Improvements in Whanganui’s cycleways

26 08 2012

I had a revisit to Whanganui. My last post about the cycle paths along the river was a couple years back. I had a nice sunny walk up and down both banks.

There were two small improvements of note:

1. On the west side of the river there’s a new cyclists’ underpass going in under the Dublin St bridge to cut out the need to cycle through the busy roundabout. It’s almost finished, and you can see work in progress under the far side of the bridge in the photo below. This I think is a great decision of the City Council. Well done.

The Dublin St bridge.

2. On Somme Parade the on-road cycle lane has a painted dashed yellow line, which is an essential, usually much overlooked, part of every on-road cycle lane to keep it being blocked by parked cars. Again well done.

The yellow dashed line is an essential part of an on-road cycle lane

There are also a few new signs showing the route of part of the National Cycleway:

Closer here to the sea than the mountains

There were a number of cyclists out and about in the winter sun, and the odd pedelec, but proving the point that two-stroke assisted bicycles have no place being on any cycleway was this young guy. I’ve smudged his face as I don’t want to dob him in, but if he reads this and recognises himself – your bike sucks, and get off the cycle path:

Petrol engines on bicycles are an annoyance for their noise and fumes.

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Repeat Drunk-Drivers should not be on the road

25 08 2012

It is with absolute horror that I read today (in the Dom Post) that Kenneth Morgan, a Tawa man with 23 convictions and an “indefinite ban”, has been given his driver’s license back.

Repeat drunk drivers kill.

Mr Morgan hasn’t given up drinking, and he thinks he can drive more safely drunk than a normal sober driver.

It wasn’t too long ago that we were riding in a memorial ride for a cyclist killed by another repeat drunk driver.

Alison Downer at her trial for killing teacher Frank Van Kampen

And whilst I feel a little bad about putting up a photo of a little old woman. I am still angry at her for killing Mr Van Kampen and I am still angry at her family for letting their alcoholic mum and grandma anywhere near the keys of a car.

Alcoholism is a sad and tragic disease, but alcoholics who do have a history of flaunting the law, and who continually drive drunk should not be allowed to get on the road when there are vulnerable users like pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers who use those same roads.

There should be mandatory lifetime bans (that cannot be revoked as it appears is has been for Mr Morgan) for all repeat drunk drivers. 3rd offence and that’s it, they’re never, ever getting behind the wheel of a car again.

I call on the Transport Minister, Gerry Brownlee, to intercede in this case, and to revoke Mr Morgan’s driver’s license immediately before a child walking to school, or a cyclist, or ten people waiting at a bus-stop, are killed by him.





Tramping from Levin to Palmerston North

25 08 2012

If you’ve got a spare 4 days and want a decent enough tramp that isn’t going to kill you, with public transport at both ends, then I’d recommend a walk from Levin to Palmerston North following the route of the Te Araroa Trail. It is varied and challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so hard to be too difficult. There are no real places to stay along the way, but it should be reasonably easy enough to find a few tent spots along the way.

Starting in Levin at the post office tower first walk up Queen St East to Denton Road and climb the hill up the Arapaepae Lookout track. It’s short and sharp.

Levin from the Arapaepae Lookout

Then follow the track over undulating hills until reaching the far end of Gladstone Road. This is about 3 to 4 hours from the start in Levin.  A little further on along Gladstone Road is the start of the Mangahao-Makahika track, which is to be walked from the Makahika Stream to the Mangahao Dams. Initially it goes across some private land and there is an easy creek crossing or two.

Crisscrossing the Makahika Stream

It starts off flat and only ever climbs gently.

After crossing private land the Mangahao-Makahika enters the Forest Park

The Mangahao-Makahika has a modest climb to a couple lookouts. The walk takes about 5 hours through to the Mangahao Dams and not the 7 or 8 as the brochure and the signs say.

Most of the Mangahao-Makahika track is through forest.

The track descends to the Blackwood Stream deep in the forest. Then it is a short track out to the Mangahao Dams road. Once the Mangahao Dams are reached walk past the 1st dam and take the Tokomaru Valley Road turnoff walking north until the markers are found.

The preferred entrance to Burrton’s track is marked by these markers. There is another access at a boggy carpark a little further north, but this part of the route is worth walking:

Burrton’s track is flat. There are some river crossings which on a frosty winter morning are bracing. If the river is up they’d be too hard.

Burrton’s Track follows the Tokomaru River, and is probably the scenic highlight of the walk.

It’s probably best to camp away from Gladstone or the Mangahao Dam roads. Camping somewhere away from vehicle access ensures your camping won’t be disturbed by the dickhead element. If you don’t want to camp you could stay the first night at the Makahika Outdoor Centre (by prior arrangement) near the end of Gladstone Road. You could also probably, with a bit of effort, make Burn Hut on the Burn Hut Track for night 2, but there’s nowhere for a 3rd night.

