Bike Rack Trial

Auckland Transport are running a trial to see what kind of bike parking people prefer which should hopefully lead to much more bike parking around the city, especially at bus/train stations and ferry terminals.

Auckland Transport in association with Cycle Action Auckland (CAA) is asking what sort of bike parking Aucklanders want.

Auckland Transport has set up a bike parking trial at the Downtown Ferry Terminal next to the stop for the Airport Bus.

Walking and Cycling Manager Kathryn King says the trial is about giving cyclists something they want and they will use. “We want to make sure bike stands meet the needs of the city’s growing cycling community. We’re looking at factors like ease of use, safety and security.”

CAA’s Barbara Cuthbert says it’s important that cyclists make their views known. “This trial to test and comment on new cycling facilities is a first for Auckland. It’s a hugely valuable prelude to AT’s plans for new bike parking facilities at bus and train stations and ferries.”

The trial runs to the end of the week and Auckland Transport staff will be on site each morning from 7 to 9.

Auckland Transport’s current annual budget for bike parking is approximately $400,000.

The trial is only for this week so if you want to have a say make sure you do quickly (details on the link above). There are five types of bike racks AT are looking at

Bike Tree

Bike Tree

Double Stacking

Double Stacking Bike Rack

and an example of them being used in Rotterdam

Harrogate rack

Harrogate Bike Rack

High density

High Density Bike Rack

And here’s an example of this type of rack in use at the Akoranga Busway station

High Density Bike Rack - Akoranga 2

Sheffield rack with sleeve

Sheffield Bike Rack with Sleeve

‘here began all my dreams’

*This is a guest post by bike romantic Maria Majsa, and cross posted from our sister site CAA with thanks*

On Valentine’s Day this year I didn’t get roses, I got a bike. A handsome, shiny black upright. You might think that a bike isn’t a particularly romantic gift, but I disagree.

Maria en Vélo_4427

Exhibit A: If bicyles aren’t romantic, why do they keep turning up in songs?

I could quote four right now, but my favourite has always been Back to the Old House: “When you cycled by, here began all my dreams.” Even as I write that line, an entire scene unfolds in my head: Suburban street. Pretty girl on a bike, hair flying. Shy lad, doomed to watch her pedal by. Will he ever be able to tell her how much he really likes her?

Absolutely not. This is a Smiths’ song, after all. He never talks to her, and her family moves away and all is lost, except the memory of the vision of her sailing past him in the street. There is a world of bunched-up adolescent urst* in that line. Anyone who has ever been a teenager could relate. And although things get a tad morose after that, you get my drift: the vision on a bike lingers. Bikes have their own romance.

 

There is something about riding a bike that harks back to simpler times – childhood and adolescence. Maybe it was the first time you felt real freedom. And it was universal – almost everyone had a bike. To be in possession of your own form of transport was liberating and joyful. You could explore, find new places, go further than before.

Maria en Vélo_4522

Of course new experiences don’t necessarily go to plan. That’s the great unknown for you. There’s always the possibility of getting lost, or damaging your bike, or yourself – which segueways nicely into my second and third favourite quotes: “Punctured bicycle on a hillside, desolate” [This Charming Man] and “I crashed down on the crossbar and the pain was enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder” [Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before]. Bear with me, I have no idea where I’m going with these, though I’m pretty sure the last one would put paid to any ideas of romance, at least till the bruising had healed.

 

 

 

Exhibit B: It is possible to fall in love with pretty much anyone on a bike ride.

I used to go for rides with a friend who was a fellow Smiths fan. He had a bad stammer and couldn’t pronounce his Rs, but his politics were sound and his taste in music exemplary. On our first ride he verbally unpacked the lyrics of an obscure B-side single by The Smiths as we explored Chiswick. I fell momentarily in love with him and even now, by association, there is something inextricably romantic to me about stammering and bike riding. Especially when combined.

Fast forward a few decades to Exhibit C: The gift of a bike.

