Eastern Suburbs Consultation

Leonie Gill pathway. Part of a bigger Eastern Suburbs network?
Leonie Gill pathway. Part of a bigger Eastern Suburbs network?

The official consultation period for the Eastern suburbs cycleways begins today, closing on the 23rd of May. Some details on the consultation from the council:

Between now and then, our team will be busy populating the Cycleways website [http://cycleways.wellington.govt.nz/where/eastern/] with all the information, ready to ‘go live’ on 26 April. Alternatively, you can  go to the ‘Have Your Say’ section of Wellington City Council’s main website [http://wellington.govt.nz/].

The two Council-run community drop-in sessions (held at the ASB Sports Centre) have been rescheduled to:

  • Wednesday 4 May (4:30pm – 7:30pm)
  • Saturday 7 May (9am – 3pm)

In addition to this, we are liaising with the Miramar and Kilbirnie BIDs in regard to them hosting additional community drop-in sessions. I will advise when these have been scheduled.

There’s been talk about one of the options involving four sets of traffic lights along Miramar Ave. Obviously, no one would like to see that happen, so it’s important the public check out the options, and any alternatives, and talk to the Council and their community about what they want.

Cycle Aware Wellington will have a presentation from Council officers after our AGM on the 3rd of May. Keep an eye on our facebook group for details about that. The meeting generally starts at 6pm and is held at the Sustainability Trust on Forresters Lane.

Some thoughts on the options for the Eastern suburbs (as a mother, fair weather cyclist/currently frequent driver and sometimes commuter):

Note, these are my personal thoughts not the views of CAW!

  • there is no one obvious stand out option or route or type of infrastructure
  • there are certain criteria which the approved designs need to meet. Hopefully there will be more information about this shortly, but my understanding is that the cycleway needs to be part of a network and increase commuter cycling primarily (it isn’t necessarily to improve safety, although it should do that and if it also increases recreational cycling that would be a bonus, but again isn’t the aim).
  • the airport tunnel route works well on paper, and links both Seatoun and Miramar to Kilbirnie, but in practice, it’s unlikely many Miramar people would take such an indirect route.
  • the three routes that have most need i.e. go to the CBD, (as agreed by the stakeholder working group) have been ruled out for one reason or another but perhaps this needs reviewing?
    • Round the bays is too expensive ($10m)
    • Hataitai has a bottle neck at the Mt Vic tunnel which won’t be resolved until the tunnel is duplicated
    • A route from Kilbirnie to Newtown works until you get to Newtown, but getting from Newtown to the CBD will be delayed by decisions on BRT and the Basin Reserve, so it doesn’t get Eastern residents to the CBD.
  • some “easy win” options* include;
    • building a tunnel (or the more expensive bridge) over Cobham Drive to connect the shared path to the ASB centre and Kilbirnie. WCC is hoping for additional NZTA funding for this.
    • Widening the shared path along Cobham Drive and Evans Bay Parade (part of the ‘Great Harbour Way‘)
    • Traffic calming and 3okm/h zones around schools, shops and community/sports centres – schools improvements could come out of a different budget
    • Linking the Leonie Gill shared path to the airport tunnel and to the Kilbirnie shops
    • Providing a completely off-road (shared path or separated) cycle lane from the airport tunnel to the airport, including safe crossings.
    • Providing wider shared (for ‘slow’ cyclists or children only) footpaths along busy recreational areas, such as Lyall Parade.
    • Improving safety at roundabouts and intersections. Roundabouts can have tighter ‘European’ designs to slow traffic down (and more education for cyclists and drivers to guide them on correct lane positioning), and intersections may be improved by better visibility, ‘Stop’ signs replacing ‘Give ways’ or traffic calming (speed bumps or textures, narrowing lanes, pedestrian crossings, etc)
  • Other options I’d like to see thrown in the mix, but not necessarily as part of the main cycleway works, are:
    • Removing on street parking on the uphill side of Crawford Road, and possibly Moxham Ave and using ‘sharrows’ on the downhill lanes (if separated lanes aren’t yet possible here).
    • Changing the parking around Kilbirnie Park (Kilbirnie Crescent and Evans Bay Parade) to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Evans Bay Parade already has a shared path but it’s not well marked or well used with plenty of driveway hazards. Kilbirnie Crescent is the main access way for community facilities such as the pool, the library, recreation centre, Plunket, the playground and the sports fields. It has high numbers of families visiting, often crossing the road in heavy traffic. Many of these families are likely coming from out of the area, so not within walking or cycling distance, but many are also choosing to drive because of safety concerns. Parking is in high demand, but this could be reduced if other modes were more accessible.
  • Miramar Ave is seen as a difficult bit to get through and the Miramar cutting is a blackspot for cyclists, so this area needs careful thought. One option brought up by members of the working group was using Tahi St rather than Miramar Ave. This solves some problems for commuters but not for those wanting to go to the shops. Here’s my idea (NB. not CAW’s!) based on not too frequent peak driving around Miramar. I’d be interested to know what issues I’ve missed and/or if this is a workable idea. ES UCP IDEAIt adds a necessary set of lights at the cutting and one set on Tauhinu. Also a few crossings (either zebra or pedestrian refuge islands) and an enhanced slow zone for the shops and Tahi St.

