Four kilometres, four years

I was going to make this week’s blog a gentle, fluffy affair about what I’m finding works in terms of cycling/office clothing, or What I Think About on the Ride Home, but then I got an email from Auckland Council that made me really quite upset and has given me some work to do.

The week I started commuting to work, I emailed Auckland Council about how dangerous Great South Road is for cyclists, and asking what their plans were to make it safer. For those of you not familiar with Auckland geography, the city lies between two giant harbours and the pinch point is just north of where I happen to live.

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This map shows where the two harbours almost meet. Portage road is where Māori would carry their waka overland between the two and is the narrowest part of the entire city.

You’ve probably noticed that there are three main routes crossing this isthmus south from Manukau to north and the city. One of these is the Southern Motorway, four lanes of either thundering traffic or a gridlocked hell, depending on the time of day and your luck. The middle option is the Mount Wellington highway, and the far left road is my route, Great South. There’s no “back road” option here. No sneaky route. A motorway, or one of two trunk roads with lots of heavy industries on them and the trucks that service those industries.

Not one of these three routes has any, and I mean ANY, provision for cyclists. So I asked the council what their plans were. The answer was pretty bleak.

“The ACN (Auckland Cycle Network) identifies a potential future cycleway along Great South Road between Otahuhu and Auckland City Centre. At this stage, this route is not funded or planned for investigation as part of our current programme or the programme for the period of 2018 – 2021.

The programme beyond 2021 does anticipate greater investment in cycleways in the South, including Otahuhu.

While we regret that we cannot provide more positive news on the short term link between Otahuhu and the city, we can advise that there is planning for improved cycleways as part of other projects on an east west axis across the isthmus. This includes improved cycleways between Mangere and Sylvia Park and Otahuhu and Sylvia Park – both routes via Otahuhu.”

2021. Four years before they’ll even investigate it, let alone make anything happen. An “East West link” isn’t much use, given the distribution of jobs (north) and people (south). I had gotten my hopes up, what with the council’s enthusiasm for cycling in the city centre, and out towards the more moneyed suburbs. Surely, I thought, south Auckland will be next?

Apparently not.

There’s a lot I could say here about the chronic underrepresentation of south Auckland in investment and politics. I could say something about demographics, bias and the needs of one group of people being seen as less important than another, but to be honest I don’t feel qualified to do so in this space as a Pākēha immigrant. But 2021 seems a long time to wait for an investigation into infrastructure that might save my life.

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This isn’t hyperbole. I’m on Great South Road for 4km of my commute and every single day that I ride that stretch I have what I would consider to be a near miss with another vehicle. Whilst I appreciate that a “near miss” is quite subjective I’d like to think I’m not easily spooked and a near miss for me is a vehicle within touching distance, or one where I have to take action to avoid. Over a four year period of cycling along that stretch I imagine a collision with a motor vehicle to be inevitable, barring an improvement in infrastructure.

When I started cycling to work three weeks ago, I was full of enthusiasm for heeding the call, ditching the car and being a little more environmentally responsible. I didn’t anticipate that in order to do that, I would find myself having to fight the council for the right to travel to work safely. At the moment it feels like my options are to break the law by cycling on the pavement, or put myself in very real danger by sharing the road with traffic. The fight for a safe, legal alternative starts here.


Author: greatsouthride

After years of flirting with the idea, I finally ditched the car and leased an e-bike. This blog is an attempt to write the information I wish had been out there!

One thought on “Four kilometres, four years”

  1. As someone who cycles through this section of GSR occasionally, I agree that the cycling environment between Otahuhu and Ellerslie/Panmure is rediculously bad. Most of the time, this is the reason I catch the train through this section, which is a good option during the week when they’re frequent, but not promoting of transport choice or the health benefits of cycling.

    When I do ride though there, I make sure I always ‘take the lane’, and I encourage others to do so as well. Especially on multi lane roads, there is no need for a driver to be tempted to squeeze in next to you, so it’s much safer to actively prevent them. Over the past year of doing this, I have found that the number of angry drivers has remained unchanged, but the number of near misses has reduced to near zero- I feel much safer.

    It is however very sad that we have to take such bold action, just to travel safely within our city.

    Those few drivers who do get upset with me usually don’t understand the road rules- an education campaign would improve the situation hugely while we wait for the cycleways.

    I do hope that the roll out of Auckland’s first fully connected network, in the central west, is enough to prove the transformational changes in travel and choice when people’s origins and destinations are safely and conveniently linked, and will be followed by comprehensive funding of an Auckland wide network. Having many persistant voices, like this, telling the same story from different places and situations, leading the change is also very important


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