I’m often asked “how far can you go on your eBike?” It’s a natural question, but an electric assist bike is exactly that: the electric motor is assisting you, so the performance depends on both you and the bike, as well as factors like hills and wind. Any claims that “this bike has a range of x” should be taken with a sack of salt. I’ve made 107km on a single charge, and run out of power at 35km.
Do you want maximum range or maximum performance? Around town, where you might only be doing 30 km in a day, you might as well turn up the power level, and enjoy being able to zip up hills, and mixing with multilane motor traffic. But if you’re going for maximum range, for example if you’re going cycle touring, here’s some advice:
Charge your battery fully. You’ll get the maximum charge if the battery is warmer than 15 degrees, so in winter charge the battery indoors rather than a cold garage.
Choose a low power setting (or even turn the power off).
When you need power for a hill or wind, increase the power setting. Systems with a convenient thumb control are good for this.
If your bike has a throttle, you can use this to increase the power when needed, leaving the power level low. But if you over-use the throttle, particularly on high power settings, you’ll eat into the battery charge (and also get OOS in the finger holding the throttle down).
When touring, I often have a target speed in mind, say 15km/hr. I wait until my speed drops below the target before I increase the power level or use the throttle.
Check your tyre pressure – high pressure is more efficient.
Use your gears efficiently. It’s tempting not to bother with gears when the motor takes up the slack, but that can mean you’re using the motor rather than your legs. If you’ve got a crank (mid-drive) motor, it’ll be happiest if you’re pedaling at about 60 rpm, which is also the most efficient for your legs.
Air resistance goes up as the square of speed, so don’t go faster than you need to, unless you’re coasting down hill.
If you’re with other riders and familiar with the technique, use drafting to save energy
Consider carrying your charger (and the key to remove your battery) so you can partially recharge (yourself and the battery) at a cafe. It’s polite to ask before plugging in, even though you’ll only be using a few cents worth of power. We may see more charging points in public places like the one at Zealandia.
Purchase a larger capacity battery – this is expensive, but the retailer might be prepared to do a swap when you first buy the bike.
Take hills into account when planning a route. For me and my bike, about 700m of climbing is the maximum on a charge. Google will tell you the total height gain for a route – which might be different from the maximum height reached.
If the worst comes to the worst, you can always pedal an eBike after you’ve run out of battery. It’ll be a bit heavier than a regular bike, but a lot easier than trying to push a Tesla!
A risk that people on bikes encounter every day is SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You). SMIDSY is particularly prevalent on the Hutt Road shared path, usually in the form of a tradie charging out of Placemakers, concentrating their next job rather than the oncoming bike.
Fulton Hogan are keen to address the SMIDSY problem. What’s that, you say? Aren’t Fulton Hogan the people who drive large scale machinery around the countryside with little regard for anything smaller than a 4WD ute? Well, as it happens, they’re quite keen on people on bikes. Managing Director Nick Miller rolled up to CAN Do 2017 (which Fulton Hogan helped to sponsor) and told us about some of the cycling projects they’re involved in, such as the Onehunga Foreshore Bridge, which includes a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. They’re experimenting with fitting a 360 degree camera and side rails to their trucks to help prevent the risk of cyclists going under the vehicle.
To address the SMIDSY problem, Fulton Hogan have teamed up with a Dutch company, Heijmans, who have developed Bikescout, a radar system that detects bicycles and vehicles, and activates LED indicators in the road surface to alert drivers. It’s being trialled on one of the exits from the Caltex station on Hutt Road, so I went along to have a look. At first sight, there isn’t a lot to see.
There’s a tall pole with a couple of small radar detectors on top, and across the entrance, a row of LED lights in solid metal housings, looking like crabs with glowing eyes. But the lights seem to flash brightly and consistently whenever a bike (or a pedestrian) came along the path. In the short time available, I wasn’t sure how far driver behaviour was affected, but I presume that’s part of the evaluation of the trial. The lights would be even more effective in low light conditions, which is when they’re needed. I did wonder whether SMIDSY might become “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You because I was looking at the flashing lights”, but if the lights are arranged properly, the message should be clear.
If the trial is successful, the system might be used in many SMIDSY-prone locations. A possible application might be in Wellington’s notoriously narrow Seatoun and Karori tunnels, where Bike Scout could activate lights to indicate the presence of bikes and the fact that they will be occupying the lane.
Roads and streets evolved for walkers and horses, then bicycles, then cars. But cars changed how we use road space. Walkers, horses and bicycles generally leave the road at the end of the journey. Cars needed to be parked. See how Cuba Street changed between 1910 and 1930
In 1910, one new fangled car is parked on the street, and the rest of the road space is available for traffic. By 1930, up to 20% of the roadspace is taken up by parked cars.