(* By “easy win” I mean that it will be safer or more convenient for cyclists, hopefully also so for pedestrians, and have negligible effects on other modes of transport or parking.)

 

What other options are there? Or have the Council got it right with one of their draft designs? Are there other problem spots that need addressing urgently? Head on over to the CAW facebook group to discuss, or better yet, get along to a Council open day or make a submission to the council.

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Advance Stop Boxes Fair?

Advance Stop Boxes can give cyclists a head start at intersections.
Advance Stop Boxes can give cyclists a head start at intersections.

A couple of years ago, green paint and bicycle symbols started appearing at intersections all over Wellington. These were Advance Stop Boxes (ASBs). The purpose of ASB’s is to give cyclists a place to wait ahead of the main traffic queue, making them more visible, and giving them a head start on other traffic. A 1998 OECD study into vulnerable road users showed that ASB’s significantly reduced accident risks to cyclists – in one Swedish study by 35%. On the other hand cycling experts Axel Wilke and Glen Koorey  “regard ASBs as useful in some circumstances, but don’t see them as solving all problems that cyclists may experience at signalised intersections”.

I had to admit to some skepticism when I first saw the profusion of green paint. I felt this was a example of the dangers of outsourcing. Rather than using in-house expertise to identify intersections that would benefit from ASB’s, and doing them properly, it was easier to simply let a contract for laying down green paint everywhere, often in places where the ASB wasn’t particularly useful.

So, two years on, how are ASB’s performing? I decided to ask Wellington cyclists with a brief online survey. To my surprise, ASB’s are clearly both important (145 people responded to the survey) and generally popular – 85% of respondents used ASB’s most times they encountered them.

Chart_Q5_150810

Why people saw ASB’s as useful was a bit more complicated. Although 35% said that it helped them to cross the intersection more safely, and 10% said that it enabled them to travel faster, the most common (42%) attraction of the ASB’s was simply that they recognized cycling as a legitimate transport mode . There was also a hard core of unbelievers (4%) that didn’t find ASB’s useful at all. “Usually I find it better to claim the lane and stay in line with cars”. There were also a couple of comments to the effect that the ASBs provided a good opportunity to socialise with other cyclists!

Chart_Q6_150810

When asked what the main problem was that people had with ASBs, the overwhelming issue was “I can’t get through the traffic to reach them” (46%) followed by “Other vehicles are in the box” (30%). This shows that we need more lead in lanes (bike lanes that lead up to the ASB), and better education/enforcement of the need for motor vehicles to keep clear of the ASBs.

Should we have to share ASBs?
Should we have to share ASBs?

I also asked which ASB people found most useful. This got a wide variety of responses, including “All of them” and “I don’t find any particularly useful.” On numbers, the ASB at the junction of Riddiford and Adelaide is most popular (20 mentions) followed by Featherston/Bunny (15 mentions). Both of these are on important commuting routes, but they’re very different. Riddiford/Adelaide lacks lead in lanes, and it’s on a major public transport route, so to get to the ASB you often have to filter past buses. However if you can reach the ASB, you’ve got a head start at a complex intersection, avoiding conflict with traffic turning left into John St, for example. Featherston/Bunny is better designed – there’s an approach lane that keeps cyclists clear of vehicles turning left (although there is sometimes conflict with vehicles turning left across the lead in lane).

