Upper Hutt Cycleways

28 02 2010

“She loves Wellington. She was born there. She grew up out in the Hutt Valley,” says one of the Songs from the Front Lawn.

Upper Hutt is part of the far flungeries of Wellington, suburban in character, settled in a quest to find some flat land.

Upper Hutt from near the bottom of Mt Climie

The Hutt River rises in the Tararua Ranges and flows south west down the path of the active fault line towards Wellington Harbour. It is a short, fast flowing, stony river and for much of its length it is followed by the Hutt River Trail.

The Hutt River Trail

As you can see the trail is flat, and mostly gravel. It’s an easy pleasant ride. It’s 30km from Upper Hutt to Petone. It’s mostly set in parklands and on a sunny day lots of people are spread out swimming and having barbeques. It attracts a number of illegal motorbikes and I’ve seen a very young child being taught to drive, but even that didn’t get in anyone’s way. There isn’t a sense to restrict the roads to the roadways where they exist, and the cars drive all over the parks where they can,

which means to restrict some of the motorised movements these horrible gates have been put in place, which are a pain in the backside to slow down for, and get in the way of using the trail as a commuter cycleway (as does the lack of any lighting)

The trail follows the river rather than State Highway Two, but sometimes the river and the highway are close and so the trail follows the highway, but the noise doesn’t seem too intrusive.

The following picture is the bend of the river between Totara Park and Maoribank on a warm sunny day. In fact from Petone to here the trail is quite stratightforward to follow.

At Harcourt Park is the new footbridge and the route of the trail on the west side of the river to Bridge Road is a bit harder to ride and more suited to following on foot. There is one concrete obstacle to lift your bike over. I suggest instead heading through Harcourt Park and riding up the Akatarawa Road to the Birchville Bridge. It starts OK, but after this section it goes steeply up through some tight curves in a small forest.

It again is probably better ride Gemstone Drive out to the SH2, rather than following along the marked trail

because the trail starts okay on the mown top of the levee bank, but it soon turns into some tight single track through a forest full of tree roots and has a set of steps.

and when it gets to the SH2, it follows a narrow bit of single track. Still it is probably better than the SH2 here as the fast traffic cuts the inner line of the curve and you’ll end up cursing them with your vilest tongue.

To ride to the start of the Rimutaka Rail Trail from the Hutt River Trail there are a few alternatives. The SH2 is steep up hill and the traffic is busy, then one alternative is riding to the Kaitoke Regional Park (the section along the SH2 past the golf course is flat and the verges are mainly OK, except on the bridge) and riding the Ridge Track.

But the Ridge Track isn’t that easy to ride, and is a bit rough and steep in places.

So my suggested way to get there is to ride up the SH2 as far as the golf club and go across the road at the Plateau, Te Marua Dairy on the road that goes to Tunnel Gully (and you can ride up to Tunnel Gully that way) but go on the road to Maymorn Station and then ride in through the Maymorn Tunnel, and from the Tunnel Gully picnic ground head back down the road until the gate that follows the old railway line is found and then ride through the Pakuratahi Forest (with some steep sections) and drop onto the rail trail near its start. (All this is the longest green lines on the above map)

Mt Climie

Another cool ride from Tunnel Gully is the steep climb up to Mt Climie. It takes at least an hour (for me longer) to put in the granny gear hard yards up to the summit on the wide gravel road through some nice forests.

At the summit the views are extensive. You can see Lake Wairarapa and Mana Island from the same spot. And the ride back down is however fast that you dare and a lot quicker than you rode up.


Putting the fun back into hybrid funiculars

24 02 2010

Yes, yes, yes I’m a bit of a public transport nerd and there’s a fellow traveller out there at the Gondola Project. And I can’t believe I am linking to something that features a video from the world’s worst current affairs television show, Australia’s Today Tonight advocating free public transport.

I love a good public elevator, cable car or gondola myself, even the ones where it costs an arm and a leg to pay to get on like the Skyrail just north of Cairns.