Maria en Vélo_4516

 

My husband bought himself a bike a few years ago and started leaving his car at home more often. Pretty soon he was cycling more than driving. Not in a clenched, lycra-wearing kind of way – more of a mooching up the road to a café type thing. Now that I have my bike, I can mooch alongside him. And in a low-key, everyday kind of way, that’s really quite romantic.

 

*unresolved sexual tension

 

Discography:

Back to the Old House                                                               The Smiths

This Charming Man                                                                    The Smiths

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before           The Smiths

and thanks to Bhana Bros for all the flowers

Maria en Vélo_4502

Photo of the day: Ride in to the mist

While most of Auckland basked in glorious sunshine on Tuesday morning, a patch fog enveloped the area around the upper harbour making Auckland’s second harbour crossing disappear into the distance.

Upper Harbour Bridge Cycleway

AT’s proposed 3 year cycling programme

A report to Auckland Transport’s board next week highlights their proposed cycle programme for the next three years which if built fully will see $207 million invested in cycling over that time. That includes funding from AT, the NZTA and the Governments Urban Cycling Fund (UCF) – for which AT and the NZTA have put a joint bid in for $82m in funding. It also includes cycle infrastructure included as part of other projects such as the AMETI. The proposed programme consists of:

  • A total investment of $179m on dedicated cycle projects
  • Approximately $20m of cycle facilities delivered through other projects
  • Over $8m on marketing, training and behaviour change programmes to facilitate growth in cycle journeys.

In total AT say it would add 53km of new cycle routes and increase annual cycle journeys increasing from 900,000 to 2.5 million per year. I’m not too sure how they work those numbers out but it is a significant increase. Since 2010 the handful of automatic cycle counters AT have installed have recorded a 23.8% increase in people riding bikes. AT also say their research shows that one in four people own a bike and 60% per cent of Aucklanders would cycle if separated cycle facilities were installed. Positively they also say this

Internationally the correlation between high levels of cycling and cycle infrastructure separated from volume and speed motor traffic is strong. The organisations own research shows that single greatest barrier to cycling in Auckland is that its roads are perceived as unsafe to cycle.

And of course safety is a big factor. In the 2014 financial year there were 2 deaths and 40 serious injuries and that equates to social costs of $36.5 million and that doesn’t count the costs of people who might cycle living having increased health problems from living more sedentary lives.

The programme isn’t without its risks though and the biggest ones are likely to be financial as it depends on more funding from the council. Other risks include deliverability – as it would require AT/NZTA to significantly ramp up processes to adapt to the increased funding, other major projects such as the CRL/LRT/new bus network and the need to remove parking from some streets.

It’s important for Auckland that AT get as much funding as they can out of the Urban Cycle Funding and they say this about it and their proposals.

The panel assessing UCF proposals has set out clear parameters for the funding. Submissions must deliver:

– Connected networks
– Cycle facilities on primary corridors
– An increase in utility cycling journeys: to workplaces, schools and shops
– Innovative, high quality infrastructure

The UCF will invest in the projects that are most likely to deliver the highest levels of modal shift and therefore justify further investment in cycling. In response, AT and the Transport Agency have proposed a programme focussed on the City Centre. The neighbourhoods within 5-7km of the City Centre currently record the highest modal share for cycling in Auckland, with approximately 4 per cent of people cycling to work. In addition they have the highest numbers of people that AT research identifies are most likely to cycle.

The bid proposes four packages to develop a network of cycle routes within and leading to the City Centre

  • City Centre Package: This package includes segregated cycle routes across the City Centre as well as minor interventions that will make the whole City Centre more permeable for people on bicycles.
  • Eastern Connections: This package focuses on delivering a high quality off-road route along the rail line from Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive, and connections to this route.
  • Western Connections: This package delivers new routes through the Western Bays as well as connections to the North-Western Cycleway.
  • Connections to Public Transport Hubs: This package will focus on the busiest public transport stations in Auckland and will deliver ‘end of trip’ facilities as well as on-road improvements to support cycle trips.