Wellington's most popular ASB - Riddiford/Adelaide
Wellington’s most popular ASB – Riddiford/Adelaide
Runner up: Featherson/Bunny ASB
Runner up: Featherson/Bunny ASB

In both of these cases the advantage of the ASB is that it avoids conflict with left turning vehicles, and that should be a flag for installing ASBs. For example at Willis/Ghuznee cyclists heading north have to create their own “virtual” lead in lane to avoid conflict with the traffic in the left turn only lane. A lead in lane here would improve the ride for the many cyclists who commute along Willis St, and encourage less confident cyclists.

Cyclists creating a virtual lead in lane at Willis/Ghuznee
Cyclists creating a virtual lead in lane at Willis/Ghuznee

Finally, I asked how ASB’s could be improved.

Chart_Q7_150810

Lead in lanes were most demanded (73%), followed by separate bike phases in the traffic light sequence, which would enable cyclists to clear the intersection before other traffic moves  (66%). We’ve just seen the introduction of a separate bike light phase at Abel Smith St, as part of the Victoria Street upgrade, so perhaps this be rolled out at other intersections.

Bike phase in traffic light sequence
Bike phase in traffic light sequence

Better education (54%) and policing (45%) were also seen as important. WCC and the Police carried out a campaign in 2014, and a poster has been distributed.

Poster encouraging motorists to avoid the ASBs.
Poster encouraging motorists to avoid the ASBs.

To sum up:

  • ASB’s are popular with Wellington cyclists, if only because they recognise cycling as a legitimate transport mode.
  • Other road users need to keep clear of ASBs.
  • ASBs  would be more effective if there were more lead in lanes, and bicycle phases in the traffic light sequence.

Illuminating night time cycling

Bike lights and reflectors
Lights and reflectors – do we have what it takes?

As winter closes in, we all check our bike lights and reflectors to make sure we’re visible on the commute home, and following the Road Code guidelines for lighting, right?

Well, maybe not, according to some research carried out by Rongotai College year 9 student, Leo Griffiths,. For a Science Fair project, he investigated whether people on bikes complied with the Road Code guidelines, and whether cyclists were aware of the requirements. His results are a wake-up call.

Leo’s research was in two parts: first, observing bike riders at night to see if they complied with the Road Code guidelines, and secondly, an online survey of cyclists to find out if they were aware of the guidelines.

In the first part, he observed bikes passing at several points exiting the CBD, and visually checked whether the bikes complied with the guidelines. For the record these are:

  • red or yellow rear reflector
  • steady or flashing rear-facing red light
  • white or yellow headlight
  • Pedal reflectors or reflective clothing.

Leo observed 321 cyclists heading home in the dark. Only 52% complied with the guidelines. The most significant omission was reflectors. Relatively few people had no lights or reflectors (it appears that Kent Terrace is the prime place for invisible cyclists!)

The online survey of 136 people on CAW’s Facebook group asked what people used when they biked at night, what they thought the requirements were, and what they thought would most improve cyclist visibility.

Only 33% of people said that they used a set of lights and reflectors that complied with the guidelines. Like the roadside survey, the main issue was lack of reflectors. Only 29% correctly identified the Road Code requirements, again mainly because they didn’t list the reflector requirements.

The most popular suggested improvements were more reflective clothing, particularly on the legs (more visible because they move up and down), and better lights.

What are we to make of this? In some ways it’s not surprising that many bikes lack reflectors. Most bikes leave the bike shop with reflectors (although some high end bikes don’t) but they often fall off and aren’t replaced. Pedals with reflectors are replaced by clip in pedals without reflectors (I have to plead guilty here!). Mudguards, the traditional place to place reflectors, are less common now. My informal observation is that a lot of us rely on reflective clothing and packs rather than reflectors on our bikes. This can be very effective, so long as we actually wear the gear, and don’t, for example, put on a non-reflective parka on a wet evening. It could be that the guidelines should be updated to put more emphasis on reflective gear.

