By John Mauro
As a new Auckland resident, it was a thrill to ride down to the Waitemata Greenways event a few weeks ago. An opportunity to learn about how Greenways work and give feedback on the Waitemata Local Board’s initiative, the event was well attended, informative and energizing.
Like Greenways are supposed to do once they’re built, the event made me feel comfortable, safe and welcome (please be sure to give your feedback today—survey closes on 11 March!)
Greenways aren’t necessarily a new concept, but it’s a concept whose time at the forefront has come. Cities around the world install Greenways, more recently cities like Portland and Seattle, with tremendous success, rebranded them from “bicycle boulevards” to “neighbourhood greenways.” The infrastructure matters, for certain, but the rebranding truly helps.
Anyone reading this post probably understands why greenways are a good idea: done well they slow down traffic and reduce car volumes on already low-volume streets. They connect neighbourhoods with safe facilities for all types of bike riders. And their green features make them an even greater pleasure to ride on.
But, as I’ve written and said elsewhere before, it’s not just about bikes. Keep your ear to the ground and you’ll hear other great descriptions of greenways, like:
- Family friendly
- Safe for kids
- Cheap for taxpayers – with excellent return on investment
- Great, vibrant and green streetscapes
- Traffic calming and noise reducing
- Less cut-through traffic and dangerous close-calls
- Easy to walk, short trips (no need for my car and for parking)
- Encourages new bike riders who wear normal clothes!
We should all be telling the compelling story of greenways so that all of Auckland can hear, since all citizens stand to benefit -regardless of if you ride a bicycle or not.
But it’s more than just good PR. It’s of paramount importance to get the greenway network right. That means both ensuring that the network truly connects where people want to go (while considering things like topography) and also means well-constructed infrastructure that doesn’t skimp on safety and good design. Bike priority signals, adequate paint and signage, smart crossings of main arterials and other important ingredients are part of the mix of how to get greenways right – and people riding them.
I have attached a few photos from a Portland visit I did some time back.
Many of the first Greenways projects around Auckland concentrate on routes in parks and reserves - possibly based on the frustrations people have in Auckland riding on the road, and in getting good cycle infrastructure built on these roads. So while we should all celebrate and advocate for greenways, let’s not forget that we have several other important tools available to make bicycling in Auckland an excellent and enjoyable experience. Greenways can’t replace urgently needed infrastructure on arterials—like protected bike lanes and cycle tracks.
For now, remember to submit your thoughts to the Waitemata Local Board and talk up Greenways in your neighbourhood. Let’s look forward to the ways that they’ll help us connect safely and conveniently to where we want to go and to connect to each other as citizens and neighbors of an increasingly liveable and bikeable city.