Wellington is rubbish for cycling

31 05 2010

From the Dominion Post today – ‘Wellington falls behind in cycle safety.’

It’s hardly news of course, but the Wellington to Hutt route is to be a little safer with a new morning clearway on Thorndon Quay. That should attract thousands of new cyclists from the Hutt on their morning commutes who when riding down the side of the Hutt Road with 100km/hr trucks whizzing by them, over their shoulders, will say to themselves, “just another couple of km and I’ll be safe due to the new clearway on Thorndon Quay”.

As a Mangatainoka wonk once said, “yeah right”.

Here’s the reality: Danger, Danger Will Robinson.

In reality those Mercer quality of life city rankings that those economic magazines and accounting firms love producing every year ranked Wellington quite highly (at 12th) last week. Maybe they only interview business class travellers hoeing into the mini-bar. They certainly don’t ask cyclists, or all the people who would be cyclists if the cycling infrastructure actually was safe.

C’mon PM John your Great Rides idea for the National Cycleway is missing the bigger picture. We need to make our cities and towns more amenable to cycling too. Cape Reinga to Bluff also involves Wellington to Porirua.


Oriental Bay

26 05 2010

Around Oriental Bay is the only way to ride east of Wellington that doesn’t involve a big hill, or a ride through a polluted and noisy tunnel. The footpaths are wide, and there are usually a lot of pedestrians. It is the natural extension of the ride around the waterfront. Both the waterfront and around Oriental Bay can be ridden on the footpaths, but it apparently according to the Dom Post annoys some pedestrians. CAN has a brochure telling us how we can slow down around the waterfront called Cruise the Waterfront.

But really why pick on the cyclists? The real problem is the parked cars. They take up so much room, and make it dangerous to be on the road. Lowering the speed limit is good, but reversing cars are a problem, or if they were made parallel, the door zone will make it dangerous. Why not get rid of parked cars on the harbour side of the road and put in a wide two way set of green painted cycle lanes?

It’s part of the Great Harbour Way route, and it’s part of the ride around the bays, and once there is a decent bike share scheme I’d be taking a bike at the train station and leisurely riding it around the Waterfront and Oriental Bay and dropping it off at the airport. I imagine many others would do exactly the same.

1 kilometre of national cycleway open

23 05 2010

Yes 1 kilometre of the National Cycleway has been opened in Oamaru, part of the Alps to Ocean Cycleway, which will go from Mt Cook to Oamaru. The photo in the article, if a normal sized bike, means Mr. Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, is about 4′ 8″ tall. It is 2081km from Cape Reinga to Bluff, so there are a lot more photo opportunities for the prime minister if he so chooses.

Oamaru is a nice town in North Otago, and it’s a lovely bike ride from Oamaru to Kakanui along the oceanside road south of town. It is famous for it’s limestone and the historic buildings made of the Oamaru Stone. If the historic port district was in any larger city it’d be a trendy arts district with bars and restaurants. In Oamaru it still has a neglected feel about it, but would make a lovely trendy arts district:

Oamaru is also famous for it’s public gardens:

In other news I rode the Mangahao Dams ride again this weekend, and I would just like to point out to this man who likes to think he is a bicycle, that he is a man and not a bicycle, even if he does carry panniers around a lot of the time:

A cycle ferry across the Manawatu?

22 05 2010

Back in January I went on a nice ride between Shannon and Foxton, and wrote about it on my blog as the Heart of Horowhenua which I also mulled cycle routes between Foxton, Shannon, Levin and Palmerston North. I came up with a plan that crossed the Manawatu River north of Koputaroa. A bridge over a big river is big expense, and unlikely to every get built, but I’ve nicked this picture which is mentioned in the comments of this story on the Fietsberaad website.

It is across a canal between Brugge and Dramme, in Belgium.