We seem to be reasonably conscious of the need for lights, and GWRC have been giving us good information about our choices here. Indeed there are concerns that some bike lights may be too bright, interfering with other people’s vision.

To sum up, Leo offers an ultimate visibility list:

  • A white/yellow steady light on front of bike
  • A white/yellow steady or flashing on helmet
  • A reflective vest (no back pack)
  • Light coloured clothing (white, orange or yellow)
  • A rear facing steady red light on helmet
  • A rear facing red light on cyclists back or seat post
  • Reflective bands on ankles
  • Flashing lights in spokes facing sidewards.

To this, I’d add a reflective band on the wrist, to make hand signals visible, a spacemaker flag to remind cars to keep a reasonable distance from me. If wearing a pack, I’d either use a reflective pack cover, or a “bum flap” below the pack. (Spacemaker flags and reflective pack covers are available from the CAN shop)

You can read Leo’s full report (which earned him second prize in the Rongotai Science Fair) here: ScienceFairTextv1.docx.

Thanks to Leo for a useful piece of research that should get us thinking about how we make ourselves visible at night, and that we are familiar with the guidelines.

NZTA commits to urban cycling

nztaCyclist
NZTA has recently released its 2015-2019 Statement of Intent, setting out the Agency’s priorities for the next four years. In the previous Statement of Intent (2014-2018) cycling wasn’t a specific priority despite the obligatory cyclist images scattered through the document.

The good news is that in the latest document, priority #6 is “Make urban cycling a safer and more attractive transport choice”. The emphasis is on the main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, aiming to progress the cycleway networks in these centres, with help from the Urban Cycleways Programme funding.

NZTA’s aim is to increase urban cycling trips in those centres from 32 million to 42 million by 2019, an increase of about 8% per year. The aim is to achieve this with a lower rate of crashes involving cyclists.

Another priority is to make urban journey times predictable. Although it’s not mentioned, cycling is one of the most predictable form of transport – you are less likely to be held up by congestion and you can park at your destination. Let’s hope NZTA joins the dots here. There’s also a commitment to safer speeds which is one of the most effective ways of making travel by bike safe and enjoyable.

Of concern is the priority to increase freight productivity by the use of larger “high productivity vehicles”. I recently stood at the intersection of SH1 and SH3 in Bulls, as convoys of HPV’s negotiated the corner. HPV configurations limit the vision of drivers,and cyclists in their vicinity need to take care, particularly during turning maneuvers.  Cycling Advocates Network has done some good work on educating truck drivers and cyclists about the problems here. Although in theory HPVs reduce the number of vehicles on the road, it would be better for our environment if more of this freight went by rail. Better for cycle touring as well.

So are we seeing a new cycle friendly NZTA? The Agency is still enthusiastically pushing for a 1960’s style flyover (admittedly with a cycleway clipon) at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, and is capable of designing the SH2/ SH58 intersection without provision for cycling (though responding to cyclists concerns once these were raised). But making urban cycling an explicit priority certainly gives us grounds for hope.

Council approves Cycling Framework, Island Bay Cycleway

islandbay_20130728b

Wednesday’s Council meeting saw three big wins for cycling – approval for the Cycling Framework, and the go-ahead for the Island Bay Cycleway, the first stage of the southern cycle route from Island Bay to the CBD. Also a cycling budget of $58 million over 10 years was approved in the Long Term Plan.

The Cycling Framework was approved unanimously  – as one comment on Twitter said “Councillors now clambering over each other in their enthusiasm to be on the cycling working party!”. so there’s no doubt that Councillors are keen to be seen as pro-cycling.

There was less agreement over the Island Bay Cycleway. Several Councillors felt that local residents views had been ignored, and were concerned that the connection to the CBD had not yet been finalised. However a majority of Councillors felt that it was important that this flagship project go ahead, to encourage more cycling within Island Bay, and the proposal passed 8-6

For: Wade-Brown, Foster, Free, Lee, Lester, Pannett, Peck, Sparrow

Against: Ahipene-Mercer, Coughlan, Eagle, Marsh, Woolf, Young.

