Commuting by bicycle in Wellington

In the past few years the number of people I see on bikes riding from Newtown to town in the morning has literally quadrupled. Unfortunately, many of the people I see stopped at the lights are on seriously terrible bikes.
I’m see rusty, too-big or too-small mountain bikes with brakes that barely work and people look unconfident and uncomfortable on their bikes. Riding the wrong bike can actually make cycling seriously not fun.
Recently several of my colleagues have gotten bicycles with the intention of cycling to work. I have noticed that they too seem to have missed some items that to me are essential for bike commuting.
Namely:

  • Gears- There are hills here.  You need gears to get up them. I have 21 but 7 is probably enough.  
  • Comfortable seat  – Be kind to your behind!  Give it some cushioning.
  • Mud guards – This follows on from the point above.  It rains here all the time.  You will wind up with a seriously wet bum without mud guards.
  • Rear rack – If you’re like me and live at the top of a giant hill, when you leave for the morning you take everything you will need with you and consequently look like a hobo (ok, that’s just me).  But really, most people will probably need to have a bag of some sort, maybe a laptop, lunch, gym gear, a raincoat, yoga matt, several books, keys, phone etc etc.  You don’t want to carry all this in a backpack, your back gets sweaty and it’s not comfortable.  Also one of the great things about riding a bike is it’s easy to stop at the shops as you pass them, so you can pick up groceries and other stuff on the way home.  A rack is essential for carrying all your stuff!
  • Helmet – It’s the law, even if you hate them, you kinda have to have one.
  • Lock – yes, I have accidentally left my bike unlocked all day at the railway station and no one stole it, but don’t be foolish and tempt them, lock it or lose it!
  • Lights – Front and rear.  You need them.
  • A bike that fits you – this means the frame is the correct size and shape for you.  I have a vintage ladies frame bike that I like because it has a step-though frame and it basically the perfect size for me.  Personally, I don’t recommend mountain bikes for anyone who is commuting, or fancy expensive road bikes.  You want something that is functional and sturdy, that you can ride in the rain or the wind, leave outside, carry 20 kgs of groceries home with, and it to run perfectly and not need all sorts of fiddling.

Linus Scout or Pilen Women’s Sport would be my pick for ladies (sorry I just have a personal problem with Mixtes!)

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For men I would suggest Linus Roadster or any of the Pilen men’s models.   Just do make sure you get a rack!

Are considering commuting by bike or have questions about it?  Feel free to ask any questions and share your thoughts on biking to work with us.

[Originally posted by Nicole]

Locking your bike – time for a spring security check

As a cycle advocate, it’s good to see an upsurge of people acquiring bikes as the weather becomes more bike friendly. It’s not so good when it’s people stealing other people’s bikes – which seems to be on  the rise, if Facebook posts are to be believed.

What can you do to secure your beloved bike?

We’re fortunate in Aotearoa that bike theft is less of a problem than some other places. I don’t think there are huge numbers of professional bike thieves roaming the streets with bolt cutters, freon cans, etc. My sense is that most bike theft is opportunistic – people grabbing a bike that has been left unlocked. Which brings me to the really important security measure:

Lock your bike

How you lock it is of less importance; there are usually enough unlocked bikes around that a thief is unlikely to target a locked bike. A quick scan of most bike racks will find a bike that is either unlocked or “virtually locked” – a lock has been used, but not in a way that secures the bike. Have a look at this example – the lock is just looped around the handlebars, and could just be lifted off and the bike ridden away.

example of bike locking: lock simply looped around handlebars!
“virtual” bike locking

At a minimum, your lock should go through the bike frame and a wheel; or through the bike frame and a fixed object (such as a lamp post or a bike rack). Better is through a fixed object AND the frame AND both wheels.

Even if you’re just leaving it for a moment

When I’ve talked to people who’ve lost bikes, a high proportion didn’t lock the bike, because  “I just popped into the dairy…”. So always lock your bike, even if you don’t think you’ll be long. It follows that your lock should be easy to use.

