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:
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.
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:
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:
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 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.
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.
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 …
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.
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:
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.
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.
We’ve seen it overseas and now it’s coming to Auckland – as a trial. Introducing the city’s first Bike Rave.
We’re pilot testing a wee bike rave, so we can hold a bigger one later in the year.
*Light* up your bike and come along for a night-time waterfront bike ride from Mission Bay to Wynyard Quarter (with a little add-on along the shiny new Westhaven boardwalk).
We’ll meet at 21:00 at the Mission Bay reserve. From there we’ll ride (slowly-ish) along the waterfront, while listening to some ear pleasing tunes.
Bring the following:
* Your bike, with loads of lights.
* Some drinks for the adventure. And um, should mention it’s potentially i̶l̶l̶e̶g̶a̶l̶ frowned upon to cycle while intoxicated, so keep it civil
-We’ll probably end at a bar anyway !
* If you have an amp, or portable music device, this would be rad too.
If you don’t know what a bike rave is, here’s a video from Vancouver
So if you’re interested deck out your bike in lights (optional) and come along, it should be fun. Let’s see if we can turn this into a regular event.
AT are doing some very very good things at the moment, they are showing leadership and courage to make rational but bold decisions. Like dropping the Reeves Rd fly-over in favour of a BRT solution, creatively investigating ways to bring modern light rail to over-crowded bus routes, and quickly rolling out long overdue bus lanes on arterials. These are all fantastic and are signs of a nimble and lively institution, one that is responding to a changing world with a changed response. One that is resisting the natural tendency of public agencies to just roll on doing the same as before and not risk trouble. I applaud this and the hard working and dedicated individuals who are carrying out.
But at the same time, at least at the time of writing, AT has lost its way on Great North Road. So why have they got it so wrong here?
Looking at that first list we can see what all these issues have in common; they are all discretely transport issues; as you’d expect this is AT’s core competency. BRT versus a traffic flyover in Pakuranga? This is a debate between competing transport projects, each can be costed and outcomes evaluated. Analysing whether more buses will be able to deal with the demand on Isthmus and City routes or whether a higher capacity technology may be needed? Again this is problem of spatial geometry, vehicle size, route speed, likely passenger volumes, boarding times, vehicle dimensions etc. All the kinds of things a transport organisation ought to excel in, and that AT increasingly shows it does.
But in examining the widening of Great North Road as if it only has transport outcomes they are showing the limits of this competency. That ‘place value’ just doesn’t compute is shown by the bewildering array of excuses being rolled out by AT to justify an act they clearly consider trivial: The removal of the six 80 year old Pohutukawa. First was an attempt to blame the need for killing these trees on improved cycling and public transport amenity in order to ‘bring long-term environmental benefits':
We regret that the trees will be lost but a major benefit is that they will make way for cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge and for an extended bus lane and bus priority measures in Great North Road.
Making travel by cycle and bus more efficient and convenient is consistent with Auckland Transport’s drive to encourage the use of public transport. This will bring long-term environmental benefits as more people choose alternative modes of transport, to the car.
This is to draw an extraordinarily long bow. There are no ‘cycle lanes to the motorway overbridge’ in the proposed plan. There is absolutely no more cycling amenity on Great North Rd than there is currently, ie a wide footpath, except the new one will have no shade nor glory from the grand Pohutukawa. There is proposed to be a slightly longer but still intermittent bus lane. And as all this takes place as part of a massive increase in traffic lanes, including a double slip lane, to say that this project is designed to ‘bring long term environmental benefits as more people choose alternative modes of transport, to the car’ is frankly, an untruth.
That statement would be justified if fully separated cycle lanes and proper Rapid Transit was at the core of the project. They are not.
Both AT and NZTA spend public money and it is our legal and moral responsibility to deliver the most objective cost-efficient solutions to the ratepayers and taxpayers that planning and engineering can devise, for the least possible cost.
Absolutely right. Cost, and value, is exactly the issue here. We all certainly want our money spent wisely by our public servants. But there are obvious problems with this assertion, first the cost is only relevant in the context of the value; a cheap thing is a waste if it is not very good. And the people of Auckland see losing the trees as too high a cost for what they propose. That AT don’t see they value of the trees how and where they are, or so discount it so, is essentially the heart of the disagreement. We understand that they have a low transport value, but AT cannot ignore values outside of their core discipline, particularly place values, as their actions have huge effects on the quality of life and place that are not captured by driver time savings, traffic flow, or PT ridership numbers. Neither AT nor NZTA can just ignore these issues and simply hide within their speciality. And nor can they claim that a couple of new trees are the same as magnificent ones that have witnessed the last 80 years at this spot.
