I wanna be a Shweeb Dweeb

29 08 2010

Yet another cool idea at the design intersection of bikes and public transport. It’s a Shweeb. It is a suspended, enclosed recumbant bike dangling from an overhead monorail. And in all the world the prototype is in Rotorua. It’s set up as one of those tourist town attractions, read Zorb or the Luge. But it goes 50km/hr 5 metres off the ground and you can race someone you love. I feel a trip to Smellytown coming on.





Are you disappointed by the National Cycleway?

29 08 2010

Last November I predicted we’d soon be seeing the then new logo for the New Zealand Cycle Trail on signs up and down the country.

But I haven’t seen one yet.

At the job summit last year when Prime Minister John Key announced the idea and the funding for the National Cycleway it was to be from Cape Reinga to Bluff. We all got excited, but since then the Ministry of Tourism has turned it into the “Great Rides” concept. And whilst I’m looking forward to riding some of the new trails, I’m kind of disappointed that we aren’t going to get what the prime minister promised any time soon.

I still believe in the whole Cape Reinga to Bluff signposted route linking off road trails with quiet country roads where necessary and when it passes through cities and towns it turns into safe urban cycleways.

Every district council in the country should be funded to design the trail through their own district, identifying safe routes and where it joins to their neighbours.  Then they should be funded to signpost the route through their district. If there are cycleways they want to build then they identify them, and identify alternative routes for the interim before they are built.  It shouldn’t be just about one route from the north to the south, but it should have all the routes through the country that each district wants to promote for tourists and local uses.

Also funded should be maps, a guidebook and a website.  And all of that could be done within the next 12 months.

Are you disappointed by what the New Zealand Cycle Trail intiative was meant to achieve, and by what it is to become? Does it fall short of what you hoped for?  Do you agree with me, the Ministry of Tourism, or the ministry and me? Have you got any other ideas for how to make real progress on a real national cycleway?





Sail carts, land yachts and recumbent trikes

26 08 2010

On old maps of Asia, where as medieval cartographers would draw sea monsters in the oceans, they would sometimes draw Mongol sail carts in the middle of the steppe. On the Central Asian steppes unencumbered by fences sail carts could cover 200 km a day.

And Mongolia seems to hold a special connection with land yachting to this day. The Polish are mad keen at crossing the Gobi Desert on land yachts.

So I think that the Pterosail Trikes are beyond a great idea. They are a cross between a land yacht and a recumbent trike. They look fantastic. I want to have a go. I want to have a go.

With panniers on that back rack, a trailer with a tent in it, and a year off work and I would be a very happy man.

Update: A commenter (thanks David) on this post pointed out the Whike, a smaller sail recumbent trike, which also looks like it would be a whole lot of fun.





Wellington is a cycling city

16 08 2010

An early drizzly weekday morning in Wellington and there are still hundreds of people riding on the waterfront:

There is some suggestion to make the cyclists go along Jervois Quay instead of the waterfront. No Thanks!!! I only saw 3 cyclists braving the traffic on the Quay. I saw a hundred in half hour on the Waterfront. It seems cyclists want to ride away from the noise, fumes and danger of busy roads.

The alternative on Jervois Quay:

If cyclists come into contention with pedestrians then some painted blue lines wouldn’t go astray such as here behind Shed 21, where the car lanes in the carpark could be reduced (OK it needs a safe walking route too). Tactile surfaces could keep pedestrians out of the blue lanes, and cyclists in.

Because this road ain’t safe for cycling along:





Mandatory bike helmet laws are daft

16 08 2010

On the Australian ABC it is reported that Associate Professor Chris Rissel, from Sydney University’s School of Public Health, has said that mandatory helmet laws should be revoked. Read the story.

“What it does is it puts people off cycling and makes people think that cycling’s a dangerous activity, even though it’s a really healthy thing to do and it increases people’s physical activity,” he said.

The amazing thing about the helmet laws is how passionately views are held by some people, always ready to trot out an anecdote in a comments section of a blog or news story, and to hold that anecdote up against all the data that says that mandatory helmet laws are counterproductive. If proof by anecdote was any proof at all we’d all be visiting the homeopath on the way to our blood-lettings and exorcisms.

There are also passionate people for the abolition of mandatory helmet wearing.  Sue Abbott is one passionate lady who knows all about it. I think she is great.

I recommend this link about bike helmets in Western Australia too. And for New Zealand.

