A knee injury opened the door to cycling. A friend wanted to help and gave Jim an old bike to recover quicker. Still, the hills of Wellington were too challenging. As the technology around e-bikes improved, he invested in a conversion for his bicycle. A decision that changed his life dramatically. “Cycling has been a revolution on how I approach my life. I absolutely love it,” he says enthusiastically.
Especially, the time factor is one of the most convincing aspects for him. Being able to get home from anywhere in 20 minutes without worrying about a car park, bus schedules, anything. “The logistics disappeared,” Jim exclaims. The newly won freedom and time is invested in his family life – making sure everyone gets breakfast, lunch and dinner.
With everything in life, there is also a little shadow side that comes with commuting by bicycle regularly. “The lack of space given to cyclists. The lack of tolerance.” He explains. “Cars go by too close.” Constant awareness is needed. The experience of an incident with an opened door didn’t stop him from riding his bike; it only changed his approach. Carefully, he now picks the routes that minimize the chance of that.
His bicycle is like a colleague for him. Jim treats it with respect, maintained and cleaned to enjoy more years of cycling.
A bicycle named “Franken-bike” is Kora’s main way of traveling around Wellington. The independence she experiences with a bicycle is indescribable. No need to wait for a bus. It is cool, good for the environment and good for her with some passive exercise, she explains.
Going downhill is the most exciting part of cycling. She only goes the hills up to speed those down again.
“At times it can be difficult and quite dangerous to be part of the traffic,” Kora says. “Especially on Adelaide Road.” The inconsistent bike lanes give a slightly bitter flavour to cycling in the city.
Nevertheless, she has seen positive changes over the last year. Improved infrastructure, more people on their bikes, and in general Wellington got more friendly towards cyclists.
“A trusty little thing. Light and functional,” as she describes her bicycle. Her partner has helped her to maintain it, but she prefers to keep it “a little janky” to keep people from stealing it.
As there were no parking spots in the city, Sarrah decided to use her bicycle instead and since then didn’t regret her decision. As easy as it sounds, it wasn’t.
She never saw herself as a cyclist, even thought she couldn’t do it without a lot of encouragement from her friends and a beautiful e-bike, she now happily rides every day to work. “It’s not only a pleasant commute, it’s even quicker and more environmentally friendly than by car,” she says.
“For sure, there are some roads that are confusing, especially Adelaide Road,” Sarrah mentions. She takes extra caution while passing a parking car, though never had an accident.
“People take care and respect cyclists,” she says enthusiastically. Her favourite parts of the city to cycle are Miramar and the Waterfront.
Over the years, her relationship with her bicycle developed into a loving and respectful one.
Freya did not want to buy a car and looked for other options to get around. Luckily her flatmate showed her the way to a life with a bicycle.
Now, it has become her main mode of transport – to commute, to pick up groceries, anything! And all of this combined with free exercise.
“Especially during lockdown, it was amazing to cycle with friends along the empty roads,” she says.
With traffic, the feeling changed – in some parts, she feels a bit more rushed by the cars. She says, “There are some grumpy drivers, but the majority are sweet.”
Apart from those aspects, Freya enjoys the downhills as her favourite parts of cycling in Wellington. There are a lot, and they let her easily forget about the “bah” up hills.
Her bicycle gives her a sensation of freedom. She loves and misses it when out of town.
Credit to artist Ellen Coup for the mural artwork that served as background.
More mountain biking was Mathew’s intention while buying his current bicycle. The intention shifted, and now it is primarily used to commute from Khandallah to the CBD. For him, flexibility is the key. “I would rather go when I want to go instead of sitting and waiting for public transport.”
With that, other benefits came along. Especially during rush hour, he realised cycling is quicker than by bus or car. It has less environmental impact and the exercise puts him in a good mood, feeling healthy and energised after his 20-minute ride. A win-win situation.
Although, he enjoys cycling alone, together with his wife would be even better. She hasn’t the “boldness you currently need to cycle in Wellington” as Mathew describes it.
Parked cars which narrow the streets more, people who don’t indicate and open their car doors without looking are the main factors. He always plans his route to avoid congested roads.
But Mathew sees change is already happening, with the 30km/h zones as an example. It is just a matter of time. With more improvement around the infrastructure, his wife might feel more confident to join him and cycle the scenic route home along the waterfront.
Mathew spent some time choosing his bicycle for his current needs. He really likes it. “I think it’s a cool one,” he says.
Kia ora koutou. My name is Alex Dyer and I am honoured to have taken on the role of co-chair of Cycle Wellington, Paihikara ki Pōneke.
