Mt Albert is the latest Auckland suburb where shopkeepers are feeling robbed by the loss of parking for a cycleway.

Several Mt Albert shopkeepers spoken to by the Herald have reported a downturn in business from a town centre upgrade that has seen the loss of 33 car parks for landscaping, wider footpaths and a cycleway.

This follows anger in Grey Lynn from the removal of parking and moving of bus stops for a cycleway in the West Lynn shops and concerns in Northcote Point from construction and loss of on-street parking on Queen St for a cycling project.

Since the cycleway opened at the end of November I have never seen a cyclist

In Mt Albert, a local barber, chemist, baker and optometrist all say business is down, principally because there are fewer car parks for people to stop on New North Rd.


"Mt Albert is not a destination, it's always been a drive through. Everything is based on convenience and convenience requires parking," says Calab Vincent-Gonzales, who owns Vinny's barber shop on busy New North Rd where business is down by a third.

Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes refutes the criticism, saying the $6.5 million upgrade aims to rescue and reinvigorate a dying town centre with plans in place to deal with disruption during construction.

Unlike the "disaster" in West Lynn, Haynes said, the Mt Albert upgrade was consulted on extensively, received overwhelming support and has input from urban designers.

What's more, Haynes said, Mt Albert has never had a parking problem.

"The loss of car parking will not necessarily impact in the long-term on the local businesses," he said.

One businessman feeling upbeat about the town centre upgrade is Steve Gough, who opened a neighbourhood bar, Albert's Post, last September in the middle of construction works.

It has been a pretty painful journey getting there, but it is going to be a much improved town centre, more pedestrian friendly and more people friendly, said Gough.

"The more desirable we can make Mt Albert the better our business is going to function, he said.


But eight months into the year-long construction project, many shopkeepers are feeling the pinch from the loss of parking spaces and two slip lanes - one a left-hand turn into Mt Albert Rd, the second in front of a row of shops - for public spaces, trees and wider footpaths for outdoor seating and the cycleway.

The cycleway has been built up against the curb. When the Herald visited it was rubbish collection day and the cycleway was full of wheelie bins.

Wheelie bins cluttering up the new cycleway in the Mt Albert town centre. Photo / Bernard Orsman
Wheelie bins cluttering up the new cycleway in the Mt Albert town centre. Photo / Bernard Orsman

"Since the cycleway opened at the end of November I have never seen a cyclist," said Bhaidas Bhula, who has operated the New North Pharmacy since 1981.

Yes, upgrade the footpath, but why do we need such a wide footpath, says Bhula, who said his objections to the project were ignored and the result is a 50 per cent drop in business.

"Small businesses are the backbone of the economy...if they are not going to look after us what is going to happen to the economy," said his wife, Karla Bhula.

At the nearby Boston Bakery, owner Steve Chea said six or seven car parks have been removed from outside his shop and turnover has halved.

The upgrade might look great, said Chea, who is sceptical about the benefits to the shopping centre.

Said Christina Herrick, who owns Mt Albert Optometrists: "The malls have got all the parking now and we are just having the parking cut out from under our feet."

She said the loss of a slip lane with parking for about 13 cars had reduced accessibility, placed cars on the main road and meant cyclists had to watch out for car doors opening.

"I don't think the cycling lane, from a safety perspective, is a brilliant idea in this area. Cycleways are a good idea, but maybe not on arterial roads," said Herrick.

In a statement, Auckland Transport said the number of car parks in Mt Albert was reducing from 129 to 96, but surrounding car parks have good capacity for shoppers.

AT acknowledged one of the main concerns with town centre upgrades was the loss of parking, but mostly only a small number were being removed to provide better pedestrian spaces, a safe route for cyclists and making sure traffic keeps flowing and deliveries continue.

Extensive consultation was done on the Mt Albert upgrade, said AT, with the most common feedback about parking being to increase the parking time limit on New North Rd from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. This had been adopted.

"It is AT's role to provide facilities for a range of transport modes, not just for private vehicles," said AT, adding it is committed to giving higher priority to cycling and other modes of active transport.