ARC and Shore studies back bridge cycle link

By Mathew Dearnaley

Pedestrians and cyclists have won support from Auckland Regional Council and North Shore City officers for access to the harbour bridge as a "powerful signal" of commitment to transport alternatives.

Staff of both organisations have produced reports in favour of walking and cycling links across the bridge, for consideration by their councillors in the next two days.

That follows a controversial determination last week by Auckland City's transport committee that a cycleway along one edge of the bridge and a pedestrian path on the other, although laudable, would not represent "the optimum use of limited funds".

The three councils are partners with the Government's Transport Agency and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority in a $125,000 study which produced a short-list of cycling and pedestrian options with an estimated cost range from $23.8 million to $42.7 million.

Both the regional council and North Shore reports accept that all the options are relatively costly for the number of pedestrians and cyclists likely to use the bridge.

Study consultants predict anything between 450 and 1600 cycling trips over the bridge each day, and expect about 280 pedestrians to use it, although those numbers would be boosted during special events and are being disputed by the lobby group Getacross.

But the regional council report, to be debated tomorrow by that organisation's transport committee, says it is important to support regional and Government transport strategies promoting walking and cycling to cut greenhouse gases and congestion, and to improve public health.

"It is considered that to provide for walking and cycling across the Auckland Harbour Bridge would be a very powerful symbol of the region's commitment to reducing reliance on motor vehicles and providing for greater travel choice," the report says.

Even so, the report recommends the cheapest option, in which space would be reallocated on the bridge's existing clip-ons without any structural widening, as meeting acceptable standards for walking and cycling and for general traffic.

The North Shore report, due for consideration by councillors on Thursday, is more circumspect in recommending support, "subject to further consideration of funding and timing".

But it indicates a preference for the highest cost option, involving widening the clip-ons by 1.2m on each side of the bridge, to maximise available space for all users.

It says decisions would ultimately be made by the regional transport authority, and could be reduced to two alternative viewpoints.

These were:

* That the necessary funds could be better spent across the region on 40 or 50 smaller walking and cycling projects, or alternatively;

* That building a "flagship" crossing on the bridge would be a powerful signal to the community of the region's commitment to reducing reliance on single-occupancy vehicles and would complete a major missing link in its walking and cycling networks.

Both reports note that most of the cost would lie with the Government, through the Transport Agency, although it could be covered by a regionally-distributed funding pool in which $186 million remained unallocated for public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.

But the North Shore report points to potential extra costs of $5 million to $10 million for connections on its side of the bridge, depending on their location, to be shared between its council and the Government.

Auckland City faces a potential direct cost of about $700,000 as its share of a southern connection between the bridge and Westhaven.

Cycle Action Auckland chairman Bevan Woodward welcomed the developments but remained aggrieved Auckland City had voted against the project even though a final report from the consultants had yet to materialise.

He said benefits of the project would be shared by motorists, who would gain a higher standard of barriers than the structures now protecting them, and whose slightly narrower traffic lanes would potentially be occupied by fewer vehicles.

WHERE THEY STAND

* Auckland Regional Council: Cycle access important to reduce reliance on cars.

* North Shore City Council: Supports the idea in principle, depending on funding and timing.

* Auckland City Council: A worthy idea but not the best use of limited funds.

- NZ Herald

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