Regional council backs bridge walkers, cyclists

By Mathew Dearnaley

Walking and cycling across the Harbour Bridge won support from Auckland Regional Council yesterday, but only subject to an evaluation of their benefits against other priorities.

A resolution to encourage the Government's Transport Agency to make an application with Auckland and North Shore Cities for these to be included in the next regional land transport programme was opposed by five of the 12 regional councillors.

That programme is being compiled by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, the organisation ultimately responsible for deciding which projects should be lined up for Government funding for the three years from next July.

But the regional council's transport committee stopped short of accepting a staff recommendation to support the cheapest of a short-list of six options compiled by consultants, varying in cost from $23.8 million to $42.8 million.

Committee chairwoman Christine Rose said that until the consultants produced their final report, councillors were in no position to assess any potential safety risks from options which would require a narrowing of traffic lines to make room for cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge's existing clip-ons.

The most expensive option would involve 1.2m extensions on each edge of the bridge, but the Getacross coalition of cyclists and walkers favours a compromise of 700mm add-ons priced by the consultants at $38.8 million.

That would leave traffic with clip-on lanes of 3.3m and 3.2m compared with an existing width of 3.65m, which would have to be reduced to 3.09m without any extensions.

Despite her reluctance to ask councillors to choose from the options, and an acknowledgement by council staff that all were relatively costly for the number of pedestrians and cyclists likely to use the bridge, Ms Rose said the region was not even spending an agreed 4 per cent funding distribution for non-motorised transport.

"We are one of the worst cities in the country for walking and cycling," she said.

Council strategic policy chairman Paul Walbran voted in favour of walking and cycling links only after the committee accepted his request to add the condition that these be evaluated against other priorities.

Councillor Dianne Glenn said she could not support the cheapest option on safety grounds.

On the other hand, the extension options were too expensive.

Among the proposal's other opponents, Judith Bassett said it would be a very expensive symbol of the region's support for walking and cycling and North Shore councillor Christine Rankin said the bridge was already "clogged" by traffic without reducing space available for motor vehicles.

But fellow North Shore representative Joel Cayford said a cycleway on one edge of the bridge and a walking path on the other would come to be seen as a "cornerstone" project in similar fashion to Britomart Station and the Northern Busway.

Britomart had stimulated the redevelopment of Auckland rail and the busway had emboldened North Shore City to provide bus priority lanes through many streets.

Although only about 1.5 per cent of trips in Auckland were by bicycle, that was because many felt it too unsafe to ride on the region's roads.

That was why Auckland needed a cornerstone project for cycling "to send a clear message that we want to civilise our streets in the way cities in Europe that we admire do". Auckland City's transport committee decided last week that although cycling and walking links on the bridge were laudable, they would not represent "the optimum use of limited funds".

North Shore City councillors are to consider the issue today.

- NZ Herald

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