How to wrap a child or an adult in cotton wool

8 09 2012

Yes it is true that the cotton price is currently dropping, but it is still so expensive to wrap a child in cotton wool. You can’t watch them all the time, but hell, they might climb a tree, play in some mud, pull the tail of a mean-arse dog, whack each other over the head with a stick (and yes it could take an eye out), or more likely in this day and age get run over by a reversing 4WD in a driveway.

Well now, thank goodness, there are Thudguards to keep the little buggers safe:

Thank the gods. She’s now safe from enjoying a dangerous childhood.

So instead of enjoying the rough and tumble of a traditional childhood, they can stay safe in their antiseptic rooms watching brain training DVDs whilst their parents are busy racing their older siblings from ballet class to soccer practice to liquor store in their 4WDs.

And whilst the funny hats may be a sad indictment of their parent’s poor ability to judge risk, and their potential guilt if something went wrong, I don’t think it is much different than the mandatory bicycle helmet law in New Zealand.

(My most fun childhood accident involving a bicycle involved stacking it into a rose bush as an 8 year old, and bugger the helmet, I should have been wearing an inch thick kevlar jacket and trousers.)

New Zealand adults lost the ability to make the decision for themselves as to whether, when riding a bike, to wear a helmet or not in 1994 because of the tragic story of Aaron Oaten and the driven crusade of his mum Rebecca.

Aaron was struck and thrown from his bike by a car on the Pioneer Highway in Palmerston North in 1986. His head hit the gutter and Aaron suffered terrible injuries and became a tetraplegic. He sadly died two years ago. His mother, who obviously loved him and I do not wish to belittle her or understimate her dedication, cared for him for all those years and campaigned relentlessly for mandatory helmets. I too probably was riding a bike to school that day in 1986, my first year of high school, and I would have been without a helmet, so yes it could have been me, or one of my friends in that position.

But making helmets mandatory because of that accident was an emotional response, and not necessarily a rational one.  It is the wrap them in cotton wool response.

Why picking bike helmets, and not cars as the target of her fury I don’t know. It was the car that threw him from the bike.

I don’t think the mandatory bike helmet law is an appropriate memorial to Aaron. A more fitting memorial would be the Pioneer Highway shared path for cyclists and pedestrians:

Real bike safety is under the wheels and not on the head.

and extending it south-west to Longburn and north-east of Botanic Road where it stops at the traffic lights:

There’s plenty of room on Main Street, Palmy to extend the cycleway

The 20th anniversary of the mandatory helmet law is coming soon. Judging by the empty bike racks at every school in the country it has utterly failed. It’s time to reexamine the law, and instead of using emotional arguments or relying on anecdotal evidence we need to ask questions and get scientific data about bicycle participation rates for children and adults, for head injury rates (reduced more by people not cycling at all than their helmets) and what adults really think about being wrapped in cotton wool to assuage the guilt of motorists. If it is true that real cycle safety is what’s under the wheels and not wearing an ice cream tub on your head, then why don’t we build quality Dutch style infrastructure for cyclists, and why don’t we slow down the cars, and get the drunk drivers permanently off the road? Mandatory bike helmets may have the unintended consequences, of not only reducing cycle participation rates and making bicycling seem more dangerous than it really is, but pretending to be a real solution for improving cyclist safety and therefore real safety improvements never get implemented.

It is a bit like all these curbs on smoking, a little bit more strict each time. It just wastes time, before we get to the point we really need to get to; a full ban on smoking in public.

Mandatory helmets on bicycles are the wrong answer. Let’s chuck out the law and start afresh, not ignoring the bull that is the biggest danger to cyclists are motor vehicles.


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.

Palmie Chic

24 11 2011

You may or may not be aware of the cycle chic movement – and here are some examples – such as Copenhagen Cycle Chic, or closer to home Auckland Cycle Chic.

Recently whilst dining with my lovely girlfriend in Palmerston North we watched a particularly impractical pair of high heels walk past the restaurant window with a lady precariously perched upon them, causing my better half to comment something Sex in the City like about “What are they wearing in New York?” and I answered that I don’t think it works that way. Rather I believe people in New York always are asking “What are they wearing in Palmerston North?”

So to answer that question here is a picture that gladdens my heart, taken today, with the zero-emission postal delivery service of Palmerston North and a fashionista in his gummies.

Long live Palmie chic.

The Bike Racks of Palmerston North

5 08 2011

One of these bike racks has landed near the Palmy i-Site.They’re all over the Wellington train network too. They must be cheap to install, but does anyone actually like this style of bike rack? Is this the kind of bike racks you get when you don’t ask cyclists what they would like?


I like the idea of the Parkiteer cages being installed around the Victorian rail network more.

This was spotted on the corner of George Street and Main Street West. Very nice.

Could the Capital Connection run 3 times a day?

7 05 2011

Auckland Trains has been discussing putting rail to Hamilton. It makes a whole lot of sense to have regular rail service between those cities, New Zealand’s biggest, and 4th biggest. The Capital Connection has been doing the same kind of service about the same distance and between smaller cities quite successfully since 1991.

Currently the Capital Connection runs only on weekdays from Palmerston North to Wellington in the morning and in reverse in the evening, but Palmerston North (pop. 75,000) is only 140km from Wellington (pop. 180,000) and it passes through Porirua, Kapiti and the Horowhenua (combined pop. 125,000). It however doesn’t stop at Porirua!!!!

