31 05 2011

The blogosphere is all aghast at the poor policy decisions of the National Party of Steven Joyce and John Key as they release the Ministry of Transport’s report into the rejection of the business case for Auckland’s CBD rail loop. See:

CBD Tunnel Review

Auckland Council’s CBD Tunnel Review

Auckland Must Fight Loopy Decision

Transport Ministry “Explain” Their Decision

Joyce Unconvinced By CBD Rail

Rail Loop: the Auckland Case

Elsewhere the nation’s dailies haven’t even dealt with the story. The Dominion Post, pretending to be a National newspaper from the country’s pretend capital,  has a fluff piece on politicians. There is nothing on Stuff, and the news was out by lunchtime. (I’m writing this at 9pm)

The NZ Herald being an Auckland paper does: Rail link benefits ‘significantly overstated’ says review. And also has an interesting article Aucklanders in favour of harbour rail link, something they’d never get without the CBD loop.

So there are two reviews – one commissioned by Auckland Transport and Auckland Council and the other commissioned by the National -led government. They do not agree on the benefits of the project, and the first is largely positive, and the second is largely negative.

I think the first one is closer to the truth and the second is pandering to the National Party’s ideologically driven ministers. The Transport and Treasury report looks a bit like the Weapons of Mass Destruction “evidence” being provided to Blair and Bush to justify invading Iraq.

National won’t listen to sense on their Roads of National Significance projects, and they are making up nonsense on essential urban rail infrastructure for the country’s largest city. This kind of attitude is in a way masturbatory. They have their hands down their pants fiddling with the numbers, instead of actually working out what would be the best infrastructure projects for the country to fund.

If only they were incompetent, rather than sinister. If they were just incompetent then by chance we could expect some of the times they’d get it right, but they consistently are choosing the worst options for New Zealand.

Steven Joyce, John Key, and all the National Party cronies who let them get away with it (and the idiots who vote for them) really are wankers.

Come on someone in Transport, or Treasury – leak. What really are the machinations needed to come out with such a bullshit report?

Let’s know all the names of the people who have committed Auckland to another 20 years of backwardness.


NZ Cycle Trail website is up

30 05 2011

The new Nga Haerenga, New Zealand Cycle Trail website is up and running.

I’m looking forward to riding lots of the new sections as they open.

But this whole cycle trail initiative is a bit of a misfire of policy in my opinion. It does nothing for getting safe cycle infrastructure in our towns and cities. It is for tourists, domestic and international. It isn’t for people to ride to work, or for kids to ride to school safely. Or for getting between towns by bike safely. I think the NZ cycle trail funding is great, but the other side of the cycle funding coin is just getting ignored by the current government. The always excellent Auckland Transport Blog  had a post recently and it shows the actual and planned Ministry of Transport funding (which doesn’t include the NZ cycle trail project, which is part of Tourism, which is Economic Development):

Walking and cycling receive less than $5 per head per annum funding, and roads get over $500 a head. Cycling and walking is therefore funded at less than a hundredth of roads.

I get the feeling the Prime Minister just said whatever came into his head at the jobs summit early in his government’s term, and the policy makers had to run around behind him like the circus’s bucket boy behind an elephant, and put some money where his mouth was, and hence we get our “great rides”.

But the figures in the Ministry of Transport budget don’t lie. The National Government doesn’t really give a hoot about cyclists and pedestrians. I really do think one of the roles of the NZ government should be to fund local government to build cycling infrastructure. It’s hardly a radical idea. It’s just better policy.

Sandhills Motorway cycleway provisions

30 05 2011

The NZTA has released a video with a fly-through of the proposed Kapiti Expressway/Sandhills Motorway/ Mackays to Peka Peka route:

Here are my observations of what I can see in the video with regards to the cycling provisions:

  • The cyclepath seems to follow close to the motorway along the bottom of the Raumati Escarpment north of Mackay’s Crossing. That seems to be a bit of a clueless option. Putting a decent cycleway through Queen Elizabeth Park as previously stated on this blog would be a much better proposition. Any cycleway out of the noise cone of the motorway traffic has got to be better than one that follows it closely. The cycleway shown in the video follows the road closely, but it’s got a whole park to use, so why not build a decent paved, well-lit commuter cycleway away from the road? It’s not high conservation land, but gorse filled paddocks, and with the new road and a new cycleway the paddock in the north east corner of the park could be remediated and turned back into wetlands with native flora planted.
  • It’s hard to see what the Poplar Ave crossing would look like. An underpass would be preferred, but as long as it is safe.
  • Just north of Poplar Ave it follows the motorway designation, but the now unused road reserve further west could be used for the cycleway and could link up with a cycleway through the park.
  • Then there seems to be some new lakes and it looks like the cycleway leaves the road and goes through the dunes. Yeay! And it looks like an underpass under Raumati Road. Cool.
  • Then some more new lakes and the cycleway meets up with the Wharemauku Stream paths. That’s good. And the path leading north from there starts a bit further away.
  • Then at Kapiti Road it looks like an at grade crossing, presumably with no provision to stop the traffic. That’s bad, bad, bad. Why Raumati Road would appear to have an underpass, and not the busier Kapiti Road, I dunno.
  • The next bit between Kapiti and Mazengarb Roads will be boring and noisy, and there’s another at grade crossing for Mazengarb Road. It’s not as busy a road so that’s probably OK.
  • North of Otaihanga Road the cycleway goes missing before magically appearing from a lake on the other side of the motorway.
  • A cyclists’ bridge over the Waikanae River is very welcome. The current SH1 road bridge is deadly to cyclists. However there seems to be very poor connections with the Waikanae River paths, which is surely an oversight.
  • Then north of the river the cycleway disappears again, before having the most circuitous route through the Te Moana Road interchange roundabouts (wow that looks overengineered) and going back to the western side of the motorway.
  • Then it follows too close to the road noise cone all the way to Peka Peka Road. Presumably north of Peka Peka Road any cycle traffic will go along the to be built  local road, but the local road surely is going to be signposted at 80 or 100km/hr, and won’t be the safest road for cyclists to ride.
  • If you’re not sick to death of doing so there is currently a public consultation til June 27th about the road, and presumably the cycle provision, on the NZTA website.