Early morning bend in the river.

A good camping spot would be at the first Tokomaru River crossing. There’s a large grassy area with plenty of room. Further along near the site of Burtton’s Whare would also be good.

The perfect lunch spot with light streaming through the foliage.

After the most spectacular bit of the walk through the beautiful forest along Burtton’s Track the Te Araroa trail heads along Scotts Road. It’s not unpleasant. There’s no traffic (and it is behind a locked gate) . It is just in a pine forest.

Is this anti Te Araroa trail graffiti? Why would anyone be against a walking track?

With any luck you’ll meet some pig hunters, like we did. I think the one we met wrestled any pigs and then bit them or something. He didn’t carry a rifle and perhaps he killed  them just with a dirty look.

Through the forest near Scotts Road

Scotts Road is closed to traffic (you’ll perhaps meet some illegal motorcycles) and would be rideable by MTB. It follows a contour and was once a road rather than the current track. Then the Back Track takes you to the end of Kahuterawa Road (which is also the start of the Sledge Track). You could probably camp near the carpark (and there are some loos – the first and only loos of the trip). Walk along Kahuterawa Road for 5 kilometres or so then turn onto Greens Road. The views are quite good over the Manawatu and the roads themselves are quiet country roads.

Keep walking on Greens Road and then onto Turitea Road. On Turitea Road the Te Araroa trail disappears across a paddock to follow the Turitea Stream at the back of people’s houses and paddocks. This gets muddy underfoot and there are a couple creek crossings. The locals might be burning off like they were for me, and you might get pissed off with the smoke and have no choice to walk through it, but hopefully they won’t be quite so stupid for you when you walk that way.

Greens Road countryside

Cross Old West Road and climb the steps into the backblocks of Massey University.

In the backblocks of the University

The walkway finds the Turitea Stream and follows it through the campus. This is actually a nice part of the hike and it finishes up near the entrance to the University. Then it is a noisy walk along the footpath of Tennent Drive through the tunnels with some nice murals, and across the bridge over the Manawatu River.

And then you’ve made it to Palmy.

Palmie’s clock tower beckons at the end of Fitzherbert St

It’s about 50km by road between Levin and Palmerston North, and it’s reasonably direct following the route I describe. I’d estimate it’s about 65 km.

Messages from our sponsors : Mountain View Motel Levin  a great place to stay at the start of your trip.

and does your partner snore like a big old black steam train? Well my better half reckons I do so she started importing earplugs in bulk.





It’s a pity we live amongst the unimaginative

25 08 2012

A while ago I wrote a piece called the Heart of the Horowhenua which were some ideas about how I would route cycleways through the district (the Horowhenua district obviously).  I reckon there are two natural routes through the district, an east west one which I talk about in detail in A Foxton Beach to Castlepoint Cycleway. And a north-south one that would follow the old wooden railway line south out of Palmy and head towards Kapiti. I wrote about a suggested route south of Levin in “The Power Pole route“.

Then there are two main obstacles: Crossing the Manawatu Safely and the fact that all of the non highway routes generally don’t link up into safe backroads touring. Riding along the SH1, the SH56 and the SH57 isn’t the best way to see the Horowhenua safely. Riding along highways generally is horrible because of the noise and the traffic, and the risk of death. Away from the busy roads such as on the top of a levee bank or on a quiet country road the district is pleasant to ride through. On the highways you may as well turn on a blender, put your ear up to it and juggle some sharp knives.

So yes I unapologetically make a few suggestions about linking up routes that may cross private property. Firstly these are only suggestions. Secondly they’re suggestions for cycleways not the Sandhills Bloody Expressway. Thirdly I’m not saying force any landholder into giving up their land. Negotiation, fair dealing, compensation paid, easements negotiated, etc, etc and remember it is a cycleway, so about 3 or 4 metres wide. Some landholders would benefit from new fencing, a new track across a paddock that their farm vehicles could also use, tree planting, shelter belts or whatever. Also not routing them too close to houses. Close them in lambing season. All common sense can be in play.

At the bottom of my Heart of Horowhenua post I wrote the words “Surely these are more than just the scribblings of a madman” as a caption for my hand drawn map:

My thinking has changed a bit north of the river, but south of the river it’s still pretty much the same. I would have the route go East-West through Levin on Queen St and have a round the lake route around Lake Horowhenua which would join up to the northern half of Kawiu Road,  cross State Highway 1, going up the current dead end Te Whanga Road and then join up to Heatherlea Road West and Koputaroa Road, before going up Paiaka Rd.