Firstly, thank you to Mark Johnston for his leadership, along with co-chair Linda Beatson, over the last few years. I have a lot to learn from him and Linda, and look forward to achieving much more together.
I live in Island Bay with my wife Hat, 3 kids: Ely, Juno, and Monty, and our dog Scout. I ride a yellow bakfiets cargo bike for a majority of journeys and usually have music playing as I ride. You might have seen (or heard) me…
I am not a cyclist. But I do like also using bikes for recreational activities some times.
I work as a Product Designer at Stuff designing tools to enable the editorial team here to produce content for the site and for publishing in newspapers around the country.
I am looking forward to faster progress of a network of safe cycling facilities and comfortable conditions for people choosing active travel to get about in our beautiful harbour city.
As a designer, I also spend a lot of time working on the user experience of a product. I know that riding a bike for everyday journeys can make city living a joyous experience. Being able to nip all over town by bike, shopping, eating, visiting friends, working, or just exploring is a liberating experience.
Enabling Wellingtonians of all ages and abilities to access and enjoy this powerful way to improve their quality of life is also one of the most effective ways to lower harmful emissions in our region. I am looking forward to working with stakeholders around Te Whanganui-A-Tara to do this.
In a broader sense, I am passionate about cities for people and healthy streets. Bikes are a critical part of how to improve everyone’s wellbeing. While elevating the attraction of riding bikes is essential, I have strong opinions on the need to reduce and remove as many barriers as possible to people living and visiting the city. For me, this means challenging long standing cultural norms about the main barrier: too many dangerous polluting heavy noisy intimidating motorised vehicles on our public streets.
Find out more about my perspective on this by reading my series on Medium.com:
I have been involved with Cycle Wellington now for over 10 years, volunteering, attending monthly meetings, and making endless submissions.
I am encouraged by our successes over that time. WCC funding levels have risen substantially from practically nothing, to in the tens of millions. Ridership is increasing. The ability to measure ridership is improving. We have a set of councillors who (mostly all) agree on the need to make Wellington safer and healthier for people who are not in cars. These are all good signs.
But I am wary of being complacent in the face of the challenges ahead. Our elected public representatives will continue to need all the help they can get to press the case for change and to return the actual, physical priority of our city streets back to people and traditional, sustainable transport modes.
I will be at the next Bikes & Brunch on the 18th of October. Come along with the family. I would love to meet you.
Otherwise, flag me down for a chat if you see me out on my yellow submarine. Or you might catch me at a Picnics in Parks event.
While I am not a member of the book of faces, you can connect with me through my Twitter or Instagram profiles (@AxleRyde on both), and you can find me on LinkedIn too.
Show your love of bikes and support for Cycle Wellington and help us enable more people to ride bikes, more often, in Aotearoa’s capital city. We already have a range of shirt designs to purchase check them out here:
An observational cycling experiment in Wellington.
In my experience – not very well. Just how bad is it out there? Am I imagining it’s as bad as often as it seems? Surely there’s only a few inconsiderate motorists making my ride in the city more dangerous than it needs to be…
It turns out my safety is at least partially compromised by motorists at a majority of stops involving advance stop boxes (ASBs) when riding my bicycle.
There are some ASBs at intersections throughout central Wellington. When I say ‘some’, I mean I joked once that I wondered if we had the highest number of ASBs per capita in the world, there are so many.
Maybe there aren’t actually all that great a number in reality, but when there is so few other forms of bicycle facility provided in a city, it’s hard to not notice them. Very few Wellington ASBs have any form of bike lane to feed people riding bikes to them safely for instance.
The dominance of ASBs throughout Wellington’s central business district (CBD) are only recently challenged for bicycle ‘paintfrastructure’ supremacy by the addition of numerous sharrows – another example of bicycle facility that means well, and wants to be seen to be achieving, but really isn’t.
I wanted to know how often things were good, challenging, or impossible.
I commute by bike. Every day. Every type of weather. I cycle roughly 6km into the CBD from Island Bay (Island Bay Cycleway RULZ!), through Berhampore, Newtown, around The Basin, Kent and Cambridge, and through the city to Boulcott Street.
There are plenty of times I stop at an intersection and have some difficulty with the ASB being blocked in some way. In my experience I am lucky if I don’t have some difficulty with several ASBs on a journey. So I decided to start counting what went wrong and what went right.
