The NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi has ruled out allocating a vehicle lane on the Auckland Harbour Bridge for cycles and pedestrians once and for all.
It was not practical to use a lane for cyclists and pedestrians and the idea had been ruled out, Waka Kotahi chairman Sir Brian Roche told Parliament's transport and infrastructure select committee yesterday.
However, Waka Kotahi's general manager of transport services, Brett Gliddon, said the agency is considering opening up lanes on the bridge for summer events, but not this summer.
He added the Transport Minister Michael Wood has asked the agency to come back in March with plans for providing access for cyclists across the Waitemata Harbour, such as using ferries and buses.
The agency has already investigated running a regular, 15-minute ferry service for cyclists across the harbour, according to papers obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act.
The service would run from the Northcote ferry terminal or Northcote Point to either Wynyard Quarter or Queens Wharf at the city end on a 6am to midnight ferry shuttle service every 15 minutes.
The papers said a regular ferry service could be up and running within two years after upgrades to terminals and ferries costing $60 million and operating costs of about $6m a year.
Running a 10-minute bus service for cyclists was also looked at. It would cost $30m for terminal upgrades and operating costs of $6m a year, but faced challenges at the city end and running alongside other bus services, said the agency.
Allowing cyclists to cross the harbour has become a headache for Woods since hundreds of cyclists pushed past a police barrier and rode across the bridge in May to protest at the lack of action for a cycle lane trial.
This was followed in June by Wood announcing plans for a standalone $785m walking and cycling bridge across the harbour, adding Waka Kotahi was continuing to work on trialling the use of lanes on the bridge for walking and cycling.
Public opposition to the costly cycle bridge led the Government to scrap it in October, and instead use the money on projects such as speeding up the $1.4 billion Eastern Busway.
Wood and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff will open the first stage of the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Wood said Cabinet has made a decision on light rail in Auckland from the CBD to the airport, but it will not be announced until early 2022 to "present the full picture" on what will be the largest transport project in recent New Zealand history.
The Cabinet had three options to consider with early estimated costs of between $9b and $16.3b - modern-day trams running at street level, a London-style underground metro and a middle option with a tunnelled section from Wynyard Quarter to Mt Roskill.
National's transport spokesman Simeon Brown said the transport agency yesterday confirmed at its annual review hearing that more than $50m has been spent on light rail and not 1m of track will be built before the next election. By then, $100m will have been spent on the project, he added.
The Greens acting transport spokesman Ricardo Menendez-March said rather than ruling out a lane on the harbour bridge for walking and cycling, Waka Kotahi should trial the idea over summer and look to a permanent option next year.
"We are in a climate crisis and urgently need to work with our communities to provide ways of getting around safely without a car.
"This would give Aucklanders the option to leave the car at home and use a bike, e-bike or e-scooter to get across the harbour instead," Menendez-March said.
Bike Auckland was disappointed with Waka Kotahi's decision not to open a lane on the bridge for people wishing to walk and cycle across the harbour.
"More courageous leadership is required by government and their agencies to make Auckland a more liveable and sustainable city," said the new Bike Auckland chairman Tony Mitchell.