That prompted (2 years after my initial post) I think a somewhat angry reply from someone named Chris – “I live at the end of Heatherlea West road and tend to suggest your final comment may apply. Heatherlea West road is only a few hundred metres from St Highway one and Koputaroa road. The section of St Highway 1 down to Kawiu road is sufficiently wide for a section of cycleway without the need to put a cycleway right through the middle of two private properties”.

i.e. he or she is calling me a madman. Well if you believe private property rights should always trump the common good, maybe I’d appear to be. Personally I think you’re crazy if you think routing a cycleway down a busy highway with trucks, traffic, noise and fumes is a good idea.

So let’s examine what I meant. Here’s the area in more detail. I wrote SH1 on the State Highway, and you can see Lake Horowhenua in the bottom left corner. It’s the gap between the end of Te Whanga Road and Heatherlea Road West that is the bit in question.

So here is the aerial shot. (I’m using the Walking Access Mapping System by the way for this). I don’t know which house is our commenter’s, and I’m sure it’s a lovely house and they enjoy their peace and quiet (which they wouldn’t lose if there was a cycleway built anywhere nearby).

There are probably a few possible routes that would be possible in negotiation with the property owners, but here is a suggested one:

Or if that doesn’t appeal Te Whanga Road continues as a paper road almost as far Kukutauaki Road.

It’s hardly the most radical of suggestions.

In reality none of my ideas are going to get built, so I wouldn’t fret if I make a suggestion that crosses your land. There is no political will to actually improve people’s lives by improving their recreational opportunities and grant them more access to cross land, and local politicians (yes, even in the Horowhenua) aren’t always the brightest of sparks.

It is a pity we live amongst the unimaginative.





Is it time to dust off Wellington’s 2004 Gehl Report?

18 08 2012

Is it time to dust off for a reread the Danish firm, Gehl Architects’ 2004 Report for Wellington’s City to Waterfront Study?

The NZTA are often accused of sham public consultations and then doing whatever they want, and that may well be the case for what they are now calling The Tunnel to Tunnel Inner City Transport Improvements.

The politics of road building can be pretty nasty. There is the Happy Motoring brigade who never want to stop at a red light, wait in a traffic queue for any amount of microseconds, nor see a bloody cyclist on their beloved tarmac. The current transport minister may well indeed be one of the brigade – see Brownlee is a Roads Scholar. Then at the other end of the spectrum there are the green purists who view all road development and automobiles as intrinsically evil. (Yes I know such people probably are mythical, but I suspect people, like the commenters on every story on the RoNS in the Fairfax press who say “Hurry up and build the thing”, believe that they do exist.)

If we ignore the great economic cost of building giant roads and tunnels in the first place, and if we ignore the pollution issues, and the possible urban blight issues of a flyover in Mt Cook/Te Aro, and the fact that petrol is going to get more expensive, and that Wellington is presently in the economic doldrums meaning traffic levels are probably going to fall, does the Tunnel to Tunnel plan actually have some benefits for making Wellington a more liveable city?

Should we (we as in the non-Happy Motoring Brigade) roll over on the Basin flyover, the Buckle Street tunnel, duplicating the Terrace Tunnel, and the Mt Victoria Tunnel, and the widening of Ruahine Street and then use them as an opportunity to improve the outcomes in terms of urban quality, better cycling routes, getting rid of traffic on the streets that are bypassed and slowing down the traffic that is left? It is after all called the Inner City Bypass.

Firstly I’ve got to say it is a good idea to reinstate the Helen Clark Government’s plan to put Buckle Street into an underpass to make an urban park in front of the War Memorial carillon. It’s now a rush job to get it finished by the centenary of the Gallipoli landings (and it wouldn’t have been a rush if National didn’t cancel the plan in 2009). So we can thank Helen Clark for it, rather than John Key.

Putting the traffic underground here wasn’t National’s idea.

Next consider that a pedestrian cycle facility is meant to be included in the NZTA plan. I’m not sure from the brochure what the quality of it is going to be, but maybe they’ll even improve the Mt Vic Tunnel facilities (how many years have we been ignored on our calls to install a relatively inexpensive perspex screen for the pedestrian route in the current Mt Vic Tunnel so that pedestrians aren’t poisoned with fumes?) The blue dotted lines are crying out for separated cycle lanes (without fear of dooring) on Kent and Cambridge Terraces to join out this proposed better route with the waterfront and the start of the around the Bays route.

Dotted blue line is supposed cycle/pedestrian facilities

Those separated cycle lanes on Kent and Cambridge fit in with Jan Gehl’s idea of City Boulevards, as shown on this map on his report. Notice that with a lot of the traffic removed out of the city centre (and especially off the Quays) the Quays, Cable and Wakefield St and Kent and Cambridge Terraces are all City Boulevards. This is the idea from the Gehl report that needs revisiting.

