Would we ask motorists to tolerate this?

A few readers had some insightful comments on a recent post about Auckland Transport’s quite good plans to add safe cycle lanes on Carlton Gore Road. They highlighted how it is necessary to deliver a complete cycle network if we want to improve Auckland’s livability and choice of transport modes.

Goosoid commented that it’s often really, really difficult to use cycle facilities to get where you’re going:

How many people used to drive their car across the harbour from St Marys Bay to Northcote before the bridge was built? Not too many.

Most people will only start cycling when there is a joined up network that allows them to safely travel around. Until then we will be stuck with the usual 2-3% of people who will cycle on substandard infrastructure.

How many people would use SH1 if every few kilometres it stopped being a motorway and became a local street again? That is basically what people cycling are dealing with.

Very helpfully, David Roos illustrated this point with a map comparing the street network in downtown Auckland (left) with the nascent cycle network (right). A very big contrast in accessibility and connectedness:

Auckland incomplete cycle network

And remember: most other parts of the city have it much worse. I hope that transport agencies in Auckland and other New Zealand cities are mapping their cycle networks and looking for ways to fill the many, many holes.

Guest Post: Orange Smoothy II

This is part two of a two part guest post by highly visible e-cyclist and regular reader Greg Nikoloff

This post is about my (continuing) experiences with my Pedego (http://pedego.co.nz) electric bike (e-bike).

In part 1, I covered the basic of my e-bike experience which I’ve owned and used for over 2 years. In this second part I’ll cover in detail my daily commute, and show a bit how the e-bike fares on this route and how it enables me to manage Aucklands hills and traffic and makes it fun as I do my part to alleviate Auckland traffic congestion on a personal and daily level.

My daily commute

I use my e-bike for my daily work commute, mostly during summer months (Oct-Mar). For this, I cycle along the Remuera road “ridge” – during the morning peak traffic, anytime from 7am to 8am – as I don’t get held up by traffic, exactly when I leave home is not critical – unlike if I take the car, when it is. As half of the length of Remuera Road I cycle on has a peak direction bus lane, I use that for most of the trip. Because the cruising speed on the e-bike is about 35km/hr on the flat, and about 24km/hr on the hills, I find I can easily keep up with most of the traffic using that lane and therefore don’t get too many buses passing me. The one or two tight places where I go slow, where buses and cars can’t easily pass, so they have no choice but to wait behind me for about 30-40 seconds at most. With few buses going past me – which are always a bugger and a danger – it definitely makes for a more enjoyable ride, even though you’re in traffic still.

Here’s a Google Maps ride profile of the route, the distance & the amount of altitude I cover:

StJohns_Newmarket_RemRoadRoute

 

The map shows the usual sort of route I take from my home to work (there are extra distances at each end which I’ve left out as they don’t particularly matter). And the above route is pretty much what I cycle daily. The Google maps cycling profile shows a 49 metres climb over 6.5km, with 66m of descent. The descent is mostly in the first half of the ride going to work, so the ride to work is a steady uphill for most of the second half.

Because the start and end points are about the same altitude (some 70m or so above sea level) the ups and downs are mainly due to the topography of the intervening roads between the start/end points. Google Maps suggests 24 minutes to cycle that distance. On my e-bike at about 30-35 km/hr most of the way, its 12-15 minutes. Exactly how long, mainly depends on the number of red lights I hit (as I stop at red lights). When I cycle this I do it my normal work clothes of dress pants, shoes and an open neck business shirt and arrive “warm” from the exercise, but not sweaty or needing a shower. In spring and Autumn, I ride with gloves on as the chill factor on your hands can be noticeable.

This particular stretch of Auckland roads has some 13! (count ‘em all) traffic light controlled intersections and 2 light controlled pedestrian crossing on it. Which collectively must be a record of some sort for number of red lights over this distance in Auckland, outside of the CBD. Some lights do work as linked pairs (Ladies Mile/Greenlane East & Victoria Ave/Clonbern Road), but the rest do not and these lights change independently. If I can get green lights all the way, I can manage about 12 minutes door to door in steady/medium traffic. If I hit 3-5 red lights or heavy traffic, it can take up to 18+ minutes to go the same distance. If I crossed with the pedestrians at the red lights most of the time I’d make it probably 14 or so minutes.

If I was to drive, then I can, at best, manage about the same time, maybe slightly better – as I can drive at 50 km/hr the whole way, door to door, in the best case. Worst case, when the bus lane is in full operation, it can be over 40 minutes in stop/start traffic crawling along. So yeah, e-bike matches or beats the car just about every day – especially during Feb/March madness period.

In fact I have some co-workers who routinely see me go past them – me, legally in the “bus lane”, as they sit (fuming) in the “SOV vehicle lane” as I cycle past them on my way to work. I’ve usually having left home long after they left theirs and will beat them to the office by a good long chalk as well. And I’ll be relaxing at my desk with a coffee (reading TB, or emails), while they come in all hassled and more tired than I feel – yet I did most of the exercise!

Going home, the reverse route is basically the fastest and shortest, but it’s also the “vanilla” option. But having the e-bike means I have alternative options I can use as I desire/need i.e. when I’m sick of vanilla. As seen from this alternative route:

Newmarket_StJohns_OrakeiBasinRoute

I can divert down either Victoria Ave, or Orakei Road (shown) and then use the Orakei Boardwalk(s) if I want a nicer ride, with a lot less traffic. Although going that way is 2 km longer and also means I do have to climb from near sea-level at Orakei basin back up to 70+ metres in height. It does give me a great downhill from the Remuera Ridge down to the water at Orakei first. And that few minutes as you cycle across the boardwalk(s) with the water lapping underneath as you cycle over it – you can’t put a price on that. You’d not normally contemplate such an activity as a normal cyclist as the resultant need to climb “back up” to the ridge afterwards would make you think twice unless you were in training. With an e-bike, it’s no problem to do so. And just adds some variety to what can be a bit of a drag race going the normal way.

