The Low Hanging Fruit of the Kapiti Coast

14 10 2013

I had to go do something at Coastlands and it was a nice day for a ride so I thought I’d ride down and take some photos of the new bike lanes around Rimu Road. I started from Waikanae Beach and crossed the bridge to Otaihanga, which now a sign says it is ok for mopeds to use if they dismount. Well I can vouch mopeds use it, and they don’t dismount. (And yes I did this ride the day I wrote The small Engine Menace and what we can do about it. That’s just the way the universe works).

I rode through the newish subdivision and down Manly St to Paraparaumu Beach and got up on the shared path built by the Rotary Club leading south. My impression was that it is a nice walking path, but it’s a bit too narrow to be a shared path. It is impossible to ride more than a few metres before having to go around the clueless pedestrians and onto the grass. My advice here for cyclists is to ride on the road. It is a nice place to bring a kid on or just off their training wheels though.

It's not quite wide enough

It’s not quite wide enough to be a shared path.

Then I rode up the Wharemauku Tack up to Coastlands. The track was muddy and puddled in parts. There’s a newly landscaped and wetland section that finishes on Rimu Rd just opposite the bike shop.

Wharemauku Stream

Wharemauku Stream

The painted green lane on Rimu Road is discontinuous, but is painted green where there is likely to be conflict with vehicles)

Rimu Rd bike lane

Rimu Rd bike lane

The path isn’t necessarily that wide, and it feels like cyclists have been shoehorned into the gutter. But the important dotted yellow line meaning no parking is a great thing where it exists. At the intersection of Kapiti Road this is one place that would have benefited greatly from an advanced stop box. It is always heavy traffic on this part of Rimu Road and almost impossible to get out to the right lane.

Kapiti Ride (11)

The path west on Kapiti Road is similarly narrow and in the gutter. I suppose it is all better than no painted lane at all.

I swung back past the new aquatic centre and the library and got back onto the Wharemauku Stream Track. The bike stands at the aquatic centre are quite nice. I think a new bridge across the creek at the western end of the library would be a great thing.
Kapiti Ride (1)

I took the branch around the west side of the aerodrome. The track quality deteriorates, but it joins up to streets back in Paraparaumu Beach.

So here is what I think is low hanging fruit. All the Wharemauku Stream tracks and the tracks around the west side of the aerodrome should be paved and formed so they don’t suffer from puddles. (The land around the airport is owned by the airport, but they seem to be good corporate citizens in that they already allow access). Solar powered lighting could light the track for the first few hours of darkness each night. The benefit would be linking Raumati and Paraparaumu Beach to what effectively is the town centre, Coastlands and the train station. Yes it already does link it already, but improving it into a commuter class cycleway to me is a no-brainer. Why would anyone not want a community asset such as a high quality off road cycle track linking the villages?

SignModified2But of course there is a giant bloody motorway getting built. But here is a picture I knicked from the NZTA project website:

Looking East

Looking East

There is no reason that the Wharemauku path can’t be paved now. It is just going to go under the bridge, and the new path on the northside of the motorway is going to cross it. On the map above the motorway is shown in blue, and the red lines are bits of cyclepath.

Funny how they can spend billions on roads, but find it hard to fund even the most basic of cycle facilities. The paint is nice, (but not always) but it really seems to be more a sop to motorists rather than doing something for cyclists.

Other low hanging fruit of the Kapiti Coast – Paving the Waikanae River Paths (or at least one side of them) again to turn it into commuter standard cycleway and making a decent commuter cycleway across Queen Elizabeth Park.

Paraparaumu Beach cyclists

Paraparaumu Beach cyclists

 

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Some good election results for cycling

12 10 2013

There are some good results for cycling in the region with Celia Wade-Brown re-elected as Mayor in Wellington. This term is hopefully going to be more productive than the last since there are some fresh faces on council including new Greens councillors Sarah Free and David Lee. Well done to them all. Cr. Paul Bruce has been re-elected to the Greater Wellington Regional Council, again good news, and Sue Kedgley, another Green, has returned to politics joining Paul at the GWRC.

Congratulations to Celia, Sarah, David, Paul and Sue. Congrats to the other new councillors too. Now you’ve got some work to do.

With a Wellington council that, as I’m reading it is, a bit friendlier and more inline with Celia, and with more cycle spending approved by the outgoing council, then all those plans might find some traction. The new council may also be less inclined to be pushed around by the NZTA on Wellington roading projects. Hopefully with a change of the national government in 2014, with David Cunliffe as Prime Minister, we can apply the brakes to the craziest parts of the RoNS scheme.

Hopefully we’ll see work begin on the Kaiwharawhara to Petone waterfront cycle path and some kind of scheme for joining J’ville and Tawa as well as action on various cycle routes around the city.