Mandatory bike helmet laws are bad policy and seem to be the preserve of certain English speaking countries. The Europeans and the Japanese must think we are stupid for having them. They’d be right.

What can we do to get over this imposition against our liberties, and see sound science based policy? We’re facing a federal election in Australia (although check out the NZ Greens Cycling Policy and see they aren’t 100% aligned with best practice) and local elections soon in NZ. We need to vote for cyclists (well apart from Tony Abbott), and cycling friendly candidates. Do you know what your candidates views are on cycling policy? Ask them.

NZ Green Party Cycling spokesperson Kevin Hague, with an unnecessary helmet. Pinched from the Greens Website





Ideas for Wellington #2 thru #11

13 08 2010

I pinched a map from this page on the Greens website. (Yes, it’s a transport policy for Wellington on a political party website. The Greens do have their transport and cycling policies published on their website, which is transparency and openness at it’s democratic best. National don’t. Labour don’t. So when you vote Green at least you know what you’re voting for.) The Greens’ map does have some good ideas for improving Wellington’s transport infrastructure, but let’s take that as a starting point and see what could be done if we did more than just pay lip service to the idea of sustainable cities.

So here are some ideas for Wellington:

#1 Bikepaths across the Cake Tin concourse

#2 New train stations on existing lines – Some of these are suggested by the Greens, like Aotea station between Porirua and Paremata, and Fraser Ave on the J’ville line fix little gaps in the network. Here’s some more ideas:

  • Replace Kaiwharawhara Station with a new station midway between the existing Kaiwharawhara Station and the Passenger terminal part of the InterIslander Ferry terminal. It’s only a couple hundred metres from Kaiwharawhara and would give ferry passengers a stop on the line.
  • Have a new train station near where Tinakori Road meets the Hutt Road. There is a big gap between Wellington and Kaiwharawhara and there are a lot of nearby workplaces and it would be good for Thorndon residents.
  • Reinstate Beach Station at Petone and have the trams (but not trains) stop there. Beach Station is of course on the Great Harbour Way so it’d be a good place for transferring between trams and the bike path network for heading up the Hutt River Trail or over towards Eastbourne.
  • Build a new station at Glenside where the NIMT exits the tunnel.
  • Build a station between the tunnels where the NIMT flies over the highway in the Ngauranga Gorge.

#3 A Jackson Street Tram. The tram would ride the rails to Petone Station and then run along Jackson Street and end at a park and ride station (for cars, and bikes) near the Hutt River, with a footbridge across to more parking on the east side of the river.  The trams would have bike trailers like the ones in Stuttgart. The Hutt River Trail cycleway passes by the end of the tram line. Jackson Street is a bit of a funky shopping/eating district, and trams work really well on streets like this, like in Melbourne or Toronto.

#4 Extend the Johnsonville line to Glenside where it would meet the North Island Main Trunk line. It would be a road running tram. The original line of the NIMT was from J’ville on what is now the motorway on-ramp heading north. A new tram route would need to be made on Middleton Road. Run the J’ville line through to Porirua with some limited stops through Tawa.

#5 Modify the Melling line to take street running trams through the centre of the Lower Hutt CBD, past Queensgate and to Waterloo. This tram would also interface with the Hutt River Trail cycleway and could have a bike trailer on the front.

#6 Develop the space above Ngauranga Station, and the nearby free land between the motorway and the Great Harbour Way and turn it into an office and restaurant district. At the moment it is wasted space and a poo dump for motorhomes. Allow for some traffic to exit and enter the motorways and Hutt Road to multilevel carparks, but have Ngauranga develop as another waterfront pedestrian district.

#7 Link Ngauranga to Johnsonville with an aerial gondola. This gondola will take bikes (and would get rid of the huge climb up the Ngauranga Gorge.) More on this later in the post. For those unfamiliar with aerial gondolas I suggest reading the Gondola Project. Ticketing for the gondola will be integrated into the trains and buses and ferries and as such be a part of the urban public transport network.

#8 Run trams down the Golden Mile, eliminating all cars and taxis, and many of the buses from the Golden Mile. Widen the footpaths for pedestrians and have cycle lanes the length of the Golden Mile.  Have the trams run to Island Bay, the Airport and through Mirimar to Seatoun. Run the tram services as shown on my map. Porirua to the Airport via the Johnsonville Line. Jackson Street to Island Bay and Waterloo, via the Hutt, to Seatoun. The other 3 train lines shown on the map stop at Wellington Station still and will continue to use trains. (The Wairarapa Line, the Capital Connection and the Overland are not shown for clarity).