Although Councillor Ritchie spoke in the debate, she was absent for the vote.

Where to now? It’s important to complete the Island Bay to CBD cycle route, but another high priority route is the Thorndon to Ngauranga Cyclepath – this has high usage and a poor safety record. An indication of the issues on this route came in the public participation for Wednesday’s Council meeting. A business owner on Thorndon Quay was keen to see the Thorndon to Ngauranga Cyclepath routed along Aotea Quay – so that she didn’t lose parking outside her business.

What can we learn from Ecuador?

Shared space” has a different meaning in the Galapagos

When we look overseas for cycling cites to emulate, we’re generally thinking of the separated bike lanes of Copenhagen and Amsterdam, or maybe Lyon with its innovative public bike scheme. But Ecuador? They just do bananas and giant tortoises there don’t they?

So it was a bit of a surprise when I traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, to find that even here cycling is being catered for.

Our trip started in Quito where the main barrier to cycling is altitude. At 2800 metres, you only get 60% of the oxygen that you have at sea level. In fact I never acclimatised sufficiently to get on a bike in Quito, although the city has a good network of cycle routes, and a public bike scheme, BiciQuito.

Sign for BiciQuito public bike scheme
Sign for BiciQuito public bike scheme
BiciQuito bike stand
BiciQuito bike stand
Strong encouragement for Quito cyclists to take the lane
Strong encouragement for Quito cyclists to take the lane

There’s also a ciclovia event, the Ciclopaseo, where a 30km route is closed to motor traffic every Sunday from 8am to 2pm. Unfortunately our schedule didn’t have us in Quito on a Sunday, so I missed out on this.

Protected cycle lane, Puerto Ayora

The real surprise was  on the Galapagos Island of Santa Cruz, where a protected cycle lane runs along the seafront of the main town, Puerto Ayora. A two lane road has been turned into a one way road, with a two way protected cycle lane on the sea side. In this case, the two way cycle lane works because there aren’t many intersections, although “wrong way” cyclists have to be careful when they rejoin traffic at the ends of the route.

This had me thinking. If a small town (population 12000) in the Galapagos can do protected cycle lanes, why is it so difficult to do them in Wellington? The Puerto Ayora bike path can’t have been easy – transport costs and a tourist inflated economy make building infrastructure in the Galapagos expensive. Retailers on the landward side of the road must have been concerned about losing car borne customers.

So when the excuse for not doing cycle facilities is “Wellington isn’t Copenhagen” bear in mind that Quito and Puerto Ayora aren’t Copenhagen either, but they are getting on with providing a cycling network.

Memorial Park: a cycling view

The Memorial Park between Taranaki Street and Basin Reserve is now complete. How does it work as a cycling space?

This is a reasonably important question, since the Park is potentially a nexus on the Wellington Cycling network. The Karo Drive cycle path carries on through the Park to connect with the Basin Reserve. A future Southern Cycleway, connecting Island Bay and Newtown to the CBD, is likely to either come through Basin Reserve, or through Tory Street. Either way, cyclists will be negotiating linkages with the Park.

Low kerb in Memorial Park - note that in the distance, the kerb disappears
Low kerb in Memorial Park – note that in the distance, the kerb disappears

One issue that has received some media coverage is the low kerbs. My impression is that the Park is trying to emulate the shared space concept, where cars, bikes and pedestrians are supposed to move freely in the same space. This became popular in Holland, where it was found to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents. However at the Park, cars are being constrained to particular spaces by bollards and kerbs. The kerbs are designed not to be too intrusive, and are about 5cm high. This low height makes them easy to miss in poor light or rain, but high enough that if you try and bike across them at a shallow angle, your front wheel catches and you come a cropper. The use of the kerbs isn’t consistent – sometimes there will be no kerb, and then a few metres on, a kerb will appear without any warning.

The Park constructors have highlighted some of the kerbs with white marking strips, which isn’t really useful – they don’t warn a cyclist that there is a kerb. A simple solution would be to champfer the kerb back to 45 degrees or less. This has been done at the entrance to the Defence Force establishment, presumably to prevent LAV’s from being flipped as they turn across the kerb.

