Ideas for Wellington #1 – Bikepaths across the Cake Tin concourse

30 07 2010

This is the first in a series of ideas for Wellington, which will be mostly bicycle, and public transport related.

For the people bringing us the Great Harbour Way finding a safe, pleasant and interesting bicycle route between Kaiwharawhara Point and the red lighthouse thingie opposite Ballance Street on the waterfront is a bit quandrous. You’ve got the railway, the motorway, busy roads, and a working port in between. The Boffa Miskell report on the Great Harbour Way has two routes marked, a new route below the motorway and along Aotea and Waterloo Quays, which is a super busy road, and along Hutt Road and Thorndon Quay, which is a busy road and heaps sucky to ride along. Are there any other options?

The red thingie marking the way to the waterfront

Well yep, I think there is. The Cake Tin concourse. The Cake Tin aka Westpac Trust Stadium has it’s big concrete concourse linking it to the railway station. It’s called the Fran Wilde Walk, and it sits over railway tracks and car parks. It is 640 metres long, and is a sterile concrete environment.  At it’s northern end is the stadium. At it’s southern end is the railway station with ramps down to the platforms. Onto Thorndon Quay in the south there is a staircase down, and there is a cyclable spiral ramp.  In the east there is a cyclable ramp over Waterloo Quay.

The cyclable ramp down to Thorndon Quay near the bus station

With one new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians to get down from the concourse onto Thorndon Quay at Davis Street (near the VTNZ) then the section of Thorndon Quay running past the Freedom and Early Settler furniture stores need not have bike facilities, as everyone can ride up the ramp and get onto the concourse.

A new ramp down to Thorndon Quay at Davis Street over the railway lines could go here

So that minimum of one new bridge would be of benefit and the laneway from the bottom of the existing ramp over Waterloo Quay could have a bike path painted on (yes, at the expense of the carparks, shock horror) to link it down to Shed 21 and then onto Queens Wharf.

10 hour carparks for office workers or a bike path?

Or a second ramp over Waterloo Quay in the south eastern corner would make the concourse even more useful.

The south east corner, location of a possible bridge to the waterfront

From the 4 ramps, across the concourse blue bike paths can be painted on, linking all four of them. There is plenty of room that pedestrians and bikes aren’t going to get in each other’s way (even on the ramps, and even on game days). It is perfectly reasonable to let bikes go up and down the ramps to the platform, and because of their narrowness, it is perfectly reasonable to ask cyclists to demount.

The ramps from the station to the concourse.

Because the concourse is up higher than the traffic and away from the noise, and there are interesting views it would actually be very pleasant to walk or ride on the concourse rather than one of the nearby roads, but it is a bit of a sterile environment. Some planter boxes wouldn’t go astray.

There's plenty of space for cyclists and pedestrians. On the concourse looking south.

Then there is still the problem of a safe bike route between the harbourfront cycleway at Kaiwharawhara Point and Davis Street on Thorndon Quay, which need not necessarily have to be on the road or the footpath of Thorndon Quay and Hutt Road. I’m sure we can do better than that, like a landscaped track being made through the railway yards. But that is a different idea for a different time.

As for all that space on the concourse, a bike share scheme station, near the stadium entrance gates would also be great, but for that we need a bike share scheme, and for a bike share scheme we need to get rid of mandatory helmet laws.

Blue is for the bike path on the concourse, Green is for the possible bike track to Kaiwharawhara Point

Urban cycleways are so far missing from the National Cycleway

24 07 2010

I like this post on Cycling in Auckland, for it shows this recent letter from Sonali Geo in the North Shore Times.

The warm sunshine on Sunday, 18th July pulled me out of bed and it seemed too tragic to spend the day indoors. So I went to church on my bicycle in my Sunday best. It was still so gorgeous that I decided to explore the neighbourhood on my bike. After a few false starts and stops I was sailing down hill on the cycle path from Baysview road towards Takapuna. The uphill’s had me get off my bike and walk my bike till I reached the top. But the downhill’s with the wind in my hair was an experience beyond words.
Since I reached Takapuna without any mishap, I thought I would continue down to Milford and perhaps surprise my son at The Warehouse and take him out for lunch and a spot of sunshine. Not surprisingly, I was not the only one enjoying the sunshine. The footpaths were milling with people taking in the sun and window shopping. I noticed that there were no cycle lanes although there were many cyclists. The more confident ones in their battle gear were whizzing past on the road. The lesser confident, albeit determined cyclists, like me, were weaving in and out of lazy shoppers on the footpath. Since I could not spot a cycling lane, I consoled myself that this must be a “share and care” footpath. There could be no other explanation after John Key’s ambitious declaration to connect both the North and South Island by cyclable lanes. But, when a busy shopper pointed out the road to me and reminded me where the street was, I thought that I must be making a mistake.
So, I cycled down to Milford and back trying to find the cycle lanes that I should be on so as to avoid the pedestrians being a hazard to me, but they were conspicuous by their absence. If anyone does find these missing cycle lanes, could they please inform me.
Kind regards
Sonali Geo

