International Take a Sickie and Ride Your Bike Day

7 09 2013

Historically many cities have Ride a Bike to Work Days. Wellington has had them before (and is having another one in February I think). Washington DC too. They are generally good fun, and you might get a good breakfast, meetup with a few thousand other cyclists and still get to work on time. For the go-getters who can organise getting out of bed in time and making sure their bicycle is roadworthy for the occasion they are brilliant. But what about for us slackers? I have taken up the challenge for us all. Here is a new event, completely disorganised, without any set plans. The date is even flexible, but on October 25th this year, which in Taiwan is a public holiday, so on November 1st for them, or any other day that you don’t feel like going to work, celebrate:

TakeASickieDay

Simply wake up on the morning of Friday October 25th, call in sick to work, and then have a bit of a sleep in, before getting up late, and going for a ride on your bike.

Sick days are sometimes called mental health days, and what is better for your mental health than riding your bike and getting that wind in your hair feeling?

Feel free to share to all your slacker friends.





Is the Conservation Minister smarter than the average bear?

17 03 2013

Is the recently rehabilitated, formerly disgraced, Conservation Minister, Nick Smith,  smarter than the average bear when it comes to making the right decisions about not messing up Fiordland with crazy Disneyfication get rich quick schemes?

We think the best way to help him come to the right decision is set him in down in front on a kids’ film, the filmed in New Zealand, Yogi Bear. (It got hammered by critics, but my better half and I, close to our 40ths, loved it.)

yogibearbluray

It comes with a great message, made so simple, even a National Party MP could understand it (we hope).

The story goes like this:

Mayor Brown, who has wasted too much of the city’s money on trivial things (being analogous to National’s spending on the Roads of National Significance boondoggle no doubt) needs to turn his deficit into a surplus and decides to monetise Jellystone Park by selling it to logging companies. Yogi, Boo Boo and all their fellow forest creatures are going to be out of a home, and instead of perpetually stealing pic-a-nic baskets, they have to cooperate with Ranger Smith and love interest/biology researcher Rachel to save the park. There are the predictable scenes of rafting over a waterfall, and waterskiing bears and Mayor Brown is shown as the on-the-take, shallow, nature hater that he really is, when he gets his comeuppance and Jellystone Park is saved.

This year the Minister is going to make a decision on whether either or both of the schemes to violate Fiordland are going to be given concessions. There is understandably a bit of a local backlash about the proposals, ie see Save Fiordland’s website.

Firstly there is the Milford Dart Tunnel which proposes to build a tunnel for buses with an eastern portal near the Routeburn Shelter and a western portal just north of Gunn’s Camp on the Hollyford Road. Tourists can then rush from Queenstown via the road to Glenorchy, over the little bridges over the Rees and Dart rivers, through the tunnel, to the Hollyford and then on the existing Hollyford Road, through the Homer Tunnel, and into Milford Sound, instead of going the long way round through Mossburn and Te Anau.

Secondly there is the plan to build a monorail from the Kiwi Burn through the Snowdon Forest to Te Anau Downs. With this tourists would be able to rush from Queenstown to Milford via a boat across Lake Wakatipu, then an “all terrain vehicle” (oh gosh) on the Mt Nicholas Road to KiwiBurn and then catch a monorail to Te Anau Downs where presumably they can get on pogo sticks to go through the Eglington Valley to the Homer Tunnel and down to the Sound.

Both of these would mean granting significant commercial concessions to build intrusive infrastructure in Te Wahipounamu/Fiordland World Heritage Area that would have big effects on scenery and recreational users to save tourists a few hours on an exhausting day trip bus ride. They would both significantly reduce the mana of the parks.

Here’s a suggestion for any tourists coming to Fiordland and are in Queenstown and want to visit Milford Sound. Don’t do it as a day trip. It is a long way to go, and there are many beautiful things to see on the way. There are world class walking tracks and the scenery is fantastic. Fiordland is worth more than one day of your life.

On paper the Milford Dart Tunnel would appear to not have much impact you might think, but the roads and bridges between Glenorchy and the eastern portal will all need to be upgraded for the large number of buses using the tunnel. (There would also be political pressure to open up the tunnel to trucks and cars once it was built).