But then again I had just walked from Cairns to Kuranda and I did smell like a tramp so they gave me a whole gondola to myself. The Skyrail is or course stupidly named, seeing it doesn’t have a rail and from the Gondola Project I’ve learnt it is an MDG system, a Monocable Detachable Gondola.

Here’s another I rode, the Teleferico in Santiago de Chile.

This is the Ascensor Mariposa, one of the 16 or so extant ascensors in Valparaiso, Chile. I spent a day once visiting them all, and riding the ones that were still operating.

Cable technologies, or CPT, as the Gondola Project labels it is fun, and no two systems are ever the same as another system. I’ve been thinking about public transport needs in Wellington, since the road system and the train system are both congested and riddled with faults. I am convinced that just like everywhere the bicycle is a part of the solution, and cars are a large part of the problem, but Wellington has big hills, and a crazy topography. It’d be great to see what a comprehensive integrated public transport and separated bike infrastructure system is like that goes beyond thinking in terms of the current rail system plus light rail to the airport. I might even do some thunkung myself.

Meanwhile look at an old cable technology for getting light rail up a hill – Cincinatti funiculars and look at some new cable technology for getting up a hill, called a hybrid funicular – the Hungerburgbahn in Innsbruck, also at it’s official site and the video on youtube. The cabins are fixed at a point above their ceiling attached to the chassis, so the stations can be on any angle and the cabins are always perpendicular.

The Gondola Project suggests that cable should be a part of a city’s transport mix, and that it is cheaper than light rail, has shorter waiting times, and higher capacities per hour, and that they should be seamlessly integrated into the rest of the city’s transit system. He seems like a nut til you read his blog, and then he doesn’t sound silly at all. I like the way he thinks.

Now take the idea of an electrically driven autonomous PRT pod (which can take a bicycle) that travels along narrow paths on the ground and on elevated rights of way and put a  detachable grip on its roof that attaches itself to cables to go from one hill to the next, or across a gorge, or up a steep hillside, and maybe there is a fun hybrid technology suitable for a town like Wellington. Then yes I’d like to ride it for free, and it can be funded by a congestion charge on motor vehicles, for anyone heading into Wellington going south of Ngauranga Gorge.

Southern Wairarapa cycleways that missed out

23 02 2010

In my recent post on the community proposals for sections of the National Cycleway that missed out I said I was going to give a few details of routes that missed out. And here is the first of those occasional postings.

If anyone has info on some of the other routes that were dudded send the info to me at matthew.thredgold (at) xtra.co.nz and I’ll appreciate it, and maybe have a posting about it sometime.

So this blog post is about the routes that missed out in the southern Wairarapa.

One is C34 Central New Zealand Cycleway (Partnership Wellington Trust)
and the other is C21 Pahaoa – Palliser Cycleway (Trail Wairarapa Trust)

There were further suggestions further north for the Wairarapa (such as the routes from Featherston to Taihape – see Manawatu Trails) and Horowhenua Council’s over the Tararua route C15 The Missing Link Cycleway (Horowhenua District Council), but this is all about the southern Wairarapa, south of Featherston.

The Central New Zealand Cycleway is meant to link Wellington to Martinborough, starting at Queens Wharf in Wellington, going up the west side of the harbour (on one of the most dangerous stretches of highway for cyclists, the SH2 between Ngauranga and Petone, which the Great Harbour Way (the most important missing bit of cycleway in the country) project is meant to address), then up the Hutt River Trail, and over the Rimutaka Rail Trail to Martinborough.

It is exactly the same as a suggestion I have made myself elsewhere on this blog, so it is obvious to more people than just me.  Although I haven’t seen or heard of the exact proposal it makes sense on so many levels. As a commuter cycleway between the Hutt and Wellington, and as a touring route.

Martinborough is a small town a long way off the main highway surrounded by vineyards on the Wairarapa Plain. It is a nice enough spot, and is already on the tourist map, mainly for the winery, cafe and gallery peoples. For instance it has lots of B&Bs and no backpackers. It has a small town Latin America feel because of the central plaza, which we Anglophones hardly ever go in for (which is a shame, as central plazas are a great design pattern for improving livability)

So in my opinion a second feather in Martinborough’s tourism bow after the wineries could be as a centre for cycle touring.  At the moment only one or two of the B&Bs has bikes for use by its guests.

