Girls on bicycles

29 10 2009

There is something beautiful about elegant women on bicycles. Even if they’re your cousin. (If you think there’s something wonderful about Norwegian comedy try their hip-hop)

And these women at letsgorideabike in Chicago and Nashville have got lots of elegance.

There is a huge world out there of beautiful women on bicycle blogs. See Dottie’s links page. There’s hours of falling in love with them all fun there. And it’s great to see their view of the world, especially when they put black dots on their red helmets so they can look like a ladybug.





Cycling in Wellington’s tunnels

26 10 2009

Wellington has some interesting geography, and due to random earthquake events it keeps on changing. Most of its flat bits were under the sea when it was first settled. The rest is hilly, which means tunnels. They vary in how pleasant the ride through them is.

The Terrace Tunnel

Like the Terrace Tunnel (pictured above), the Hataitai Bus Tunnel at the top of Pirie St, is not open to cyclists, only to the trolley buses and to drunk people who want to get run over. It’s not much of a pity as the ride around Oriental Bay to Hataitai is much more pleasant. The ride down Pirie Street however is exhilirating in a big hill and a busy intersection at the bottom kind of way.  ‘ere ’tis: (rating off-limits)

Hataitai Bus Tunnel

Just a little bit south is the Mount Victoria Tunnel, which is god-awful to ride through. The bike lane is on the eastern side of the tunnel, which means it’s easier to go through heading south, and impossible to cross the road onto if riding from the South, with a line of aggressive traffic. There isn’t much space for cyclists and pedestrians to share, and all those idiot motorists beeping their horns just adds to the pleasure. Mostly though the air quality is abysmal, so I pray to Apsu that the Wellington City Council puts up a perspex screen separating the bikes and pedestrians from the evil traffic below. There’s always talk of duplicating the tunnel, so maybe some thought will be put into the design for cyclists. Maybe. ‘ere ’tis: (rating: safe, apart from the approaches which aren’t, awful)

Mount Victoria Tunnel

Under the southern extension of the airport runway at Moa Point, the new tunnel has verges for cycling, and doesn’t have too much traffic. The air quality is good, and the lighting is good. Rating okey dokeys.

Moa Point Tunnel

Moa Point Tunnel 2

And under the runway further north is the pedestrian, cyclist shared tunnel. No traffic, and can be ridden at speed. Rating good.

Runway Tunnel

The Seatoun Tunnel is a pleasant ride through, without too much traffic. Rating Good:

Seatoun Tunnel

The Northland Tunnel is little trafficked, and is a short, quick ride through. It is one of the the old tram tunnels (like Seatoun, the Hataitai Bus tunnel and Kelburn) Rating good:

Northland Tunnel

and the last of these tunnel photos is the Kelburn tunnel. It is a bit more trafficked than the others (Mount Victoria excepted), and sometimes the traffic won’t give a cyclist enough room, but it should be right to ride. Rating : kind of OK.

Kelburn Tunnel

There are other tunnels in the Wellington Region, like the train tunnels on the Main North Island Trunk Line and the Johnsonville Line, and the big one under the Rimutakas on the Wairarapa Line, and then there are the 6 tunnels on the old Rimutaka Incline, now part of the rail trail, which can be ridden through, but that’s another post another time.

The tunnels pictured above can be ridden through (excepting the Hataitai Bus Tunnel) in a relatively short ride from Seatoun to Northland. Maybe an hour and a half. None of them are on the National Cycleway, but if you were thinking of starting the National Cycleway from Seatoun, and you were in the Wellington CBD, then ride up Glenmore Road under the Kelburn Viaduct and through the Kelburn Tunnel, then upto the Northland Tunnel, do a Uie back through the tunnel, then ride down to the Aro Valley, and take a detour up Pirie Street, then go through Mount Victoria, to Kilbirnie, where you could go to Lyall Bay, under Moa Point, then through the airport, and back under the runway to Rongotai, then head along the Evans Bay Pde along the waterfront, through Miramar and through the Seatoun Tunnel.





Progress on the National Cycleway

25 10 2009

It is now 8 months since the $50,000,000 National Cycleway initiative was announced at the job summit. A few proposals have been put forward for cycleways in different parts of the conservation estate, and a lot of them are in the boonies. I think it is great that they’re being funded, put out to tender and getting built.

These are the first projects:

Waikato River Trail, Central North Island Rail Trail, Mount Ruapehu to Wanganui, St James Trail, Hokianga to Opua/Russell, Hauraki Plains Trail and Southland Around the Mountain Rail Trail.

