Small business owners across Auckland are on the warpath against plans to push out cars for cycleways and buses in local shopping centres.

In the past month, the Karangahape Road Business Association has withdrawn support for a $16 million cycleway and streetscape upgrade and the Mt Eden Village Business Association has gone ballistic over plans to extend bus stops in the village.

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"Auckland Transport needs to slow down, listen more and go back to the drawing board," Mt Eden Village Business Association chairman Steve Roper said in a letter to AT chairman Lester Levy.


The revolt has spread from the West Lynn and Westmere cycleway fiasco to Northcote Point, Mt Albert, Karangahape Rd, Mt Eden and Dominion Rd, drawing criticism from senior Auckland councillors and putting the spotlight on AT.

The transport body refused to put up anyone for an interview on the issue. Instead, AT media relations manager Mark Hannan issued short statements on the Mt Eden and West Lynn controversies and passed on inquiries about Karangahape Rd and Mt Albert to Auckland Council.

It is unusual for AT to go to ground on a project it has fronted until now, particularly when most of the rage is directed its way over the planned cycleway and removal of parking along Karangahape Rd.

"It's almost as if they have gone insane with this idea of cycleways and forgotten it's thousands of little businesses like this who pay rent, pay tax, pay rates," says Philippa Stephenson, whose Tart vegan bakery has a pop up shop in St Kevins Arcade.

Tart bakery owners Paul and Philippa Stephenson are upset at the loss of on-street parking on Karangahape Rd between Pitt St and Queen St. Photo / Greg Bowker
Tart bakery owners Paul and Philippa Stephenson are upset at the loss of on-street parking on Karangahape Rd between Pitt St and Queen St. Photo / Greg Bowker

Philippa and husband Paul Stephenson stress they are not against cycleways, which they support "100 per cent".

Their concern is with the provision of one loading zone for several businesses on this strip of Karangahape Rd - meaning trucks are double and triple parked and posing a danger to cyclists.

The Stephensons' concern is what Waitemata councillor Mike Lee refers to as not reactionary or anti-cycling and part of probably the most progressive, avant garde set in the country.

The couple are up at 3am baking bread and their customers' favourite pies - "meat pies with no meat in them" - for delivery from their main business in Grey Lynn to St Kevins Arcade.


Since AT removed three of the five loading zone parking spaces and on-street car parks near the arcade between Christmas and New Year, it takes the Stephensons several drives around the block to find parking to make the delivery. "It's just insanity," says Philippa.

"Consultation has been lip service," says Chris Fowlie, who manages the Hemp Store on K Rd.

The end goal is fantastic, says Fowlie, who is worried that years of disruption from the cycleway, City Rail Link and light rail will bankrupt independent stores, lure mainstream brands and change the character of K Rd.

An artist's impression of the proposed cycleway along Auckland's Karangahape Rd. Image / Auckland Council
An artist's impression of the proposed cycleway along Auckland's Karangahape Rd. Image / Auckland Council

Michael Richardson, manager of the Karangahape Road Business Association, says AT are looking to mitigate the loss of parking but the association is sticking with the stance of withdrawing support for the project.

He says K Rd is a progressive community that supports cycle lanes, but not if it means the loss of parking that retailers depend on. An action group with the slogan 'Don't Kill K Rd' has argued for alternative routes for the cycleway and circulated a petition signed by about 130 businesses.

It's a similar story at Mt Eden village where AT put out plans to double the length of the bus stops along one of the busiest bus routes in the city.

Dianne Adams, who runs a business preserving heritage items like photos and medals, says local shopkeepers are not anti-bus. Then comes the 'but'.

"In our view the bus stops need to be relocated so they can function and we don't get killed off in the process.

"At this point it does not look like they are considering any other option but their preferred one."

Steve Roper, from the Mt Eden Business Association and Dianne Adams from Archivista are worried that AT won't listen to locals when it comes to removing car parks and extending bus parking in the village. / Greg Bowker

Roper was blunt in his letter to Levy on February 20: "AT's proposal is a grave threat to our businesses and to the viability of Mt Eden Village as a town centre...the village will become a soulless mini-Britomart terminal."

He accused AT of being "disrespectful of the local community", acting "regardless of local views" and told Levy the solution is to put the bus stops around the edge of the village, not in the middle.