E-bike power means you can enjoy the many downhills, and yet you don’t have to worry about the inevitable uphills too much. It will take me at most, all of 10 minutes longer to go home this way. But I know I will arrive at home feeling 10 times more refreshed/energised than if I had to jostle with traffic down Remuera Road and usually get stuck at the many lights along the way. And if by some chance I also see an EMU or two passing as I cycle along beside the rails on the Orakei boardwalk, well that’s quite uplifting as well.

When the Meadowbank Station to St Johns Road part of the GI to Tamaki Drive cycleway opens (hopefully towards the end of this year) then I’ll be able to use that to get “back up to the ridge” at St Johns hill. I‘m sure that will be a really interesting, smooth and invigorating ride with less of the really steep gradients on it than what I face now when I use the back streets with their patchwork of road surfaces. So I’m pretty sure, once opened I’m going to add it to my daily cycle route – even if only on Fridays. And once the Orakei Point development is built, I’m sure that too will provide even more of a reason to go that way if I need to go shopping or simply savour the delights of a summer in Auckland.

Last year I told my doctor what I’d bought, he was happy to see the results in my blood tests, but also was very keen for this for his other patients as he could see, like me, that with an e-bike you can’t ever get in to too much trouble if you cycle too far, and the e-bike will get you home again if you do. So at my last doctor check up – I spent more time telling him in response to his many questions, about the e-bike and how easy it was to ride, what it cost, and how great it is to be mobile again than we did on my check-up. So I’m sure a lot of his patients will be e-biking sooner than later.

The future

The big question with these things is always the future – and would you buy one again/replace your e-bike if it was lost/wrecked/stolen etc?

And what about the rest of us?

“Sure I would get a new one” – and I would get the same brand too, just the newest model. Probably get the same colour too. I do miss not having a regular cycle on the days I don’t ride. I really miss it when Daylight Savings ends and its dark by 6 o’clock at night. While that extra hour in the morning makes cycling to work easier, getting home from work for me before its dark is harder/less enjoyable – those inattentive car drivers the main issue. On separated cycle ways and lanes it wouldn’t matter what time I went to work or home. And while the Tamaki drive to GI cycleway won’t really assist my daily ride that much, directly, using it will make at least part of the ride more enjoyable as I’m out of traffic for some of the way.

This year, I’ll probably keep cycling daily until mid April – post Easter anyway, weather permitting. Then I hang up my cycling spurs for a bit, and mainly cycle on the best days during winter – and Fridays – Friding, after all, is the best antidote to winter, or work.

Looking forward, I’d have to say that e-bikes and Auckland are a good match. And e-bikes and our EMUs (and eventually LRT) are also very good matches. It’s so easy to cycle 3 or even 6 km without breaking a sweat – even over the sort of hills you get in some parts of Auckland, if you were to overlay a map of Auckland PT stations with 5km or so wide circles, you’d cover a fair chunk of Auckland. And that’s easily and realistically the sort of distances you can cover on an e-bike to get to the nearest LRT or train station. And with the e-bike you can replace the walking or driving trip to the shops with a cycle too. The poor state of the cycle racks (if they have any at all) at most local shopping places near me testifies to how far down the scale of transport modes, that cycling has gone. But it is slowly getting better.

If I lived on the North Shore, and with Skypath coming down the path, I think I’d seriously consider getting and using an e-bike to commute to work – either directly if I lived close enough, or via a cycle to the local NEX station otherwise. I’ve told this to my co-workers, as many of them they could easily get to Britomart by cycle then use the trains to get up the hill to Newmarket to avoid that 70m height climb. In journey time, they’d be way quicker than they can get on the motorway in the morning. Even I’d admit that while I could cycle from Britomart to Newmarket easily on my e-bike – I couldn’t beat the train for speed up the hills.

So roll on e-bikes for everyone. If ever there was a 21st century take on an older technology that is truly relevant for Auckland today, and in the decades to come – it would be an e-bike on the personal level and LRT on the mass transit level.

If you don’t believe me, on the e-bikes – don’t take my word for it – head on out to your nearest e-bike dealer and take a test ride on one. Then decide for yourself. Just don’t blame me if you end up wanting to buy one as a result.

Lastly

In part 1, I introduced a tinkly bit and said that I’d explain this in part 2.

Well this comes from all those Star Trek “The Original Series” episodes, which always ended with what we call “a tinkly bit” in our house. Don’t know what I mean or never noticed it before? Well watch the end of an original series Star Trek episode, just before the credits, the last scene is designed to provide an uplifting scene or amusing little vignette, right before the credits – the actors indicate this visually and music tells you this audibly. Visually usually either via Spocks raised eyebrow, or more usually, the smirk on Kirk’s face as he says “Set course, Mr Sulu!” or some such command. And because it usually has some tinkly background music to it, is why we call it “a tinkly bit”. So, here is a slightly uplifting, Star Trek & e-bike related “tinkly bit” to end this post on.