Further afield pro-Transmission Gully Nick Leggett is back as Porirua Mayor. Ross Church is the new mayor of Kapiti, and Brendan Duffy is further entrenched in Horowhenua.

CongratsDuffy

On the whole, with some exceptions, steps in the right direction.





The small engine menace and what we can do about it

11 10 2013

This is a cross post with my other blog – Clean Air New Zealand.
The ideas in this post have been kicking around in my brain for a while, but the thing that is spurring me into action is this post at Crikey’s Urbanist Blog by Alan Davies “Can scooters make our cities work better?” That post talks about the Dutch experience of allowing light mopeds onto cycle paths and what Alan is calling Powered 2 Wheelers (P2W), which includes electrically and petrol assisted bikes and scooters.

At their lower speed end P2Ws are e-Bikes, or electrically assisted bicycles, as I’ve been riding for the last 4 years, and these tend to have the same characteristics as bicycles and happily coexist with other cyclists on cycle infrastructure.

At their higher speed end P2Ws are traditional mopeds and motorcycles which belong on the road with the cars and trucks.

And in the middle there is a plethora of products where it is not obvious where they belong. They don’t belong on cycle paths and they don’t belong on roads, as they are too slow to keep up with highway speeds. These include petrol driven motorcycles, petrol driven kick-scooters and petrol driven skateboards, electrically powered scooters (ie moped form, rather than kick-scooters) and electric motorcycles.

Preventing these becoming widespread is important

Preventing these becoming widespread is important

Why they don’t belong on cycle paths and shared paths is three things: speed, noise and fumes. Electric bicycles can go fast, but in NZ where they are limited to 250W there are plenty of normal bicyclists who ride faster than e-bikes. Fast bicycles have skinny tyres and fit, skinny riders. There are no fumes and only a slight motor hum from electric bicycles. The hum is generally so low it is easy to sneak up on ducks and pukekos without scaring them.

Conversely all those petrol-driven P2Ws just don’t belong on cycle and shared paths. The noise is annoying. It is unmuffled and high-pitched and in an environment where the other users are quiet, they piss with everyone else’s tranquility. Plus 2-stroke emissions are absolutely foul-smelling and foul-tasting, but more on that later. And whilst they may be too quick for cycle paths and shared paths with pedestrians they are generally too slow for general road traffic.  Vehicles that go 50 or 60km/hr don’t belong where people are walking and doing 15 or 30km/hr on a bike, and they don’t belong in 80 or 100 km/hr zones either. They need kind of a middle speed infrastructure. Some cities, such as Kuala Lumpur have got special scooter infrastructure where scooter lanes parallel the motorways. But there scooters are much more in use. I think for Australasian conditions building another parallel infrastructure would be be a waste of money and space, considering building the slow speed infrastructure (ie bicycle lanes) is really just in its infancy.

Instead the middle speed P2Ws should be discouraged from sale. The main reason to discourage their use and hence not need infrastructure for them is air quality. Cities that do have large moped, scooter and tuk-tuk use have very bad air quality. They have very bad air quality because of the emissions from 2-stroke engines. In Bangkok I suffered black snot and nose bleeds and after a few days a raspy cough.

I’ve noticed an uptake in 2-stoke scooters in Wellington and Palmerston North, the places where I hang out the most. When I am a pedestrian or cyclist I hate having a 2-stroke motorcycle or moped go past. I hear them, and yes the sound is annoying (very annoying to me, but some people claim to like it, so to each their own) but then I know I am going to be tasting the smoke, and it’s not only smoke, but a suspension of unburnt oil and petrol. The number and amount of carcinogens I’ll be unwillingly ingesting is quite high.

I do find normal motorcycles annoying as well. Trail bikes, because they’re two-strokes, but also the Harley style. With Harleys it is only the great bloody ruckus that comes out of them, but their engines seem to be cleaner (hint they’re not 2 strokes).

When on occasions 2-stroke engines are encountered on cycle paths they are definitely not welcome. I have been known to be belligerent and block the path to mopeds, telling them to “fuck off of the bike path”. There are a number of petrol powered kick scooters, petrol assisted bicycles out there that are getting used on bike paths, and they do not belong.

So that’s my opinion. If it is quiet, clean and slow enough to be on a bike path then good, and if it’s fast enough to be at highway speeds then good, go on the road. If it is in the middle then it’s no good.

Of course the vehicle emissions of highway users need to be regulated to meet air quality goals too. Diesels need to get cleaner, and 2-strokes need to get banned.

There goes the neighborhood

There goes the neighborhood

Why 2-stroke engines should be banned.

2-stroke engines are notoriously filthy. This is taken from How Stuff Works.