I’m sure many will be concerned about having such a central city focus however I do think that’s the right strategy. In my opinion we need to have a couple of areas where there is a decent amount of cycle infrastructure so that the general public can start to see that things can be better than just a few bits of paint on the road. Using the past approach of spreading any investment around the entire region means we could be waiting decades for there to be a strong enough network to see significant changes in bike use.

The map below highlights AT’s proposed cycleways. Despite the city centre focus there are still some notable gaps such as Ponsonby Rd, Franklin Rd and many others however if this is delivered within three years it would be a significant improvement on what we have now.

AT proposed cycleways 2015-18

The tables below summarise the investment over the next year and the three year period.

AT proposed cycleways 2015-18 Accelerated investment

Of that $179.4 million for dedicated cycleways it is broken down as per below.

AT proposed cycleways 2015-18 Dedicated Cycleways Accelerated investment

The NZTA’s $58.7 million is made up of the following projects

AT proposed cycleways 2015-18 NZTA Accelerated investment

While AT’s $111.2 million is made up of the projects in the table below which also provides an idea of timing for each of them.

AT proposed cycleways 2015-18 AT Projects 2

The other AT CAPEX which comes as part of other AT projects.

AT proposed cycleways 2015-18 Other Projects Cycleways Accelerated investment

These projects will really help improve cycling in and around the city centre and as mentioned should help in showing Auckland in general what kind of cycling facilities are possible when we put our mind and some money towards it.

Guest Post: FlyKly Review

This is a guest post from our friend Lennart Nout on his FlyKly. If you don’t know what that is then read on.

Why would a (relatively) fit young man like me invest in an electric bike?

Because I am lazy. I am not a cyclist, I don’t necessarily enjoy sweating and, my genetic make-up (I’m Dutch) does not make me appreciate hills, especially when I’m on my way to work. I dress for the destination, not for the trip, so anything that helps me up the hills is very welcome.

In May 2013, I “invested” in FlyKly, a new start-up company from the United States. Their Kickstarter campaign promised a wheel that would turn any bike into an electric bike in 5 minutes: a wheel with a built-in motor, battery pack and control system. As any gadget-appreciating young urbanist with a credit card would do, I immediately pre-ordered one. And so did 2,357 other people, pledging a total of over $700,000.

FkyKly Kickstarter

As is common with Kickstarter-type projects, the delivery was pretty slow. After about 8 months, the initial company announced they had merged with an Italian company and had completely redesigned the product from scratch, which resulted in an additional 6 month delay… followed by more delays. Eventually, in December last year, the wheel arrived.

Of course I was very excited– but the fun was short-lived, as that first wheel turned out to be a lemon. Long story short, and with many thanks to the efforts of the customer service department, a new wheel was shipped to me relatively quickly. And here it is:

FkyKly Wheel

After about a month with the FlyKly, I can finally give you a fair and unbiased review of the machine. I will judge it by five measures:

  1. Installation
  2. Operation
  3. Look
  4. Feel
  5. Will it change the world?

Installation (10 out of 10)

The FlyKly is delivered as an entire wheel, with all the electronic components well hidden in the aluminium hub. This makes for extremely quick and easy installation: I am literally talking 5 minutes. You take off your old wheel, you plonk in the new wheel. Done. As the Dutch would say: “A child can do the laundry”.

After the physical installation, the only thing left to do is input some settings like circumference of the wheel and the size of your cogs. The entire process, from unpacking the wheel to riding the  bike, takes less than 15 minutes. I am not kidding. Ten out of ten.

Operation (9 out of 10)

The wheel settings are controlled on an app via bluetooth. That means you have to connect your phone to change the speed, power and regenerative braking power (yes! Braking recharges the motor). This can be a bit tricky, as the bluetooth range is about 5 cm. But once the settings are done, there’s nothing more to do and the wheel will run itself.

FkyKly App

The wheel kicks in after about 10 seconds of riding; you know it’s working when you hear a gentle hum from the hub. Back-pedaling will start the regenerative braking, which makes the wheel charge itself a little while going downhill. I found this particularly useful when riding slowly approaching intersections or when there are pedestrians around. NB Don’t expect this to replace your normal brakes! Not fantastic, but a nice feature.

