Alexandra Road as a commuter bicycle route

24 08 2013

The earthquake of Friday before last held some interesting lessons. The first is the sense of calm one feels perched under a desk whilst the pictures on the wall are swinging like drunken pendulums. The second is that when the whole of the city decides it’s time to go home all at once then Wellington is well and truly gridlocked. Like everyone I experienced the gridlock, but I got to see it from a variety of angles.

Friday morning was one where I wasn’t telecommuting, so I had to haul my butt out of bed in time to make the train, but I was running a few minutes late, so I missed the train (luckily it seems with the post-quake cancellation of trains) and with the next train more than half an hour away I thought I’d have to drive into town or be super late for work. The normal place in town where I’d pay to park for the day is now too chokkas for me, with all the refugees from the multilevel carparks that are still closed since the July earthquake, so on the way in, I wondered where I’d park. Down Oriental Parade is too expensive for the day so I had a brainwave. I’ve got my foldable kick scooter in the back, why not park up Mt VIctoria. I could ride the scooter down the hill into town, and then fold it up in the evening and catch the Mt Vic bus to get up the hill. The first part of the plan was definitely fun. Coming down Palliser Road, Hawker Street and Majoribanks Street on a kick-scooter doesn’t take long, and even riding my brakes I was still going faster than the cars. Whoosh!!!!  Then in the afternoon the earthquake struck and after a couple of the aftershocks we were all allowed home. I grabbed my scooter and waited for the Mt VIc bus. Hardly any buses were coming through the gridlock in town, and the ones that did were all going elsewhere and were sardine-tinned up. So with a combination of walking and riding my scooter up the hill I got back up, with somewhat aching thighs (only to join the car based gridlock). It was just a tad more hard work going up the hill than down. On the way up there were a lot of people walking. Some may have been regular walkers, but most were probably stuck because of the lack of buses.

It occurs to me that a lot of Wellington isn’t that far from other places, and the terrain is a bit hilly, so large buses going hell for leather on narrow, hilly roads lined with parked cars isn’t perhaps the only way that public transport should be provisioned. And with all the walkers and good cycling then active transport could be assisted with improving a few key routes, proper signage, and the strategic placement of staircases, footpaths, cycle paths, and aerial gondolas.

Aerial gondola cabins big enough to take a wheelchair or a couple of bikes, which when overflying houses or flats, they can use smartglass to protect privacy.

One such place that I think would be a great place to put an aerial gondola is from the Freyberg Pool on Oriental Parade to near the summit of Mount Victoria. With a tower placed somewhere near the east side of the monastery a two station, one intermediary route could probably be found. The price to ride would be the same as a snapper fare on a bus, and not rip-off tourist prices as this is for transport, not just for tourism.

St Gerard's Monastery

St Gerard’s Monastery

The views would be pretty magnificent on the way up.

City from Mt Victoria

City from Mt Victoria

There are four reasons I can think of to have an Oriental Parade to Mt Vic aerial gondola:

One – for tourists to get to Mount Victoria, but that is probably the most boring reason.

Two – to support Mt Victoria, Roseneath and Hataitai locals getting around by foot, or with foldable kick scooters or by bike. They ride downhill from their homes to town in the morning, and then in the evening they ride in a gondola cabin to the summit, and then ride downhill to their homes.

Three – Mt Victoria has some mad mountain biking. Mountain bikers ride to the top on the gondola and then do their mountain biking back down.

Four – Alexandra Road leading south from the summit along the ridge line  is a very quiet road perfectly safe route for cycling. Heading south it is effortless.

Looking south down Alexandra Road

Looking south down Alexandra Road

Heading north it is a bit of a long grunt uphill.

Looking up Alexandra Road

Looking up Alexandra Road

And the views are pretty spectacular:

View to the airport
For southbound and eastbound bicycle commuters from town to Kilbirnie, Newtown, Lyall Bay, Melrose and the Miramar Peninsula  if there was the aerial gondola up the mountain and then they coast down Alexandra Road  then they’d save a few minutes getting home and be in a safer and more pleasant riding environment.

It also highlights the need to have Constable Street and Crawford Road as safe cycle routes.

Heading northwards most cyclists (apart from the fit ones) would probably take a different route, and then if that’s where you’re heading they’d probably ride the Palliser-Hawker-Majoribanks route rather than getting on the gondola.

Between reasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 it is probably reason enough to build it.

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3 responses

25 08 2013
Dirk

Great creative thinking well explained and supported by clearly illustrated benefits. Here in Christchurch government has not taken advantage of easy active transport opportunities as part of the rebuild. With your mayor you have a chance to accomplish real transport mode shift. Be quick to build the public support for this and push the opportunities to government. Compared to expanding streets for more cars this can save billions. Besides; as you observed after a quake active transport is the only reliable option. Good luck!

25 08 2013
Mark

The first question that came to my mind is how would a gondola cope on a windy Wellington day. But after having a look back at the Palmylink proposal, I read that they can cope with 90km/h.

25 08 2013
Matthew

Yes Mark, bicable or tricable systems are better in wind, and on the gales days all the cabins are detached and wait it out in a station.

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