#9 Build an aerial gondola that starts at a station over the median of Lambton Quay near the bottom of the Cable Car, then heads north to the front of Wellington Station and then heads south above the waterfront to Te Papa and to Oriental Bay.  This gondola does not carry bikes as there are bikepaths along the waterfront and along Lambton Quay and there is a widely available bike share scheme with bike stations at every gondola stop.

#10 Add a bike trailer to the Cable Car for carrying bikes up to Kelburn. At the moment you can put a bike on the Cable Car, but capacity is restricted and they can get in the way of other passengers.

#11 Build a 3rd aerial gondola. This one carries bikes and goes up the hill from Oriental Bay to the summit of Mount Victoria.

Or to summarise, here’s my map:

The aerial gondola symbols were copied from the metro map of Caracas, Venezuela which has integrated aerial gondolas in its metro system.

So the end result is that there are safe bike paths linking all parts of the Wellington, Hutt and Porirua. Trams carry bikes. There is adequate ad-hoc secure undercover bike parking at every station including all the way out in the far flung suburbs (including charging stations for electric bikes) plus a widespread bikeshare scheme with bikes available at each train and tram station).

All of this is funded by the users of the services (such as tram and gondola passengers, and bike hirers) and  by tolling congestion creating cars using the motorways in peak periods.

Now let’s look at idea #7 in more detail. I presented all the other ideas to give this idea context. If I told you it’d be a good idea to build this cableway now you’d think I was crazy. You add it to all the other ideas, and now it makes a lot more sense. Particularly it makes sense if there is the connectivity from Porirua and the north into J’ville, and that Ngauranga is developed as a waterfront mini-CBD. It also makes more sense once the Great Harbour Way connecting Wellington and Petone is built. The holistic idea is to provide a flexible frequent public transport service where it is possible to get around on foot, by bicycle (even without your own bicycle), and the public transport services can get cyclists up hills.

The waterfront at Ngauranga has the bike path running along the seafront and then there is a busy train station for the Waterloo, and Jackson Street Tram plus the Upper Hutt train, and there are a bunch of new offices and shops and restaurants. From the station aerial gondolas will climb up through the gorge on the east side of it, with the first stop at the new Gorge station, which would be in the foreground of this photo. Ngauranga is down by the sea in this photo and the cableway would cross the motorway and use the hillsides to get here.

It would climb the hill from the Gorge Station. Here’s looking back to near Ngauranga Station near the SH1 Hutt Road flyover.

and sidle around or over the hill:

and have one or two possible suburban stations for East Johnsonville and Newlands residents (such as on the right side of the photo below) who are presently poorly serviced by bus, flying across Newlands Road, and angle down to meet the rail line at Johnsonville Station. Johnsonville town centre is seen here in the middle above the motorway.

So much more could be done with the ideas going around the blogosphere. There’s all the new bicycle thinking. There’s all the new cable technology thinking. There’s lots of new thinking about trams and LRT. Electric bicycles could figure a lot more in transport planning. It’s got to be better than National’s 2.5 billion dollars of spending on new motorways for the Wellington Region, and it’d all be a helluva lot cheaper. The NZTA, John Key, Stephen Joyce and co are so 1960′s in their motorway thinking. But fellas it is 2010. The world has moved on, and so could Wellington.





A Do Nothing for Cyclists Mayor?

10 08 2010

With the new trains coming the Greater Wellington Regional Council is reviewing its policies for bikes on trains. There’s an article about it on the Dom Post today.

From the Dom Post article:

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the priority had to be improvement of the commuter service – and carrying cycles could be sorted out later. “Then the capacity won’t be such an issue and we can relook at the issue.”

Presently there’s hardly any bicycle lockers at many of the stations in the Wellington Region and there’s only 12 at Wellington Station, and they’re for annual or monthly rent and not for casual use.

Well why not now Mrs Mayor? Why can’t we work out where we can make it better for cyclists now? And after 3 terms as Wellington Mayor how come we still can’t ride our bikes in safety from Wellington to Petone? Maybe Kerry Prendergast does have some cycle friendly policies, but I don’t know.

Perhaps she, and all the Wellington (and other Wellington Region) mayoral candidates (and candidates for other seats) could tell me what their walking and cycling policies and initiatives are and I’ll publicise them here on this blog. I know some of them read Wellington Regional Cycleways.