I wanted to know how often things were good, challenging, or impossible. I wanted to be able to show that, while there are some positive sides to ASBs, they are under-performing – usually because of consistent infringement by some motorists. This is probably no surprise to anybody, but I hope it helps to understand more about just how bad it is as a cyclist out there and if there are any patterns to these infringements. If there is anything that can be done to improve safety that would be great. This article does not provide any suggestions about how we might go about that.
For more about how Wellington cyclists view the effectiveness of our impressive ASB density check out this great post by Alastair.
The experiment I ran is just me, my rides, routes, and riding ability. I tried to use a little scientific method to gather observational data to provide a little insight into how effective, or not, ASBs are. It would be interesting to source data from more riders, at different times of day, different bike types, and more routes than I take. Obviously more data would enable more reliable conclusions to be made.
I recorded observations on my bike journeys (mostly commuting) over 26 days during March and April 2017.
Along each journey I evaluated the conditions at each intersection or pedestrian crossing I stopped at. I did not include any times I stopped on fully separated areas like footpaths, shared paths, or cycleways etc.
I evaluated only times that I stopped in the road and in traffic, where I would have made use of an ASB if I could reasonably expect to get to it. I did not count the rare occasions I was held up in particularly dense congestion mid-block. For each evaluation, I counted a number against one of four criteria, which were:
No obstruction by any motorists.
Able to comfortably access and wait in the ASB
Able to access and wait in the ASB
Motorist/s encroaching into or over the ASB – even a bonnet overhanging
Motorist/s may have encroached into the ASB in any of multiple lanes
Motorcycles / motor scooters included but not eBikes
Completely obstructed by motorist/s
Unable to access the ASB
Forced to stop before or past the ASB
The particular lane I needed to use was completely obstructed
There was no ASB marked at the stop
I made evaluations of ASB used on 56 journeys over two calendar months – March and April this year.
During those 56 trips there were:
a total of 484 stop evaluations made, an average of 8.64 per journey
136 stops with comfortable and safe access to an ASB
182 stops had no ASB facility
120 times I was partially blocked
166 instances where I was partially or completely blocked
46 times I was completely blocked, an average of 0.82 per journey.
Or in other words: I experience an ASB as completely inaccessible, on average, once every 4 out of 5 journeys.
Stop evaluations with ASBs
When not including stops where there was no ASB marked, over half (55%) of evaluated ASB stops were partially or fully blocked by motorists.
Including stop evaluations with no ASBs
There are fewer intersections with ASBs outside of the Wellington CBD but it is still worthwhile to show as having nothing is generally worse than anything when it comes to space for cycling. So showing the proportion of stops with no ASB shows that even with the overdose in the CBD, there are large parts of Wellington without even this low hanging fruit.
Morning vs evening
Let’s have a look at the breakdown of the stops of morning vs the evening rides. I’m going to exclude the no ASB numbers to better focus on how stops with them were performing.
ASBs were completely blocked by motorists nearly twice as often on my evening journeys.
This could be the result of the particular design of the ASBs used by the routes I take, or the mental state of motorists in the morning vs the evening, or the degraded marking of many of them (they’re not being maintained to an acceptable standard in general). Who knows?! Whatever the cause, it is bound to be a combination of factors.
Curiously, the increase in fully blocked ASBs seems to be at a roughly even expense of both good and partially blocked stops. It is interesting that partial blocks has not shown a similar rise like fully blocked.
I interpret (at least part of) this as a greater proportion of motorists completely disregarding ASBs in the evening, whereas a majority are keeping to their usual habits – whether good or inconsiderate. What do you think it might be?
Encouragingly, there are new ASBs being installed in Newtown which is welcome. I intend to run this experiment again around the same time next year to see if the data changes.
I think it is fair to say that there is some habitual abuse by some drivers consistently ignoring or encroachment on the ASBs. I have also observed a growing number of drivers distracted by digital devices. This problem is especially problematic at city intersections as these are the most dangerous places on our roads and demand a driver’s undivided attention. I did not gather any data on distraction. Maybe that will warrant separate experiment.
Regardless of the cause, I think the higher rate of infraction by motorists in the evening is of great concern as it points to potentially greater dangers to vulnerable road users at that time. If my observations through this limited experiment on one form of bicycle paintfrastructure are suggesting this, I wonder what other heightened dangers cyclists and pedestrians face from generally reduced compliance of motorists on our roads at various times of the day?
I also wonder how often enforcement of encroaching on ASBs by the New Zealand Police is encouraging Wellington motorists to adhere to the law. Apparently you may be fined $60 for encroaching into the cycling paintfrastructure. Who knew?