You charge the battery pack by removing a cap from the side of the axle and plugging in the provided charger. Again, very inconspicuous and very easy.

And the wheel shuts itself down automatically after 4 minutes (or so) of inactivity, so no need to remember to turn it off. All up, super easy! Nine out of ten.

Look (9 out of 10)

Because everything is contained within the hub, your bike won’t look like an electric bike. I particularly like this feature, as I find most electric bikes particularly big and bulky.

FkyKly installed

The wheel only adds about 3.5 kg to the weight of your bike, as well. This means that you can still quite easily lift your bike up a set of stairs or into a bike rack.

The only thing that reveals what’s inside the hub is a little blue LED that shows the wheel is “on”. This is nice, especially if you like LEDs (I do),

Feel (7 out of 10)

So how does it perform? I tested it on some of Auckland’s hills, and it easily gets you to the top of Queen Street and Franklin Road with very little sweat. The FlyKly does not transform your bike into a high-powered super speedy race bike – the top speed is 25 km/h – but what this wheel does is take the edge off cycling. It’s like somebody giving you a push all the time. It may not be powerful enough for some, but it’s perfect for me.

The range of the battery pack is approximately 35 km, compared with the 50km that many other electric bikes boast. This may be a limitation for some, but for me it’s plenty, as I usually cycle around the city with an occasional trip to Henderson or to Mission Bay (BIKE RAVE!).

World changing capabilities (7 out of 10)

The key question for all new gadgets: will it change the world?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: A device like this – especially one so easy to use — takes away another barrier to cycling. It gives people more confidence when riding, as it feels like you’ve always got a little bit of help. At the same time, you don’t really have to think as hard about your route, as it will help you get up the hills a lot quicker and without effort. It allows you to dress for the destination, even on longer, hillier routes. Buying a wheel is also a lot cheaper than a whole electric bike. I got this wheel for US$600. It retails now for about $1,000, but this price is likely to drop with competition coming in. You can keep your cool, old, heavy, grandmother’s bike on the road! In combination with the infrastructure that’s on the way (hello city centre cycle network), innovations like this will make cycling a lot more viable for a lot more people.

Final verdict: Very likely to become pretty popular in the near future.

Visualising complete and incomplete networks

A few weeks ago, I posted a map showing how Auckland’s city centre-based cycle network is full of gaps. We’ve got some nice bits of infrastructure, such as the Grafton Gully and Beach Road cycleways, and a few on-street cycle lanes, but it all stops and starts without warning.

The post attracted so much interest that I thought it would be good to make a similar map for the entire city. So here it is: Auckland by car versus Auckland by bike. The map on the left shows the region’s road network, which includes motorways, arterial roads, a dense street network within the built-up areas, and little tendrils of roads stretching out into the countryside.

Auckland’s current cycle network, on the right, consists of a bunch of random lines that don’t really connect. It looks like a plate of spaghetti that’s just been strewn all over the kitchen floor. Relatively few of these streets have truly safe infrastructure, either – it’s mostly green paint next to traffic. If you want to cycle in Auckland, you’ve got to spend a lot of time on roads battling it out with large steel boxes and risking being doored.

Auckland map for cars and bikes

It’s no wonder that only 1% of commuters are cycling to work in Auckland if less than 1% of our roads have safe cycle infrastructure. However, I’m optimistic that we can fix this problem and deliver better transport choices to Aucklanders. I was down in Christchurch a few weeks ago for a conference, and while roads are still a bit chaotic from the earthquakes, they’re pushing on with a bunch of new cycle facilities and a re-think of their street design manual. It can be done in New Zealand!

