A controversial $100 million programme of inner-city cycleways is seemingly on the skids with the election of new Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown.
This week, Brown called for a complete change in approach at Auckland Transport, including listening to and following the wishes of local communities.
On cycleways, he called for greater certainty and control around projects and instructed AT to only invest in cycle lanes where the per kilometre cost is on par with other cities.
This brought an immediate response from Waitematā ward councillor Mike Lee, who wrote to Brown requesting he instruct AT to put a hold on the programme of three cycling projects in Grey Lynn, Westmere and Pt Chevalier.
Last night, an AT spokesman said the leadership team and board have heard the call from the mayor to review its approach. They added it's important to work closely and constructively with the mayor, councillors, Local Boards, and communities "on projects like these and we look forward to discussing them over the coming weeks".
"We are committed to giving Aucklanders genuine choices about how they travel across our city, while ensuring our projects deliver value and avoid unnecessary costs and disruption to Aucklanders," the spokesman said.
One of the cycleways in Grey Lynn and a nearby greenway cycling path has already cost $10m, involving transport consultants, project consultants, management consultants, construction consultants, retail consultants, landscape architects, engineers, communication firms - and the building contractor, who was paid $3.8m.
The cycleway caused a furore at the West Lynn shopping centre when it was built in 2017. Since then, parts of it have been repaired, a section is going to be dug up and replaced and it is planned to be extended to Westmere and was costed at $18.2m in May 2021. The cost is due to be updated and likely to rise.
AT has also faced criticism over a planned cycleway between Westmere and Pt Chevalier, which has risen in cost from $39m to $45m - the equivalent of $18m per kilometre.
It is being built to a gold standard with new trees, native plantings, raised tables on side streets, upgraded street lighting, partial undergrounding of power lines, a bus lane on Pt Chevalier Rd and a separated, two-way cycleway on Meola Rd connecting the suburbs.
The third cycleway is along Great North Rd, where it will link up to the Karangahape Rd cycleway. It is costing about $25m and involves bus, walking and safety improvements. Preliminary work has started, but the main construction contract is not due to go out for procurement until next year.
In his letter to the mayor, Lee said business owners and residents are alarmed over the intentions of AT to remove and restrict street parking outside the Surrey Cres shops - sandwiched between the Grey Lynn and Great North Rd cycleways.
Lee told the Weekend Herald that "AT's plans are horrendously expensive and causing a lot of angst and harm to local businesses, residents and even some cyclists".
"The whole project is flawed and needs to be put on hold," he said.
A mayoral spokesman said: "The mayor has received the letter, read it with interest and is seeking advice on the matters raised, including the costs of the projects."
Brown said during the election campaign, "A cycleway that costs $200 or $300 a metre and doesn't inconvenience everybody is a good investment. A cycleway that costs $12,000 a metre, like it did on Karangahape Rd, is not a good investment."
Bike Auckland chairman Tony Mitchell is on board with Brown's directive for a complete change in approach at AT and cheaper cycleways, saying the mayor could be the catalyst for changing transport infrastructure and the flow of Auckland.
He said Bike Auckland has been frustrated at AT's inability to deliver cost-effective cycleways quicker, saying the transport body has too many layers requiring sign-off, over-engineers the end result and includes urban development costs in projects.
On the Grey Lynn, Westmere and Pt Chevalier cycleways, Mitchell said if there were cost-effective ways of achieving the outcomes, Bike Auckland would support them.
“We want to support a good use of the finances … that is going to be important for the next couple of years for Auckland Transport.”