Additionally, there is no evidence that the preferred option is less expensive in direct financial cost than say Option Six, which the peer review
found to have no significantly different traffic outcomes. In fact Option Six must surely be cheaper to construct as it is one lane narrower and doesn’t involve removing the trees:
There are other issues that could be raised with this text like the bold claim the whole purpose of the Super City is to reduce congestion:
The founding premise of the Auckland super city was that the city’s congestion was costing $1 billion a year in lost productivity and this had to change.
Both this idea of the centrality of congestion busting to the whole purpose of the city and the quoting of a $1billion annual congestion cost figure show how blind AT have become to other issues of value. Other costs. Especially perhaps things that are hard to quantify. But then congestion cost itself is a very hard thing to quantify. The most recent attempt in New Zealand, published by NZTA itself [Wallis and Lupton 2013]
find that the figure for Auckland is more likely in the realm of $250 million.
But regardless of this supposed quantum it has long been understood that congestion is not solved by building more roads
, that in fact while temporarily easing one route, overall this only encourages more driving and auto-dependency for a place, and ultimately worse congestion everywhere. It is, quite literally, the loosening of the belt as a ‘cure’ for obesity. It is also understood that the best outcome for all road users, the best way to combat congestion, is to invest in the alternative Rapid Transit route, particularly where none currently exists:
This relationship is one of the key mechanisms that make city systems tick. It is basic microeconomics, people shifting between two different options until there is no advantage in shifting and equilibrium is found. We can see this relationship in data sets that make comparisons between international cities. Cities with faster public transport speeds generally have faster road speeds.
So again the heavy cost of this work, both financially and in the loss of the trees, a massive reduction in place value, is too high for this outcome.
As some levels of AT seem to admit they place no value on the trees, or indeed anything that isn’t directly transport related, the best outcome would be for the Board to give them direction to find a solution that both keeps the trees and meets reasonable near term traffic demand and in fact meaningfully incentivises the mode shift that AT correctly values:
Urban roads and state highways working together to keep the traffic flowing and fast, efficient road, rail and ferry passenger services that — together with walking and cycling — entice Aucklanders out of their cars.
-Auckland Transport Metro Magazine
This is an issue of cost, and value. The people of Auckland, Auckland Transport’s ultimate customers and employers, find the cost to place-value too high, and the value of the proposed outcome too low, to justify this action. The public may have been slow to realise what was planned here but have now made their views clear. Recently we have come to expect bold and innovative solutions from AT for all sorts of difficult problems. So it would be very unfortunate if the Board were to miss an opportunity to call a halt to this irreversible action and to seek a smarter solution.
And because work has begun the most efficient and cost effective solution is probably to make the small but significant change to Option Six, leaving the trees, adding the additional slip lane, but settling at least for now, for the two east bound lanes away from the motorway overbridge instead of three. It would be good to see the real effects are after the opening of the Waterview connection before rash actions are taken. If a third lane is deemed necessary here [even though only two lead into it] it is clear that could be added in a few years as MOTAT as planning to restructure their whole relationship with this corner. AT can save some cost and some grief now and revisit the issue with more information and without the pressure from a NZTA deadline. It could be that they find that an east facing buslane and separated cycle way is of higher value through here…?
Pohutukawa Blossom, elsewhere
The other week, the NZ Herald printed a good article on seven secret cycleways in Auckland. We covered it in last week’s Sunday reading post, but I thought it was worth adding a few more words on the topic.
In the article, Elisabeth Easther writes about her rides on the following cycleways:
- The new Westhaven promenade in the city centre
- Wattle Downs Peninsula near Takanini
- Cascades Shared Path in Pakuranga
- Conifer Grove in Takanini
- Waikaraka, Mangere Bridge, and Penrose.
While the rides themselves sounded pretty good, it’s ironic to see that Elisabeth had to drive to the start of many of the cycleways. This illustrates a tricky problem: individual cycle projects are increasingly excellent, but connectivity into the local streets is usually lacking. This makes it hard to use them to get around, as it doesn’t feel safe to get off the cycleway, back onto the surrounding streets, and out to final destinations.
As always, it’s worth taking a look at specific examples. Here’s a map of the Cascades shared path in Pakuranga:
This path offers some advantages for people seeking to travel places on bikes. First of all, it’s entirely off-road and runs through a big green belt, which means that it’s safe from traffic and not choked with fumes. Its northern branch terminates at the shops in Highland Park, and it has tendrils out to surrounding residential communities – meaning that there are both origins and destinations within reach.