Some of you may recall a recent post about how the recently departed Leonard Nimoy (aka Spock), told how he cycled to get his lunch each day at the studio commissary while at the on the set filming the original Star Trek series episodes – it being entirely “Logical to cycle” in his words. Naturally enough it saved Nimoy time and no doubt, got him at the front of the lunch queue – so he could have some lunch and get back to set, in time to have his make-up and fake ears and such repaired/adjusted if needed. Meaning, he’d be ready to go on set as required. Shatner on the other hand, I’m sure, just had to tighten (or loosen) his corset, and dial down his smirk a bit after lunch, so he didn’t need “time in make-up” after lunch like Spock probably did.

See how, times change, even Captain Kirk himself (William Shatner), and Mrs Shatner both ride a (Pedego) e-bike these days, see this picture of them riding one each – this is from 2012.

Shatners_on_their_Pedegos_2012

The full article is here: http://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/william-shatner-picks-up-pedego-interceptors/

And on that note, lets hop on our collective (e-)bikes and ride “into the future” creating “Auckland Cycling: The Next Generation” as we go …

The Demographics of Travel to Work

The last census was two years ago and there’s already been a lot of analysis of the results of it. In terms of transport the census asks about Journeys to Work and while it is a fairly flawed metric due to it ignoring other trip generators like journeys to education – a large component of the morning peak in particular – it still has shown some interesting results. From it we know that in Auckland the number of people commuting to work by car increased, however it has partially come from fewer people carpooling and even more importantly it was eclipsed by the number commuting by PT. Add in the strong growth in people using active modes and there’s been the below shifts in modeshare.

modeshare-change-percent

PV = private vehicle

 

I just happened to be looking at Stats NZ a few days ago and came across data giving a demographic break down of the results which is something I haven’t seen before and the results are fascinating. In particular the results that caught my attention the most were those by age and gender and how that had changed over time.

First up the total number of people who said they worked on Census day and you can clearly see from this the aging of the baby boomer generation.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Total

Unsurprisingly the number of people driving a private vehicle to work looks fairly similar to the graph above. What is interesting are the other private vehicle categories of driving a company vehicle, driving a motorbike or scooter and being a passenger in a car.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland -  Private Vehicle

Moving on to public transport I’ve only shown bus and train below because ferries are included in the Other category. What’s remarkable about the changes is that it so clearly shows that the growth in PT is being driven by the younger generations. The question is what the people in these younger age groups will do once they start getting older and having families etc. The changes in the older age groups suggest that the numbers using PT won’t drop off as much as they have in the past which will have big implications for mode share in the future.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Public Transport

I’ve also looked at the data for Wellington and while most categories have a fairly similar profile to Auckland, the one that stands out as being dramatically different is in train use. I suspect that as Auckland’s network matures it will start to look more like Wellington’s does now.

Census Journey to Work by Age - AKL & WLG- train

Next up are the active modes of walking and cycling with two very different trends. For walking its young people driving the change whereas for cycling it’s older generations making the shift.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Active

Lastly it’s the Other – which is likely to primarily be ferries – and those who worked from home. The latter is primarily made up of people who live in rural areas and the wealthier coastal areas places within the urban area.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland -  Other

 

Overall there are some very interesting changes happening with how we travel and those are primarily occurring in non-car modes. If the younger generations continue to keep the current trends up then it’s likely to have big implications for how people get around in the future. The question is whether what we’re building is going to support that change or hinder it.

The other piece of demographic information available is mode usage based on gender. Unlike age the gender split over each mode doesn’t seem to be changing much over time but what the data does highlight is that there is quite a lot of variance between the two based on which mode is looked at. Overall 54% of those who said they were working are men versus 46% women.

In the graph below are the total numbers of each gender for each mode – with the exception of Driving a Private Car as it’s so large it makes it difficult to see the other results. The first thing you notice is how over represented men are in driving a company vehicle. This is also the case for riding motorbike or cycling. In the other modes more women than men are likely to be a car passenger, use PT, walk or work from home.

Census Journey to Work by Gender & Mode - Auckland

To highlight the degree of over or under representation the graph below shows this for females (the opposite can obviously bee seen for males). Of these the quickest and easiest I think that we could change would be cycling and to do that it is essential we make our roads safer through far greater use of cycle infrastructure.

Census Journey to Work Female Over-Under Representation - Auckland

If anyone wants to look into this deeper this info is also available by local board level which I’m sure would show some interesting results between different parts of Auckland.

Guest Post: Orange Smoothy

This is a part one of a two part guest post by highly visible e-cyclist and regular reader Greg Nikoloff

This post is about my experiences with my Pedego brand (http://pedego.co.nz) electric bike (e-bike), which I purchased from Bute Bikes (who also trade as Electricbikes.co.nz) in February 2013. This post was prompted by Patrick sending me an email asking for me to do a post on “that electric bike of yours”, so here goes. This is part 1. Part 2 which has details of my commute and some thoughts on the future will follow.

The Bike:

Orange Pedego

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of you have probably seen it, the bright Orange “Beach Cruiser”- style electric bike at events like the Cyclovia event, Meet the Bruntlett’s event, the opening of the Grafton Gully Cycleway and various times around the CBD. I and the “Orange Smoothy” were at the recent pilot Bike Rave on Friday night recently past, so you’ve may have seen it then, or even just along the roads along Remuera way or out and about in parts of the CBD at times before or since.

Some of you that have seen it, may not have noticed it was an electric one. Indeed an AT Train Manager on one of the EMUs I took it on recently asked me if that silver thing on the back was my lunchbox. When I said “No, that’s the battery pack”, he expressed amazement that it was an e-bike and wanted to know more about it. Which is a common situation – people see it as an attractive bike first, an e-bike second, that’s if they even notice. And when they find out it’s both, the questions about it always arise.