  • Two-stroke engines produce a lot of pollution — so much, in fact, that it is likely that you won’t see them around too much longer. The pollution comes from two sources. The first is the combustion of the oil. The oil makes all two-stroke engines smoky to some extent, and a badly worn two-stroke engine can emit huge clouds of oily smoke. The second reason is less obvious: Each time a new charge of air/fuel is loaded into the combustion chamber, part of it leaks out through the exhaust port. That’s why you see a sheen of oil around any two-stroke boat motor. The leaking hydrocarbons from the fresh fuel combined with the leaking oil is a real mess for the environment.

2-strokeSo what is in the emissions of 2-strokes:

  • unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) – about 30% of the fuel/oil mixture comes out of the exhaust unburnt, the petrol itself being a carcinogen, but also the other nasties found in petrol including benzene, which causes leukaemias
  • Carbon Monoxide  (CO)
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), which react with some of the unburnt hydrocarbons forming ozone (O3)

The volume of pollution is surprisingly quite high. Despite getting way better fuel economy than a car or a gas-guzzling SUV, scooters and motorcycles can pollute 90 times as much as a SUV.  (Think MotorCycles and Scooters are Great for the Environment? Wrong! , Motorcycles, scooters big polluters   , Motorcycles and emissions the surprising facts.)

Hypocrisy is a moped rider with a face mask

Hypocrisy is a moped rider with a face mask

What needs banning

To prevent their uptake and thereby protecting urban air quality I think all 2-stroke engines for transport vehicles should be banned. For petrol driven mopeds 4-stroke technology is cleaner. For dirt bikes and trail bikes (which probably should be controlled anyway and limited in sale to people who have the private land to ride them without annoying the neighbours. as illegal motorcycle riding is a problem in many places) again there are 4 stroke engines. For petrol assisted bicycles there are e-bikes. For petrol assisted skateboards and kick-scooters there are electric versions.

What about other uses of 2-strokes.

Many inland waterways regulation ban 2-stroke engines because of pollution concerns in freshwater. 4-stroke engines are a viable alternative.

For garden and power tools, such as lawn mowers then 4-strokes are viable alternatives, although lithium ion technology has grown up and is practical for many uses.

Firstly on lawn mowers. Choice Australia will no longer recommend 2-stroke lawnmowers because of the pollution and says “A four-stroke motor typically emits half the carbon monoxide and one-tenth the hydrocarbons that a two-stroke produces.” There is no need to sell 2-stroke lawn mowers at all.

Personally I maintain over an acre of gardens and have been progressively spending my pocket money on a certain brand of 18V Lithium Ion power tools. Ryobi, Makita, Bosch and Hitachi are some brands that have such systems of interchangeable batteries and tools.

Depending on the system there are 18V and 36V batteries of sizes generally in the 1.5 to 4 Amp hour range, and then there are power tools and gardening tools available. Makita does make a small bicycle that can use its batteries, but that is an exception. E-bike batteries tend to need to be a bit gruntier than these kinds of batteries.

I’ve been replacing some of my wood working tools and some of my garden tools with one of the systems. I had a petrol Line Trimmer/Whipper Snipper which was noisy and smelly and I have replaced it with an 18V line trimmer. It is so much quieter, not smelly, and also lighter to use. My wife couldn’t use the petrol one, and I couldn’t use it for too long without feeling tired, but the electric one is light and easy. I also replaced my hedge trimmer (ok I cut through the cord), and got  a reciprocating saw which is great for pruning, and for me has replaced a chainsaw. I also got a blower vac. I gave away another battery blower which had a lead acid battery which was heavy and had a 10 minute battery life. The new one with lithium ion batteries goes for half an hour. I find with 3 batteries I can have a session in the garden swapping them between the tools and recharging them as needed and I never have run out of battery power. The batteries charge in less than 90 minutes.

blowerkit

There are some tools I’ll never use outside my workshop, such as a mitre saw, so there are some tools where it still makes sense to buy with an electric cord, but I think of all the tools I have used in the garden there is nothing I would ever buy a petrol model of again (and certainly not a two-stroke). There is a chainsaw that Ryobi sells in Australia for it’s 18V ONE+ batteries, but it isn’t sold in New Zealand (slightly different safety laws I think). I do wish that the battery design was standardised between the manufacturers to give more choice amongst the tools. (Imagine how annoying it’d be if there weren’t standard AAA, AA, C, D and 9V battery sizes). I also do wish that there was a household vacuum cleaner that used the batteries as I could vacuum the whole house on one charge easily, and it’d get rid of the hassle of the cord.

Of all the power garden tools only perhaps chainsaws and lawnmowers still might be a legitimate use of a petrol engine. Then for light chainsawing battery chainsaws will be ok. (and if you want to whinge about cutting up the firewood, wood burners should be banned due to pollution concerns anyway). Chainsaws might be the one legitimate use of a 2-stroke engine, as they need to be wielded at many different angles, which 4-strokes aren’t really designed to do. Blower vacs (or lazy man’s brooms) definitely should be things other than 2-strokes. As I said my Li-Ion one works brilliantly.

