Cycling the Coast Road with vigilante infrastructure?

29 01 2010

Between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki the road is part of State Highway 1, the main road out of Wellington, which is colloquially known as the Coast Road. It’s about 5 or 6km long. Although some cyclists brave the 80 kilometre per hour section with heavy traffic by riding on the road (especially southbound) the footpath on the seaward side of the road is a designated cycleway and can be ridden in either direction. It’s narrow, and almost impossible to pass another cyclist or a pedestrian at speed.

In this photo taken from the Coastal Track in Queen Elizabeth Park looking south shows the part of the coast below the escarpment. It runs along the bottom of the scarp, and rises up to the low saddle near the headland into Pukerua Bay.

This is the view from the saddle looking northwards, with the line of traffic showing the hill, which my electric bike can just eat up. I can ride up it at over 28km/hr. Going down I’ve overtaken a motorcyclist 🙂

The footpath heading downhill can’t be negotiated with too much speed because of the ramps up and down being at weird angles (and the footpath is covered in debris and has got some largish potholes, and you get whipped in the face by the flax)

You’re hardly ever out of the noise cone. I’ve walked it a few times, with the headphones in listening to Sigur Rós’ Hoppípolla (and had a cyclist stopped behind me and tapping me on the shoulder to get past), but riding I guess I have to just put up with the noise.

And the railway line cuts in and out of the hillside above. Here with the Capital Connection on its way to Palmerston North.

On the places where there is a bit of a place for cars to stop off the road the lane is painted green:

Now I am betting that the narrow bits of concrete ramp on each of the kerbs weren’t put there by the Porirua or Kapiti Councils or even the road contractors employed by the NZTA. I think they are a bit of bike infrastructure DIY. If anyone knows the story of them let me know. I like the idea of getting tired of asking for bike infrastructure and just donning fluoro vests and pretending to be road workers and actually building it. I had a cousin once who got arrested in Brisbane for planting trees in the median strip of a busy road in Toowong, cause he thought it needed trees.

I reckon if the signs for the national cycleway don’t go up soon on all the quiet country roads between Cape Reinga and Bluff then some vigilante National Cycleway signs should magically appear.

Thankyou to the Phantom Concreter*, whoever you are. Love your work:

The National Cycleway will have to go along the footpath of the Coast Road. There just is no room to build anything else, although a wooden boardwalk below the sea wall would be brilliant (but expensive). It’s not the most ideal, but we cyclists will put up with it. It also is the route of the Ta Araroa National Walkway, except for hikers there is soon to be another option, of a walk along the top of the escarpment, which will be out of the noise cone, and the views are going to be fantastic. A few weeks ago a new walking track appeared about half way along that climbs up the escarpment, and crosses the railroad by going over the hill where the railway is tunneled through. I can verify that the new track isn’t finished yet, and half way up the escarpment it still needs building, and following the route of it was quite scary, in a fall down the face of the escarpment kind of way. Here is looking down on a bit of the Coast Road:

and here is the view north from half way up the new track looking northwards at the Kapiti Plain.

* named after the Phantom Expander, the vigilante folk hero of Blenheim who has filled the fat exhausts of boy racer buzz boxes with expanding polyurethane foam in an attempt to quiet down the little boys.  Remember the fatter the exhaust the bigger the potato.

Another alternative for conquering hills – Personal Rapid Transport Pods

29 01 2010

Ok the Flying Bicycles were a bit out there, and the bicycle elevators are very bicycle specific bits of infrastructure, so in a city dominated by the automobile as Wellington is, without much chance for reform amongst the mainstreaming suburbanites and non-thinkers in the Beehive (I mean there still isn’t a bike path seaward of the railway line to Petone, or a safe route to ride from Wellington to Porirua) other solutions other than widening the SH1 and SH2 should be found for getting about future Wellington. Light rail extensions are all well and good, but no one is rushing to build them.

How about the idea of Personal Rapid Transport? Where you ride around in a pod, and you can chuck in your bike or your wheelchair, and you dial up the station you want to go to, and it doesn’t stop at any other station on the way and there is no waiting for a pod to come to your station, as they are waiting for you. They’re driverless and safe, and could take you from one elevation to another. They run on batteries and use 7000W motors.

Inside a PRT pod

The photo is from a company called Advanced Transport Systems from Bristol in the UK.  They are just testing their system at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 now. See the video on this page.

PRTs are not a completely new idea and there are a few in existence, like this one in Morgantown, West Virginia.

I see a unified system in Wellington of the existing electrified rail (with maybe a couple light rail extensions to fill out the network) and a network of Personal Rapid Transport Pods and Bikeshare schemes, with separated cycle infrastructure (with the odd bike elevator), and secure bike parking facilities where we can park our electric bikes and our trailers (for the groceries and the kids) and our velomobiles, where all petrol and diesel driven cars and most electric cars are banished from the streets. And good riddance to buses too.