A small history lesson:

I’ve owned this bike for just on 2 years now, and have clocked up over 2400 kilometres of “riding”. I put riding in quotes, as the electronic odometer which records distances covered, ticks over whether you are pedalling at the time or not, so I estimate the actual “pedalled” distance is about 90% of that number. Its only 90% because sometimes I just decide to cruise on electric battery alone to enjoy the scenery in peace, as I motor along almost silently, sometimes I just cruise down the many hills I come across without power or pedalling. The odometer still ticks over in both those cases.

I’d wanted an e-bike for years, back when I was a kid at school in fact, before such things could have become practical – due to the lack of lightweight battery tech and no high-performance brushless DC electric motors with solid state electronic control systems as we have now.

In those days the closest you probably could have come to would be some steam-punk like creation using big “coil springs” in the rear wheel hub to somehow to capture braking/stopping energy, for storage for a quicker start. An idea I think based on the fact that there was a lawn mower that had a similar “clock-work” wind-up mechanism for starting it, instead of the usual “pull on the rope” style starter. In those days, it was either that or bolting on an internal combustion engine – my brother tried that with a 2 stroke lawn mower engine mounted between the frame near the pedals on a regular man’s bike – it worked ok but was noisy, and without a doubt dangerous and illegal (neither of us had motorcycle or car licenses then).

Why the Pedego?

Despite looking on and off for years, I never found one that ticked all the boxes, or pushed all the buttons for me. And that I could also afford to buy. I’d tried some other e-bikes a few years before and they were pretty underwhelming and gutless. But after some research and a test ride, it seemed the Pedego did met most my requirements. I was also wondering how I’d cope in Auckland traffic, not having ridden in traffic for years. A very valid concern, so that’s why I got the biggest and brightest bike I could – hence why its orange! The big tyres I got added as an after-factory option, allow me to go off road (or across rough ground like a local park), that normal bikes (and me) might struggle with and the bigger seat means my back or backside doesn’t get too sore when I do so.

As this is an upright style bike, you don’t have to hunch over the handle-bars, instead you can ride looking at the scenery and keeping an eye out for dangers. Plus being upright, it makes you “higher” off the ground than the motorist in the cars you ride beside.

While the Pedego model is a top-spec e-bike chock full of name-brand componentry, it is not the cheapest, nor the most expensive e-bike out there. The cost of my model was $2,690 for the base model, plus upgrades to a 50% higher capacity battery (15 Watt/Hr v 10 Watt/hr Std) and the bigger “Fat Bastard” oops Schwalbe “Fat Frank” tyres, a bigger seat, and some other upgrade features. The total cost with those add-ons was $3,300 inc. GST from the previously mentioned Bute Bikes in Browns Bay. All prices in early 2013 dollars. This being a Transport blog post, I’ve indexed my CAPEX spending to the actual year of spend i.e. 2013.

Yes, you can buy a cheaper e-bike but many look to me that they are designed in China for lighter weight Asian riders and won’t cope well with NZ-sized riders (or crappy Auckland roads). Some of these come with Lead Acid or other “low-tech” batteries, and the many I’ve seen look pretty flimsy to me. And then there is the after-sales service aspect. I knew from my reading that Electric Bikes as a distributor had been around for years. In fact I’d heard an interview with them on National Radio a few years ago but they were based in Tauranga back then – but that meant I couldn’t easily test-drive one. Now they’re Auckland based, and Bute Bikes have their own NZ-designed models, similar to the Pedego in functionality, but which work out about $500-$1,000 cheaper for similar features. The style and features (and the lack of colours!) didn’t appeal as much to me as the Pedego did.

Pedego is “America’s number one e-bike brand” by sales so they say – not that means much to me or you, I’m sure. After all the Ford F150 truck, being America’s most popular vehicle by sales, is not very relevant for NZ. So some e-bike for rich yanks may not be what it seems, or is it?

Ok, cut to the chase – what’s it like?

My first go on the Pedego was on a grey windy Saturday, with wet roads, not ideal for the first time cycling in years. Bute Bikes set me up on a demo model, adjusted seat and handle-bar height. They showed me the 2 throttle control modes, and turned me loose on a cruiser model like the one I figured I wanted. They encouraged me to take a spin on it around the damp streets of Browns Bay. Within minutes I was hooked on the experience. I hadn’t ridden a bike for many years so I wasn’t sure how I would cope with an ordinary bike let alone an e-bike. Anyway, a 10-minute spin showed this was nothing but an extra-ordinary bike, which produced a very big and ever-widening grin. After a 30-minute hoon around the local park and surrounds and it was back to Bute Bikes complete with huge grin to discuss the cost and factory upgrade options. Two years on, here we still are – same bike, 2,400 km on the clock, one puncture (last December: cost me $20 for a new tube at the local bike shop and they fitted it while I waited), and not much more in maintenance.

When riding its like a heavyish (25kg or so) bike that rides well. But when you turn on the power and crank power up to max, it’s like having a massive hand at your back pushing you along – remember when you first learned to ride a bike and a parent or older sibling helped you get up to speed and pushed you along as you pedalled to help on the hills? Well imagine that, except that push never goes away, it’s there all day, every day, as and when you want it – that’s the e-bike experience in a nutshell. An e-bike simply lollops along, and takes you with it.

The motor in mine is the maximum legal power allowed on an e-bike by NZ law – 300 watts. That doesn’t sound like much (the European limit is 250W and some other brands keep the 250W same maximum power limit in NZ models). When you’re on an e-bike and you dial up 100% power, you can definitely feel it, and it’s like having legs that are 20 years younger at once. You can almost become a “Steve Austin: 6 Million dollar Man” wannabe. Beat that, you MAMIL!