There are three types of locks: cable locks, D locks, and chain locks.

Cable lock: note the cable goes through the frame, both wheels, and a fixed object.
Cable lock: note the cable goes through the frame, both wheels, and a fixed object.

Cable locks: these are my personal preference, since they’re easy to use, and to get around posts, wheels and frame. But can be cut with bolt cutter.

example of bike locking
D Lock

D locks: regarded as the most secure, but can be tricky to get around a wheel, the frame and a fixed object. Heavy.

example of bike locking
Chain Lock

Chain locks. These are common in New York, the capital of bike theft. Supposed to be secure, but pretty heavy.

Locks can either use a key, or a combination. I prefer combination locks so I can lock my bike even if I forgot to bring my keys. I get ones where I can set my own combination, and use the same number for all my locks. Key locks are more secure though – I’m told a dedicated thief can feel the dials in a combination lock and figure out which ones release the lock.

That’s probably all you need to know, particularly

Lock your bike, even if you’re just leaving it for a moment.

But here are some more suggestions if you are really concerned:

  • Make your bike look unattractive – a few tatty stickers work wonders.  Think about putting your initials and/or phone number on the bike.  And use common sense: the $5000 carbon fibre is for the peleton ride, the $50 dunger for the supermarket.
  • Park your bike in places where it can be observed so that a thief will be less confident about interfering with it.
  • Use more than one lock type, e.g. a cable AND a D-Lock. They need different tools to break, and a thief is unlikely to be carrying both.
  • If you don’t have a lock, make the bike unrideable, for example by removing the seat, or the rear quick release skewer.
  • Keep a cable or chain lock tight, so it’s harder to apply bolt cutters. Make sure the lock can’t reach the ground, where a thief could cut it, for example with a hammer and a chisel.
  • Folding bikes can be taken with you, so may not need to be locked. But it’s a good idea to have a basic lock with you anyway. And make sure you have locked through a part of the frame that can’t be released by folding/unfolding.
  • Record the ID number of your bike (often underneath the bottom bracket), and take a photo of the bike. These will be handy if you do lose your bike.

Who are the “Folding Goldies”?

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Are you over 65? Do you have a folding bike? Did you know that this means you can enhance your bike rides by using off peak public transport for free (Thanks, Winston and the NZ taxpayer). If you have a Gold Card you can travel for free on public transport in the Wellington Region between 9am and 3pm, after 6:30pm and at weekends.   If you have a folding bike, you can take it on trains, buses and ferries without the limitations imposed on standard bikes.

Folding Goldies are a group of people with Gold Cards and folding bikes, who organise occasional rides in the Wellington Region using public transport. On our inaugural ride, we took the train to Upper Hutt, then biked down the Hutt River Trail to lunch at a Petone Cafe. The next expedition, on 21 August, will involve the train to Waikanae and an exploration of the Kapiti Coastal Cycle Route.

More details at the Folding Goldies website.

Stolen bikes

This message in from Tim:

I’m trying to spread the message about two bicycles that were stolen off the back of my car last weekend overnight as my fiancé and I were stopped for the night on heading north to Auckland.

One is a brown 52cm Salsa Vaya, the other a XS Giant Rove XR.

Would it be possible for you to place a message on your site about these? I have notified the police, local bike shops and posted on a few other sites.

Please keep an eye out, and contact the police if you see them.

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Wunderbike – new free bike share in Wellington

Wünderbike is a community bike sharing program that was started by volunteers from the Mechanical Tempest in conjunction with the Aro Valley Community Centre.

Wünderbike is a free bike-sharing program for Wellingtonians and visitors.
Borrow a wünderbike to speed up errands, take a leisurely ride along the harbour or go for a weekend bike trip.
To promote bike safety we provide riders with a helmet, lights and a bike lock.