The Lower Dart. What this valley needs is lots of diesel pollution.

The Lower Dart. What this valley needs is lots of diesel pollution.

Most of the Routeburn track walkers won’t notice the buses in the tunnels underneath (and the people in the buses would be looking into blackness when above they could be hiking in a lovely beech forest up to the Harris Saddle). A hundred diesel belchers going past the start of the walk to Lake Sylvan are going to mess with the ambience of what would have to be one of the nicest short walks in the world.

The beech forest en route to Lake Sylvan.

The beech forest en route to Lake Sylvan.

A short walk to a peaceful oasis of serenity, Lake Sylvan.

Peaceful Lake Sylvan

Peaceful Lake Sylvan.

At the western end of the tunnel the Hollyford Road will have to be widened and upgraded to take the extra bus traffic. The Hollyford Road near the start of the Lake Marian track is narrow and steep and in pristine forest. They’ll have to cut down a lot of trees to accomplish this. On the Hollyford Road past the turnoff  the traffic will thin, and only be there to provide access to the Hollyford Track. It’s a good thing the tourist buses will rush past giving no-one the opportunity to see such a magnificent river as the Hollyford.

The Hollyford River.

The Hollyford River.

I had a hike once in the Snowdon Forest.  I walked in from the Mavora Lakes and in from the KiwiBurn. I’m pretty much of the opinion that this part of the World Heritage Area should be incorporated into a National Park and better protected.

Walking around the South Mavora I was pretty much of the opinion that the 4WD access should be shutdown, because they had churned up the fragile soils in the beech forest into mudpools. DOC, if you’ve got any staff left, you should look into that.

Potholed and hillocked - 4WDs fucked up the South Mavora Lake.

Potholed and hillocked – 4WDs have fucked up the South Mavora Lake.

The Kiwi Burn area itself is beautiful with flat walking following the Mararoa River through the forest.

Bridge over the Mararoa River, near KiwiBurn.

Bridge over the Mararoa River, near Kiwi Burn.

Would this look better with a monorail?

En route to the Whitestone.

En route to the Whitestone Valley.

If tourists want Disneyland then I suggest going to Anaheim, Lille, Orlando or Hong Kong. If they want to see a beautiful corner of the world (except for the bloody sandflies) then I suggest they do it on foot, or take more than a day to do it by the existing road. These projects are unnecessary. They will despoil a beautiful and unique part of the world. They will commoditise, monetise and Disney-afy a part of the natural world. They will allow a couple of companies to generate wealth for themselves, whilst detracting from the common good that is owned not only by every New Zealander, but by everyone on planet Earth.

Can Nick Smith make the right decision? Is he smarter than the average bear?

Save Jellystone. Save Fiordland.

Save Jellystone. Save Fiordland.





Macau Chic

9 03 2013

Just back from presumably sunny Macau (presumably sunny because the sun, if it was there, was hidden behind the pollution haze for my whole trip). Macau is a mecca for Chinese gamblers and it’s glitzy (and a bit gungy) “glamour” has not entirely eclipsed the faded Portuguese colonial air.

Macau

It’s not a cycling city, and only a very few do. It is also a city not too kind to its pedestrians with numerous street level pedestrian crossings where the buses, cars and scooters don’t stop, and on the busier roads, underground passages or pedestrian overpasses which curiously seem to cause rather than reduce any inconvenience. Mostly it is a cacophony of 2-stroke scooters (a very big reason why the sky is grey and rarely blue). With all the buses waiting to ferry casino customers to and from the ferry terminals and the border posts spend their whole time idling belching diesel, the ever present stench of Chinese cigarettes and the aforementioned 2-strokes it doesn’t really add up to a place I’m going to think is very enjoyable, but Macau does have its charms. Mostly they are the variety of good restaurants, and there are a couple of pleasant neighbourhoods to hang out in, where there is a lot less vehicle traffic, Taipa Village being one of them. So the guests of the world’s biggest casino, the Venetian in Cotai, can get to the village without breaking a sweat there is a moving pedestrian walkway between the fantastically named street, Estrada Baia de Nossa Senhora de Esperanca, and the lake. If you always thought these would be  a good idea since you saw them in the Jetsons as a kid, you’ll be disappointed. You can walk faster than they go.