How does this relate to cycling? Virtually all cycling projects affect parking. To improve the Hutt Road shared path it will be necessary to reduce the (technically illegal) parking. In constructing the Island Bay Cycleway, some parking had to be removed to allow good visibility for residents entering driveways.
On street parking is expensive. A US report calculates that land, construction and maintenance can cost US$1000-3000 per year for a parking space. In addition, there are environmental costs – parked cars don’t enhance the feel of a city – and opportunity costs – if car parking prevents us from building a bike lane, the parking has cost us the health, social, and sustainability benefits the bike lane would have engendered.
But most on street parking is free, meaning that ratepayers subsidise people who store their cars on the street. This encourages decisions that are not good for the city as a whole. People buy a second or third car for their household, without having to factor in the cost of storage. The more cars you have access to, the more you drive, the greater the carbon emissions you produce, and the more congestion you create. People buy cars even though they are living in a house without off street parking, since ratepayers will subsidise their car storage.
There are people who say “I NEED to park my car on the street”. This may be true. However subsidised parking means that many people park their car on the street because their off street parking is being used for other purposes. A survey of a Mount Cook street found that 80% of garages were being used to store things other than cars. Some people park on the street simply to avoid the hassle of backing out of a driveway!
WCC’s Cycling Framework states that “The movement of traffic will take priority over on-street parking” and the Parking Policy says that “Street space is a scarce resource and priority for use for parking needs to be considered against other uses”.
Dealing with parking when planning roading projects should be simple. We decide how much space is required for traffic: buses, pedestrians, bikes, and cars. If there’s space left over, we can consider using this for parking.
A new approach to parking is not necessarily a bad thing for people who need to drive cars. Removing car parks enables traffic to move more efficiently, as an Australian motoring organisation acknowledges. Removing parking doesn’t have to mean that drivers can’t park. Donald Shoup, an expert on parking policy, points out that pricing can be used to ensure that at least 15% of parking spaces on a block are available. If the free space is less than that, we increase the price, allowing people to decide if they really need to park their car, or whether they’d be better to use another travel mode. CBD carparks now have sensors that detect whether a car is present. We could allow free or cheap parking until the 15% limit is reached, then increase the charge to free up parking spaces again. This technique of “demand responsive parking” has been successfully trialed in San Francisco.
Changing subsidised parking is politically difficult. But we need to talk about parking, and change the conversation from “how can we save the parking spaces” to “is subsidised parking a good use of this road space?” That will help us achieve a livable city and sustainable transport.
I recently spent three weeks in Japan, chasing cherry blossom (Sakura) on a Japan Rail Pass. But I also tried out cycling; renting and borrowing bikes in several towns and cities. What did I find out, and are there lessons for cycling in Wellington?
As in other parts of the world, electric assist bikes (eBikes) are ubiquitous in Japan. eBikes comprise 53% of Japan’s bicycle production, although there are indications that the growth is flattening. Most have a Panasonic motor system, that I haven’t seen in NZ: crank drive, with a relatively compact battery.
Standard family transport is an electric assist cargo bike, with child carriers front and rear. At a suburban rail station, I saw a family roll up: Dad pedaling, Mum perched behind, and child in a seat. Dad jumped off and ran for the train, while Mum took over pedaling to drop the kid off at daycare.
I’m still not sure how Japanese eBike users charge their bikes. Many bikes are left on the streets overnight, but they seem to be left with batteries on, and not connected to a charger. Maybe they have two batteries and rotate them around.
Whenever footpath cycling is mentioned, it’s stated “that’s what they do in Japan”. Well, yes and no. Footpath cycling is illegal in Japan unless signs specifically allow it. However in the 1970’s oil crisis, it seems that police made a policy decision not to prosecute footpath cycling. In 2011 the Police said they would encourage people between 13 and 70 to ride on the road rather than the footpath, but it still seems that people of all ages cycle on the footpath, including the police themselves.
According to a paper presented at VeloCity 2014, Japanese authorities are concerned about the risks of footpath cycling, particularly to the increasing numbers of elderly pedestrians. So they are creating more cycle paths and designated shared paths, and encouraging cyclists to use them. I saw signs of this investment. One example was Yamaguchi, a provincial capital about the same size as Wellington, where major intersections had underpasses for cyclists and pedestrians – just what Wellington needs on Cobham Drive.