Why does the Capital Connection not stop at Porirua? Even the Wikipedia entry on the Capital Connection shows the train in Porirua. I would use it more if I could get on or off in Porirua. There must be a few people living in Levin and Otaki who work in Porirua who would use the train, and I would hazard a guess maybe even some in Palmie. I’ll send a link to this post to Porirua Mayor, Nick Leggett to see if he agrees.

It is quite a comfortable train to ride on, even if I do have to ride into Wellington, or get off in Waikanae or Paraparaumu to change onto the local train that will stop in Porirua. Here’s a piccie of the train heading north as I was walking to Paekakariki one day.

The Overlander does the trip in reverse, but it is the Auckland to Wellington train and I don’t think Tranzscenic market it as a Palmie to Wellington train at all. It leaves Wellington in the morning at 7.25am, stopping in Levin at 9.05am and Palmerston North at 9.45am. It also will pickup passengers in Porirua and Paraparaumu on the way. In the evening it leaves Palmie at 5pm, arriving in Wellington at 7.25pm. Yet the fare is $31 for a super saver or $54 for a flexi fare. The Capital Connection is $24.50 or $19.80 on a ten trip and there are monthly passes to make it cheaper still.

So branding part of the Overlander trip as Capital Connection and maybe having one of the CC style carriages and charging the same fares (maybe with the scope of stopping additionally at Shannon, Otaki and Waikanae) then there is a second Capital Connection service. At the other end of the line that carriage can come into its own again and similarly provide a Hamilton to Auckland service. 2 birds with one stone, as it were.

And what does the morning Capital Connection train do all day when it is in Wellington? Nothing. It is just stabled. So why not drop the number of carriages by a few, and then make a return run to Palmie and back.Suddenly there are now 3 services in each direction between Wellington and Palmerston North.

A summary timetable would approximately be:

Palmerston North  6.15am  1.00pm  5.00pm  
Shannon           6.38am  1.23pm  5.23pm       
Levin             6.53am  1.38pm  5.40pm
Otaki             7.13am  1.58pm  6.00pm
Waikanae          7.25am  2.10pm  6.12pm
Paraparaumu       7.32am  2.17pm  6.17pm
Porirua           8.03am  2.48pm  7.00pm
Wellington        8.20am  3.05pm  7.25pm

Wellington        7.25am  10.00am  5.15pm  
Porirua           7.42am  10.17am  5.32pm
Paraparaumu       8.20am  10.55am  6.03pm
Waikanae          8.27am  11.02am  6.10pm
Otaki             8.42am  11.17am  6.22pm
Levin             9.05am  11.37am  6.42pm   
Shannon           9.20am  11.52am  6.57pm
Palmerston North  9.45am  12.13pm  7.20pm

All done without any extra infrastructure, or any extra rolling stock, except for maybe an extra carriage on the Overlander. So a thrice daily service for the price of some extra staff, and some diesel.

Apparently back in 1994 extra middle of the day services were tried but were withdrawn because they weren’t being well patronised. It could be different with a 3rd service and it all being well marketed. The midday service to Wellington allows 2 hours and 10 minutes for shopping and running errands. It’d be tempting to ride the train and not drive into Wellington (or more likely not make the trip at all) if you were living in Otaki or Levin.

Did I mention it should stop at Porirua?

Oh and Levin’s plan to build a new station closer to Queen Street could then be well justified.

Bad news out of Palmie

2 09 2010

It seems Palmylink is on the political backburner and may not be going ahead. 😦 Palmylink was the idea of linking the Square with Massey University’s Turitea Campus by aerial gondola along Fitzherbert Ave and across the Manawatu in Palmerston North.

It seemed to me like such a great idea. It would replace smelly diesel bus services with a silent cableway powered by the windfarms on the hills above the town, freeing up road capacity on Fitzherbert Ave, and pushing back the date when more capacity on bridges across the Manawatu will actually be needed.

With Palmylink joining the main campus with the Square and then being extended to the railway station, and increasing the Capital Connection from one train a day each way to 6, and extending the train service to Feilding along with a continuation of the Palmie City Council’s policies of provisioning quality cycling infrastructure, Palmie could start selling itself as a sustainable city.

C’mon Palmie Councillors be a little bit brave. Adopt cable technologies for urban transport and integrate it with bicycle (and bikeshare?) infrastructure and the Capital Connection and then show yourself off to the world.

A cycle ferry across the Manawatu?

22 05 2010

Back in January I went on a nice ride between Shannon and Foxton, and wrote about it on my blog as the Heart of Horowhenua which I also mulled cycle routes between Foxton, Shannon, Levin and Palmerston North. I came up with a plan that crossed the Manawatu River north of Koputaroa. A bridge over a big river is big expense, and unlikely to every get built, but I’ve nicked this picture which is mentioned in the comments of this story on the Fietsberaad website.

It is across a canal between Brugge and Dramme, in Belgium.

This makes a route that takes the back roads through the Horowhenua and Manawatu linking Levin and Palmerston North much cheaper. It can use the backroads, and the levee banks of the river and the Mutaroa Floodway. At the river crossings there is one of these little ferries, which need no staff. There are just 3 wheels to turn, one on each side to get the ferry back when it is on the opposite side, and one on the ferry itself. Lighting could be solar lighting, so they could be used at night, and suddenly there are safe and pleasant, commuter and travel routes through Horowhenua and the Manawatu. They might even breathe a bit of economic life into the region if Wellingtonians and Palmerstonians ventured out for the day or the weekend.

Prime Minister Key’s vision for the national cycleway may have stalled (although, in fairness, there is funding for three of the chosen routes in this years budget, so it’s not completely stalled) but some of us still have the dream of a real signposted national cycleway from Cape Reinga to Bluff.