Pedestrian Walkway in Taipa

My favourite picture that I took in Macau was this one, where I asked a man if I could take a picture with him and his bike, a classic Chinese single gear situp with some of the tools of his cleaning trade:

Man's pride and joy in Macau





Cyclists advised to wear clown suits and flashing neon glitter hotpants

21 02 2013

With a recent coroner’s report into the 2008 death of a cyclist at the Petone roundabout there have been his and others’ calls for cyclists to wear hi-viz clothing. It’s a very strange call considering he could have advised to invest in safe separated cycle infrastructure instead, and especially strange when considering the victim, Stephen Fitzgerald, was already wearing hi-viz clothing when he was struck and killed by the truck.

The coroner has also called on motorists to give cyclists a metre of space when they pass. Someone should tell the coroner we ask for at least 1.5 metres, so he is calling on motorists to come closer and scare us even more.

Now the NZ Association of Optometrists has chimed in with their advice for cyclists to put biomotion reflector markings on their knees and elbows, presuamably so we can look more like crash test dummies, so it helps the ambulance officers to find us in the dark or something.

My first reaction to all this is to think that like the mandatory helmet laws this is really a reflection of the relative political power of motorists versus cyclists. Motorists hate cyclists because we’re not caught in traffic as much as them, and we glide past on the inside, and sometimes they even have to slow down and give way to cyclists. If it really was all about road safety then speed limits for cars would be cut, and motorists would have to wear helmets too. But why address the real problem of too many cars going too fast with poorly trained and inattentive drivers on poorly designed roads, when you can just score an easy political point against cyclists and mandate another condition pretending it is for their own good? Mandatory hi-viz clothing in the middle of a sunny day on a cycle path, the Waterfront, or even the Hutt Rd shamozzle does absolutely nothing to increase the real safety of cyclists. It just tells the general public that cycling is more dangerous than it really is, and participation rates are going to fall, as cycling becomes even more denormalised in New Zealand. The rest of the world is going the other way and is promoting cycling and building safe infrastructure. New Zealand is once again cack-handed and backwards, behind the times and a bit of a laughing stock.

So if hi-viz,  helmets and biomotion reflector markings are a sop to motorist’s guilty conscience or more a way to try to put us in our place, then what other suggestions could we make for them to drive us further into a fringe activity?

How about some colourful clown clothes and a big red nose:

clownimage

Or perhaps we should all wear hot pink sequined hotpants (I believe they sell them and neck ties to match  in Men’s sizes at Munns on Willis Street:

hotpants

Feather boas could also be worn, but be warned; they’re scratchy.

boa

Maybe what is really needed is some kiwi ingenuity and Wellington cyclists should team up with the Wearable Arts people and they can all make us great costumes that will make us standout so that we don’t get run over by trucks anymore:

kiwifruit

Really I think we need to dress the streets up, rather than ourselves. Something like this on Hornby St, Vancouver will do:

Hornby

Here are three suggestions:

– when making cycling policy ask cyclists what they want.

– when planning for transportation infrastructure ask cyclists what they need.

– really, really, really don’t go the hotpants.





They breed them especially bright in Auckland

7 10 2012

This morning on the Herald’s website was a story about a code of ethics for cyclists on Tamaki Drive – Cyclists soothe road fury. In the story the Herald’s hack, Joanne Carroll,  interviewed some motorists for their opinions on cyclists. Notable amongst them was one Peter Dee who said this:

“You will find people are either for them or against them and I’m against them. I’m a believer in size matters. I don’t believe they have the right to be on the road at all. I’m all for cycle lanes but I’m also for user pays. They say you have to give them 1.5m, but on Tamaki Drive that’s impossible. If they want to cycle go to a velodrome.”

Now Joanne may have had to look hard for an anti-cycling nutter, but I am assuming she just looked for a random man staggering out of a pub at 2am and interviewed whoever she came across.

Now we have lampooned anti-cyclist nutters before on this blog – such as this man:

Common to gorillas, chimpanzees and spin bowlers the sideways tongue signifies a primitive primate deep in thought.