However, AT’s broader map of cycle facilities in east Auckland (found here) shows that there are still many gaps in cycle infrastructure in the surrounding areas:
For context, here’s the legend on the map, which shows that most of the streets that are colored in are not in fact very useful for people on bikes. Light blue means that streets theoretically have “space” for cyclists but no dedicated cycle lanes. Yellow means that there’s a bit less traffic on the road. Roads coloured white are probably totally inhospitable if you’re travelling by bike.
What this means in practice is that it’s difficult to get to many key destinations on bikes, even though there’s a cycleway running through the centre of Howick. There’s no connection to the Botany town centre, near the south of the map, or any facilities along the busy Pakuranga highway or connecting to the Panmure rail station.
Another example from the Herald article. Here’s the Onehunga to Mangere Bridge section of the Waikaraka cycleway. (AT also has a map of the extension up SH20 to Mount Roskill.)
Once again, there are some really good things about this. It provides an alternative, non-motorised route between Mangere and Onehunga, with potential connections elsewhere throughout the southern bits of the isthmus. However, the good news doesn’t yet extend far enough. Here’s AT’s broader cycle facility map for Mangere and the surrounding areas:
Again, this is problematic. While there are some on-street cycle lanes in the area, they don’t go anywhere near the Waikaraka cycleway. They lack physical barriers or safe hit posts to keep traffic out. As a result, it is quite difficult for people on bikes to safely travel to destinations like the Mangere town centre or Otahuhu rail station.
Here’s the bit north of the Manukau Harbour:
This is not great either. There are no cycle facilities for people who want to get directly to the Onehunga town centre or rail station, let alone to head further north on Manukau Road. And there are a number of gaps on the route to Sylvia Park. I know that not everyone wants to cycle to the mall to shop, but I’m sure that there are a lot of teenagers (or adults, for that matter) who would love the option to bike there to hang out with friends or go to the cinema.
What this shows is that there are many, many gaps in our cycle networks. We need to fill them to reap the benefits from a complete cycle network. It’s not like we lack the road space to do this – the light blue lines on AT’s maps show streets with enough space to add cycle lanes. But unless we get serious about joining up the network, we’ll be left with a bunch of well-designed cycleways that aren’t useful for many trips.
What cycle infrastructure is your neighbourhood missing?
Auckland’s not quite at the point of having lots of old tunnels sitting around unused – with the exception of those under Albert Park – but if we did here’s a suggestion from London.
Personally I’m not sure it’s such a great idea and would much rather be riding on the street in a protected bike lane but still an interesting idea none the less.
Wellington is a great city but when it comes to transport I fear it is continuing to make foolish decisions. The latest news comes in relation to cycling in the city. In December we learned that a fantastic looking cycleway to Island Bay had been approved that used parking protected lanes and even continued the cycle lanes behind bus stops.
Unfortunately that and other cycle projects are now in doubt after a group of councillors decided to strip the council’s transport committee of it’s powers and require the cycleways get signed off by the entire council. This could put at risk how much money Wellington is able to get from the government’s Urban Cycleways funding.
The controversial handling of the Island Bay Cycleway project has ended with a Wellington City Council committee being stripped of some of its powers.
All decisions about Wellington’s cycleways will be made by the entire city council from now on, rather than just its transport and urban development committee.
Some councillors say the change will delay the rollout of better cycling infrastructure across the city, while others argue it will speed things up.
The full council voted 11 to 4 in favour of the rule change yesterday.
It came about after eight councillors called for the transfer of power, angry at the transport committee’s management of the $1.7 million first stage of the Island Bay to City Cycleway.
The three-kilometre section from Shorland Park to Wakefield Park has divided community opinion after 18 months of research and nearly a year of consultation.
Construction was pencilled in to begin later this month, subject to the transport committee’s approval. But after yesterday’s rule change, the full council will now get the final say.
Before the vote even Prime Minister John Key thought the idea of trying to delay was a stupid move saying in his post-cabinent press conference on Monday
“I think we’ve got the capacity with the government resources, and working with the council, to complete some of those cycleways in a reasonable timeframe. I don’t know why the council is slow at the moment on these particular issues given the mayor is a keen advocate of cycling. The government has got resources there and I’m hoping the Council can sort it out.”
“The whole purpose of us putting in the money in terms of urban cycleways is a reflection of the amount of demand that’s there and interest that not just Wellingtonians but people around the country have for a much safer cycling environment. If you look at the Petone foreshore into the Wellington CBD for instance, what a magnificent cycleway that could be and how safe it could be, and how dangerous it can be currently.”
