Traffic chaos after cycling protesters close two lanes of Auckland Harbour Bridge

Auckland motorists are experiencing long delays after cycling activists breached a police barrier and crossed the Auckland Harbour Bridge, forcing the closure of two northbound lanes.

The “Liberate the Lane” group held a rally at Point Erin Park this morning, calling for a three-month cycle lane trial on the harbour bridge.

When the protest finished, a number of cyclists made their way down to the bridge but were met by a row of police officers. After 15 minutes, the group of cyclists grew and chanting could be heard.

After some time, the police wall broke and over 100 riders made their way across the bridge.

Police turned cyclists back when they reached the northern end of the bridge, one rider said.

At midday, traffic headed north on SH1 was backed up between Newmarket and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Waka Kotahi released a statement at 11am saying it had closed two northbound lanes on the harbour bridge, as well as the Curran Street onramp.

“A police operation is underway and it could be some time before the incident is cleared and traffic returns to normal,” the agency said.

Motorists were warned to expect delays and postpone their travel if possible or use the alternative Western Ring Route (SH16).

Bike Auckland chair Barb Cuthbert addressed protesters after they returned from their bridge crossing. “Did you like our lane?” She jokingly asked.

One rider said they were “really impressed with the gradient” on the bridge.

“We had a nice breeze coming through which cooled me down from the ride up,” another said.

'Overwhelmed by frustration'

Earlier, Cuthbert explained the reason for the protest. “We’re overwhelmed by public frustration about Waka Kotahi’s failure to complete its project for a [cycling] path on the bridge,” she said.

The bridge pathway is part of the $360 million Northern Pathway, an ambitious plan revealed in May 2019 by Waka Kotahi. Of the total cost, $240 million is for the bridge and $120m is to extend the pathway to the Akoranga bus station near Northcote.

However, the project is currently delayed due to “significant and complex engineering issues”.

“Auckland can’t be expected to wait another 5 years, while Waka Kotahi has another go at delivering on its promise,” Cuthbert said.

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