Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland's Grey Lynn sidelined by cycleway project

The Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn, the city's home of free-thinkers, organic food and sustainability, is up in arms over a cycleway project.

At the West Lynn shops on Richmond Rd, parking has been removed, bus stops relocated, business has taken a tumble and anger levels are boiling over.

"We have been dealt to. The village is an appalling mess. It has knocked the heart out of West Lynn," says Irene King, co-chair of the Grey Lynn Business Association.

It's not just Grey Lynn feeling the pinch from the city's expanding network of cycleways. Suburbs like Northcote Point are being squeezed by the designers at Auckland Transport.

Northcote Point Billy cafe owner Sarah Stratford told the Herald last month her business faced closure less than a year after buying the business because of construction and loss of on-street parking on Queen St.

In the Wellington suburb of Island Bay, residents are threatening legal action in a long-running dispute over a cycleway and its effect on the amount of road space for vehicles and reduced visibility for motorists entering and exiting driveways.

A big lesson for us on this project has been we do need to invest more earlier in working with businesses and local communities
Kathryn King, Auckland Transport walking, cycling and safety manager

In West Lynn outside Harvest Wholefoods, the city's original organic and natural food supermarket established 35 years go, seven angle car parks have been removed and replaced with four parallel spaces. All up, West Lynn has lost eight car parks to allow for cycling lanes on either side of Richmond Rd.

Changes to West Lynn, like the relocation of a bus stop, are making a "subtle but seismic shift" to shopping patterns.
Changes to West Lynn, like the relocation of a bus stop, are making a "subtle but seismic shift" to shopping patterns.

Store manager Somboon Khansuk, says Harvest, now part of the nationwide Huckleberry chain of natural, organic and gluten free food retailers, has seen a drop of up to 35 per cent in business on weekdays and 50 per cent at weekends.

If customers do not return after two months of construction work the store may close, he said. The downturn in business has already seen some of the 40 staff moved to other stores.

Julie Stevens, part-owner of Moa clothing boutique, another West Lynn institution of more than 30 years, fears a domino effect if Harvest closes. Business is down 50 per cent, maybe more.

West Lynn, says Stevens, has a rare and cool alternative mix of shops.

"We haven't got a $2 shop."

Nature Baby owner Jacob Faull says Harvest is the food and the soul of West Lynn with its organic and green ideals. Take that away, he reckons, and Harvest customers will start going to nearby Farro's and get caught up in the mall version of healthy eating.

Faull is not opposed to a cycleway, but says changes to West Lynn, like the relocation of a bus stop to outside his store are making a "subtle but seismic shift" to shopping patterns.

Everyone agrees the fault lies with AT and a 'tick the box' consultation process that left the mega transport body and businesses on a different page when a genuine partnership was needed.

Sandbags at the West Lynn shops.
Sandbags at the West Lynn shops.

Andrea Johnson, who owns Presentz gift store, says the community has been stonewalled when a robust discussion could have produced an incredible outcome. She used to have a bus stop outside her shop. Now she has an ugly black asphalt slope with sandbags to prevent stormwater flooding the shop in heavy rain.

The shopkeepers support cycle lanes and better public transport, but want AT to reinstate the seven angle parks outside Harvest, remove the bus stop outside Nature Baby and remove a second bus stop jutting out in front of a row of shops where sales at a liquor store have plummeted by two-thirds since it was installed.

"When the bus stops, cars have to go onto the other side of the road to get around it," says Joanne Williams, whose SBF Hair business is near the new bus stop.

Kathryn King, AT's manager for walking, cycling and road safety, says a significant amount of formal consultation was done on the Richmond Rd cycleway project.

"A big lesson for us on this project has been we do need to invest more earlier in working with businesses and local communities to agree on design outcomes".

King said some initial drivers for the project were requests from people to improve safety, lower traffic speeds and improve pedestrians crossings. Safety at bus stops and visibility was not as good as AT wanted.

She said AT will revisit some parts of the project with local people for a solution that works for everyone, but said changes, like reinstating parking and bus stops, needs to balance safety, accessibility and outcomes AT is seeking for the project.

Waitemata Local Board chairwoman Pippa Coom, a champion of cycleways, says the Richmond Rd cycleway has suffered from a consultation process that has not brought the community along.

"There are some design issues but overall it will be an improvement. It will absolutely improve the West Lynn shops to have traffic calming, better pedestrian amenity, more greening, more crossings as part of that design."

- NZ Herald

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