And what about graffiti vandals and window scratchers and alcoholic vomiters, and urinators and smokers who light up ruining it for the next people, well your tickets would identify you, there’d be on board CCTV and smoke detectors and the doors would lock, the speaker system would say “you’re nicked” and you’d be rerouted to a special station located in the bowels of a police station, where the door unlocks and you’d have to explain yourself, pay a heavy fine and be responsible for all clean up fees.

With thinking like this who’d give permission to build yet another multi-level carpark in the CBD, or a $2,500,000,000.00 motorway? It’s time to reinvent the city.

Forget bike elevators – let’s ride flying bicycles

25 01 2010

I thought those plucky Trondheimers were the bees knees just a week ago on my post What Norway can teach Wellington. But I’ve come across the Good site and they link to the Inhabit site with it’s story of flying bicycles which then links to Martin Angelov, a Bulgarian architect, the originator of the idea and his site Kolelinia.

I’m up for it.

An aborted trip to Wellington

24 01 2010

It’s Wellington Anniversary day today, and I was at a bit of a loss for a what to do. So I thought I’d go to Paraparaumu Station and ride in on the train and have a lazy day in Wellington on foot. I checked the Metlink website to make sure that the trains weren’t being replaced by buses, and there was no mention of it. It may have been the only sensible thing Margaret Thatcher did was to say “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.” I’m sure she meant that he’d rather be on a train or a bicycle. I can’t stand buses myself.

Needless to say, at the station, there was this sign (only one though, and I had to walk around to the other side of the station to see it):

Oh well, so I changed my plans to do some gardening.. It’s a good thing I didn’t (check the website and then) cycle to Paraparaumu and then discover the reduced service hoping to put my bike on the train. Mainly it is due to there being no safe way to ride to Paraparaumu without going along State Highway 1 north of Peka Peka. So I drove. It’s amazing how many long distance cyclists in summer are riding along the SH1 between QE Park and Peka Peka. Don’t they know there is a safer, more scenic and much more pleasant route called the Kapiti Coast Cycle Route? I’ve seen about a dozen this summer just when I’ve been driving on the SH1, which must translate into hundreds for the summer. There were another two this morning (my windscreen needs a wash):

Really these cyclists need better information. Cape Reinga to Bluff shouldn’t be an exercise in self-flagellation. From the north near the Peka Peka Road intersection it is actually signposted as an alternative route. Maybe a weather protected pamphlet stand with the local cycling maps could be attached to the pole. Long distance cyclists, please do a bit of research, get some better maps and enjoy your experience.

Meanwhile at the Paraparaumu station these are the new bike racks, installed over what was once a motorcycle parking spot. Surely it’d be better to take over a car spot than a motorcycle spot. I’m not sure why they went for the compact design. There’s lots of space at the station for an easier to use rack that doesn’t involve lifting your bike.

Still there are better bike lockers for commuters, with 4 on the east side:

and 18 on the other side:

For a grand total of 30 bike racks or lockers. Kapiti is flat and has a population of 48,000. When the train service is extended to Waikanae I hope they make more provision for cyclists. I’d still be too scared to ride the State Highway to get there, and at the other end of the line in Wellington or Porirua it’s not that convenient for my job, and I’d have to catch the train, then a bus (irk) and then walk, where a bike share scheme might be a better option. Or a new station at Glenside (where it exits the tunnel, and I rent a bike locker and chuck in an old clunker). Even for people working in the city Wellington Station isn’t that convenient and a bike share scheme in the city would be a boon. Until then the SH1 will be clogged morning and afternoon and we’ll go off spending billions of dollars on the massively overfunded roading schemes.

Because of only half measures (and massive underfunding) this remains an elusive dream (graphic pinched from this cool website):

Mangahao Dams (and over the Tararuas!!)

24 01 2010

This week I saw an interesting story in the Dominion Post about the Horowhenua Council proposing a part of the National Cycleway go over the Tararuas between Shannon and Eketahuna, and I thought they were crazy. So I dug out my map of the Tararua Forest Park, and well maybe they aren’t so crazy I thought. I planned a weekend drive up to see and a walk on the track that goes to Burn Hut. I thought that maybe the Horowhenua Council wanted to use the valley of the Mangahao River.

Then as luck would have it Bill from Manawatu Trails commented on a post on this blog, and there was all his work going on which I didn’t know about, and submissions of the Whanganui, Rangitikei, Tararua, Wairarapa and Manawatu districts for funding of the National Cycle Trails.  And there it was, the route for between Shannon and Eketahuna and they’re not using the Mangahao River valley, but they’re going over the tops. And on Bill’s site I saw the ride from Mangaore to the Mangahao Dams and I changed my plans to do that ride.