The e-bike goes about 38-40km/hr top speed (exactly how fast much depends on the battery charge) as the electronic controller under the battery limits the top speed to 40km/hr, Beyond that speed you are on your own again – no more e-bike; it’s just a regular “me-bike”.

They say “power corrupts”, and having that sort of power on tap definitely corrupts changes your riding style. For instance when you have to pull up at the lights suddenly while still in top gear (7th for me), normally it’s a real bugger to get that sorted before the lights go green – you either hobble off at 5 km/hr or you have to get the back wheel off the ground to peddle it around in to a lower gear. With the e-bike, just leave it in 7th, and open up the throttle when the lights go green, pedal away, and you’re usually at 30+ km/hr by the time you leave the other side of the intersection!

Another point, you don’t need to run red lights or sneak across with the pedestrians to keep on schedule. You can afford to be legal, wait with/at the front of the cars, then safely zoom away when the light goes green – and catch up those cyclists who rode through the red lights ahead of you – and you’ll do that in a few hundred metres or so, without breaking a sweat. So you can get the virtuous glow of exercise and of being a more law abiding cyclist at the same time, as well leaving the motorists behind in your dust at the lights.

Going up hills is where the e-bike really comes into its own. Yes, the obvious one is you don’t have to peddle as hard. Generally you still have to peddle – the e-bike can easily do smaller hills on its own. Really big ones, not so much – I’m sure it could make it up Carlton Gore Road on its own at about 6-8km/hr if you didn’t peddle. I know some of the back streets I cycle near the Orakei boardwalk are pretty steep in places and I’ve gone up those on battery alone just to see how it manages it, and they are over a 10% grade.

The second point, which is just as relevant is this – when you do pedal, it’s much faster to get up the hill. Which means your time spent straining at the pedals is very much reduced; you’ll still need to get some huff and puff up though. But I never have to get up on the pedals to get up a hill – I can ride seated all the time if I choose. So e-bikes make it easy to become a “gentleman/woman rider”.

The best way to visualise this, is that it simply “flattens the hills”. What it won’t do well is push you up a hill very fast if you don’t pedal. But this simply means that you can pedal your e-bike, as if it’s flat everywhere. i.e. it turns Auckland into Amsterdam. And you know what – when you cycle up the hills faster than the cars in the next lane because they’re grinding up the hill in slow crawl traffic and you, in the bus lane next door are not – that’s priceless! You can’t buy that sort of pleasure and satisfaction as cheaply, or anywhere else I know of.

And lastly, the dreaded head wind – that can be pretty tiring to ride into especially on an upright. I know from my dreaded easterly winds when I lived in Christchurch that winds are a real drag. On an e-bikes it still is, except that you are doing it at 30km/hr instead of 15km/hr or less. You get a bit more wind-buffeted but then you spend a lot less time in it. So in theory, for half the overall effort – you get there, quicker, and feeling more refreshed.

When you go downhill, the bike doesn’t recharge. The guys at Bute Bikes have some good discussion on this on the FAQs area of their website, but basically the mechanical and electrical complications you get as a result of doing so don’t actually extend the range much, so they say it’s better to buy a bigger battery and go that way and have a bike you can peddle normally. So it’s eminently do-able and worthwhile for regenerative braking on a $15m EMU – not so much on a $3K e-bike.

I know from 2 years regular use and charging that the battery is starting to lose its “freshness” – you can tell as the bike goes faster when it’s just off the charger in the morning, as compared to the go-home trip at the end of the day. Even so it still goes like a rocket. As for electricity cost, I haven’t really calculated that, but I know it will charge up in about 3-4 hours on the charger provided – which is little more than a large sized laptop charger with 48 volt output. So maybe 5 cents per charge is probably the actual cost. I think I pay more money on my power bill for running my 32 inch LCD TV a few hours each day than charging my e-bike.

The battery will probably need to be refurbished/replaced in the next 2 or so years, but it’s designed for that, with the battery being removable and is built from standard cells inside. So I don’t expect to have to scrap the e-bike ‘cos the battery is worn out. The capacity (in watt/hours) of the battery controls the distance you can get. My rules of thumb for my set up is up to 40km/hr speed for about 30-40km distance – your mileage will vary.

Having said that, I have cycled into town, up and down Grafton Gully a couple of times, gone to the new Waterfront Promenade and headed back home on it along Tamaki Drive, into a stiff easterly breeze, all at top speed/full throttle, I’ll have done the thick end of 30km and the battery will be nearly tapped out by the time I get home, with top speed dropping to about 32-35 km/hr on the way back. So yes mileage does vary. I took the bike last year on the Hauraki rail trail from Waihi to Kopu (via Paeroa) and the battery was full at the start and about 1/3 charged at the end, even after pedalling along the boring flat from Paeroa to Kopu at a good clip. And while doing the Hauraki Rail trail I saw a couple of (suggested collective noun for a group of e-bikes –“a fleet”), near new Pedegos going the other way (up the hill).

So that’s part 1 of my experiences with my e-bike. Part 2 will look more closely at my daily commute in detail to get a feel for how it works in practise.

Lastly, just before I go (for all you Star Trek TV series fans, this is the episodes “tinkly bit” – I’ll explain in part 2 more what a “tinkly bit” is if you don’t know).

Todays, tinkly bit, is a small graphic design note.

If you look at the Pedego logo, you can see it, like, the well-known FedEx logo, uses negative space to some effect – heres a close up of the Pedego (NZ) logo:

Pedego_NZ_Logo

 

 

 

You can see the D and O of word PEDEGO use the negative space to show an electric plug and electric socket (albeit a US socket). Which neatly reminds you that this is an electric bike i.e. technically a “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle” (PHEV). Hybrid ‘cos it has two fuel sources electric powered and human powered.

