Pedestrians, scooter and bike riders on the northwestern cycleway. Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Cyclists 1, children 0: School abandons walking bus on ‘dangerous’ shared path

It’s supposed to be a shared path, but Auckland’s Northwestern Cycleway has been deemed too dangerous for a local school’s walking bus, reports Rowan Quinn for Radio NZ.

Auckland primary school children have been verbally abused and almost hit by high speed cyclists on one of the city’s most popular cycleways.

A primary school in Newton has had to stop its walking school bus along part of the Northwestern Cycleway which is supposed to be shared with pedestrians. Many children from the school used a short part of the cycleway to bike, walk or scooter to school.

Newton Central School principal Riki Teteina said it was now too dangerous. “Imagine a bike going in excess of 40 kilometres an hour – and now with electric bikes even faster. Imagine hitting a small child at that speed.

“It is a real risk and we’ve had a number of near misses.”

Some cyclists had also hurled abuse at parents and children, he said.

School mum Phoebe Greenbrook-Held, who biked while her daughter scooted to school, had seen frustrations boil over before. She had slowed down to try to keep an over-excited six-year-old safe.

“And I had a middle-aged man in lycra shouting at me that I needed to learn how to use the cycleway,” Ms Greenbrook-Held said.

Young children were unpredictable and cyclists should slow down through the short stretch, she said. Her daughter Elizabeth, 7, used to take the walking bus and said the mum in charge often had to yell at cyclists to slow down.

“It’s always scary for the little children on the walking school bus when cyclists go by … nearly hitting them,” Elizabeth said.

Other parents and children RNZ spoke to had similar stories but said most cyclists were great – it was only a very small number who were aggressive.

Bike Auckland, a non-profit group working to make the city more bike friendly, said some cyclists needed to be more considerate about people using the space.

Bike Auckland communications manager Jolisa Gracewood said the problem was also to do with the cycleway itself. At the point where it was busiest, it became narrower, turned briefly onto a road and contained a slope that affected visibility.

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Bike Auckland and Newton Central School had approached Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency to urgently fix the “critical” safety problem, Ms Gracewood said.

The area needed to be widened with separate spaces for pedestrians and cyclists created, she said.

In many ways the cycleway had been a victim of its own success and had never been designed to carry so many people but it now needed to be sorted, she said.

Auckland Transport said it would look at an upgrade as part of its “medium term plan” but in the meantime said everyone should be mindful of other commuters during peak times.



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