It was drizzling all morning, but I got sick of waiting for it to clear so I started in the rain from the carpark of the whitewater kayaking course. The road is a gravel road heading up the hills that then drops into the Tokomaru Valley. I couldn’t see anything as I rode up. I couldn’t see the hills, so I had no idea how long the climb was. I just thought that whatever I climbed I’d have fun coming back down again later in the day. After about a 6km climb I entered the Tokomaru Valley. Here’s a photo of the vista with waves of rain floating over it.

A quick descent leads to the first dam. It’s an old hydro scheme (The history of it is available from Bill’s site) and this is the first reservoir, No 3.

Across the dam is the start of the tramping track to Burn Hut. It looked pretty inviting, and rainforests always look their best in the rain.

The road (it is a road, I saw 3 vehicles) climbs a little to get from the Tokomaru Valley to the valley of the Mangahao

and then drops down in a series of switchbacks to the Mangahao River and the second dam. I noticed that the narrow valley downstream from here, and where I thought a bike trail to Eketahuna might go, would be a major undertaking to design and build. i.e. not a good idea. It had stopped drizzling by the time I got to the switchbacks.

The 2nd reservoir. The road continues around the true left side of the reservoir, to the right in this picture:

And this is the 3rd reservoir, called No 1. You can clamber over the dam to the other end of the Burn Hut Track here and there is a tramping track onto the Mangahao Flats Hut and into the heart of the Tararuas. (You could walk to the Pakuratahi entrance all the way away in Upper Hutt). There also is a marked track called the Puketurua Track, which is also marked overgrown on the map which heads to Putara and Eketahuna (but it goes high, and it’d be hard, and Horwowhenua Council can’t be serious, can they?)

I had a bit of a rest and then headed back. I didn’t see this sign on the way up. I have a friend who when his kids misbehave he threatens to take them to a SLOW CHILDREN sign and take their photographs with it. Well I’m not a child anymore, but I couldn’t resist.

and on the way back the blue sky appeared. I was walking the bike by now up this hill, I was tired.

And I got to the lip of the valley and I had the 6km descent down to the Mangaore Power Station and Whitewater Kayak course. It was a glorious descent and a great way to finish a great ride and one I’d definitely do again. Thanks Bill for the tip.

Rimutaka Rail Trail

23 01 2010

I’ve been meaning to write this one up for ages and today the weather is rubbish, so here ’tis. It’s going to get more hits than my other posts because it has the word tunnel in it, and I get more traffic out of that one word than just about any other word (for my Cycling in Wellington’s Tunnels post). Something Freudian about tunnels methinks. Imagine how many hits I’d get with the words “Lesbian Spank Infrerno” somewhere surreptitiously hidden away in this post. No I’m not going to do that.

The Rimutaka Rail Trail Goes through the Pakuratahi Forest and links the Hutt Valley with the southern Wairarapa or in particular it goes from Kaitoke or Maymorn (depending on where you start) on the Hutt side to Cross Creek, a few kilometres south of Featherston on the Wairarapa side. Here’s a pdf map of the Pakuratahi Forest (administered by the Greater Wellington Regional Council).

The Rimutaka Rail Trail is the natural extension of the Hutt River Trail and from Cross Creek there are three natural routes, one is down the western side of Lake Wairarapa (on a reasonably quiet Western Lake Road with places to camp near the lakeshore) and eventually on to back around Baring and Pencarrow Heads, another is northwards through the Wairarapa to Masterton and beyond, and the other is out towards Martinborough. Somehow if there was some clever route finding from Cross Creek through the Lake Domain Reserve that’d make a great bike trail.

These photos are from a walk I did from the Cross Creek carpark up to Summit, and a bike ride from Maymorn, through the Maymorn tunnel and the forest roads, over to Cross Creek and then back to the SH2 (a fast downhill), and back to Maymorn. The bike ride gets in an extra tunnel, adding one to the four on the rail trail proper. This adds a considerable amount of effort required to do the ride (I distinctly remember saying out loud, “There’s no oomph left in this oompa-loompa” on the way back). The rail trail proper from the Kaitoke Loop Road to the old town of Cross Creek is quite an easy and pleasant ride. From the old village of Cross Creek to the Cross Creek Carpark is some single track, but it’s not too difficult. The rail trail itself is flat. wide and not too steep (at most 1 in 12). The old fell railway used to get over the hill, so you can probably too.

There is a sixth tunnel Cruickshanks Tunnel that you can’t bike through, but can apparently find on foot.