Martinborough’s Main Square:

It’s main street:

And it’s pub:

On the unfortunately named “Central New Zealand Cycleway” route, from Wellington to Martinborough is a decent day in the saddle of about 80km.

From Martinborough there are routes north, on the Western Lake Road and the access roads out to the proposed Pahaoa – Palliser Cycleway. Here’s a map of just that cycleway:

The western end at Pencarrow I rode around back last Christmas Eve and Pencarrow Lighthouse is the far eastern extremity of the proposed Great Harbour Way. So a Wellington to Wellington round trip via the “Central New Zealand Cycleway” and this cycleway would be a mere 270km or so. From Pahaoa to Pencarrow is 143km.

Much of this route is already extant, albeit some bits are extremely rough. It’s just that legal access is in some places by permission, which may not always be forthcoming. The proposal I hoped talked about cleaning up the roughest bits of the road, joining up the missing bits, and getting rid of any private property signs on the road. It’d be a fantastically scenic route, and could gain some international reknown like the Central Otago Rail Trail has. Some enterprising Ngawi residents could develop a business around overnight stays in Ngawi.  Same goes for Eastbourne and Lake Ferry. And the same goes for Martinborough. It make so much sense as a tourist development catalyst, I’m surprised the Tourism Ministry didn’t choose this as one of their projects to fund.

I’ve not ridden all of the route, but here’s a few photos of the terrain.

Looking at the coast road back towards Ngawi from the Cape Palliser Lighthouse:

and looking in the other direction, east:

This is nearby on the proposed cycle way looking east just before Cape Palliser:

Ocean Beach with Mt Matthews in cloud in the southern end of the Rimutaka Range. The cycleway would be on the rough road leading past the baches:

Riding towards Pencarrow Head. The hills in the background are Wellington’s southern suburbs:

The coast road between Pencarrow and Baring Heads on a clear day:

How many places in the world are there a 150km coastal cycleway without car traffic starting on the edge of a city? It would be unique, and it’d be fantastic. I reckon New Zealand is shooting itself in the foot not turning it into a world class asset.

Projects that missed out on the National Cycleway Funding

23 02 2010

Pinched from the Cycling Advocates Network website here is a list of all the projects that applied for National Cycleway funding. If they’re highlighted in red they were successful and go to the study phase. Otherwise they missed out. I’ll have an occasional series on the routes that missed out. It seems such a shame that for these projects there is no further round of funding in a year or two’s time to plan for. There is a lot of grassroots support for the whole Cape Reinga to Bluff cycleway idea, and there is a lot of support for a network of touring and recreational tracks going through the whole country. And then there are the bits of network near the cities which should be commuter cycleways, like the C40 route from Wellington to Kapiti, or C14 for a commuter route from Mosgiel to Dunedin. When it comes to cycleway funding I’m glad we got what we’ve got, and I feel like Oliver Twist begging for gruel, but “Please Sir I want some more”.

