Studying the effects of new cycleways on health in Māngere
People living in Mangere in South Auckland are generally of poorer health, less physically active and involved in more traffic accidents than is average in New Zealand. Research has shown that poor public health, low socio-economic status and high dependency on car transport are inter-related issues. Over the next four years, under a research project called ‘Te Ara Mua - Future Streets’, cost-effective changes to the suburb’s urban streets will be made to improve road safety, make walking and cycling easier and measure the benefits to public health and safety. The project is being funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and, once complete, will be used for extensive long-term study to see how these interventions have altered the levels of walking, cycling and physical activity in the community – including the numbers of children walking and cycling to school – and the flow-on effects in health, safety and recreation.
Boffa Miskell is working with Auckland Transport and its engineering partners to develop and deliver designs for the project’s construction phase, which is being funded by the NZ Transport Agency, MBIE and the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board. Poorly connected areas will be better linked with shared paths joining up newly refurbished parks and local streets as well as new separate cycleways on the main roads into the town centre.
Central to the project is the Community Trail; a 1.7-kilometre cycle and pedestrian path that connects schools, health centres, parks, residential areas and the shops in the town centre. This trail runs through parks which are being upgraded with wide pathways, attractive planting and extensive signage. People using the nearby Moana-Nui-ã-Kiwa Pool and Leisure Centre and Māngere Health Centre can use the area for various formal and informal fitness and running programmes and as a practice lane for new cyclists. Distance markers and colourful icons incorporated into the wayfinding signs encourage people to push themselves to ride, walk or run further.
“Innovation is the key to this project,” says Boffa Miskell urban designer, Stuart Houghton. “The project team has been keen to test new techniques, to date not typically seen in suburban environments, to make Māngere a much friendlier environment for walking and cycling.”
Cyclist safety and accessibility will be improved by adding separated cycle lanes on busy, heavily trafficked streets as well as introducing the new Community Trail routes that reduce the need for road crossings. New and improved ways of dealing with potential conflict points between traffic, pedestrians and cyclists will also be introduced such as at bus stops and places where people can safely cross side streets on busy roads. Opening up cul-de-sacs and previously hidden public parks is another way to improve accessibility and opportunities for cyclists and walkers in Māngere.
Construction is now well underway with improvements so far made to Massey Road, the town centre carpark and Mascot Avenue. The Community Trail is still in construction but projected to be finished before the end of 2016. Further stages are expected to start around July 2017, subject to changes in design or funding. It is hoped this project will become a model for future walking and cycling improvements to suburban centres around New Zealand.
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9 August 2016