Skypath: Cycling community ‘gutted’ Auckland Harbour Bridge may never get a cycleway

Cycling enthusiasts are “gutted” the current design of the Skypath appears to be have been scrapped and are calling for a bike lane on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

The Herald revealed today that plans to build a cycling and walking path over the bridge had run into “significant and complex engineering issues”.

The problem is understood to relate to the capacity of the piers to take the extra load and a replacement plan was expected to be announced soon.

“We’re gutted Waka Kotahi can’t build their version of Skypath and are back at the drawing board. It means years of delays to cross the harbour with bikes,” advocacy group Bike Auckland wrote on its Facebook page.

They said apartments were sprouting on North Shore main roads and Esmonde Rd had a big one coming that relied on cycling and public transport.

“Ferries can’t cope with peak hour demand to carry bikes. Auckland is on a roll, and the transport agencies need to step up.”

Greater Auckland director Matt Lowrie told Newstalk ZB it was concerning and disappointing that delays kept on happening.

“The Skypath is very much needed. It was needed years ago and we need to get on with and find a way to get it built,” Lowrie said.

He said the public needed to be updated on the project and if there were challenges then they needed to be made public so that a proper discussion could be had.

“We will be watching very closely to see what happens next.”

He said the Skypath was going to be one of those projects that once it’s built people were going to wonder why we didn’t do it years ago.

“We just need to get on with it.”

The bridge pathway was part of the $360 million Northern Pathway, an ambitious plan revealed in May 2019 by Waka Kotahi, the NZ Transport Agency.

Of the total cost, $240m is for the bridge and $120m is to extend the pathway to the Akoranga bus station near Northcote.

At the time, Waka Kotahi’s general manager of system design and delivery, Brett Gliddon, said the plans were complete and he expected construction would begin the next year, 2020.

Waka Kotahi’s own surveys suggest there is 78 per cent support for a pathway for cycling and walking over the bridge.

An earlier plan, promoted by a private group, the Skypath Trust, involved hanging a structure from the clipped-on outer lanes on the east side of the bridge. It was consented in 2016. But the “clip-ons” are not designed to carry that extra weight and Waka Kotahi rejected the plan.

Instead, its 2019 proposal has the structure cantilevered off the concrete piers that hold up the whole bridge. But that is now in doubt too.

No one at Waka Kotahi would confirm the current plan is about to be scrapped. Nor would the Minister of Transport, Michael Wood. But the signs are clear.

Waka Kotahi’s director of regional relationships, Steve Mutton, advised Bike Auckland that the Northern Pathway plan had “technical problems with how the pathway is supported”, indicating the problem was with the piers.

Last month, Gliddon, now Waka Kotahi’s general manager of transport services, told the parliamentary select committee it was no longer possible to strengthen the bridge.

“We believe we’ve strengthened it as much as we possibly can and we can’t add more steel into it… it’s counter-productive.”

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