While I’ve not read/heard the exact pronunciation of the Pedego brand name, I assume it is said as 3 words “PED” “E” “GO” , I suspect some would see/say it as “PED” “EGO”.

Part Two next Saturday.

 

Saturday picture: The fate of bicyclists

When bicycle were first invented and popularised in the late 1800s, they were met with a degree of moral panic. Would bicycles lead women into immorality? Would upstanding citizens be overrun by mobs of cycling hoons?

David Herlihy’s book Bicycle: The History presents one particularly hilarious example of these reactions. It shows Puck magazine’s 1897 vision of Sunday cyclists who have biked their way into the inferno.

Puck 1897 Bicycle Hell

We now live in a more secular society, where relatively few people argue that weekend warriors are risking their immortal souls with Sunday morning rides. But, as some people’s fevered reaction to new on-street bicycle facilities shows, a small minority do seem to believe that a bit of green paint and a few safe hit posts will condemn them to traffic hell.

Metamorphosis: The Return of the City

The Auckland City Centre is entering a phase of profound change. The rest of this decade it’ll be undergoing a more extensive and disruptive renovation than your average Ponsonby villa. The designers and financiers are at work and the men and machines are are about to start. The caterpillar is entering that difficult and mysterious chrysalis phase; what kind of butterfly will emerge?

Some of the probable additions to AKL’s skyline [image: Luke Elliot]

If even half of what is proposed gets underway almost every aspect of the centre city will be different.

The Skyline

Precinct Property’s 500 million dollar total rebuild of the Downtown centre and a new 36 storey commercial tower is confrmed to start next year. The 39 storey St James apartment tower is also all go [with the re-opening of the ground floor to the public soon]. An apartment tower on Albert and Swanson has begun. There are a huge number of residential towers seriously close to launching some of which are 50+ floors. These are on Victoria St, Customs St, Commerce St, Greys Ave and more. The biggest of them all Elliot Towers is rumoured to underway next year. Mansons have bought the current herald site and said to looking at residential there. On the same block 125 Queen St is finally getting refurbished bringing much needed new commercial space in the city [+ about 1000 new inner city workers]. Of course the Convention Centre and its associated hotel will start too. Waterfront Auckland have announced new mid rise apartment developments and a new hotel beginning as well. This list is not by any means exhaustive. Auckland is now a builders’ boom town. And it will resemble nothing other than an enormous sand pit for the next few years.

The Street

Regardless of the forms of these buildings they are going to have profound impacts at street level; flooding the footpaths with people, stimulating more and more retail and especially hospitality services. Add to this the disruption of the works themselves, for example later this year the first stage of the CRL is going to start. Digging up everything from Britomart through Downtown, up Albert St to Wyndam St. If the proposed Light Rail system goes ahead that will mean the [no doubt staged] digging up of the whole length of Queen St and other places, Dominion Rd, Wynyard Quarter. Street space is becoming more and more contested. Driving in the city is going to get increasingly pointless, most will avoid it. But unlike last century that won’t mean people won’t come to the city. One, because it’s become so attractive with unique retail offers, unrivalled entertainment attractions, and a fat concentration of jobs. Two, because people are discovering how good the improving Transit options are becoming, so why bother driving. And three, because increasing numbers are already there; it’s where they live anyway.

And that Transit boom is going to continue, or even accelerate. Britomart throughput is now running at 35 000 people daily, when planned it wasn’t even expected to reach 20 000 until 2021 [see below; the blue line is still growing at that angle; it is now literally off the chart]:

Britomart Projection Numbers Graph

Why is this happening? A lot of people in wider Auckland still think the city is unappealing or unimportant. Aren’t we spreading new housing out at the edges? Aren’t new businesses building near the suburbs in those business parks? Well ironically one of the reasons so much growth and investment is happening in City Centre is because those same people, the ones that prefer their suburban neighbourhoods to the city, don’t want any change near them. The City Centre is one of the few places that it is possible to add new dwellings or offices at scale, and because it is a very constrained area with high land value this can only be done with tall buildings. The more suburban people refuse to have growth near them the more, in a growing city, investment has to concentrate where it can, and in Auckland that means downtown.

Auckland's first electric  tram 1902

Auckland’s first electric tram 1902

Auckland is still spreading outwards and businesses are growing in suburban centres, but these areas are not appealing or appropriate for all people and all businesses, and nor are they sufficient; the City Centre is growing by both these metrics too, and at a greater pace. The 2013 census showed that AKL city is the fastest accelerating place to live in the entire country, growing at over 48% between 2006-2013, and currently the city is experiencing a new shortage of office space and an interesting reshaping of the retail market. The education sector is also still strong there, with Auckland Uni consolidating to its now three Central City sites and building more inner city student accommodation. City growth is strong and broadly based: residential, commercial, retail, and institutional.

There are risks and opportunities in this but what is certain, outside of a sudden economic collapse, is that the City Centre will be a completely different place in a few years, in form, and in terms of how it will operate. And the signs are promising that what we are heading to is an almost unrecognisably better city at street level than it has been in living memory.

What is happening is simply that it is returning to being a city of people. Ten of thousands of new inner city residents, thousands of new visitors in thousands of additional hotel beds each night, hundreds of thousands of workers and learners arriving daily from all over the wider city each day too. All shopping, eating, drinking, and playing within the ring of the motorway collar. Auckland is moving from being one of the dullest and most lifeless conurbations in the world to offering a new level of intensity and activity. Well that is certainly the possibility in front of us now.

