Please ride with bricks in your panniers

17 11 2012

As someone who rides an electric bike it is amazing that I am sometimes exposed to a strange mixture of hostility and snobbery that cycling purists, who’ve never ever ridden an electric bike, will generously offer me. Some of the daftest opinions offered are that it is only for the old or the disabled or that it is “cheating”.

Well if I was riding an e-bike in the Tour then maybe it would be cheating, as if cheating in the Tour was totally unknown, but if I am riding 40 or 50 km around the district on a weekend, or riding down to the supermarket with my panniers empty, and coming back with them full, then what rule am I cheating against?

I am not old. I am not disabled. I could probably get myself a non-electric bike and ride that quite happily. I could get my old mountain bike out of the shed and spray it a bit til the chain moved, but I like riding my comfortable e-bike. The ride is smooth, solid and oh so comfortable. I generally pedal at a healthy cadence that makes me sweat. I go through my gears to help me keep my cadence in a nice range. When I get tired it is nice to keep moving and have a bit of a rest. I get help up the hills or into the wind, and sometimes on the flat. But overall I get a good workout on my e-bike. I average 25km/hr and I can go for 2 hours before I’ve had enough. Mostly I ride because it feels great to get out into the fresh air and get some exercise. I couldn’t really give a damn what some ignorami in a lycra leotard thinks.

The comments this week on the Conversation on an article about Australia adopting the European standards for electric bikes will show you what I mean. Of more interest is the comments from people who think that the European standards are not the right fit for Australian conditions. In particular I think the European rules have two dumb points that just don’t make sense. Firstly cutting out assistance at 25km/hr is limiting. It is quite an arbitrary limit. My bike has fat tyres and I hover around that speed anyway, but my next bike will probably be belt driven with thinner tyres and an internal geared hub. On a non e-bike version of that I could probably ride 35km/hr. The second dud rule is that you have to be pedalling to get electrical assistance. Why? Again its completely arbitrary. As I said I don’t mind having a rest and keep moving and if someone wants to commute on an e-bike and never pedal then I really don’t have a problem with that. It’s not like they are breaking any “rules”.

So to me the European rules seem to take on-board the opinions of the cycling snobs out there. Australia adopting the laws is a backwards step (although going from 200W to 250W is an improvement for Australia). New Zealand will probably follow Australia’s lead and blindly adopt the European law. Looking on the bright side one advantage would be that there’ll be a greater range of European quality bikes on the market, such as the new Grace electric bikes.

For what’s it’s worth I think that it’s the cycling “purist”s who don’t cycle with bricks in their panniers who are cheating. Bicycling is only meant to be done by stoic, self-flagellating ascetics after all.

Any less than 4 bricks is cheating.



Wellington transport video

16 11 2012

STL Transit has turned their attention to Welly, from the first bus from Upper Hutt to the last bus going back to Eastbourne. You can even see the Seatoun Ferry if you don’t blink.

A walk for deaf botanists

9 11 2012

On a train ride home I read over someone’s shoulder an article in the NZ Geographic magazine which detailed that a part of the Paekakariki Escarpment walk had been opened, so I got off my bum on another trip home and had a look.

The Paekakariki Escarpment walkway will eventually be part of Te Araroa replacing the noisy footpath along the Coast Road between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki. At the moment only the first mile or so at the northern end has been finished.

If you want to walk it start near  the SH1/Ames St intersection and walk over the railway overbridge on the western side and go down the new set of stairs and then under the road.

The track is rather overrun with weeds. It seems that every Paekakakariki garden escapee from the last 150 years has taken root and decided to multiply.

In fact it was very Day of the Triffids, and a bit like other 1950s sci-fi where the plants eat everyone:

I had hoped that the escarpment track would be built way up high, but it isn’t. The bit built so far is not that high above the road or the train tracks. So if you are hoping for a peaceful walk then you’re not going to get it. It’s all within the noise cone of the highway, which makes it unpleasant.

Presently at about a mile along there is a gate, beyond which they are still building the track.

Overall the views are quite nice, but it’s a walk really only for deaf botanists. Otherwise take your earplugs.

Enjoy your walk with the help from our sponsor

How to do things right, Vancouver style

4 11 2012

I’m linking some recent posts by others to express an idea.

First on CAN‘s site is the post Cycleways needed to protect riders where Professor Simon Kingham from Canterbury University says after he researched people’s attitudes to cycling and the perception of cycling, “They want some sort of physical barrier whether it be a curb, a fence, a hedge or some planters, or a cycleway that’s completely away.”

And then on the Auckland Transport Blog they linked to this video on Melding Cycling and Transit about Vancouver’s efforts to support cycling and transit as they call it.

One part of Vancouver’s solutions are to have a coherent network of safe cycling infrastructure. Note that is a network, not just a little token bit of painted on cycleway here and there which cease to exist at traffic lights or is completely disjointed.

So the question is what does some of Vancouver’s infrastructure look like. I turned to flikr. (All attributions can be seen if you click on the image).  First up separated by planter boxes is this shot of  a street in autumn. There’s no riding in traffic or riding in the door zone, and it is bidirectional:

Next up is Hornby Street, and again no parked cars, and planter boxes:

Next is Dunsmuir Street:

There’s some roads in Wellington that could benefit from this kind of treatment – the Quays, Cambridge and Kent Terraces and Adelaide Road. Indeed I even found a mock-up of such a scheme for Adelaide Road.

If this is the standard that people actually need to make them feel safe when cycling, then this is what should be built. With the Christchurch rebuild maybe people in Christchurch should see the first projects built down there, but Wellington City Council if this is what people need then this is what should be built.

Dear readers, which roads would benefit from such a treatment? I’d argue Johnsonville Road, through the J’ville town centre should be one of the first. It’d then be safe enough that Mayor Wade-Brown could ride through unscathed.

This is the scale of transport infrastructure that the government should be funding, rather than bloated unnecessary highways with BCRs as low as 0.2. Rather than riding a bike it seems the only exercise National is getting is pissing our money away.


A new piece of cycleway in Levin

4 11 2012

It’s been a little while since I’ve got up Levin way on my bicycle, but I was delighted to find a nice new bit of shared cycleway/footpath on Queen Street East, built to a high standard with a very rideable fine gravel surface.

It runs the length of Queen Street east of the SH57. West of the SH57 is Levin proper and 50km/hr speed zones, so that was already safe riding, but east of the highway there were no verges. So the new tracks link the town to the mountain biking tracks off Denton Road.

It crosses a few driveways of some lifestyle blocks and I understand there was opposition from some of the residents, but it’s good to see that sometimes people just want to have a whinge, and they weren’t listened to. They and their kids are going to benefit from the extra safety too.

There’s also a little bridge.

It is only a little track, only about 2km long, but this is the type of infrastructure we should be building more of. It doesn’t cost much, yet it allows kids to get to school safer, it is popular with dog walkers and other strollers, and links the town with a park (Waiopehu Scenic Reserve) and it’s MTB park. Congrats to all who made it happen. (HDC?/Rotary?)