heartwood of a freshly cut totara, with the red and pink shades strengthened to contrast with the surrounding motorway lanes.  It includes LED lights by Iion lighting lining the safety barriers, that can interact and pulse as people pass them, as well as a strong magenta surface colour that fades out at the northern end in a Māori design (details from the Auckland Council media release).

Waitemata Local Board funded drinking station on Nelson St
Waitemata Local Board funded drinking station on Nelson St

I’d like to acknowledge and thank all who played a part in the Lightpath & Nelson St cycleway project from Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, NZTA and the many contractors (including Hawkins Construction, GHD, Construction Landscapes, PFS) who worked hard up right to the opening day. Te ara i whiti is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when the stars align on a great idea and creative people are given the brief and funding to make it happen.   

#LightpathAKL

Film by iion of the first hoon

Time lapse of the paint going down https://youtu.be/tK_mZodXXCk

Aucklander flock to new magenta pathway into the city (Auckland Council media release)

Pedal to the new metal – Catherine Smith in the NZ Herald