One of the great things about being on a bike is that you can go places that cars can’t. Some of these are pretty obvious – one of the best parts of cycling in Wellington is getting to ride around the waterfront, or through Cuba Mall. But some are a bit less so. Let’s talk about… cut-throughs, also known as accessways. These are handy little short cuts that you can use to shorten your ride.
For example, if you’re going from Aro St to Willis St, you can just go on the road… or you can swing in past the Aro Valley community centre, to Palmer Street, and take the cut-through to Abel Smith Street. This is a useful shortcut to avoid the volume of traffic coming down from Brooklyn Road in the morning. Similarly, if you were wanting to cycle from Kilbirnie to the airport, you can either go along Cobham Drive with the cars, or you could take advantage of the pedestrian/cycle tunnel under the airport runway, getting you from the end of Coutts St to Miro St and avoiding several very large roundabouts full of cars.
Any major city has lots of these little accessways, and Wellington’s no exception. But they’re often a bit stealth, a bit hidden, a bit poorly advertised. So it’s really worth your while investigating your options as regards taking car-free shortcuts on your regular commute.
My favourites around town are:
- The waterfront – OK, it’s not technically a cut-through, but it’s a great ride and you avoid a lot of traffic lights.
- The airport tunnel – as mentioned above, if you’re going to the Eastern suburbs and don’t want to mix it up with airport traffic, there’s a carfree tunnel under the runway that links the broad, well-signposted bike route along Coutts St with Miro St, ideal for trips to Seatoun, Miramar, and the airport itself.
- For commuters going to Khandallah, there’s a very useful accessway joining up Nicholson Road with Winchester Street in Kaiwharawhara – so you can completely avoid the Ngaio Gorge, just hang a right in Kaiwharawhara and go through a nice leaf-lined path to get to the harbour-facing end of Khandallah.
These are all perfectly accessible to any kind of bike. If you commute on a mountain bike, you’ve got the option of taking offroad shortcuts. Some of these are pretty obvious – taking shortcuts using the tracks on Mt Vic, or across the top of Tinakori Hill – but one less well-known route that’s worth the look is the Wakely Gully track, which goes from the bottom of the Ngauranga Gorge up to Newlands. It’s a steepish climb on a loose surface, but it avoids a lot of traffic and it’s a blast to ride up or down.
If you’re regularly riding a particular route, it’s worth taking some time at a weekend to explore around your route, and see if there’s any useful short-cuts you can take on a bike. The best short-cuts are often hard to see from a car – small gaps between two properties may hide a perfectly legal accessway that shaves a useful amount off your commute. I once knocked five minutes off my commute by finding an accessway that let me cut through the middle of an industrial estate rather than going all the way around it. Take a sunny afternoon and have a bit of an explore.
Or try a “ride” on paper. Use Google Maps to go over your route. Look for little connectors between streets – for instance, here’s a useful shortcut to use going between the airport retail park and Kilbirnie.
When you’re on these shared-use paths, please look out for pedestrians. And bear in mind that pedestrians often come with unpredictable dogs and small children, who can dart out unexpectedly. On any shared path, it’s a good idea to keep the speed down so you can cope with the unexpected.
So – what’s your favourite cycling shortcut around town?