Does the Japanese footpath cycling regime work? As an (elderly!) pedestrian I had a couple of times that a cyclist whooshed past in a way that startled me, but I didn’t see any crashes. When I did cycle, it was often very useful to use footpaths as an alternative the busy multilane city streets.
However, Japanese cycling style is very different from NZ. Very few footpath cyclists look like they’re training for the Tour de France – typically they’re Lycra-free leisurely commuters. Although Japanese will ignore laws, such as the one that prohibits riding with an umbrella, there’s a very strong ethos of obeying custom. Japanese pedestrians, cyclists and drivers will never go through a red light, even if there are no other vehicles around. And traffic light sequences are long – while you’ve got a lot of time to amble across a pedestrian crossing, you might have to wait several minutes for your phase to come up. Another reason footpath cycling works is that Japanese streets generally don’t have a lot of vehicle entrances, unlike NZ where every house has a driveway and the risk of a motor vehicle crossing the footpath.
We need to be careful about translating the Japanese experience of footpath cycling to the NZ environment.
Whenever we used bikes, we were warned to be careful where we parked them. Areas around businesses often have signs prohibiting bike parking. Bikes are frequently removed, and there’s a substantial cost to recover them. At the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto the only legal bike parking cost $3 and was half a kilometer from the temple.
Railway stations had huge bike parks – I suspect a hazard is failing to find your bike when you return!
Bikes on public transport
Given the ubiquity of both public transport and cycling, I was surprised that there doesn’t seem to be more use of bikes on public transport. At the weekend, we saw a number of recreational cyclists at Tokyo station with touring bikes packed in bags, heading off for a ride – an hours ride on a Shinkansen high speed train can put you hundreds of kilometers from the metropolis.
It seems you can take a bike on a train if it is “Rinko”ed – bagged with wheels removed. You can also get pedals that pop off, making the Rinko process easier. Mini Velos, bikes with small wheels but standard frames, are common in Japan, I think because they’re easier to store and transport.
Public bike hire
Many places have some sort of public bike hire, and they seemed to be well used. There’s generally some instructions in English.
We used one in Kanazawa that worked well (after a bit of geographic confusion that had us riding north from the railway station rather than south). After registering at the automatic machine we punched in a code to unlock our bikes, which we dropped at a rack close to the Castle. After walking around we picked up bikes from another rack, and rode back to the station.
Takamatsu had a slightly bureaucratic system where we needed our passports, and the requirement to give an address was a bit awkward as our accommodation that night was on Japan’s one remaining train sleeper service. But once we’d got our registration cards a helpful attendant set up our bikes and guided us to a natty bike escalator that took us up to street level.
It’s also fairly easy to rent bikes, generally near railway stations. There are outfits running bike tours – we did a half day with Tokyo Miracle Cycling Tour which took us around alleyways and gardens in central Tokyo, avoiding the worst of the multilane highways. Kyoto Cycle Touring Project rented us bikes and sold us a map that helped navigate the city, using the cycle path along the Kamogawa River, and the sakura lined Philosopher’s Path. Our hotel in Yamaguchi had a fleet of complimentary bikes in the foyer for guests.
What can we learn from Japan about cycling?
Japan shows us that you can have a very high mode share of cycling (20% in Tokyo), with everyday cycling dominating over lycra. It also shows that eBikes and public bike schemes have the capacity to be successful. But we also saw the results of the pressure – the need for large scale bike parking, and a bit less freedom to park where you want. Footpath cycling is a mixed blessing – even the well behaved Japanese cycling population includes the odd larrikin. However the sensible Japanese response seems to be to build more cycle paths, rather than force bikes onto the road. Perhaps that should be our priority rather than worrying too much about footpath cycling.
A well attended meeting with good discussions. Here’s the highlight
Alastair Smith has been nominated for an Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Award! Well deserved as Alastair has been a long time calm & collected champion for our cause.
AGM to be held next meeting, 6 June.
The first CAW meeting for Catarina who has just come down from Christchurch where she was the Bicycle Major! She is working at Bicycle Junction, who will be moving larger and more central premises in Marion Street.
Let’s Get Wellington Moving
Concern about this being a smoke screen for NZTA to push through with the 4 lanes to the planes motorway
Save The Basin and others are running a public meeting
Needs to address concern that principles are not being upheld
Patrick to front CAWs concerns
WCC annual plan submission
Eleanor & James to check the plan
Suggestion to submit that the plan needs to address the issue of poor sealing for existing roads
Update on the Island Bay community re-engagement (Love the Bay)
Wednesday evening 3 May and 1:30pm Sunday 7 May
Tonkin & Taylor will be using the feedback on design options / aspects to finalise a minimum of 3 possible options including going back to what was there before, or what is there now with some improvements
Note that they are on the WCC panel for roading engineers)
Important that people go along to give their feedback on what is good or bad about the design options / aspects
Updates from monthly meeting with WCC cycling team (Paul Barker)
Team has expanded with new officers responsible for sustainable transport, and communications. And two replacements.