This makes a route that takes the back roads through the Horowhenua and Manawatu linking Levin and Palmerston North much cheaper. It can use the backroads, and the levee banks of the river and the Mutaroa Floodway. At the river crossings there is one of these little ferries, which need no staff. There are just 3 wheels to turn, one on each side to get the ferry back when it is on the opposite side, and one on the ferry itself. Lighting could be solar lighting, so they could be used at night, and suddenly there are safe and pleasant, commuter and travel routes through Horowhenua and the Manawatu. They might even breathe a bit of economic life into the region if Wellingtonians and Palmerstonians ventured out for the day or the weekend.

Prime Minister Key’s vision for the national cycleway may have stalled (although, in fairness, there is funding for three of the chosen routes in this years budget, so it’s not completely stalled) but some of us still have the dream of a real signposted national cycleway from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

Go Wellington trolley buses, not as green as a bicycle

19 05 2010

This is amusing.

One deadset legend, I. Sellen, saw one of the Go Wellington trolley buses as he cycled through Behampore with  “Go2 work…Go2 rest…Go2 play…Go2 everyday…Wellington’s Greenest Commuters…Go2 It.” painted on the side, and on the other side “Keen to be green…ride the trolley…Wellington’s greenest commuters…Go2 it”. On the rear of the bus was the Go2 logo along with the words: “Your cleaner, greener future”.

and he (or she) wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority and said “This is an erroneous claim, as cycling to work is a more environmentally friendly and energy efficient method of commuting than going by bus.”

The result of the ASA board decision last month – Complaint upheld.

Electrically powered trolley buses in Wellington run off the grid, and the grid in NZ is 68% from renewables, which is mainly hydro, but with wind and geothermal.

Go Wellington responded with (in part – you can see the report in full here):

“In terms of public transport alternatives, studies have shown the trolley bus to be a much `greener’ alternative. In fact, the reintroduction of the trolley fleet in Wellington gained a great deal of support with the Green Party producing a press release in March 2005 openly supporting their continued service and noting that “Trolleys are clearly superior to diesels when their environmental impacts are considered. While trolleys use a renewable resource, diesels emit climate change-causing pollutants, while trolleys are smooth and quiet, diesels are noisy and dirty.

“As the trolley buses are powered by electricity, they produce no CO2 or particulate emissions and are extremely quiet in their operation thereby reducing the overall environmental impact. The trolley bus engine is 90 per cent efficient in converting energy into motive energy (as compared to the 40 per cent efficiency of the diesel engine)

“Wellingtons new trolley buses (of which the paua and fern design are only two) cover over 2.2 million kilometers per year and provide over seven million rides per year. If private cars were to replace these trolley buses, they would cover approximately 23 million kilometers, using 2.5 million litres of fuel and emitting over 5,800 tonnes of C02 per year (which is 115,000 tonnes over 20 years). A number of cities worldwide are in the process of building trolley systems to reduce local and environmental impacts or as a means of developing sustainable alternatives to petroleum fuels. In addition, data from Seattle and San Francisco show that trolley buses attract 10-18% more passengers and Arnhem Netherlands and Salzburg Austria report 16-17% more passengers than those attracted by their diesel counterparts (Booz Allen and Hamilton; TBus Group).”

Of course GO Wellington is correct in everything it says, except about the CO2 it produces (it’s 68% renewables not 100%) but so was I. Sellen. Bicycles are indeed the most efficient way to commute.

Pongaroa to the Waihi Falls

15 05 2010

A nice 47km round trip in the Tararua District is from Pongaroa 50km east of Pahiatua, to the Waihi Falls via Manuhara Rd on the way and Waihi Valley Road on the way back. (Google maps is a bit wrong with its southern end of Manuhara Road. It doesn’t go back to the Waihi Valley Road, it goes to State Highway 52.)

Pongaroa is a tiny town. It has a pub and a dairy come grocery store. The pub does meals Friday to Sunday, and after doing this circuit, which I thoroughly recommend, finishing in the pub would make a nice afternoon of it. Pongaroa is the way to go:

Pongaroa also has a human size hamster wheel. I’ve always wanted a go on one since I saw one in the movie Eagle vs Shark, which was filmed in and around Wellington. I don’t know where the wheel from the movie is, but I don’t think it is this one. I had a go when I got back from the ride. It took me 10 seconds to work out I don’t like them. Very disorientating. I don’t like spinny rides.