But the good news is this is the NZTA’s thinking too. This is in their brochure:

So what is an urban boulevard for Wellington? It means reducing the 6 lanes on Waterloo, Customhouse and Jervois Quays down to 4. It means adding Copenhagen style cycle lanes to the Quays, so no on street parking. It means a 3 metre median planted with trees. (Yes it has this in part already)

And it means slowing the traffic. At the moment the Quays are way too fast. They are either 70 or 50 km/hr and it is too fast. The fast traffic and the 6 lanes means it is a barrier to pedestrians to get from the Golden Mile to the Waterfront. I would like a 30km/hr limit. The Happy Motoring brigade would like 50 and then drive at 60. Perhaps 40 km/hr, enforced, is a happy compromise.

We need the bike lanes on the Quays as the Inner City Bypass is for cars, the Golden Mile will remain to be for buses and pedestrians, the waterfront is for walkers, strollers, dreamers, and slow recreational cycling, and the safe separated cycle lanes on the Quays will be for cycle commuting. If you want to cycle slow go on the waterfront. If you want to cycle at 20-30km/hr cycle in the cycle lanes on the Quays.

Happy Motoring. Dire cycling. Cuts off the city from its waterfront.

Wellington is also having its debate on buses versus light rail for the railway station to hospital transport spine study. The Boulevard on the Quays could still be reduced from 6 lanes to 4, and accommodate the light rail tracks.

***

The Gehl report has lots of other good advice especially about linking the Golden Mile to the Waterfront and removing obstacles for pedestrians along the Golden Mile (by closing side streets) and is worth a read, but it also has some recommendations for cyclists. First a map of the cycle routes in the city. The orange boxes are areas of “cyclist confusion”. The northern one could be fixed with my cycle paths across the Cake Tin forecourt suggestion. The Eastern one by boulevardising Kent and Cambridge.

And lastly Gehl’s recommendations for cycling:

All good, and points d, e, h and k I think are particularly great advice. Point j gives the Trondheim example of the bike elevator.

All in all, I reckon the forces of Happy Motoring are going to win the day and we are going to end up with at least a completed 2-lane in each direction road between Cobham Drive and the SH1 and SH2 split. i.e the Inner City Bypass will be complete. The Mt Vic and Terrace tunnels will be duplicated. We have to stand fast and hold them to the Buckle Street Underpass that they’ve promised.

It is not all bad news as significant benefits are going to be had if we ask for them and prepare for them. We can make good decisions about the CBD. It does involve slowing down speed limits, narrowing roads, getting rid of on-street parking, building separated cycle lanes, and lots of things that are anathema to the Happy Motoring brigade, but we should stand tall and say thanks for the opportunity, we’ll take it from here.





Could you cycle in Masterton in winter?

16 08 2012

Could you cycle in this?

Could you cycle in a town as fouled as Masteron in winter on a still night? The picture above is from the Wairarapa Mail’s July 2012 story on Masterton smog levels. The photo below is famous and used all over the web. It’s Masterton in 2004. From the photo above you can see digital photographs have improved, but Masterton’s air quality hasn’t. Can anyone say “ineffective GWRC response” and cough at the same time?

Could you cycle in this?

Air pollution suppresses all outdoor activities, such as jogging and cycling, and winter rugby practice. There is a link between a dependence on burning wood for domestic heating and  obesity levels in children and adults, caused by being forced to be inside during winter. For a lot of people it isn’t the cold, or the dark, but air quality that keeps them from exercising.

In 2007 the Australian Standards Committee recommended halving the allowable PM10 particulates in the relevant A/NZ Standard. It was vetoed by the Australian Home Heating Association, despite the obvious conflict of interest that woodheater manufacturers profiting from liassez-faire pollution had. (How crazy is that? Do we let Tobacco Companies get their way and veto tobacco control?)

By the halved standard of 25 micrograms of PM10 particulates in 24 hours just how many towns in New Zealand would be officially polluted? All of them?

Do you stop cycling in winter? What are the worst places for cycling air quality in the region? What can be done about it?

Think woodsmoke isn’t harmful? Visit Clean Air New Zealand.

Think woodsmoke is harmful? Best not visit New Zealand in Winter.





The Friendly Cyclist

8 08 2012

Everyone in NZ, if not the World, has already found out about the fantastic little cycling in Wellington videos at The Friendly Cyclist.

They scored a coup getting this bloke to narrate:

They are well put together, and amusing, and I congratulate everyone involved. You all have a Bacon Number of 2 with Hugh Laurie, and a Bacon number of 3 with Allen Toussaint. (Stephen can subtract 1 from those numbers)

So blow your own horn everybody.