C1 The Old Ghost Road West Coast (Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust)
C2 Lake Track (Bike Taupo Cycle Advocacy Group Inc)
C3 Heretaunga Ararua: Land of a Hundred Pathways (Hawke’s Bay Regional Council)
C4 Tongariro River Trail (The Advocates for Tongariro River)
C5 The Kaimai Express (Matamata Piako District Council)
C6 Albert Town to Clyde Great Ride (The Upper Clutha Tracks Trust)
C7 Clutha Gold Trail (Clutha Gold Trail Trust)
C8 The Wakatipu Trail (Queenstown Lakes District Council)
C9 Lake Taupo Ironman Circuit (Taupo District Council)
C10 Whakatane District Cycleway (Whakatane District Council)
C11 Roxburgh GorgeTrail (Central Otago District Council)
C12 Westland Wilderness Trust (Greymouth to Ross)
C13 Old Motu Coach Road (Opotiki District Council and Gisborne District Council)
C14 Dunedin Tunnels Trail (linking Mosgiel to Dunedin)
C15 The Missing Link Cycleway (Horowhenua District Council)
C16 Whangarei Coastal Route (Whangarei District Council)
C17 Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail (Mackenzie Tourism and Development Trust and Waitaki Development Board)
C18 Nelson Area Cycle Network (2 Parts Nelson & Tasman Councils) Dun Mountain and Tasman Cycle Loop
C19 The Great Barrier Island Cycleway (Great Barrier Community Board)
C20 Hurunui Trail (Hurunui Trails Trust)
C21 Pahaoa – Palliser Cycleway (Trail Wairarapa Trust)
C22 Te Awa – The Great NZ River Ride (Waikato) (The Brian Perry Charitable Trust)
C23 Marlborough Sounds Link Pathway and the Wellington to Wairau Cycleway (Marlborough District Council)
C24 Tauranga Moana Coastal Cycle Trail (Western Bay of Plenty Tourism and Visitors Trust)
C25 Mamaku Rail Trail (Putaruru to Rotorua) (Rotorua District Council)
C26 Taranaki Round the Mountain Cycleway (Taranaki Regional Council)
C27 Thermal By Bike (Rotorua to Orakei Korako) (Rotorua District Council)
C28 Manapouri Cycleway (Tuatapere & District Promotion Incorporated)
C29 The Forgotten World Cycleway (Taranaki Regional Council)
C30 Southern Alpine – Pacific Cycle Trail (Canterbury Regional Council)
C31 Waiheki Island Great Ride (Fullers Group Ltd, Cycle Action Waiheke)
C32 Auckland Cycle Trail (Cycle Action Auckland)
C33 Cycle Waihemo Trail (Waitaki District Council)
C34 Central New Zealand Cycleway (Partnership Wellington Trust)
C35 Christchurch Scenic Cycling Circuits (Christchurch to Little River Rail Trail Trust)
C36 Pegasus Riverlands Cycle Trail (Wamakariri District Council)
C37 Braided Waters Cycle Trail, Canterbury (Braided Waters Cycleway Trust)
C38 The Kauri Cycle Trail (Kaipara District Council)
C39 Te Ara-Tipuna – Ancestral Pathway (The Coastal Hapu Collective Society Inc)
C40 The Coast to Capital Gateway Trail (Kapiti Coast District Council)
C41 3 Peaks Trail (Mountainbiking Otago Inc – in assn with Dunedin Trails Trust)
C42 Auckland Harbour Bridge Pathway (Cycle Action Auckland Incorporated)
C43 Mountains to Sea Cycleway (Ruapehu District Council)
C44 Manawatu River Cycle Trail (Palmerston North City Council)
C45 Kahuterawa Loop (Manawatu Mountain Bike Club)
C46 Te Apiti Mountain Bike Park (Manawatu Mountain Bike Club)
C47 Tararua Elements Cycle Network (Tararua District Council)
C48 Wild Rover Cycle Trail (Destination Manawatu)
C49 Gorges to Sea Cycle Trail (Rangitikei District Council)
C50 Tarawera River Cycleway (Boffa Miskell on behalf of Ngati Tuwharetoa)
C51 Wilderness Experience Cycleway (Owhaoko B&D Land Trust)
C52 Matakana to Omaha Cycleway (Matakana Community Group Inc)
C53 Te Urewera Rainforest Cycleway (Te Urewera Rainforest Route Incorporated)

Another out there idea – velo-city

22 02 2010

I do love a kind of good cycle related idea here on this blog. There was the bicycle elevatorthe flying bicycle cableway, and the PRT pods. And who can forget these crazy ideas for getting dolphins from one side of America to the other?

And here is another one – Toronto’s Velo-City. Its cycle paths as “active transit”. Like a subway or street-car network, but where you don’t just sit on your backside, but you pedal.

Essentially it is a double directional tube system where cyclists are separated from the weather. Winds and rain aren’t a bother anymore and because everyone is headed in the same direction cyclists, creating their own wind, only ever have tail winds.