I for one will love to ride the track in Southland especially, putting the bike on the car onto the ferry and making a holiday out of it.

But at the end of that $50,000,000 over 3 years what will we have? A disjointed collection of tracks and trails that won’t link up into a national cycleway. It’s a start, but it ain’t the full fluffy.

Here is what I think the National Cycleway could be:

Iconic tracks through different parts of the conservation estate as per above, plus the Otago Rail Trail,
Lesser known existing tracks being joined up and extended. (Like the one along the Manawatu River in Palmerston North),
Commuter cycleways through the big cities and towns, existing (like the coastal routes in Napier and New Plymouth) and new (like the Great Harbour Way) in Wellington,
Existing quiet country roads,
The odd bit of new cycleway linking quiet country roads where there is a gap (like linking Florida and Gladstone Roads with a new cycle bridge across the Ohau River – east of Levin),
new and existing campgrounds,

and

spur routes for interesting diversions and routes leading into country towns.

You could see that most of the necessary infrastructure, especially the quiet country roads, already exists.

So if I was in government I’d find a little bit of extra money to signpost the route from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It doesn’t have to be all that fancy. There just needs to be some consistent signage with the national Cycleway route being obvious, and an appropriate easy to understand grammar. It’s not rocket science, and we could copy how the Europeans do it. For instance the standard route marker, and a spur route marker:

National Cyclewayexample sign

Add some destination signs, i.e. Opua 24km, Bluff 1465km and pick the quiet country roads right and you’ve got the whole network marked up on the ground in a few short months. Then the cycleway will exist and it can be ridden and just be improved upon with new infrastructure and smart rerouting over the subsequent years.





The Foxton Cycleway

25 10 2009

OK, there is no such thing as the Foxton Cycleway, but there should be. It is a very nice ride between Foxton and Foxton Beach and there is an off-road sealed bike path in existence for the kids to use to get to school between the towns.

So if I got to rule the world, or at least befriended someone in the Horowhenua Council, I’d recommend that a few signs were made up that declared a route from Foxton town to Foxton Beach. This wouldn’t be part of the National Cycleway, but it would be a marked spur off of it. Once you reach Foxton Beach there isn’t much to do, except do some bird watching on the Manawatu estuary, and turn back around, except it is a mighty fine beach ride up to Himatangi Beach.

My preferred route for the National Cycleway would be further east and head from Levin to Palmerston North, and it would be great if the tops of the levee banks on the Manawatu were used for this spur cycleway to link the National Cycleway and head to Foxton, but I haven’t investigated that. All I did was ride from the windmill in Foxton town to the beach (which is the bit I am recommending as the Foxton Cycleway) and then I went up the beach to Himatangi and came back in a circle on a country road.

Thanks to Google Maps, here’s the proposed route for the cycleway. It needs no infrastructure, just a few signs.

Foxton to cycleway

Foxton

The Foxton Metropolis (start of my ride):

Foxton to Himatangi Bike Ride (6)

The simple cycleway from Foxton to Foxton Beach:

Foxton to Himatangi Bike Ride

The new paths on top of the mounds near the estuary:

Foxton to Himatangi Bike Ride (10)

The end of the Foxton Cycleway (although this could be the Himatangi end, I can’t remember):

Foxton to Himatangi Bike Ride (13)

and it’s possible to keep on going northwards towards Himatangi Beach:

Foxton to Himatangi Bike Ride (9)

and it was one of those nice new green zeitgeist moments when I, on a pedal electric bicycle, waved hello to someone on a wind driven skateboard coming the other way.

Foxton to Himatangi Bike Ride (5)





The Paremata Overpasses

23 10 2009

If I’m heading from Tawa way and going to Plimmerton or Pukerua Bay then I usually ride along Kenepuru Road, and ride along the west side of the Porirua Stream, over the motorway on the ramp near the PakN’Save and end up climbing up the hill on the bike track up towards Aotea College. Then I go up Papakowhai Road and try to get to the Paremata Railway Station for heading over the Mana Bridge and down through the boat club and on the Ara Harakeke bike track to Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay. There are two bridges across the motorway. The one closest to the Mitre 10 is OK, except in school time, and it has a few tight corners to negotiate (and if there are any pedestrians I have to dismount). In school time with all the mums dropping their kids off it becomes dangerous for kids on bikes (In Japan you’re not allowed to drop your kids off by car – and all the kids walk or ride bikes, as so do their mums). It is more of a hassle than a danger to adult riders.

