Lightpath & The Nelson Street Cycleway
This was supposed to be all about our amazing new “pink path”, but ended-up as a kids-in-the-city cycling-infrastructure ramble…
Over the Christmas break I cycled around Central Auckland on several occasions, and if you haven’t done that recently, let me tell you, times have changed!
Not that long ago I would never have considered riding in the city with a nine year old at my side, but by sticking to cycleways (and the odd footpath) you can now loop around the entire CBD without coming near a car. Check-out the cycle-network map below and you’ll see what I mean.
Coming from the North Shore I was starting to feel a little neglected on these rides as there’s a LOT of money being spent on bike-infrastructure on that side of the bridge. I’ve spoken to the folks at Auckland Transport and the idea is to improve cycling-connections in a 5km radius of Downtown before tackling the suburbs. I hope they stick to that promise, because as you ride around the city you WILL become envious, that strip-of-paint down Lake Road is not cutting the mustard anymore!
Anyway, with 200 million being invested in cycling within the Auckland region (over the next three years), I’m sure we’ll see some improvements on our side of the bridge… Eventually.
Because the ferry is so expensive (and a long ride from home), on these jaunts I usually chuck the bikes in the back of my car, drive over the bridge and start cycling from Herne Bay or Point Erin (after nabbing a free park).
From there it’s a delightful ride into Downtown either under the harbour bridge and along (the fantastic) Westhaven Promenade, or stay on the western side of the motorway and ride the path behind that large perspex sound-barrier (accessed in a couple of places from behind the Point Erin Pools).
That will take you directly to Jacob’s Ladder Footbridge (where you can cross the motorway to Westhaven), or continue to Victoria Park.
You could start your ride at the top of the city on Upper Queen St, but I reckon when riding a loop it’s best to get the uphill part out of the way first. That way little legs end-up sailing downhill towards a waterfront ice-cream on the return leg. Phycology never to be underestimated when planning a family bike ride!
The Nelson Street Cycleway will eventually continue right down to the Viaduct, but for now it peters-out at the Nelson St/Victoria St West intersection. From there you ride up to Lightpath on a totally separated two-way cyclelane, a real grown-up one like you might see in Denmark or the Netherlands.
Nelson St was once a one-way, multi-lane, high-speed hellhole, funnelling tin-tops at breakneck speeds from Union St to the waterfront. It kind of still is, but cunning (brave?) transport engineers have taken a lane away from vehicular traffic and created a safe-haven for bikes. The cycle-lane is separated from the traffic with a concrete strip, but you still have to pay attention near the bottom as there are openings for vehicles to access businesses on the Northern side.
Most of you will feel totally comfortable riding up there with your kids, there’s even bike-specific “leaning-posts” and crossing-buttons at the intersections. Little-Johnnys with impulsive flight-reflexes are probably best left at home though, you are after all surrounded by many child-squashing opportunities in the city.
It’s a fairly gentle uphill cruise on this separated path and then as you hit Union St the Lightpath entrance comes into view, a stones’s throw from that massive pohutukawa sculpture by the Southern Motorway on-ramp.
Lightpath is a “statement”, and it’s a clever statement. Utilising a mothballed onramp, for 700m it encircles the back of the city, curving around Karangahape Rd to Canada St. With proper funding available the designers went to town and the whole project has a quality feel to it. Look beyond the retina-searing pink surface and you’ll notice the angled safety barriers, the glass screens, Māori motifs and funky lighting-towers.
The barrier posts themselves incorporate computer-controlled LED panels. Much like the Sky Tower, artists or lighting-designers can program these in any combination of colours they desire.
As you gain elevation towards Spaghetti Junction you end up looking down on lanes of car traffic, never a bad thing. There’s concrete and steel snaking in all directions, but because the glass barriers deflect the majority of noise it’s quite a tranquil ride.
Eventually the pink path transitions to a slightly narrower boardwalkie affair (the benefit of being a blogger means I can make-up words like boardwalkie) that hugs the commercial buildings as you wend your way around to Canada St.
The path proper ends here, but exits onto a wide share-with-care footpath that leads you to Upper Queen St.
I should save that last one for another post, as it’s really quite impressive. A bicycle-motorway that will carry you all the way down to Beach Rd, a stone’s throw from the waterfront.
These investments in bicycle-infrastructure sure make getting around the city easier, long may they continue!