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City cycling deserves funding boost

JENNY LING
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014
Cathy Casey with Trowsdale family
CYCLING INVITE: Councillor Cathy Casey was invited to ride Dominion Rd by Balmoral resident Sam Trowsdale, here with his children Mathilda and Jack.
Councillor Cathy Casey
UNSAFE: Councillor Cathy Casey checks out the dangers of cycling on Dominion Rd.

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Looming buses and parked cars, busy junctions and giant trucks.

They're fears familiar to Auckland cyclists, especially those who take on Dominion Rd which carries about 25,000 vehicles a day.

Councillor Cathy Casey rode about 3 kilometres of it on April 5.

She also tried the new "parallel route" proposed by Auckland Transport.

The Albert-Eden-Roskill councillor, who describes herself as a novice cyclist, was on "high alert" as she rode from Pine St in Balmoral to Mt Albert Rd and then returned along Dominion Rd to King Edward St.

"My experience on the bus lane on Dominion Rd - I didn't feel safe at all. You do have to get out of the way for buses.

"On the cycle lane it's good, you have that wee space all to yourself, it's much better than sharing it with a 10-tonne bus.

"I had that fear on a Saturday morning, on a relatively quiet day. Compared to rush hour . . . it would be my worst nightmare.

Casey was invited to try the route by Sam Trowsdale, a Balmoral resident and urban designer at Auckland University who "wants to see the best urban design implemented in Auckland".

Currently there is only 100 metres of separate cycle lanes north of View Rd between George and Horopito streets.

Cyclists have to share the rest of the 5km road with buses.

Auckland Transport's $4.5 million plan to create a "parallel route" so cyclists can avoid using Dominion Rd has been met with mixed reviews by cyclist advocates and residents.

The parallel route covers 12 km and runs from Renfrew Ave and Parau St in the south to Onslow and Bellevue roads in the north.

Creating separate cycle lanes has been ruled out by Auckland Transport because of the $50 million cost.

It would also require demolishing a number of heritage buildings.

Census 2013 Travel to Work data released in March shows the number of Aucklanders choosing to ride a bike to work increased by 26 per cent from the 2006 census. The national average growth rate for cycling was 16 per cent.

Green Party MP Denise Roche says more money needs to be spent on cycling infrastructure in Auckland.

"Increasing numbers of Aucklanders are choosing to ride their bicycles to work despite the lack of safe, separated cycle lanes. If we're going to be serious about people cycling to work then we need to look at infrastructure that makes it safe."

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Roche says the alternative Dominion Rd cycle route is a "really good start", but Auckland Council should create separate cycle lanes as part of its livable city program.

The government spends less than one per cent of the transport budget on cycling, she says.

"It would cost only a tiny fraction of the government's $13 billion spend on motorways to fund the building of safe cycling infrastructure throughout our region."

Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan says those are the current plans for Dominion Rd.

SCARY RIDE

From Cathy Casey's Facebook page:

"Even on this quiet sunny Saturday morning I found Dominion Road a scary ride for a novice. In the bus lane, there are lots of fast buses racing up behind you. I often felt squeezed between buses and fast traffic with nowhere to go.

"One truck got so close passing me that I let out an involuntary scream!

"I was also afraid when I saw a parked car with a driver that the door might open. Felt constantly on alert.

"The parallel cycle route is longer and hillier but was a much safer and pleasant ride." 

- Central Leader

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