Auckland has had boom times before, and each of these leave a near permanent mark on the built fabric of the city [the Timespanner blog has examples in great detail].  So it matters profoundly what we add to the city this time. We are at the beginning of the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the postwar outward boom that came with such a high cost for the older parts of the city. By forcing the parts of the city built on an earlier infrastructure model to adapt to a car only system we rendered them unappealing and underperforming, and the old city very nearly did not survive this era. Only the persistence of some institutions, particularly the Universities, enabled it to hang on as well as it did. The car as an organising device is ideal for social patterns with a high degree of distance and dispersal. It is essentially anti-urban in its ability to eat distance but at the price of its inefficient use of space; it constantly fights against the logic of human concentration that cities rely on to thrive. It not only thrives on dispersal, it also enforces it.

Queen St 1960s

Queen St 1960s

But now the wheel has turned and cities everywhere are booming on the back a of model much more like the earlier one [see here for example: Seven cities going car-free]. This old-new model is built on the understanding that people in numbers both already present in the city and arriving on spatially efficient Transit systems providing the economic and social concentration necessary for urban vitality and success.

This seems likely to lead to a situation more or less observable in many cities world-wide where there is an intense and highly walkable and Transit served centre surrounded by largely auto-dependent suburbs. Melbourne, for example, is increasingly taking this form. And, interestingly the abrupt physical severance of Auckland’s motorway collar might just make ours one of the more starkly contrasting places to develop along these lines. A real mullet city: one made up of two distinct patterns.

Bourke St Transit Mall, Melbourne 2014

Bourke St Transit Mall, Melbourne 2014

Frankly I think this is fine, it could make for the best of both worlds. Those who want to live with the space and green of the suburbs can continue to do so but are also able to dip into a vibrant city for work, education, or especially entertainment, on efficient electric Transit, ferries, and buses when that suits. A vibrant core of vital commercial and cultural intensity sustained by those who choose to live in the middle of it 24/7. The intensity of this core plus any other growing Metro Centres [will Albany really become intense? Manukau City?] meaning the sprawl isn’t limitless and the countryside not pushed so far away that it is inaccessible. Auckland as Goldilocks; not all one thing or the other; neither all suburb nor all city. People will use or ignore which ever parts they want, and soon members of the same households will be able to indulge their different tastes without some having to leave the country.

What are the threats to this vision? Well we do actually have to build the Transit, this means completing the CRL soon as is possible, and ideally replacing a good chunk of the buses with higher capacity and more appealing Light Rail. To connect these two halves; the success of both the centre and the region it serves depend on it. But also we have deliver a much better public realm on the streets and especially at the water’s edge. We have to retain and enhance the smaller scale older street systems to contrast with the coming towers, like we have at Britomart and O’Connell St. All these moves require leadership and commitment and an acceptance that the process of getting there will be contested and difficult.

I have no fear that people in the wider city won’t be happy to choose to leave their cars at home for some journeys, especially into the city, then jump back into them for others across the wider city or out of town. After all it’s happening already. This is not then a bold prediction, merely the extrapolation of current trends. And it is the trend that tells us more about the future than the status quo. More of this:

CBD Transport Change

than this

CPO Lower Queen St 1960s

CPO Lower Queen St 1960s

or this

AKL m'ways 70s

AKL Grafton Gully 70s

Carlton Gore improvements confirmed

Nearly a year ago Auckland Transport announced plans to put cycle lanes on Carlton Gore Rd – something that created a typical backlash from locals in the area who felt they deserved a free piece of public space to store their personal possessions. Ten months later and AT have announced the results of their consultation as well as the changes in design that they’ve made. They also have said that construction will start in just two weeks on April 2 and will be completed in June.

The original proposal

Original Proposal contained the following features:

  • Cycle lanes added on both sides of Carlton Gore Road between Park Road and Davis Crescent, with a half metre wide painted buffer to provide separation from traffic. Removal of Parking on the Domain side of Carlton Gore Road between Park Road and George Street will create space for the new lanes. The lanes will expand the Auckland Cycle Network, providing an improved connection from the east into the city centre and an alternative to cycling on the busier Khyber Pass Road.
  • A pedestrian crossing point consisting of kerb build-outs on both sides of the road, installed at 103 Carlton Gore Road, near to the intersection with George Street. The build-outs will provide better visibility between pedestrians and traffic and shorten the crossing distance, making it safer and easier to cross.
  • The zebra crossing on Carlton Gore Road repositioned to sit mid-way between the Morgan Street and Kingdon Street intersections, to increase pedestrian safety from turning traffic. Coloured surfacing and sensor-activated flashing LEDs will be installed to provide pedestrians with increased visibility. The repositioning was completed during works in 2014.

All up AT say they had 171 submissions and the majority supported the project. The key themes of the feedback are below along with AT’s response to them.

1. Separation between the traffic lane and the cycle lane was seen as insufficient. This has been improved in the final design through the use of raised kerbs on a section of the route between Park Road and George Street.

2. A reduction in parking spaces was raised as a concern. Some alternative parking spaces have been allocated for residents who lack off-street parking. Utilisation of pay and display parking on Carlton Gore Road and the surrounding streets will be monitored and prices adjusted as needed to encourage turnover. We aim to maintain an occupancy rate of around 85%, ensuring some parking is always available.

3. The design presented for consultation prevented the informal “double-stacking” of two lanes of traffic that occurs eastbound on Carlton Gore Road during the evening peak. The final design introduces a 4pm to 6pm no parking clearway westbound between George Street and Park Road. This will help maintain traffic flow, while still allowing parking at other times of the day.