It’s early days of course for the National Cycleway and I’m really looking forward to get on some of those new cycleways once they’re finished, but they are going to be like going and tramping the Kepler or Rees Dart tracks. Something wonderful to do, but not really a way to get to work or the shops.

The National Cycleway is surely also about having the standout rides and the continuous route between Cape Reinga and Bluff, but surely it should also be about joining towns to each other, and for commuting to work, and going to the shops. As sure as someone wants to ride from Wellington to Martinborough in a day, so too the residents of the Hutt want to cycle to Wellington, and they’ll ride on the same bicycle infrastructure. i.e. National Cycleway planners don’t forget the commuters and the riders in town doing their groceries and visiting friends. It’s as true on Auckland’s North Shore as it is in Invercargill.

Civil disobedience in Melbourne for the greater good

20 07 2010

Update : It made the local ABC. Cyclists fined during anti-helmet protest. Heroes the lot of them.

Serial film (or is that trouble 🙂 ) maker Mike Rubbo has organised a small protest in Melbourne for this Saturday. His stated aim is to try to help the new Melbourne bike share scheme succeed. His argument is that Australia’s silly compulsory helmet laws are going to get in the way of the scheme’s success. Mexico City repealed their helmet laws and Tel Aviv is about to do the same, so so should Melbourne. He and a few fellow riders are going to be brave and ride those hire bikes without wearing helmets, and by doing so, stand up to the draconian laws and the Victorian Police thereby risking non-trivial fines. (A$165 or so I think)

If you’re in Melbourne this Saturday the 24th of July, even if you’re in V-line distance, get along to Carlton and join in.

I really want the Melbourne and Brisbane bikeshare schemes to succeed, and to grow and expand, to return a bit of civility to those car-choked cities. And I want them to drop the mandatory bike helmet laws in Australia and in New Zealand. I’m not one for believing bikeshare schemes need to be funded by advertising, and I’m a bit suspicious of the RACV’s involvement in the Melbourne one. I think a good scheme with good sturdy bikes can be self funded by the cyclists themselves. Especially when dumb laws aren’t put in the way of their success.

Wellington badly needs a bikeshare scheme as well. The train still stops short of wherever you need to go in Wellington.

To Mike and all his friends – I hope the weather is good and I hope you get more media than police attention.

Book review – Build Your Own Electric Bicycle

18 07 2010

A review of Build Your Own Electric Bicycle by Matthew Slinn

The book has been out for a few weeks now, and it shows the current state of electric bike technology. Electric bike technology is kind of a few years off being mature, and at the moment is a great place for hobbyists, and if you think you can just buy a bike off the shelf and live happily ever after then good luck to you. But the reality is that bike shop owners who’ll touch an electric bike are few and far between, and you’ll soon have to be a hobbyist yourself.

As someone who has bought a commercial electric bike, and had to do a few fixes myself over the year or so that I’ve had it, this book would have been a great help through most of that.

The book is not written for idiots. It is written for clued up individuals who are not afraid of getting out the spanner set, the spoke tool, and the soldering iron. It will guide you to being a hobbyist in no time.

Firstly the book is comprehensive. It tells us what motors and batteries and controllers are. It doesn’t shy away from graphs  and circuit diagrams and the odd equation. It isn’t like a university text book, but it’ll help if you’ve read a few of them along the way. Saying that, a clued up older teenager could get through the book.

There is a good chapter on the types of electric bike you might want to build, such as a long-range commuter, or a short trip folding commuter, or high-powered bikes.

There is a chapter on building your own e-bike from a hub motor kit. There’s guidance on how to lace a wheel around a hub motor. Then there is how to make battery holders, and how to try to make the components stealthy so they don’t get nicked.

The chapter on repairing e-bike components is pretty good, and there is much depth on how batteries and motors work. He even tells us how to repair a controller with broken FETs, which admittedly would be beyond me, and I’d just get another controller. Then there is how to fix battery packs.

Most amazingly he tells us how to make our own battery packs, but this involves welding right onto the batteries!! His battery pack looks really like a bad plot twist in a spy movie and the bomb squad would not know which wire to cut, and then the pretty girl cuts the red one with her nail scissors and the bike doesn’t explode or something.