My verdict is that it is flawed in that it will be too noisy, and I’ll continue to ride the Kotuku Lakes, Manly Street, Marine Parade, Rosetta Road route if I pass through Kapiti on my bike. I look forward to safe cycling between Otaki and Waikanae and I’ve only ever ridden it on the beach, or sadly on the highway on a memorial ride. I really wish they’d get their act together on in QE Park and on the almost good Waikanae River paths. It will be nice to get cycling infrastructure funded and built for once, even though it isn’t filling a gap in safe cycle routes when there are gaps to fill, and it can only be funded as part of a super big bloody road, and not in its own right. And if they did link it to the Waikanae River paths on both sides of the river then Kapiti Coasters could use it as the backbone on a much more extensive cycle network than they have now.

Riding like Superman

17 05 2011

Here at Wellington Region Cycleways we love bike technology and there are many different ways to ride a bike or trike. Whether they be railcycles, sail bikes, treadmill bikes, step bikes, water bikes

or whatever, but this one takes the cake. It is H-Zontal, and you can get to pretend you are flying like Superman.

The fellow behind it, Gilles Lalanne, saw a French patent drawing from 1934 by a Monsieur Louis Hubault and thought he’d have a go at building one. He calls them prone bicycles.
Gilles improved on the original design by having the braking on the handlebars, rather than relying on the rider clenching their bum cheeks.

Because you are looking down at the road instead of what is coming in front you need to ride it with a special pair of goggles that has a mirror mounted in them, which makes you look super-cool:

I have some ideas for improving the design myself. Instead of steering with the handle bars, you could just shift your weight,  freeing the hands for if there were some handles on pullies that could be used by the hands in a freestyle swimming motion with a kick mechanism like the step bikes above for the feet then you could swim without needing any water. Or for the authentic swim sensation you could fill up your mirror goggles with water and not see much of what is going on, so you’d need to paint on a black stripe like on the bottom of a swimming pool lane so you could ride straight. Let’s call that the Swim Bike.

A colleague suggested a new mechanism for the prone position rider instead of the pedals at the back like in the video. He suggested that the rider moved by moving their hips up and down. The harder and faster the quicker the ride. He couldn’t come up with a suggestion of what to call a bike like that thought. Suggestions in a comment please.

You should get out there building such bikes and riding them as you would not be caught sittin’ around in no Junglescape, dumb as an ape doing nothing, now would ya?

Hauraki Rail Trail progress

15 05 2011

On Auckland Trains is a post with great news about the Hauraki Rail Trail. It looks like it is going to get built.

I think from the map it means there will be safe riding between Kaiaua and Miranda, around the Firth of Thames, to Thames and then through to Waihi or Te Aroha.

There mightn’t be any funding for urban cycle infrastructure, and they may leave us with a multi-gazillion dollar debt, but John Key’s National government at least is helping with progressing rural cycle infrastructure. Maybe not in completely meaningful ways (for instance I have found that the SH1 bridge over the Manawatu River is very, very scary to ride) but it’s a start.

Hobbit annoys Councillors

9 05 2011

It seems some of the Wellington councillors are annoyed they’re getting a bit of unwanted feedback about their support for Steven Joyce’s (and lets not forget John Key’s) support of the Roads of National Significance. To save everyone the hassle of typing Economic Illiteracy Support Group into Google here is the  link:

Supposedly the councillors are pissed off by the anonymity of the person/people behind it, and it’s malevolent undercurrents. They say they live in Matamata, so there is the possibility that there is a hobbit behind the whole outfit. And we know that if it is then it could be this guy, who if he likes pies only likes party pies:

Or it could be the councillors don’t like the fact that the mysterious person/people/hobbit might actually have hit a sore point, and they really are economically illiterate, don’t know what they are doing and are out of their depth on the roading issues.

As for the RoNS, only some of what is proposed for Wellington to Levin makes sense, and some bits are just pie in the sky. Which bits hey councillors?

The sad demise of Valparaíso’s ascensors

7 05 2011

I’ve visited Valparaíso a couple of times, the last time being in 2008, and I made a day of riding all the ascensors, which are, and increasingly were, cable cars for getting up onto the surrounding hills. I wrote a blog post about them with lots of pictures, like this one of the Ascensor Mariposa:

At the time I only got to ride on 9 of them, and a few weren’t running and were derelict, mothballed or cerrado por reparaciones. But now it seems they have further slipped towards disservice. See this news article: A city of fabled hills battles to save its cable cars.

It’d be a great shame if the cable cars which have been in continuous service for 128 years are shutdown. I hope the good people of Valpo get to ride up their hills for many more hills to come.