Hannan responded to the criticism in a statement, saying early indications from online submissions which closed this week show 70 per cent of people support the proposals and extending the bus lanes would ease the transit through Mt Eden.

"It isn't correct to say we aren't listening...the very essence of consultation is listening and gathering people's views. When we consult on a project we gather the views of the entire community; residents, commuters, people who cycle etc and not just business associations," Hannan said.

Sarah Stratford, who purchased Billy's Cafe on the North Shore in September last year, says she wants nothing more to do with the cafe industry and AT.

She is referring to the upgrade of Queen St on Northcote Point for a cycleway that has been "torture" since her cafe was wrapped in a dust cover and works started outside the door last October.

Work outside Billy's Cafe on Queen St in Northcote. Source / Sarah Stratford.
Work outside Billy's Cafe on Queen St in Northcote. Source / Sarah Stratford.

After being advised by AT staff to apply for compensation for loss of business, Stratford put in a claim for more than $60,000.

Two weeks ago AT wrote back saying the work was being done under the Public Works Act and nothing in the act "would give rise to a claim of compensation".

"It's just a disaster for us. We are sinking like a ship," says Stratford, saying the narrowed road lanes and longer traffic queues were scaring off morning passers-by and people from outside Northcote Point.

On Dominion Rd, there is confusion among shopkeepers being told permanent bus lanes are being marked out in the short-term, separate to a promise by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to build light rail from the CBD to Mt Roskill, via Dominion Rd, by 2021.

Dominion Road Business Association general manager Gary Holmes is fronting the AT board next week with a message that "middle level bureaucrats" are thundering through with the bus lane plans unaware of the massive upheaval coming with light rail.

Digging up Dominion Rd for light rail, says Holmes, will make West Lynn pale into insignificance.

Meanwhile in West Lynn, where the cycleway wars began, local businesses see a ray of hope.

Jacob Faull, co-chair of the Grey Lynn Business Association and owner of Nature Baby in West Lynn, says AT is listening and engaging and has got interesting people on board a community liaison group.

Consultation and new designs for the West Lynn shops are still four-to-six months away and businesses still want AT to reinstate angle parking outside Harvest Whole Foods and relocate two bus stops, says Faull, who accepts different options may come forward and improve the area.


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Councillors Mike Lee and Chris Fletcher, who have served on the AT board and are responsible for some of the biggest improvements to public transport in Auckland, are critical of AT's handling of the issues.

"AT has to have a really good look at itself and ask why it has ended up in such a pickle. It's a governance issue and should be addressed at a governance level," says Fletcher.

Auckland councillor Mike Lee.
Auckland councillor Mike Lee.

Lee says frustration at badly designed cycleways is growing and spreading, saying AT's failure to engage in genuine consultation has left members of the community with the impression that their rights have been trampled on.

"Even worse, AT's closed-minded approach means good constructive ideas coming back from the public are all too often ignored. The result is an outcome which is mediocre or, in the case of Grey Lynn and Westmere, an expensive shambles.

Leroy Beckett, a spokesman for the youth lobby group Generation Zero, says West Lynn has been a real wake up call on the need for best practice.

"We cannot deliver compromised solutions, it doesn't please anyone," says Beckett, whose lobby group gathered about 1000 survey forms for consultation on the K Rd project.

Beckett said it is fair for K Rd businesses to be anxious about change, but the international and local practice shows cycle lanes do not have a long term negative effect on business.

Leroy Beckett from Generation Zero.
Leroy Beckett from Generation Zero.

"I think K Rd is going to stay K Rd. You can't change the people there, you can't change the character. It is going to be a disruptive time for a while. The businesses have supported the cycle lane in the past, it appears to have lost some support recently, but I'm sure we can get it back," Beckett said.

John Dunshea, who heads council's development programme office, gives no indication of backing down on the current plans for K Rd, saying they had wide support during consultation.

"We have been engaging with the community on this project and believe the plan will provide benefits to everyone that uses K 'Rd.

"It is already one of the busiest cycle routes in the city and the planned cycleways are about providing a much needed and safe route for those cyclists already using the road and those who would be encouraged to use it once safer infrastructure is in place," he said.