But then there is the other bridge across the motorway, a little more south. It doesn’t have any sharp angles, so is easier to ride, and has fewer pedestrians I have found, so I don’t have to dismount as much, but the other end of the bridge drops down into the centre island of the train station. Here is the on ramp of the bridge if heading north along Papakowhai Road:

Porirua bike tracks (9)

Full credit to Porirua Council for the work they have done on the cycleway so far. I think they’ve done a great job of the new track through Mana. And here is my suggestion; add another ramp to to the southern overbridge that drops down to the carpark of the station, designate the bits of the bridge dual cycle and pedestrians, and a sign to say “Please dismount for Pedestrians”  is fair enough.

The ramp would go down here (The sign may need to be moved to in front of the bridge):

Porirua bike tracks (12)

because the alternative is riding (or dismounting and walking because of train commuters) these ramps at the station:

Porirua bike tracks (13)

So a ramp for the bridge, getting rid of the bars across the entrance to the existing ramp from Papakowhai Road,  a bit of green paint to mark cycle lanes for a couple car lengths on Papakowhai Road (and yellow paint for no parking for a couple car lengths too), and a couple of signs. Total cost surely not more than one or two hundred grand, and there you go, another bit of the National Cycleway is go. Safety and amenity all in one.





The National Cycleway from Waikanae to Otaki

15 10 2009

We’ll take it that my preferred route for the National Cycleway along the Kapiti Coast follows the Kapiti Coastal Cycle Route and say this little discussion is from the Waikanae River northwards then you’d start by cycling across this bridge from Otaihanga (or walk your bike if there were pedestrians also using the bridge, because we cyclists are, above all, considerate and kind people).

bridge over the Waikanae River closest to the estuary

And once across you’d follow the riverside paths to the estuary and then hit the lakes and, because there aren’t any paths past the first lake, find the Waikanae Beach backstreets are cycle friendly, by being quiet and wide, and you’ll eventually find Paetawa Road past the old shitworks lakes and head to Peka Peka. So far so good. Now look at a map. Here is a little excerpt from an insert on the GWRC’s Kapiti and Porirua Regional Cycling Maps showing the current situation of the state of cycling infrastructure between Waikanae and Otaki. Copyright ignored:

te horo bikeway map

The red is an off road bike path, along Paetawa Road south of Peka Peka it’s a thin gravel path, quite rideable, but I usually end up on the road. And then you can either turn right up Peka Peka Road, but you’ll see it’s only the highway to head further north, and this is 40,000 vehicles a day of a narrow single lane highway. Or you’ll go straight into the new subdivision and work out it’s a dead end, or you’ll turn left and head down to the beach. And see in green it’s even suggested to ride along the beach.

Now if you were a foreign bicycle tourist with a trailer, or you were unfit, or you wanted to use this route to get between your home in Otaki and your job in Waikanae or Paraparam, and if the tide was up, or the sand above the high water was only soft it’s not much of an option. For a one off it’s a fun thing to do. See:

Peka Peka Beach

I cheated and rode my pedelec, and I could fly across the sand at 30 km/hr. If I only used my pedalling I would sink into the sand.

Peka Peka Beach at 30 km/hr

But it gets stony:

Looking south to Kapiti Island

It’s best to avoid the recommendations of the map where if you were to follow the green line you’d ride through the dunes to the end of Te Hapua Road. It’s too sandy to be rideable through the dunes anyways, and I recommend keep riding on the beach north til you get to Te Horo Beach (the creek crossing is trivial). Once in Te Horo Beach head back to the highway on Te Horo Beach Road, and head north on the highway for a short distance as far out of the way of that craziness as you can muster and turn up Te Waka Rd and then back to the highway on Addington Road and then again on the shoulder of the highway over the bridge into Otaki.

Now that is the best way to do it now. It’s not wholly satisfactory. The worst way to do it is up the highway, and it’s not entirely safe. This may change once the 4 lane highway gets built, sometime by 2027, but some alternative routes are going to be given here.

The best route north from Te Horo Beach township if the beach was an option for you would be along the beach, or along Sims Road, up to the river mouth and then along the southern levee along the Otaki River, but you can’t get through because of private property. Drat!!

Another suggestion would be to use the bikeway between Sims Road and Swamp Road, but it doesn’t exist.

Another way entirely would be to come through the Mangaone Walkway from the Reikorangi side, but it’s a nice tramp (made from an old timber tramway so it is flat and well cut and would make a nice bikeway).

