Plans to put a cycle and footpath network around Auckland are gaining momentum in Mt Roskill.
Puketapapa Local Board chairman Richard Barter oversaw the first section of path through Walmsley and Underwood Reserves more than a decade ago, while chairman of Mt Roskill Community Board.
The area's residents found that with walkers and cyclists around, crime dropped and burglars stopped sneaking into the backs of houses from reserves.
This encouraged the community to approve a more extensive network.
Mr Barter said it became clear from recent Local Board plan submissions that residents wanted ways to draw the community together.
Paths connecting open spaces, schools, village centres, foreshores, maunga and streams let people recreate, commute and meet, he says.
"Trees and shrubs alongside the paths will draw birds and wildlife.
"Rain gardens beside road corridors will enhance the health of waterways."
The Local Board worked with Auckland Council's parks department on a concept for what is known as the Puketapapa Greenways Network Plan. Now other local boards are working together to ensure paths in their areas link up.
It builds on the State Highway 20 cycleway, parks and coastal walkways in the area and includes painted cycle lanes, footpaths, pedestrian- or cycle-only paths, and a combination of these.
Priority routes form part of the regional cycling network started by the former Auckland Regional Council, as well as another plan for a single path for the whole of the Auckland isthmus known as the Greenways Project.
Cycle Action Auckland spokeswoman Barbara Cuthbert says Auckland Transport is revising the regional cycling network, which focuses on arterial roads.
The new plan, to be called the Auckland Cycle Network is expected to include the wider Greenways Project which focuses on cycleways in parks.
The former Auckland Regional Council adopted a regional cycle network plan more than a decade ago. That has guided work on the sites for major cycle routes by identifying arterial roads connecting work, community and commercial centres to transport centres (like ferry and train terminals) as sites for cycle lanes.
"Local Boards are [creating] new cycling routes in parks that are able to cater for a wider group of cyclists - not just those who are confident to commute on roads," she says.
The Puketapapa paths could also connect with the Te Araroa and Hillary hiking trails, and another trail from the central business district to the airport.
Mr Barter says many of his residents don't drive, so rely on cars or buses to get around.
"To be able to walk or cycle will greatly increase their choices," he suggests.
Many locals are at risk of diabetes and other ailments and the paths would improve quality of life and reduce health costs, he adds. The paths run past the Roskill Campus - Mt Roskill primary, intermediate and grammar schools - and congestion has been reduced by more students walking and cycling.
Several Hillsborough Primary School walking buses use the paths, and principal Nicola Girling says pupils have been taught the names of birds and trees along the route.
Mr Barter says he hopes bike-sharing "libraries" will be set up to capitalise on Auckland Transport's cycle-training schemes.
The idea is to combine construction with earthworks by companies such as Telecom, Vector and Watercare, so agencies undertake works at the same time. The NZ Transport Agency could pay for paths around schools and the council's stormwater department may finance sections beside Oakley Creek.
Mr Barter says it will never be cheaper to set aside space for paths, even if they take years to form a network. And the day would come when there is no more room to build roads.
"Bus and rail services will be full so we must prepare to offer people more choices."
Mr Barter uses the pathway alongside SH20 to cycle to work every day and says he has noticed a steady increase in people using it. People were commuting to school or work, exercising, playing, walking their dogs.
"I came across my mother-in-law's walking group from a retirement village in Green Bay ... they'd come to Mt Roskill especially to walk our paths."
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