It’s a particular Canadian thing I think to want to get in out of the weather. It’s apparently been raining in Nanaimo for 17,603 days straight now. Downtown Montreal has all the buildings linked underground for pedestrians. Downtown Calgary is all linked at the first floor level, turning it into a giant shopping mall, which means at ground level it is probably the most boring city on the planet.

The Velo-City never got up, mainly because it’d be hugely expensive and the map shows it was to be really extensive, but maybe Toronto’s cars just need to give up a bit of road space to the more energy-efficient bicycle:

I reckon most cyclists would settle for putting up with nature’s own wind and rain, if we could just get separated bike paths, where we won’t get run over by cars, SUVs and trucks and don’t have to put up with their noise and their stink. It’s as true in Toronto as it is in Wellington, and as true as it is in Groningen or Copenhagen.

Apparently there’s even more than one scheme for living in plastic tubes in Toronto.

No I’m not making any of this stuff up.

Comedy Gold for Urban Planners

18 02 2010

Whilst this is getting a bit away from being cycling related, I have shown PRT (Personal Rapid Transport pods) before here on this blog. I think they may even have a role to play in the future (unlike James Howard Kunstler the urban planning commentator who thinks PRT enthusiasts are a particular type of crank). I was thinking more of this type of company from Bristol, Advanced Transport Systems. At the moment PRT hasn’t really taken off anywhere in the world, except in airports. As a mass transit system they have limitations. The original one in West Virginia, or the one in Detroit seem to me to make the mistake of being too large and heavy, and hence expensive.

I think they need to be:

  • small, carrying at most 4 adults
  • light and run on efficient electric motors
  • able to carry a wheelchair or a bike
  • run on rubber wheels not rails
  • need only narrow roadways that need not be elevated (otherwise they’re just inefficient monorails, and monorails are already uneconomic and inefficient) except to avoid at-grade crossings
  • feed people to a station on a heavy rail system
  • be ticketed the same as all the other public transport in the city and region
  • be safe enough for small kids to go unaccompanied to school in with or without their bicycles

Maybe J.H. Kunstler had met the people behind the Interstate Traveler Company. Really this is the reason for this post. It’s really worth clicking on that link. Comedy gold!!! The Hydrogen Super Highway from the Interstate Traveler Company is surreal  lunacy, and they make the Michigan politicians look particularly daft for taking their suggestions somewhat seriously.

Yes an elevated maglev railway on stilts built over the whole US interstate system, so that the individual pods can carry, yes cars, which is what the interstate system was built for I think. I think the maglev runs on flower power or ether or some such (snake oil perhaps), and using their great broadband analogy, interchanges will be known as routers, and Americans could ping themselves from Miami to Seattle and back again at 250mph. I think they could even be filled with water to let dolphins go sightseeing across America too.

All forms of public transport are expensive; PRT, light rail, heavy rail, freeways. (How much sense does it make to have thousands of $25,000 private vehicles that are used only for 5 hours a week, the same 5 hours a week as every other private vehicle, and then have all the roadway infrastructure for that peak capacity over those 5 hours?)

Mr Kunstler  is right.  We do need walkable cities and then the cheapest form of infrastructure on top of that is bike paths with their small constructions costs, no running costs and small maintenance costs. After that you need some form of rail, heavy or light, depending on geography. But rail has the last mile problem. That’s where the bike paths, bike share, bikes on trains and secure bike parking comes in, and it is also the bit of the system where fit for purpose PRT could come into it. But it’s got to come from the sane end of the spectrum of PRT out there between Heathrow Airport and Loony Land.

Compared to the Hydrogen Super Highway my idea of having an interurban rollercoaster system is looking like a good idea.

They’ve thought of everything:

Illustrations used without permission and I don’t care.

This is in no way typical of a Wellington Cyclist

17 02 2010

I’d like to point out that the cyclist pictured in this Dominion Post report is in no way typical of the way we do things around here in Wellington. He seems to have the same aversion to underwear as Blanket Man. I fancy his chances of getting off at the High Court are nil. I would suggest he didn’t turn up at the court completely naked, but he should wear at least a neck tie. Such regard of protocol is highly regarded in the legal profession. And in terms of integrating cycling and public transport I’d hate to see where he stashed his Snapper card.