If I had a preference it wouldn’t involve the beach or the highway, but none of the routes exist, that’s why I reckon the National Cycleway monies should go in part to looking at the gaps in places like this. It’s the highway or the beach, and there are no quiet parallel roads or suburban streets.

Once in Otaki, over the bridge, head left down the levee bank on the northern side of the river. It’s called the Highway to Sea Walkway or something, but it is a good, easy and scenic ride to Otaki Beach.

North of Otaki you’re stuffed. You could try the Waitohu Valley Road to Manukau, but then you’re stuffed, unless you go down to Waikawa beach, but then you’re stuffed unless you and your bike can swim to head further north along that beach.

Otaki to Levin – who knows, it’s a story for another entry sometime in the distant future.

Other Rides in Te Horo

There are two other rides in Te Horo. One is up to Otaki Forks, about 15km from Otaki. It is generally a quiet road, and the hills are gradual. If you are prepared to lock your bike you can tramp into the hills (and there is a tramping club hut, not too far from the swingbridge). And there is the northern half of the Mangaone Walkway. The southern section is probably best left for trampers only (it’s an easy and pleasant walk), but the northern section is a decent dirt road that just happens to be behind a locked gate.Chuck your bike over and you’re away.





Cycle Paths and Civilisation’s New Golden Age

14 10 2009

Like me, you’re probably a genius, and have been wondering what the purpose is to life. Well there is none, other than the biochemistry, so we’ve got to find meaning ourselves out of all the shamozzle around us. For me that’s why we should make the world a better place. That’s my personal philosophy, and that’s why I think it is okay to thump smokers. They’re only going to throw their butts in the harbour, so thump ’em. Actually I don’t do that, but sometimes I rather think I would like to. So making things a better place includes not shitting in the rivers (or letting your cows do that), planting a few trees, being kind to ducks, not filling the atmosphere with filth, smiling at people (even to the point where they think you’re deranged), telling a kid something that makes them think “wow” and advocating bicycle paths.

Yep one of the best things we can do on planet Earth is to build bicycle paths. Cities suffer from being in a rush with too much traffic, when we should all relax and slow down and use some peddle power. A day is always a good day if you’ve been for a bike ride or a hike.

Take Wellington, where the current NZ government is planning on spending $600,000,000 plus on road projects in the next couple years (and maybe $1 billion more if they build the unnecessary Transmission Gully motorway), $80,000,000 on public transport (the figures are a bit rubbery as they are from memory) and not a lot on bike paths. (yes I will personally benefit from the road projects, but that isn’t my point) Last night I went home via the Hutt and counted 30 cyclists either in the Ngaurunga Gorge or on the Hutt Road. I was surprised by the number. I’d be too shit scared to ride up the Hutt Road, and fully support these people: http://www.greatharbourway.org.nz/ . It’d be marvellous to link the waterfront and Oriental Bay to Kaiwharawhara, Ngaurunga, Petone, and the Hutt River Cycle Way (and then the Rimutaka Rail Trail). It’d be a great day to ride from Welly to Martinborough, and the next day ride back (via Pencarrow, but that’s another story.)

Today I went for a walk down the track that links Ngaurunga and Newlands, and think that it too should be turned into a cycleway. People ride it now in granny gear up, and riding the brakes down, watching out for the spoon drains. It is as rough as guts and could probably use a safety rail or two and some solar-powered street lighting. Then at the bottom of the gorge bike lanes could link it through to the Great Harbour Way at Ngaurunga Station (and while we’re at it, instead of there being a campervan and stock effluent dumping station at Ngaurunga Station, why not let some form of waterfront development happen – allowing room for the bike paths and other public space of course,  including allowing building in the airspace over the train station?)

In all cities (and towns, and between towns) investments should be made to have off busy road cycleways, either on completely separate paths or on quiet roads, for both commuters and recreational users. Those mad lycra-clad buggers will still choose the main highway with the 60,000 cars and 50 log-trucks a day, because I think they’re retarded, but normal people will use the safe parallel infrastructure and a lot more people will use it than other people think (you of course, being a genius, like me, know that a lot more people will use it if it is high quality cycling infrastructure). Then those cities can enter their golden age.

Here’s some piccies:

From near the top of the hill:

Looking down, further down the hill:

Where the North Island main trunk railway comes out of a tunnel across the SH1 on the bridge and then dives into another tunnel that goes under Newlands:

Looking back up the hill, I’d ride that in granny gear (and no I don’t mean old ladies’ cycling attire):