But I’m not about to lampoon Auckland genius Peter Dee. No, not at all. In fact his suggestion that all cyclists should only ride at a velodrome has a lot of merit.

So from January 1 2013  all cars on New Zealand roads are not to be driven on New Zealand roads, but at Manfeild instead.

Manfeild, the bit of Feilding where you play brumm-brumms.

Without any cars parking, driving, or dooring cyclists on Tamaki Drive, along with every other road in New Zealand, cyclists can finally escape the confines of their velodromes and start using the road network as if they really do own the roads, rather than just being one of the types of legitimate road users.

There is really no excuse for any road user not to be looking out to the safety of every other road user, and if you think cyclists don’t belong on a road, like Peter Dee of Auckland, then really you have no business being on the road yourself.

Slow down, and if you can’t give them 1.5m clearance then bloody well wait patiently and only pass when safe.





This one’s doing the rounds

19 09 2012

Whilst Kiwi motorists are getting excited because the fluctuations in the Kiwi peso mean that petrol has dropped 2 centavos at the pump today it’s time to get a reality update:

No it’s not real, it’s been Gimped. franz-joseph.at isn’t a petrol company. It’s a blog (satirical I think, but my German isn’t that good). Franz Josef is also a town in south Westland and a glacier, and a dead Austrian dude.

May your vehicle of choice be lentil powered, Weet-Bix powered, lovingly baked peanut cookie powered or whatever. Whatever it is it’ll be cheaper and healthier than $2.149 a litre.





Parallel freeway system proposed for Melbourne

21 01 2012

Australian cricketer Shane Warne has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons – he was impatient when his new model Mercedes couldn’t get past a cyclist so he tried to pass anyway clipping the cyclists back wheel and breaking the poor guy’s bike.

Warnie does like getting them round the back of their legs, but what looks good on a cricket pitch is just nasty on a public road.

In an amazing blame-the-victim rant Warnie said:

“I think what disappoints a lot of people is the attitude of the bike rider. They don’t own the road”

“My main concern is the attitude of the bike riders. Just respect everyone on the road.”

“Can we please have registration plates on bikes so we can report them if they’re doing something wrong?”

Well the cyclist didn’t exactly hide from anyone when he went to the police station to report Warnie’s actions. So the registration plate call would have been moot in this instance.

Warne also suggested cyclists should be forced to ride single file and not two abreast.

The reader comments on the news reports (they were bad on the ABC, but on the Murdoch rags they were beyond stupid) backed Warne’s calls for bicycle registration, threw in compulsory bicycle licensing, a ban on lycra and just who do these hoity-toighty cyclists think they are going on roads, when don’t they know that roads are for cars? i.e. every stupid wanker in Australia had a say.

Well obviously some motorists do prove that cars and bike don’t mix, but instead of the obvious and banning disrespectful, dangerous drivers, why don’t we indulge their every whim and spend all our treasure to build more motorways? So dear State of Victoria, please do what New Zealand is doing with its Roads of National Significance programme and indulge these selfish people. Please build Shane Warne a motorway system of his own, so he doesn’t have to share with other motorists, or by Toutatis, a cyclist.

A parallel system of freeways for the exclusive use of Shane Warne

The motorways are for the exclusive use of Shane Warne in his Mercedes (the one with one silhouette of a bicycle on it). Cyclists are definitely not allowed. Emergency services also are not allowed to use the roads, but with Warnie on his own system there should be less call-outs for them to attend anyway.

There would be a direct link between Shane’s garage and the motorways and there would be off-ramps for the Melbourne Cricket Ground and for businesses that Shane might want to use. There’d be off-ramps for burger drive-thrus, tobacconists, chemists for his diet pills, and his favourite hair restoration studio. He’d also have access to his favourite Indian restaurant where they keep baked beans in tomato sauce on the menu just for him.

It will cost the State of Victoria approximately A$18 billion dollars, but what price safety? We have indulged Shane’s every whim since he was in high school when it was found he could turn a cricket ball better than anyone else. He hasn’t ever had to work an honest day’s work in his whole life, and why should he have to start now?

Let’s do it for Shane. He’s an Australian legend.