Cross Creek (one improvement here would be to continue the rail trail on across the private land that was once the railway line, instead of the single track):

I love this photo I took at Summit. Nearby there was this little smart-arse blue guy with glasses about three apples tall, and I kicked him from Summit into Lake Wairarapa.

A railway bridge near the Siberia Tunnel means a quick off ya bike descent across a creek:

And the rest of the photos are just gratuitous tunnel photos: I can’t remember which is which of the 5 of them, and they look different depending on which end you’re looking at. Summit Tunnel at 584  metres long is the funnest to ride through. Walking through without a torch is also fun.

Cycle computer convergence

21 01 2010

For those lovers of Newtonian physics that all cyclists are, these lyrics from a They Might Be Giants kids album, Here Comes Science, were my ear-worm on a recent bike ride. No one could hear me, as I was miles away from anywhere, so I sang with gusto:

I’ve got speed (that’s how fast I am moving)
I’ve got velocity (that’s my speed and direction)
Acceleration (let’s go faster)

But really I had no idea of any of my speed, velocity or acceleration as I don’t presently have a cycle computer.

Over on the Drug Pedaler Scott’s got a new toy, a Garmin GPS cycle computer. He’s having fun. I too have been thinking about cycle computers ever since my last one fell off and couldn’t be found. I’ve had two on my bike, a wireless one, which came with the Wisper Sport and was pretty rubbish quality, and didn’t work when I got over 40 km/hr and the wired CatEye one that fell off (it’s mounting assumed I wanted to mount it 90 degrees from what was possible). So I vowed not to get myself another one til I could find a decent GPS bike computer. Those GPS computers for cars are quite cheap nowadays, and GPS now is a single chip manufacturers chuck in phones, so GPS cycle computers are inexpensive, right? Nup, not at all. Maybe in a few years when they’ll be commonplace.

So why not use a phone I hear you ask and just get one of the plethora of apps to turn it into a cheaper cycle computer, and maybe I will. From British Columbia I like this app from Velocomputer, shown here on a Nokia N97

It needs a GPS and Bluetooth enabled Java phone preferably with the accelerometers in it, and the cheapest one it supports seems to be the LG KC910 Renoir, which is about $400 parallel imported into NZ (good for 2 degrees and Vodaphone, not so good for NZ Telecom’s 3G). You can get a Bluetooth wheel sensor that talks to the app and can give instantaneous speeds a little quicker than the GPS. They also recommend wearing it on your thigh to get cadence readings. Nup, I’m not going to do that. I want a wireless sensor somewhere on the bike.

But then look at these bike computers from iBike that tell you your power, drag coefficients, etc, etc. They’re under $1000 at Avanti, yeah right. Or there is this one for owners of Garmin 705s, where the power info is integrated into the 705’s display. You use wireless or wired sensors with it.

I’d love it all integrated in with the e-bike controls. So I’d love to know how many watts I’m pedalling, and I’d love to know how many watts the motor’s giving. All the sensors could be Bluetooth for wireless operation, but they’d all be powered on an internal power supply of the bike, which is routed inside my frame, and was like 6V 3A DC like what comes out of a dynamo hub:

except I wouldn’t have a dynamo hub. I’d have my normal regenerative braking, 1000W motor in the front hub (which would be legal in NZ), and that would charge a smaller rechargeable battery than my main battery which would only power the motor. All my sensors and headlights and tail lights would be powered off this internal power supply (and it would recharge my phone doing time as my cyclecomputer mounted to the handlebars). On the back wheel I’d have an internally geared hub powered by a belt, not a chain.

But then again I’d want this function as well. In South Carolina, a company called Cerevellum makes a digital rearview mirror into a cycle computer, which has a camera you mount to your seat post and a large colour display for your handlebars. Now a wireless camera to go with all the wireless sensors, that’s what I’d like. (I know a mirror on my handlebars is a simpler solution, but I can’t mount that with my pedelec throttle)

So with all this seamless integration your computer could tell you instantaneous, plus be downloadable for a whole ride (including the video recorded from cameras mounted front and back)

Temperature, altitude, gradient, position in Lat and Long, heading, speed, pedal power, motor power, recharge rate (from the regenerative braking), colour of your underpants, windspeed, cadence, heart rate, calories burned, Max Speed, Average Speed, Distance ridden and shows you a picture of the truck about to run you over, all the while playing the radio, MP3s and your phone calls into a Bluetooth speaker and microphone mounted onto your helmet, that doesn’t shut out the ambient noise.

And as a default black box with video evidence, when killed by a truck driver, they might get prosecuted.

Oh and it doesn’t get nicked, and costs less than the bike, and I’m not a gear freak, so I want this just to come as standard. I’m not asking for much surely?

Or I could like not give a damn and just go ride my bike for fun without a cycle computer. That’s definitely the cheaper option.