The imminent failure of the Melbourne Bike Share Scheme – It ain’t just dumb helmet laws.

10 08 2010

It’s not just the dumb State of Victoria mandatory helmet laws that are causing the Melbourne bike share scheme to be underutilised. It isn’t even that launching it in the middle of a Melbourne winter is the worst time to be launching the scheme.

Just take a look at the map of the stations here. There are only 50 stations all within walking distance of each other.

I’ve been watching the e2 Transport TV series from the American PBS. You can see a preview here. In the episode the rather lovely Céline Lepault, the Vélib Manager for the city of Paris from 2005-2008 says that by studying other working systems Paris decided that to have a system that operated well immediately they would need to start with a system of 10,000 bikes.

She says, “If you open with a system that is inadequate, people will have problems finding bikes, and they will tire of the system and then it’s very difficult to restart a project like that again.”

Melbourne started with 600 bikes. There are no bikes near Richmond Station, nor South Yarra, nor in South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Albert Park, St Kilda, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Williamstown, Yarraville.  There’s none at the Zoo. None at the MCG. None so you can have a nice ride up and down the Yarra.

So my take on it, with the silly helmet laws, the lack of bikes, and the very few stations is that the Melbourne Bike Share Scheme was set up to fail. It has been a flop, but that is what was wanted. Surely they couldn’t have got it so wrong just by fluke.

Contrast Melbourne’s woeful coverage with Montreal’s Bixi’s or Paris’s Velib’s.

Or for a completely different view this bloke reckons they had 48 sites too many.

If your city doesn’t have enough money for a decent scheme, find some more money, and then locate them near train and tram stops, and out the front of museums and galleries, near parks and zoos, and places that people actually want to go. So near the shops and restaurants, and near the sporting facilities.

As it is Melbourne people, when your system fails, can you gift the lot to a city that could actually get by with only 50 racks full of bikes. Palmerston North springs to mind.  For Melbourne I’d suggest 10,000 bikes, 2000 stations, a repeal of the helmet law, and some decent safe bicycle infrastructure.

At least Brisbane’s system is going to be based around the bike paths along the river, and is going to start with enough stations to make it useful. They’ll still have dumb mandatory helmet laws, but at least they don’t have a Melbourne Winter.





A guest post on the Gondola Project

8 08 2010

Yours truly just wrote a guest post on the Gondola Project about the Skyrail in Cairns.





Whanganui River Paths

8 08 2010

I recently had cause to be in Wanganui, and thought I’d have a ride along the banks of the Whanganui River. I started near the Trafalgar Square shops and rode under the Victoria Avenue Bridge. There’s a wooden deck along here, and it is nice to ride along.

Past the paddle steamer wharf near the Moutoa Gardens there is no river path so I got up on the road. Then there is a newish shared path separate to the road. It is nice and wide and is really good to ride along. This is the kind of infrastucture, if widespread, that is going to get people on their bicycles.

I rode up, to the end of that, and it stops at the Dublin Street bridge. It kind of goes under for pedestrians, but not for bikes. So I got up onto Somme Parade and kept on riding up to the cemetery by Papaiti Road. There are glimpses of the river, and there’s a few walking paths down by the river, but there’s no real linked up cycling paths. I turned around and rode back to the railway bridge, and it is possible to get across for pedestrians and bikes.

Then it is possible to ride on the true left side of the river and there are paths through the parks all the way back the Victoria Avenue bridge. This photo is going under the Dublin Street Bridge.

And this is somewhere through Kowhai Park. Don’t take the path down through the bamboo thicket. I stacked it when some bamboo caught my handlebar. I love that moment of clarity just before you hit the ground where you think it’s not going to hurt. It didn’t. None of my 3 stacks have hurt this year, and although I was wearing a helmet each time, I didn’t bang my head at all, so this year a helmet has been completely unnecessary.

The approach to the Victoria Ave bridge:

Then I hadn’t had enough so I did a flyby, and rode along the pedestrian path (with no pedestrians on it, so they didn’t mind)  along the true right side of the river in Gonville, riding towards the Heads:

They’re (they being the Horizons Regional Council) are still building the riverside path down towards Castlecliff and the sea.

All up there are enough bike paths along the Whanganui River through Wanganui to make for an interesting 20kms or so of riding. They’re not linked up, there’s a bit of riding on not too busy roads, and some of the paths are debatable for whether a bike should be on them or not. Hey it was something different. I enjoyed it.








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