I left town on State Highway 52. This is one highway you don’t have to be scared of being mowed down by a truck or a drunk driver. It is the quietest road, sometimes called the cyclists’ highway.  After a couple of kilometres I turned into Manuhara Road. It is a dirt road, as much of the circuit is. It gently rises over one hill and then there is a long gentle downhill and flat:

The local scenery is dominated by bare hills and sheep:

Disconcertingly this is one sign that says Pongaroa 24km, and there’s another one a couple ks on still saying it is 24km to Pongaroa. Both I think are wrong, and it is slightly less than 24km:

I didn’t know what to expect at the falls, as I’d never seen them before, and was only exploring the map, but there’s actually a neat little picnic ground. The Waihi Falls Scenic Reserve is the oldest reserve in the Hawke’s Bay according to the sign (so I guess I was in Hawke’s Bay, although I thought I was in Manawatu-Wanganui. It’s all so confusing.) The reserve is eleventy-one years old this year.

My trusty steed, holding up well after it’s major surgery:

Then here are the falls, which were bigger and more dramatic than I imagined. The Waihi flows over a ledge of hard argillite:

A short track leads down to the bottom, and in the pool as I arrived a frog hopped off a rock and swam downwards away from me:

A close up:

Here’s the route back from the falls to Pongaroa via the Waihi Valley:

As I said thoroughly recommended.

How to fix an electric bike

14 05 2010

You might remember the earlier posts about my Wisper Sport’s ordeal such as I Hope This Ends Well and The Scary Insides of My Electric Motor and how when I was taking off the back wheel I twisted the wires going into the back wheel axle and stripped their insulation making the motor no longer work. To fix it I decided to cut the wires, put in a plug and socket and resolder the lot. Well I did that and the motor still wouldn’t turn. I thought I got all the wires correct, and it didn’t work. So I took out the plug and socket and resoldered the wires and it still didn’t work. Aaaagh!!! Of the 8 wires going into the back wheel, there were three thick ones carrying the power, and five thinner ones carrying signals from the Hall sensors. I figured one of the Hall sensor wires was still busted or shorting or something. So I called the friendly people at Electric Bikes NZ and Anthony there suggested I could put in a 3 wire controller instead of the 8 wire controller. Apparently there’s some dumb legislation in parts of Europe (that needs repealing) where the wheels must be turning from the riders pedalling before electric assistance kicks in. The Hall sensors work in conjunction with the purple wires coming out of the controllers. If you are one of the poor unfortunate Europeans with a crippled electric bike, unplug the purple wires of your controller (if your bike has one) and you can use the throttle (if your bike has one).

Here the wires are resoldered and heatshrunk:

Then I covered it all with insulation tape:

This is the compartment under the battery in which the controller goes:

This is a close up of the controller. I think they’re a commodity built in China and used by multiple electric bicycle manufacturers. I think they’re waterproofed and quite robust:

And this is where the controller sits and all of its connections:

Swapping out the 8 wire controller for the three:

The wheel’s back, and a cable protector is put over the cable and it is cable tied to the frame:

Next time I have to take off the back wheel I’ll be unplugging the cable back at the controller end, and cutting the cable ties and removing the wheel complete with it’s cable. And if I take it to a bike shop because I couldn’t be asked to do my own new tube, or broken spokes or whatever, I’ll unplug everything first too. There’ll be no twisting the wires going into the axle anymore. It’s not a recipe for success.

After all this my bike is working. Woo wee!!!! I’m going for a big ride this weekend. Weather permitting.

Now I have an insight into the maintainability of an electric bike maybe someone needs to reengineer an electric bike from the ground up – like GoCycle has. Cool hey? When this book called Build Your Own Electric Bicycle finally comes out (it’s been delayed til August 15th) I am going to have worked out a fair bit of it for myself already.