A potential issue is whether motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are getting the same “shared space” message. A motorist heading down from Tasman Street through the Park towards Tory Street sees a road – admittedly with some cobbles to slow them down. However a cyclist or walker crossing this area sees a continuation of the Park – it’s not immediately obvious that they’re crossing a roadway and need to watch out for cars.

Motorists view from Tasman St
Motorists view from Tasman St
Cyclist and pedestrian view across Tasman/Tory Street
Cyclist and pedestrian view across Tasman/Tory Street

In fact cars do seem to be slowing down in this area, so it could be that it will be a safe area for cyclists and pedestrians. If not, there may be a need to narrow the road space, or install chicanes at each end, to slow vehicles down.

Wayfinding sign - only to destinations in the Park
Wayfinding sign – only to destinations in the Park

Another issue is wayfinding – there are posts around the area with directions, but just to locations within the Park. Since it’s part of the cycling network, I’d expect to see signs for destinations in other places. For example when you turn off Tasman Street to head west, you should see signage telling you that this is a cycle route to Cuba Street, University, the Aro Valley and Brooklyn (to be fair, there’s a lack of directional signage right along the Karo Drive cycle path). As you head downhill towards Taranaki Street, the only direction indication is a left turn arrow – which just applies to cars. Cyclists have the option of crossing Taranaki Street and heading west on the shared space through Arthur Street, but it’s not very obvious.  Hopefully this kind of wayfinding will be installed as the Wellington Cycling Framework is implemented.

Having got these issues out of the way, I do have to admit that the Park is a nice space to ride through. It feels open and safe, and I’ve noticed a few young cyclists practicing on scooter bikes, so it could become the place Wellingtonians come to learn to ride a bike, as well as a nexus on the cycling network.

Wellington Cycling Framework: progress or procrastination?

How the Framework might be applied - an indicative view of a future Aro Cycleway
How the Framework might be applied – an indicative view of a future Aro Cycleway

On 21 April, a rally of over 350 people who cycle demanded that WCC “get on with it” and start building cycling infrastructure. On 30 April, Council will debate the Wellington Cycling Framework, the “master plan” for developing cycling in Wellington. Is this the start of the progress that the rally demanded, or is it another exercise in procrastination?

The Framework certainly makes all the right noises, and is an excellent planning document. Four types of cycle route are proposed: quiet roads, shared vehicle & bike zones, protected cycle lanes, and alternative routes through, for example, parks and reserves (it’s not clear whether Council policy will change to allow eBikes on these routes).

The Framework recognises that constructing protected cycleways involves some politically hard decisions.  “On-Street parking will be removed in some locations…WCC gives priority to safety, pedestrians, cycling facilities, bus stops, bus lanes, and traffic flow over other uses”

Part of the Cycling Framework network map
Part of the Cycling Framework network map

The network map follows the London Tube map style, and could result in us following the pink “Kelburn” route to get to the University, or the green “Aro route” to the Aro Valley (the colour is very appropriate given the traditional party vote at Aro Valley polling station). This is reminiscent of the coloured routes that cris-cross the Italian city of Bolzano, renowned for its 29% cycling mode share.

Bolzano cycleway - straight ahead on the yellow route to the CBD, left on the green route to the Roncolo castle.
Bolzano cycleway – straight ahead on the yellow route to the CBD, left on the green route to the Roncolo castle.

An interesting delivery method is proposed – the implementation will be outsourced to an “Alliance” of firms chosen through a tendering process. If a cycleway project fits the parameters of the Framework, it will go ahead without reference to Council. If the Alliance has good expertise in cycleway design (for example by using specialist cycling engineers such as Via Strada) this could be very successful, and could keep Councillors at arms length from the nitty gritty of cycleway implementation. A similar model has resulted in impressive progress in Auckland, where cycleway design is the responsibility of Auckland Transport, rather than the Council directly.

The “elephant on the cyclepath” is the Island Bay to CBD cycleway. The Framework doesn’t mention it, instead setting as priorities the northern route (Ngauranga – Thorndon Quay), the CBD, and the Eastern route. Urban Cycleway Programme funding has been requested for these. It would be a shame, after all the work that has gone into Island Bay to CBD, if it goes on the back burner.