THE BIKES
We have a fleet of 5 snazzy and multi-coloured bikes in a range of styles and sizes from mountain bikes to single speed beach cruisers. Many of them have rear racks and all have kicks stands and bells for safe and easy riding.

HOW TO RENT A BIKE 
Become a Wünderbike member by filling out a form at the Aro Valley Community Centre or online from our membership page. (You must bring photo ID when you rent your first bike)
Members can rent bikes for up to one week.

Check them out for opening times and contact details: http://www.wunderbike.blogspot.co.nz/

Cyclists are always running red lights….

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When the car/bicycle debate emerges, it’s almost certain that at some point there’ll be a question along the lines of  “why should cyclists be respected, when they’re always running red lights”.  One of my first encounters with the Red Light issue was when submitting on cycling at a Council meeting, and  a  Councillor (no longer on Council after October’s Mayoral elections, incidentally) asked what Cycle Aware Wellington was doing about “all these cyclists running red lights”. I managed to turn the question around with “You’ve just had a representative of the AA submitting, but you didn’t ask him what AA was doing about boy racers”.  But the issue is certainly an important one in promoting a positive image of cycling, and was addressed to some extent by CAN’s Stop at Red campaign.

But are in fact cyclists more inclined to run red lights than other road users?  I recently spent 20 minutes at what passes in Wellington for “rush hour” at the intersection of Willis, Manners, and Boulcott Streets, and counted red light runners, both bicycles and motor vehicles.  I chose this intersection because there are good numbers of bicycles and other vehicles going through it, and at rush hour there’s a bit of a temptation to keep going through the intersection on the yellow light. To avoid cognitive overload, I just counted traffic going north through the intersection on Willis Street, not turning left up Boulcott. I defined “running a red light” as “exiting the intersection after the traffic light had turned red”

21 bikes passed through the intersection. Three (14%) ran the red light. Of course it’s not quite that simple. Two cyclists slowed as the light turned red, then rode across the intersection with the pedestrians – a “Barnes Dance” follows the red light, when pedestrians can cross in all directions. So if this maneuver is counted as running a red light, we have five red light running cyclists, or 23%.

That seems to back up the accusation that cyclists are inclined to run red lights – but what about motor vehicles? During the same time period, 147 motor vehicles passed through the intersection, and 28 (19%) ran the red light.

So in fact cyclists and motor vehicle drivers, at least in this very limited sample, seem to run red lights at about the same rate. This shouldn’t be a surprise – cyclists and motor vehicle drivers are largely the same people – sometimes we’re driving a car, sometimes we’re riding our bikes. If we want safer streets, we need to be more disciplined about how we use them, whether we’re driving a car, or riding a bike.

Be safe be seen

GW and Consumer have run a very thorough set of tests on bikes lights. It’s worth checking their webpage for the survey results. Here’s a brief rundown:

High visibility is your best bet for safe cycling, running and walking in low light conditions.            hi visibility on waterfront

Wear bright clothing during the daytime hours and reflective material after dark.

Applying reflective tape to your backpack, ankles, helmet or bike is a simple and effective way to increase your visibility when the days are shorter.

If you are a Wellington region resident, and would like some reflective tape, pop into our reception at 142 Wakefield Street or send a stamped self addressed envelope to:

Sustainable Transport Team
Greater Wellington Regional Council
PO Box 11646
Wellington

There’s a new kid on the block…

Opening officially today is “Bicycle Junction”; the latest addition to Wellington’s cycling scene.

Brooke from Mamachari and Dan from Crank Cargo have joined forces to open a new urban cycling store in Newtown. They sell a range of bikes – refurbished imports through to Christiania trikes – plus all the accessories one could dream off… including my favourite, cup holders!

And once permits have been approved they’ll also be serving coffee… can’t wait!

Bicycle Junction is at the junction of John St/Adelaide Rd – at 5 Riddiford Street. And on facebook.

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