Lawn-mowers as I have said above need not be 2-strokes, and going on my experience of the rest of my Li-Ion battery tools, when my 4-stroke one finally gives up (or I get sick of the noise and the fumes, 4-strokes pollute as well) then I am going to look at replacing it with a Li-Ion battery one. Then my 1 acre garden is going to have zero petrol inputs at all.

Apart from some very small niche markets, it is very feasible and very desirable to prohibit the sale (and soon after the use) of 2-stroke engines entirely. Prevention is the best cure, and good policy would be to make sure there isn’t a break out of 2-stroke engine sales that will reduce urban air quality and ruin cycle path amenity for the rest of us who don’t make such bad decisions.





Hawkes Bay Rides

2 10 2013

A few moons ago I did a little ride up Hawkes Bay way from Havelock North to Napier, and in the years since they’ve spent a bit of money and improved cycle infrastructure considerably. Hastings has made a considerable effort in improving on-road cycling around the town.

Here’s a map of most of the rides. Click for a full version:

HawkesBayMap

My lovely wife and I had an opportunity to spend a nice long weekend trying out the various cycleways. The waterfront path makes for some pretty magnificent riding.  It now stretches from Clifton to Bay View. Particularly enjoyable is the section from about the National Aquarium through to Westshore, where the path goes around the quays.

Riding to the Port

Riding to the Port

The seafront path also now continues up to Bay View. The path is a wide smooth concrete where two riders can easily ride two abreast and chat the whole way.

Battling the wind along Westshore

Battling the wind along Westshore

Another day we rode from Napier south along the shore to Awatoto and then headed up the stopbanks of the Tutaekuri and Ngaruroro rivers. Like the ride up the Tuki Tuki river many gates are encountered and the path is shared with cattle. The surface is a fine limestone artfully decorated with some fine manure.

Along the Tutaekuri River

Along the Tutaekuri River

Between the stopbanks the river was a bit flooded.

The Flooded Ngaruroro

The Flooded Ngaruroro

And it was a long way to Fernhill overlooking orchards. There was a bit of spraying and rubbish burning going on, so horticulture doesn’t always make for the best of neighbours, and the river reserves seem to attract the trail bike riders and dickheads burning campfires. Minor inconveniences aside it wasn’t that unpleasant.

Long trek along the stopbanks

Long trek along the stopbanks

When we got out to the wineries, they all seemed to be shut. They apparently start opening more regularly from  Labour Day weekend. The tracks around the wineries parallel the roads and are made from the same limestone gravel.

Other cyclists in the Gimblett Gravels

Other cyclists in the Gimblett Gravels wine district

A more interesting ride than riding out to the wineries is riding what is labelled the Water Ride. There’s two interesting sections. One on the south side of the Ahuriri Estuary and one north around the airport. Both can be started from the Westshore part of the coastal ride. One leaves the old embankment on the north side of the main outfall channel of the Ahuriri Estuary, and one on the south side.

The Water Ride disappearing under the Hawkes Bay Expressway

The Water Ride disappearing under the Hawkes Bay Expressway

For the ride out around the airport take the north side going under the railway and the expressway and then meandering around the lagoon on a limestone path. There are a few gates to open, and the animal of choice around here are sheep which makes for a much more pleasant manure. Saying that we did manage to get gently charged by a young bull who didn’t appreciate our presence.

Crossing the swampy land near the airport

Crossing the swampy land near the airport

There’s not much boardwalk,

A bit of boardwalk

A bit of boardwalk

and eventually the track makes it to the Whakamaharatanga walkway (another remnant of the NZ walkways) and then at Bay View ride back south on the coastal path.

The other part of the Water Ride goes around the southern edge of the lagoon. This little ride would appeal to birdwatchers. There’s a hide at one point, and quite a bit of bird life. It circles around to Prebensen Drive which has quite a nice bike path back towards Napier City, but it cuts out short of the city and throws you onto quite a heavily trafficked road, maybe not the best route for kids.

Closing yet another gate

Closing yet another gate

Collectively the cycle tracks of Hawkes Bay has some boring bits, and too many gates, but the waterfront path and the Water Ride are very pleasant. There’s enough variety to have a different ride everyday for almost a week. Over the last few years the Rotarians (who built a lot of them), the various councils and the National Cycleway funding have done a good job in getting the network built. There has been a focus, not only on recreational rides, but useful commuter paths, and every community should aspire to build a similar cycle path density. It’s worth stopping by for a few days.

The Zen of cycling taking on a profound cygnetficance

The Zen of cycling taking on a profound cygnetficance