Hutt Rd work has started on installed triggered LED warning lights at Caltex (trial basis), path upgrade working north from Aotea Quay off ramp, installing final new lights and testing all lights (may have to retain and reposition excisting lights if new lights do not give the coverage expected)
Aimed to be completed by November. Ron to confirm what is happening about the next stage to remove / reallocate car parking, and to follow up with GWRC about re-opening Kaiwharawhara railway station to help minimise need for parking.
Upgrade at Ngauranga Interchange now not happening till Ngauranga-Petone shared path goes in. WCC will look at improving the path / seal, but won’t change the kerbs / bus stop.
Incorrectly placed new sharrows are being removed immediately and will be properly painted as soon as weather allows. Caused by an individual who didn’t follow the contractor’s instructions.
No re-sealing of Evans Bay road. The Councillors did not allocate the extra funding needed to adhere to their 2008 policy to ensure smooth surfaces for routes with high number of on-road cyclists. In fact, a push to minimise cost of road seal maintenance. Issue is that the Council has degraded from the quality of service that was there before. New infrastructure will have the opex to ensure proper maintenance.
The team is working on the consultation material for the CBD quick win improvements, all of which will need traffic resolution. won’t be visible till November.
Consultation for Featherston St North cycle path (Bunny St to Mulgrave St) has been advertised. Will include allowing a right turn into Bunny St West for south bound cyclists. Paul happy to consider Ron’s suggestion to have advance bike lights at the Mulgrave intersection to allow south bound cyclists to get into the right hand lane for the Bunny St turn.
Councillors very much aware of the need for good cycling and walking infrastructure as part of the Shelly Bay developmenment. [Note that CAW will push for this as part of the public consultation]
All current UCP projects will have a final engagement over a 4 week period
3 options per project
Aimed for July, to go back to the September Council Committee
Back to the community for final feedback / objections in November
Committee approval in February will construction starting in July after a 3 month [detailed] design.
Also initiating a working group to look at Berhampore, Newtown and Mt Cook options
Will take on board material from the previous Citizens Advisory Panel that proposed options for Berhampore and Newtown.
Will extend to Basin Reserve and Pukeahu Park this time.
Half the budget (4.5M) for an extended scope. Will impact on options to address parking.
Report on the February Wellington bike count is still being finalised
Indications are a drop in numbers of cyclists
Follows a drop in the previous year (which could have been contributed to poorer weather than summer)
Does show more cyclists heading out of the city
Contradicts general observation that there seems to be more cyclists
There was a general discussion about the various WCC cycling projects working groups that CAW is currently participating in
Kilbernie connections, Miramar connections, Evans Bay, Thorndon Quay
Overall going well but obviously each with its own challenges
CAW has its own challenge how it resources each of these working groups / engagements
Opportunity to tap other working group members on the shoulder
CAW to put together a mentoring framework / material
Other initiatives / projects
CBD quick fixes [see WCC meeting notes]
Southern Corridor (Berhampore-Newtown-Mt Cook)
Ron to confirm timeframes with WCC so that Island Bay people have an answer on when there will be a full IB 2 CBD route
Engagement / consultation happening now
Build planning to start end of the year
Public engagement to start
Planned for implementation in 2019/2020
Things to discuss at our next meetings with NZTA, WCC etc
Ngauranga situation getting worse
Truck accidents [Note that Patrick is discussing this with the ministry]
Thumbs up, thumbs down
TU – Patrick – old ghost road
TD – Cars not aware the extra time it takes to pass a faster ebike. More converted e-mountainbikes
How time flies. The May meeting is already upon us, and happening this Tuesday 2 May. By the book this should have been our AGM meeting but with all that is happening we weren’t organised in time. So here’s the official notice that our AGM will be held at our 6 June meeting.
But plenty of other exciting things to talk about for Tuesday’s meeting
Updates from the various WCC cycling projects working groups (Kilbernie, Miramar, Evans Bay, Thorndon Quay, CBD quick fixes)
Update on the Island Bay community re-engagement (Love the Bay)
Updates from monthly meeting with WCC cycling team (work in progress, e.g. Hutt Road, issues)
Things to discuss at our next meetings with NZTA, WCC etc