So: what can we expect to happen as we fill in our cycle network? I’ve previously looked at some of the research on the subject, finding that:

  • From 2006 to 2013, the number of people commuting by bike in Auckland increased by 26%. Overall, 6% of new commute trips over this time were made by bike – even in the absence of a concerted effort to provide safe facilities.
  • New Zealand researchers find that a larger, more ambitious programme of cycle upgrades will deliver a higher benefit-cost ratio than a smaller programme. In other words, if we make every street safe to cycle on, more people will choose to get on their bikes.
  • Research from Christchurch, which we highlighted in a Sunday reading post, also shows similar results from Christchurch’s major cycleway network. Importantly, 28% of the network’s benefits accrue to drivers as a result of reduced traffic volumes.
  • Data on demand for previous infrastructure networks suggest that there can be an “S-curve” of uptake as networks get built and completed. This means that there’s likely to be a period of steady if not spectacular growth in demand as new projects come online. But at a certain point, the gaps between safe cycle infrastructure will be filled in, enabling rapid growth in demand as cycling becomes safe and useful for many more trips.

What do you think of Auckland’s cycle network? How could it be better?

Lastly, if anyone wants to send me appropriately formatted (.shp or .kml) maps of current cycle networks, I’m happy to make a similar map of your city.

Next stage of Beach Rd Cycleway underway

Auckland Transport yesterday started the second stage of the Beach Rd cycleway which when finished should finally help to make the first stage as well as the Grafton Gully cycleway useful.

Beach Rd Stage 2 render Waldorf

The Beach Road walking and cycling project begins its second and final stage on 30 March, continuing the transformation of a key link into the city centre.

Auckland Council and Auckland Transport (AT) are making it safer, easier and more enjoyable to walk and cycle on Beach Road, upgrading the northern side of Beach Road, between Mahuhu Crescent and Britomart Place.

Part of Auckland Council’s City Centre Masterplan (2012) this jointly funded project will transform the look and feel of the street through use of high quality paving, feature lighting and planting of native coastal species an echo of the area’s rich cultural past as well as a reference to Auckland’s original foreshore.

The works will extend stage one of the Beach Road cycleway, successfully completed in September 2014, connecting to the pedestrian laneway network in Fort Street and with the shared walking and cycling path on Quay Street. The route will be a mix of separated cycleway and sections of shared path around intersections, with paving designs and cycle symbols helping to separate pedestrians from cyclists.

Auckland Transport’s Walking and Cycling Manager, Kathryn King, says: “By linking with the Grafton Gully and north-western cycleways, the completed Beach Road cycleway creates a continuous, safe and convenient route for people to access the city centre by bike.”

Ludo Campbell-Reid, General Manager of Auckland Council’s Auckland Design Office, says this project is one of a range of cycle route projects that are making Auckland city centre a far more attractive place in which to walk and cycle.

“We are creating city spaces in which people want to spend time shopping, dining and relaxing.” he says.

“Beach Road’s upgrade includes innovative features such as small pocket parks and information plaques, and special stormwater rain gardens located at the junction of Beach Road and Tangihua Street to help filter out pollutants in the stormwater before it flows to the sea.

“Coastal plants will reflect the location’s history as a beach and the large attractive London Plane trees will be uplit at night as a stunning feature.”

Of the $3.5 million project cost, $1.5 million is funded through the City Centre Targeted Rate, a special rate that all city businesses pay to fund improvements to streets, parks and plazas. This is administered by the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board, which is made up of community and business representatives.

“Innovative, smart and progressive cities around the world are finding that having safely designed and well-connected cycle routes passing through their areas brings great economic benefits to businesses as well as demonstrable health benefits to the cyclists” Mr Campbell-Reid says.

The upgrade aims to:

  • encourage an increase in walking and cycling within the area.
  • increase safety and the perception of safety for people walking and cycling.
  • expand the Auckland Cycle Network and provide connected, continuous routes.
  • incorporate place making into the design.
  • create an attractive and distinctive street and public space.
  • Works completion is expected by early July.

Power infrastructure company Vector will undertake works within the same area, to future-proof underground cabling so that the footpath does not require digging up again at a later date.

Beach Rd Cycleway StageTwo Overall Plan

I’m looking forward to having this part finished along with hopefully soon the other city centre priority projects.

City Centre Priority routes

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 …

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.