TRANSPORT – Is Auckland the new Amsterdam?

19 July 2016

Thursday is the Sustainable Business Network’s Smart Transport Forum. It will bring together top transport thinkers from around the country. 

Dougal List from the New Zealand Transport Agency is excited about the two wheel future, in Auckland and beyond.

There’s been a huge surge in cycling in the last decade. In New Zealand it is being assisted by the creation of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. The 2,500 kilometre trail network is drawing cycle-tourists in from overseas. But the next big surge is about more New Zealanders cycling to work, as well as to play.

Dougal List is national cycling manager at the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). Working with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport his organisation is in the middle of a $200 million investment in cycling. It’s the largest cycle investment programme in the city’s history.  It’s already changing the face of New Zealand’s largest urban centre. 

The new Quay Street Cycleway opened up on July 11. Work is due to start on Karangahape Road later this year. And the bright pink Light Path just won another major international design award. This extended network makes cycling more convenient for lots more people. The plan is to keep making the connections and expand them out into the wider urban area.

“The number of people cycling in the CBD has doubled in the last two years,” says Dougal. “Big change is happening. What we are interested in is building on that momentum. Some of that is starting to happen already.”

There is the new route through Glen Innes and Tamaki Drive, and further connections to the west of the city. NZTA is investigating the proposed ‘Seapath’ walking and cycling path between Esmonde Road in Takapuna and Northcote Point on the North Shore. If built, this would provide an immediate connection between the Northern Busway and the Northcote ferry service. It would also connect with other walking and cycling routes in the area. There is also the Skypath proposal led by the Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway Trust. This would build a semi-enclosed pathway underneath the city-side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. 

Dougal says: “We see the next five years as building on this. There’s going to be a lot more people getting on bikes. It’s a real opportunity to get those networks humming.”

The Smart Transport revolution

These rapid developments in cycling are just part of a building transport revolution. 

We are currently seeing the impact of multiple disruptive technologies on the way we get around. What we do in cycling will need to align with these other developments. They include movements in electric vehicles, ride sharing, driverless cars, urban light rail, and more.  

When asked whether this could turn Auckland into another Copenhagen or Amsterdam, Dougal says: “I think our future is different to what Copenhagen and Amsterdam currently is. Their future is going to be different as well! We will see a lot more people on bikes as we complete the network. But the future holds a whole range of interesting changes in what transport is for us.”

The no-sweat option of electric bikes is another factor that is opening up cycling to more people.   

Dougal says: “They are really a game changer in the distances people can travel, people’s level of comfort. Electric bikes are going to be a huge part of our cycling future.”

Potential barriers – a battle for the streets?

So what are the bumps that could knock us off course?

One of the key challenges is that increasing safe cycling requires the reallocation of road space. SBN covered some of the arguments around this in a previous newsletter.

“It’s a big conversation to happen, particularly with those that are directly affected,” says Dougal. “A lot of what has happened in Auckland to date hasn’t had to have those challenging conversations. But we have seen around the country there’s a real challenge there. We need to bring people on the journey of the need for cycling as part of our transport system. We need to talk about the trade-offs we are willing to make in order for that to happen.”

How can you and your business get involved?

Businesses can do a lot to support their staff to be able to get on bikes more.

Bike parking. Adding bikes to your fleet. Installing showers and lockers. They all add to the incentives. 

But there are also a lot of business opportunities that spin off from cycling. Welcoming cyclists with safe bike parking and cycling services can increase sales, says Dougal.  

“There’s been a huge number of businesses that have benefited from cycling’s popularity in the last few years, particularly on the back of the New Zealand Cycle Trails. You go to some of these small towns there’s now two or three new cafes and bike shops. These places are seeing a lot of tourism dollars coming in from cycling.

“This effect will be experienced in urban areas too. Those that cater for the growing cycle commuter market will be cashing in.”  

Dougal will be discussing the NZTA plans and looking for input on what’s next for cycling at the Smart Transport Forum on Thursday at AUT in Auckland. To join in, book now.

To find out more about SBN’s Bike 2050 project contact