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Even if it comes as the least surprising news to anyone. Auckland’s $785m proposed cycleway across the harbour has been scrapped and the money allocated elsewhere.
I say it’s unsurprising because from what I could tell, almost no one thought the standalone cycle bridge was a good idea. $785m! Even in the age of cheap money and rock-bottom interest rates, that’s a massive chunk of change. These sorts of projects never stay on budget.
A few weeks after it was announced, I asked the late Michael Cullen for his thoughts.
‘Folly!’ the former Finance Minister replied.
‘The sooner they scrap it, the better.’
One of the curious footnotes in the cycle bridge’s brief history is even most cyclists didn’t think it was a good idea. They actually hadn’t been asking for a standalone structure. Indeed, in conspiratorial circles, some felt that maybe the government had backed the idea as a way of fostering resentment against cyclists. A Newshub Reid Research poll in August found only 12% of respondents actively supported the idea. I wonder if even those people misunderstood the queston.
Transport Minister Michael Wood has acknowledged there wasn’t the public support for the project to continue. Good on him for not trying to spin. I imagine it’s been a bit of a harsh political lesson, but I just hope the experience doesn’t put him off finding some cheaper pragmatic alternatives for helping cyclists get across the harbour.
Because when you pause and think about it for a moment, it’s absolutely ridiculous that in 2021, cyclists and pedestrians can’t easily cross from the North Shore to the City and back again. At its closest, the gap is only a few hundred metres! You can swim it, for goodness’ sake! At a point in time when our roads are clogged, and we should be doing everything in possible to promote cleaner forms of transport, there’s no straight-forward option for cyclists to skip across the Waitematā.
This solution was not the answer, but the core problem still exists and it’s more acute than ever.
It’s a great shame that for some reason the debate over cycling infrastructure has become a mini culture war. Compared to roads, we spend embarassingly little on cycle lanes and dedicated infrastructure. After all, every person you get on a bike is a car you get off a clogged street, and emissions out of the atmosphere. It’s in motorists’ personal interests for more people to ride bikes!
One of the silver linings of this lockdown is that in riding my bike around the city, I’ve felt safer than ever on the road. I pedal up Maungawhau Mt Eden for a bit of exercise. I head West for a few kilometres on the North West bike path, and I ride my bike to work. I won’t miss the cycle bridge, but whether it’s a dedicated ferry, a bike bus, or a roped-off lane over the current bridge on weekends, I’m looking forward to the day I can finally take my bike an explore the North Shore.