I guess if Wellington doesn’t want its share of cycle funding that Auckland – or other cities – would love to have it.
This is a sort of ‘Photo of the Day’ post to follow Matt’s one this morning: The day in question being last Friday 30th of Jan. Thankfully I was able to get back to the city from work in the South Island just in time to ride to the Ministerial Cycleways Announcement on the abandoned CMJ off-ramp. See here for how promising is the repurposing of this symbol of urban motorway-era overbuild into something useful.
As I observed in the post linked to above it’s surprisingly pleasant on the ramp, you’re largely above the traffic. Here’s a pic with a photo-op on bikes for Transport Minister Simon Bridges, Mayor Len Brown, and AT Chair Lester Levy going on in the distance.
And the backdrop? Three current and three soon-to-be apartment buildings. Left to right; Urba on Howe street, a new build, two existing blocks, the old Telecom office about to be converted, another 80/90s office building of considerable ordinariness under conversion, and another existing one. Hundreds of new dwellings in easy walk or ride to K Rd, Ponsonby, and of course the city.
I had a good chat with new transport minister Bridges, to be continued, he was very relaxed and out of a suit unlike his poor officials [background]. Those elegant cuffed wrists holding the phone belong to city Urban Design Champion Ludo Campbell-Reid who will be very important in making sure that NZTA’s traffic engineers don’t get away with insisting on some sort of massive cage along the sides of this route out of panic about what humans might do in their motorway corridor.
A balance between ensuring safety and creating a great environment is key here. It is important that the physical detail of this conversion treat riding and walking as normal activities that do not require the kind of defensive constructions that hurtling along in tin boxes at 100 kph do. It is already a fun and secure place to ride and walk. And even though its as close as we are likely to get to an elevated Highline in Auckland I don’t think it needs to be fussily guilded. I like experiencing the tough motorway engineering on foot or bike; there’s something a little transgressive about it. Sightlines need to be clear and the width is great, and practical for reducing conflicts on a shared path. For the route see Matt’s previous post.
The only cost of any consequence is a short bridge at the southern end of the ramp opposite South St connecting through to the bottom of East Street then up to K Rd in one direction, and Canada St, and the Grafton Gully and North Western cycleways in the other. Yay. The architects of the Pt Resolution Bridge [now called Monk MacKenzie] are on the design team so we have high hopes for a beautiful structure here.
Breaking! Just got the ok on Twitter from NZTA to share these:
Stunning. But interestingly only views from the motorway users’ perspective, and no one appearing to be using it… hopefully there are some equally developed views for above. You can see the bridge sweeps past South St to link with Canada St and the bottom of East St. Therefore directly to the Grafton Gully and Northwestern Cycleways more than to K Rd.
Talking of beautiful pedestrian/cycling bridges after the function I rode on to see the new one between the Grafton Gully cycleway and the path between Elam/Whitaker Pl and Symonds St:
And what a lovely sensuous and sinewy thing it is too. Structural engineering practice Novare were the lead designers.
From there I headed down to the city via O’Connell St. Of course it would be much better if there was also a route through the Wellesley St underpass. There is available space at the northern end which is currently only occupied by desultory planting. This would mean that pedestrians and riders wouldn’t have to go up and across Symonds St to get to and the from the city and the cycleway. It is hard to imagine how this connection isn’t a priority for AT/AC?
O’Connell St is insanely improved; fantastic work by AC + AT. A huge success; peopled, busy, new sales being made and life being lived on the street. Previously it was just parking and vehicles circulating looking for parking. Still needs a tweak to reduce the rat-running, a good start would be to review the street pattern to the south [uphill], I propose reversing the one-way to up hill rather than down, as it currently funnels vehicles into O’Connell. Reversing this pattern would retain the same level of vehicle access to the surrounding buildings but direct movement towards the streets with higher vehicle priority. The aim should be for only delivery or emergency vehicles with destinations actually on O’Connell to be there. How it was:
From there I went to check out Waterfront Auckland’s new [not yet officially opened] boardwalk. Fantastic:
Wide, elegant, graceful: great work WA. Another of those projects that makes you wonder what took us so long….?
And obviously, in the words of the Grandfather of Soul James Brown; it’s now time to “Take It To the Bridge”
After all who can disagree with Brown, especially about what’s cool.
In fact all the good things in this post make me feel very optimistic about the progress on the great task of fixing our potentially great city after decades of damage and neglect through the auto-age. So much so that I have to also agree with Brown here on the Ed Sullivan show in 1966 , so about Auckland’s progress:
“I Feel Good!”