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Kathryn King dreams Auckland's cycleways will follow in Vancouver's tracks. Photo / Supplied.

Making A Difference: Auckland Transport's Kathryn King

Viva and Dilmah Tea celebrate women creating change for a positive future

It’s a job title you may never have heard of, but that doesn’t take away from its importance. Kathryn King is Auckland Transport’s Walking, Cycling and Road Safety Manager — a role that sees her manage teams who develop programmes of investment to make Auckland’s streets safer, and more appealing for the public to walk and cycle. “We work on changes to our streets and policy interventions that support a safer and healthier city,” King says. “This occurs through a range of supporting activities from events and campaigns.”

Her passion for cycling is the result of residing in Japan and the Netherlands, who King explains “have amazing cultures of cycling, where most people ride daily to get around their local cities.” The safe neighbourhoods, with slower traffic and more room to ride bicycles, is what King aims to create at home in New Zealand. “I’ve seen what an incredible tool a bicycle, and safe places to ride them, can be for young people,” King says. “Now as a parent, I’d love to see my own son able to experience that same independence.”

Promoting cycling as a means of reducing Auckland’s congestion issues could mean King’s dream becomes our reality. Currently, around 2,000 people cycle in the city centre daily. “If those people were to drive, it would fill two lanes on the North Western motorway, or 40 buses,” King explains. Its statistics like these that help prove the value of what she’s doing. “Some schools in Auckland have up to 30% of students arriving by bicycle, and we’d see significantly busier streets if those children were driven to school.” Couple this with commuters who are opting for catching the ferry instead of driving, and King’s 10-year plan is set to alleviate most of the city’s traffic issues.

“My main priority is making our streets safer, and in doing that enabling people to walk and cycle more,” King says. “There are a lot of people in Auckland who have no choice but to drive, but I expect over the next 10 years that many communities will see considerable changes to their streets, and find that they could choose to walk or cycle for many local journeys.” To enable this shift, Auckland Transport is creating more safe crossings, adjusting speed limits, and protecting cyclists from fast moving traffic. “Our investment to date shows where we build safe cycleways people do choose to ride rather than drive for many journeys,” King says. 

Future investments include a new cycleway set to open on Ian Mackinnon Drive, as well as a K Road upgrade kicking into action early in 2019. The next stage of the Quay Street cycleway is on the horizon, and by the end of this year a safer connection to Ngapipi Drive will prove a welcome addition to commuters living near Tamaki Drive.

The introduction of Onzo, a cycle share programme, is a crucial part of developing cycling culture, King says. It helps by “removing one of the main barriers to more people riding — that is having a bicycle,” she notes. “It’s great to see how many people are testing out Onzo, and we expect it will lead to more bicycles and a better service for people.”

While cities like Amsterdam, Vancouver, Seville and Copenhagen are world leaders in cycling, King hopes Auckland will follow suit. “Seville has shown the change possible with political will, at their Mayor’s request they delivered 80km of new cycleways in two years, and cycle levels shot up from 1 per cent to 8 per cent,” King says. “I’m impressed with the progress Vancouver is making; they have a really attractive network of cycleways around their city centre. Vancouver is a city like Auckland in terms of climate and hills, yet 10% of people ride to work there.”

“I’m confident that with a concerted effort, we can get there, too.”

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New Zealand Herald

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