The Tamaki Drive cycleway has just turned 42. The milestone is significant because it is a reminder that cycling has been part of Auckland's urban landscape for decades, yet its acceptance as part of the transport mix still faces bumps and impediments.

Hundreds of cyclists turned up when the harbourside cycleway opened on a sunny Saturday in March 1976. The budget for the route from the city to St Heliers was $1000, which included white paint for a separation strip.

Budgets for contemporary projects, such as along Karangahape Rd, run to millions of dollars and take forever to get signed off. The evidence is clear that cycling will become more, not less, widespread, and the benefits to the city will mount. The problem cycleways have getting into gear lies with their planning.

The use of cycles is rising steadily. Last year, counters laid across the city recorded 3.67 million cycle trips, up 6.2 per cent on 2016. Since July last year, 5.2km of new cycleways have been added to the network. Auckland Transport aims to complete 10km by June.


Growth is certain to increase as the cost of electric bikes fall and bike-sharing expands. Another jump is likely to occur after 2020 when the New Zealand Transport Agency anticipates the $40 million Skypath attached to the Auckland Harbour Bridge will be completed.

Three quarters of a million people are forecast to use the harbour crossing initially, with estimates rising to 1.2 million in five years. Not all those using the crossing will be cyclists but once the project is up and running it is certain to become a popular bike route.

Cycling appeals to commuters weary of congestion and delays as it is economical and because it is a healthy and green alternative to sitting in a car for a couple of hours a day. It should appeal to city planners because protected bike lanes are far cheaper than road projects.

The challenge for Auckland, a city designed for vehicles, is to find better ways to accommodate the wave of cycles coming down the path. There needs to be better consultation than has occurred with affected parties along K Rd, in West Lynn, in Mt Albert and across the bridge at Northcote.

It is easy to assert that residents and businesses get a chance to have a say. They do, but in the long lead time costs rise, doubts creep in and designs change.
The other lesson from these projects is the tendency for planners to embrace gold-plated schemes. Two years ago, the K Rd budget was $11.7 million. The latest figure is $17 million.

Cycle lanes do not always need to be high-end projects. The 3m dedicated lane on Nelson St has 400mm concrete slabs along its road edge, sufficient to keep cyclists safe from heavily-laden trucks. The route was installed quickly and gets plenty of use on week days.

New York transforms streets for cyclists and pedestrians rapidly, cheaply and in ways which can be undone if they don't work.

If it can happen in New York, there is no reason it can't happen here in a way that reflects the simple legacy of Tamaki Drive.