They’ve also made the other changes below

  • Footpaths on both sides of Carlton Gore Road between George Street and Park Road will be replaced and the road resurfaced. The area of footpath at the Park Road intersection leading into the Domain will become a shared use area for people on bikes and on foot. A drinking fountain within this area will provide a spot to pause and refuel.
  • Parking on the south side of Carlton Gore Road between the George Street and Park Road intersections will change from P120 to metred pay and display parking with no time restriction, consistent with the Newmarket parking plan.
  • A raised table will be installed across the intersection of George Street where it intersects with Carlton Gore Road, reducing vehicle speeds and making it easier and safer for pedestrians to cross.
  • The pedestrian crossing point to be installed outside 103 Carlton Gore Road will be upgraded to a zebra crossing to better cater for people wishing to cross the road during busy times of the day.
  • Flashing LEDs will not be installed on the zebra crossing between the Morgan Street and Kingdon Street intersections, as the addition of the second zebra crossing along with anti-skid coloured surfacing and cycle lane markings will be sufficient to slow most traffic. However, the crossing will be monitored and LEDs may be installed at a later date if needed.

The new design is below.

Carlton Gore Rd 1

Carlton Gore Rd 2

Carlton Gore Rd 3

Carlton Gore Rd 4

Overall there are some really positive changes in the design which is pleasing to see and something I suspect has been helped by the positive feedback the project received which again highlights the importance of submitting on this stuff. In particular it’s great that some parts of the route will now get physical protection, that George St will be safer and that there’s another pedestrian crossing.

My major concern though is still that AT are using cyclists as a squishy barrier. As an example I wonder if they could have had that new pedestrian build out (on the south side of the street just to the east of George St) as an island where the cycle lane is and left the cycle lane against the kerb using the parked cars as the physical barrier. Same with the kerb build out at Kindon St. The north side is made a bit more difficult due to the presence of the trees in the existing build outs but as they don’t seem all that large so I wonder if they too could have been moved to give the same effect.

I look forward this being completed however at only around 600m in length it’s only a small part of what’s needed. Next we need other routes that will connect and expand on this segment so we can build up an actual network of safe streets – something all international experience points to being the key to getting people cycling. With a few of the tweaks mentioned it could potentially become a template to be rolled out to streets all around the region.

Mocking up a street

A great video from Riga, Latvia with some tactical urbanism to show how a street could look if wider footpaths and cycle lanes were added.

Guest Post: Rail and the City

*This is a guest post by regular reader and occasional contributor, Warren Sanderson.

rail in the city

Book Review

RAIL AND THE CITY – Shrinking Our Carbon Footprint While Reimagining Urban Space

Roxanne Warren

Unlike Paul Mees‘ book ‘Transport for Suburbia’ which deals in depth, among other things, with what went so terribly wrong with Auckland’s transport planning in the second half of last century, Roxanne Warren does not mention New Zealand once. Her book is almost totally focused on the transport problems of the United States but she does refer frequently to Europe and Japan where transport policy has been handled so much better.

But don’t let the concentration on US problems put you off. This is a great read for anyone who is unhappy with what auto dependency does to the liveability of our cities and especially here in Auckland.

I like the organisation of this book. It has a preface in a tight precis form plan which sets out exactly what it is going to say and then chapter by chapter gets on with it, in a fluid and engaging style. And there are extensive references at the back of the book.

I enjoyed particularly her comment on the basic reasons for rail’s practicality and popularity, including the operational, aesthetic and permanence advantages for the city. This includes standard surface rail or light rail. Furthermore a public preference for rail has been revealed in surveys and generally attributed to a smoother and faster ride and to rail’s permanent presence – a preference that has been reflected in increased property values around stations.

The last chapter deals with the question of climate change and the desirability of shrinking the very large footprint that we are placing on the earth. While always keen to reduce a personal footprint, I find it hard to get worked up about the science of climate change. What astounded me however, was the idiocy of the US tax cum subsidy set–up as outlined. Fossil fuel have benefited from a full century of subsidies and the oil industry in particular receives generous tax breaks at every stage of the processes of exploration and extraction. Ditto for corn ethanol i.e. food for our cars rather than for people. These subsidies create market distortions that encourage wasteful consumption and undercut the position of clean energy, while effectively exacerbating climate change.

The author points out that regardless of general resistance to change, population increases and migratory trends toward cities, thus increasing congestion in cities, is making ever more obvious the need for a more rational use of urban space and for more compact and sustainable forms of mobility, namely, walking, cycling and transit. She reports that the common wisdom that has it, that only ‘progressives’ (read lefties) favour the support of public transport which denies the movement of prominent conservatives in support of passenger rail transport for the reasons she cites in Chapter 3.

I believe that MOT/NZTA/AT should not employ anybody who has not read this book by a deadline date of 30 April this year. Why? Books like this were not around when many of the older hands commenced work. We need big changes in our transport policies and the government and these three institutions are charged with operating in our best interest. Yes, change is needed……………and fast. This is an excellent read.

Finally, about the author. Roxanne Warren is an architect and principal partner in Roxanne Warren Architects in New York. Her prior experience included a period with I M Pei and Partners but since 1999 she has dedicated her time increasingly to advocacy of Vision 42 which is a proposal for ‘River to River’ low floor light rail in a landscaped auto-free 42nd Street, New York.

Rail chart

42nd St LRT route

Warren Sanderson 2015

Cycling to lunch was logical

Sadly Leonard Nimoy passed away today and this video came up with Leonard and William Shatner talking about cycling to lunch.

And here’s a picture of him on his bike in costume.

Leonard Nimoy