Then there are some interesting projects to finish the book off, such as heated handle bar grips, and high intensity lights powered off the battery.

It really is a great book for giving you confidence (and over-confidence) for whatever project you want to try. If you are thinking of putting a hub motor kit on a normal bike it is probably worth the money. If you are thinking of buying a commercially available electric-bike you might like to see what you’re up against when it comes time to fix that inevitable first fault. If you are building an electric bike from scratch you’ll definitely get a lot out of this book.

The photos in the book are all black and white, and some of the circuit diagrams are like they were drawn in Windows Paint, and then saved to a jpeg to reduce the quality.

The ascensors of Valparaíso

4 07 2010

This post hasn’t much to do with cycleways, nor Wellington, but those of you who’ve been reading this blog regularly would know I like any novel way of getting up a hill, and one of the finest ways of getting up a hill is by means of a gondola, or a cable car. (The finest way of getting down a hill is of course by bicycle). Over on Steven Dale’s Gondola Project I was a winner of a competition where I had to say what the Grateful Dead, Andrea Bocelli, Rodney Dangerfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks had in common. It’s worth clicking on this link to see Steven’s announcement of the winner (it was me) to see the late, great Pavarotti sing Funiculi Funicula with the Danish pop band Aqua and a thousand kids. The prize was 50 loonies (loonies as in Canadian Dollars, not NZ National Party members) and it was to be deposited into a Canadian bank account. Having not one of them I bribed Steven into converting the prize into some Canadian music CDs and posting them to me, by saying I’d write a blog post about the ascensors of Valparaíso. (They have cables so they rock his boat) You’ll notice I won it back in February. The CDs were out in April and I just received them, which means presumably Canada Post sent them via the Northwest Passage sea route and it has just thawed out.)

Valparaíso, for those who don’t know, is the port on the coast of central Chile about 100km west of Santiago. It’s home to the Chilean Armada (it’s Navy) and has a flat bit, the commercial district, with trolleybuses (like Wellington) and then it has some steep bits, with ascensors (or elevators, but are actually cable cars) going up to the largely residential neighbourhoods on the hill tops. Wellington has 1 cable car. Valparaíso at it’s peak had 22 or 23 (I’m not sure which). Nowadays there are about 16 still extant, and I had a day there and I went to see how many of them were still working. I rode all the ones that were still working. It was just 9 of them.

The first built was Ascensor Concepción which opened on December 1st 1883. Originally it was coal powered and the locals thought it was the work of El Diablo with it’s belching smoke. They overcame their fear and it is still working today (on electricity). The entrances look just like another doorway. Here’s the bottom entrance:

The upper entrance:

and between the bottom and the upper there are two parallel inclines and two cabins go up and down all day. They don’t cost much to ride, and they are usually cheaper to go down, than up.

I visited Valpo back in 2007. I started at one end of the city, and tried to ride the Villaseca Ascensor first. It was Cerrado por Reparaciones. In fact the time of the elevators seems to be coming to an end. If there are a set of steps nearby then all the young and fit people won’t pay money to ride the elevator, which means they become uneconomic, and all the old people curse the bloody stairs they have to climb whilst the old elevator next to it is all closed up.

I still think a few of them will hold on though. They are quick, they are cheap and they are convenient. To drive up the hill means circuitous routes. Buses don’t go up there. It is a world of pedestrians and elevators. Seeing how most elevators are over 100 years old, and are perhaps a bit rickety, it means they’ve been the perfect solution for a long while, but they just don’t instill much confidence that they’ll not collapse when you’re riding them.

On the inside the cabins are what I am going to describe as functional-chic. Here is inside the Ascensor Artillería:

here’s looking up from inside:

The Queen Victoria from the bottom:

The Queen Victoria from the top:

The Barón, which is also called “The Electric” as it was the first one electrified. There apparently was even a water powered one:

Ascensor Florida:

El Peral:

San Agustín:

Los Lecheros:

Los Lecheros’ ticket counter:

Espíritu Santo:

Larraín’s front door:



The Polanco is a little different. It is an elevator and a bridge:

And this one was defunct, and I can’t remember which one it was. Maybe it is the Ascensor Monjas:

But whatever happened to the Arrayan, Perdices, Toro, and Las Cañas ascensors?

I hope they all live on for another 100 years.

Like Valparaíso, Wellington could do with a few more cable cars or aerial gondolas to go up the steeper hills. Just let them carry bicycles.

Thanks Steven for the CDs, and Pavarotti for the singing.