What Norway can teach Wellington – bike elevators

18 01 2010

All these bike blogs go on and on about how much the Danes (from Denmark) and the Dutch (from the Nether Regions) can teach us about bicycling, but I reckon that it is the Norwegians who can teach those of us in Wellington lots more about bicycling in a country with some hills. All those Danes and Dutch live in Flatland, a 2 dimensional world invented by an English mathematician, Edwin Abbott Abbot. His parents were first cousins. The Norwegians could teach us about loving your Cousin. (Yeah I know I’ve linked to that before, and I still love Norwegian Hip-Hop too).

Another thing I got taught by a statue of Roald Amundsen outside the Fram Museum in Oslo, was that he had a huge nose:

which you wouldn’t think would come in handy, but I was walking along the Main Street of Nome, Alaska, and low and behold, side-on, up ahead of me was a statue with a giant schnoz, and I instant recognised who it was, yep Amundsen:

Which just goes to show that when it comes to noses, I can pick them.

So Norway does have some hills, like across the fjord behind this monument to dead submariners mounted on a Fauske granite plinth (you know this is just an excuse to show off my Norway photos):

So to get up the hills in Wellington. You can put your bike on a train going up the Johnsonville Line and cycles are carried for free on the Wellington Cable Car when space is available at staff discretion. Or you can pedal your little heart out, or you can get an electric bike, like me, and like Mike Rubbo from the Situp-Cycle blog who made this sign, which I think is great (you can tell he’s not from Wellington – he doesn’t mention wind):

Now I do love a good elevator, like this one in Wanganaui. (Which yes, will take bikes to get to the top of Durie Hill):

and I once spent a day in Valparaiso riding all the extant ascensors (elevators and funiculars), and visiting the extinct ones (like 23 in total):

and this one, the Ascensor Palanco:

And I think Wellington could build more funiculars if it wanted to (like up Mt Victoria) but the days of building urban funiculars has largely passed. It’s about 100 years too late. In these days of SUVs and BMWs we’re more into running over pedestrians, than riding up a hill.

There is a bit of a revival (in places other than Wellington) for light rail perhaps. Cities nowadays are putting in bicycle infrastructure, and cycle-hire schemes. (Okay not so much Wellington, but it is a bandwagon I hope it joins). But as Paris and Montreal have found out, all those bike share bikes end up being returned into bike racks at the bottom of hills, and they have to be put on the backs of trucks and driven up the hills (thus getting rid of one of the advantages of the bikes – reduced fuel use)

So what can Norway teach us? And in particular, what can Trondheim teach us? I only went to Trondheim to change trains and had an hour to look around. I was certain a umiaq would be more useful than a bike in Trondheim, going by my picture:

But those Trondheimers have invented a bike elevator, that sits in the kerb of a steep road and provided a foot plate for powering a cyclist and their bike up the hill. See Bike Lift Trampe for a rundown. There is a video to see here.

And here’s a couple photos of it in action (nicked from their site):

and here:

What a perfect technology for Wellington.

I’ve said before on this post that the track that links Ngaurunga and Newlands should be turned into a cycleway. Now I’d like to say that it could have a series of bike elevators on it too. Roll down, Ride up. Brilliant.

I can think of about a dozen routes in Wellington that it would be useful to have bike elevators on. Just think that you could ride the elevator to the top of Mt Victoria, and then ride downhill from there to anywhere in Hataitai or Roseneath, and using Alexandra Road, the quiet road on the top of the hill, to Newtown and Kilbirnie too. All of the Northern suburbs could be brought into easy commuting cycle reach of Wellington. (Where would you like a bike elevator? – leave a comment)

Another possibility : a bike elevator up the Kaiwharawhara Bridle Track:

I think bike elevators would be a really inexpensive way to facilitate cycling in a hilly city like Wellington. Wellington should be aiming for like 20% modal share for bikes. At the moment I bet it would be under 2%. Even for electric bike riders like myself, having a boost up a hill will give me extra range, and I’d be a whole less sweaty whenever I arrived somewhere.

