Lanes clogged as thousands cross Harbour Bridge

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Around 2000 people are making their way across the Auckland Harbour Bridge this morning as they celebrate its 50th birthday.

All north-bound lanes have been closed by the action, which was organised by the Auckland GetAcross campaign group in response to the New Zealand's Transport Agency's rejection of at least three proposals to allow cycling and walking on the bridge.

Last week NZTA decided not to allow the protest for safety reasons.

The large group of cyclists and pedestrians earlier gathered near Westhaven Marina after police and Transit New Zealand closed off the Curran Street on-ramp, which is where the marchers had planned to gain access to the motorway.

Wayne McDonald, the Auckland regional director for the New Zealand Transport Agency had repeatedly told those gathered they would not be permitted to cross the bridge, but a short while ago Chris Harris, 53, of Northcote and Suzette Jackson, 34, managed to get across a barrier and onto Curran Street.

The first person to run onto the motorway - stopping cars - was Erin Allison-Maxwell, 22. The rest of the assembled crowd followed.

Newstalk ZB reported that cyclists had also managed to break through the cordon and were cycling across the bridge.

Herald reporter Jacqueline Smith is on the bridge and says the walkers and cyclists are pausing at the top to take photos and look at the views.

It is illegal for people to cross the bridge on foot or by bike without permission and the marchers face $250 fines for doing so.

The marchers are hoping to show the Transport Agency and the Government that there is very strong support among Aucklanders for walking and cycling on the bridge.

Spokesman Bevan Woodward says the city is one of the most unfriendly in the developed world for walkers and cyclists.

NZTA said today the lane closure on the bridge was temporary but major delays were expected.

It urged motorists to avoid the bridge and northbound approaches.

- NZ HERALD STAFF, NEWSTALK ZB

* Auckland Harbour Bridge: 50 Years of a City Icon The New Zealand Herald covered the bridge story from the beginning. Today its rich photographic store of the bridge's moods, its construction, and its striking presence is celebrated in a new book, Auckland Harbour Bridge: 50 Years of a City Icon. Author Renee Lang delved into the treasure trove and brings to life a fascinating history with more than 100 images. The book is available at most bookstores, $24.99 (Random House) or you can contact the New Zealand Herald photosales department to order a copy: email, photosales@nzherald.co.nz or phone 09 373 6093.

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