The 30 April Council meeting will provisionally approve the Framework, and there will be consultation, partly using the same web platform as the Long Term Plan. Given that the LTP consultation showed that 90% of respondents supported the development of a cycling network, and 80% saw it as a high priority, it’s not clear that further consultation is necessary.

The June Council meeting will decide on final approval for the Framework, and may also set priorities for specific routes, so work on these can get going as soon as possible.

So is this progress or procrastination? Depressingly, the 30 April Council meeting is asked to approve a number of actions (“Agree the draft framework”, etc…), none of which involve building anything. However there’s certainly a will to get fast delivery of at least some cycle facilities so that Wellington gains credibility as a cycling city. With funding from the Urban Cycleway Programme and the National Land Transport Fund, WCC could potentially be spending a million dollars a month on cycle facilities over the next few years. But progress will only happen if people who cycle keep up the pressure on WCC. Write to your ward councillor now, and tell them you want the Framework not just approved, but implemented.

eBike user profile: Deborah East

Deborah navigates the hills of Brooklyn on her eBike
Deborah navigates the hills of Brooklyn on her eBike

What kind of people ride eBikes, and why? I put these questions to real estate agent and eBike user Deborah East:

My e-bike has got me back into cycling after many years of inactivity, and I am slowly getting fitter and healthier because of the bike.

As a teenager in Christchurch, my bike was my only form of transport. I got a standard bike in my late 30s while living in Highbury – the hill was too hard for me, but I would transport it by car to flatter places. I lived in a city apartment for 2 years and rode a lot, but when I moved to Brooklyn 17 years ago the hill once more defeated me, and the demands of my job meant I didn’t have time to put the bike on the car to go somewhere else for a ride.

A few years ago I discovered e-bikes at the Home Show, and fell in love! A bike I could get up hills on despite my arthritis! So last year when we were about to take a holiday in the Bay of Islands, which usually entails riding everywhere on the resort’s mountain-bikes, I decided to look on-line for a reasonably-priced e-bike. I bought mine from a chap in Albany who imports them from China, and collected it on the way north.

Home again, and I decided to use my e-bike for work whenever I could. I sell real estate, so sometimes I just have to take my car, but if the appointment isn’t too far away and the client doesn’t need a lift, I cycle. I can get to our down-town office from Brooklyn in 12 minutes in peak traffic, and back up in 15 minutes, whereas it would be 20 minutes down by car. So it’s like going to the gym, spending no time, and getting results. I sold a house at the top of Severn St in Island Bay last year, and did all appointments by bike except the open homes.

Parking isn't an issue with an eBike
Parking isn’t an issue with an eBike

The lack of parking hassles means it’s really easy to do errands on the way to & from appointments, and with a basket on the front I can carry up to 5kg of groceries as well as my briefcase.

I’ve had hydraulic disc brakes retro-fitted to my bike so I feel safer going down hills (On Yer Bike/Avanti in Vivian St did it for me – they have been fabulous).

The bike doesn’t carry me up hills on its own – if I stop pedalling, the motor stops – it’s assistance, it isn’t a motor-bike. So I’ve gradually got fitter over the year I’ve been riding it. I flick the motor on when I need it, and ride with the motor off a lot of the time.

Another plus, aside from getting up hills, is that I can flick the power on to get away quickly at traffic lights, and keep more-or-less up with the traffic – I do about 25kph. So cars are less desperate to get past me, and so less likely to cut me off/knock me off – it’s a lot safer around town than a standard bike.

For someone thinking of getting an e-bike, I would recommend buying it from a local supplier so it has a warranty, and so you can trial it first. Make sure it’s under 300 watts so it doesn’t legally count as a motorbike and need registering. Check that the motor won’t surge when you don’t want it to – such as over the crest of a hill. And check that you can manage the weight – mine is so heavy I need help to get it on a bike-rack on a car, but I saw one recently which is only 15kgs. You will need somewhere dry to keep it – it won’t like getting its electrics soaked.

The bottom line is – everyone I’ve met who has an e-bike just loves it, me included!