So the enabling technologies for Wellington are:

Electric bikes for those of us who want them

Bike share scheme (without the compulsory helmets) throughout the city and suburbs

Cycle infrastructure like the Great Harbour Way and other routes I advocate here

and cycle infrastructure for hills aka bike elevators.

And here is one last photo from the Kaiwharwhara Bridle Trail (already open for cyclists as a route up to Khandallah) looking over the harbour to Mount Victoria:

Thankyou to all 3 dimensional Norwegians everywhere. The only extra thing I’d like to say is that 1000 island dressing (the national drink of Norway) should be banned.

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10 responses

18 01 2010
What Norway can teach Wellington – bike elevators « Wellington … | Today Headlines

[…] like to say that it could have a series bike elevators on it too. … The rest is here: What Norway can teach Wellington – bike elevators « Wellington … Share […]

18 01 2010
David Hembrow

I like that lift. It seems to be a popular topic for bloggers and as something which is so novel and apparently useful, I think it’s deserved attention, but I’m not sure that it’s something which can be copied in many places.

Are you aware of the cycling rate of Norway, and another even more mountainous country, Switzerland ? Norway has 4% of all journeys by bike, Switzerland has 6%. Switzerland doesn’t have bicycle elevators, but does have better cycling infrastructure overall than Norway.

18 01 2010
David

Great post! But I’m pretty sure the road from Norway centre to the Fram is about the only, reasonably flat part of the city… Nice photos though.
I like the bike elevator idea. What if you had a steel plate that hung from the rear axle of the bike that could match the raised foot plate of the elevator? Then you could possibly remain seated as you ride up the hills. You’d need some dedicated streets that could handle the infrastructure and not be hazardous to other road/path users but I reckon it’s briliant. The wind makes it more feasible, they could all be wind powered.

Don’t the local trains in Oslo also include ski racks and space for bicycles?

18 01 2010
Matthew

David,
I caught the ferry to the museums. There was the Fram Museum. The Viking Ship Museum and the Kon Tiki museum. They were all pretty good. There was also a Swedish replica of a ship from the East India trade in the harbour that day with some Nordic king or queen (I can’t remember who, but it wasn’t Taroona High’s Princess Mary of Denmark, so I lost interest (ooh she’s lovely)). I love the modernist brick Oslo City Hall on the harbour too. That is a fantastic building. As for the Norwegian trains and their bike and ski rules, I have no idea. And as for needing something on your bike to use a bike elevator, I reckon that’d make them so no one would ever use them. I’d hate to have a heavy bit of metal dangling from my bike that hardly ever had a use.

The other David,
I dunno how you’d use the bike elevator in one of your Mango velomobiles. Take a ride up to Trondheim in it (it’s not too far is it?), and tell us how you get on.

19 01 2010
David

Yeh! Those museums are so great! How’s that Viking ship they dug up! When I arrived in Oslo I didn’t even realize the Kontiki museum was there! What an awesome surprise! My father had taken me to see it as it arrived in Australia when I was very little!
But I digress.

Here’s another thought for transport options and promotion of renewable resources for Wellington. How about a public recharge depot where the Government sponsors those who chose to travel by electric assist bikes by providing free electric re-charge facilities with wind generated electricity? Maybe a far flung idea but I like the thought of it.

20 01 2010
Matthew

David,
Secure bike racks where you can recharge your e-bike batteries are a definite good idea.

21 01 2010
Patrick

Great post.
If they can find money for the bypass, the Basin Reserve overpass, duplicating the Mt Vic tunnel, a giant statue of Maui, a sports centre, a cafe and carpark at Karori sanctuary … why not bike elevators?
Go for it.

29 01 2010
Another alternative for conquering hills – Personal Rapid Transport Pods « Wellington Region Cycleways

[…] 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 […]

8 10 2010
Electric bike share « Wellington Region Cycleways

[…] should be built. For instance this blog has talked about Railcycles, Sailcarts, Flying bicycles, Bike elevators, Ascensors and Bicycle Tubes. It also has shown a few rides around the lower North Island and […]

18 08 2012
Is it time to dust of Wellington’s 2004 Gehl Report? « Wellington Region Cycleways

[…] All good, and points d, e, h and k I think are particularly great advice. Point j gives the Trondheim example of the bike elevator. […]

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