Johnsonville Line: Bikes Allowed On Trains

Here’s some good news.

Following a review by the Greater Welling ton Regional Council bikes will soon be allowed on trains on the Johnsonville line at all times, without restrictions.

Cr Daran Ponter says that the introduction of the new Matangi units on the Johnsonville line, scheduled for mid-March 2012 means that there will be greater capacity than currently provided by the English Electric units.

Cr Daran Ponter says “this means that we will be able to provide unrestricted access for cyclists wanting to take their bikes on the line. This is a very welcome move and a further step to integrating cycling and public transport use.

Councillor Ponter says that the revised policy should draw more people to take the train. It also provides a fall-back option for cyclists if the weather turns nasty.

The bikes on trains policy for the entire Wellington Metlink network will be reviewed again in April/May 2012, 12 months after it was introduced. Cr Ponter says that at this time he would like to see the Council start moving to relax the restrictions it currently has in place with respect to bikes on peak-hour services on other rail lines.

Copenhagen train. Image credit: Patrick Morgan


Archi bikes come to Christchurch

Archi has opened in Christchurch, selling their own-branded mamachari and fixies. Archi was born (in traditional kiwi style) over a beer. Three friends, one of whom had lived in Japan, decided to bring a bit of Japanese cycling culture to New Zealand.

The bikes are priced very reasonably at $399 for the mamachari and $499 for the fixies (which can be converted to singlespeed).

The mamachari come with everything you’d expect in a commuter bike – mudguards, chain guard, coat guard, basket – and are mainly single speed. I think I’d want a few gears for Wellington, but at that price adding an internal gear hub would be pretty do-able.

You can find Archi on their website and on Facebook.

Image credit: Archi


Cycle culture vs infrastructure?

I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of things are being framed as a dichotomy. For example, a post appeared on Cycling in Auckland a while ago that drew heated debate. Its premise was that, if you’re trying to get more people on bikes, the current focus on infrastructure is pretty well pointless and we should be trying to develop a bike culture instead.

So is it really a question of one or the other?

Here’s what I think. If I look back on my own experience of starting to ride again, it was bike culture that caught my attention and it was infrastructure that convinced me to do it.

In – I think – May 2010 the Dominion Post ran a two-page spread in their lifestyle pull-out featuring Mamachari bikes, Laurie Foon and a whole lot of other cycle chic stuff. Until then I hadn’t really considered that I might be able to cycle with my clothes on. I’d assumed skirts and dresses couldn’t be done, and for someone who’s rarely in anything else that was a big deal.

I already had an exceptionally stylish friend who rode everywhere, so I met up with him and we talked about bikes and clothes and what might be possible. He pointed out that my home was at one end of the waterfront and my work was at the other, so if I wanted to bike my commute I’d be as safe as houses.

About a month later I saw a bike on Trade Me, and, loving its look but knowing nothing whatsoever about it’s quality, took the plunge and bought it. My friend came around, checked everything was working and took me for a ride along the waterfront.

I loved it! I felt so safe, but I also felt like I was floating. I refused to go home after our first venture up Oriental Bay and back, so we went exploring along the waterfront right up to the concourse at Westpac Stadium.

Having those twin pillars of culture and infrastructure made all the difference for me, so I don’t think I can buy in to any debate that holds one above the other. We need them both if we’re going to make cycling ordinary.

Image credit: Patrick Morgan

Bike bells are good

It’s a bit late to recommend Christmas presents, but if you know anyone having a birthday in 2012 I have a most excellent gift idea for you.

Sweetpea Bicycles (“the bike that will love you back”) stock Crane brass temple bells and not only are they reasonably priced, they will ship to NZ for about NZ$9 shipping costs for two. Just make sure you check whether they have the lever strike (pictured on the website) or the hammer strike in stock. I thought I was getting the lever strike but it was the hammer strike that arrived.

Crane temple bells are renowned for their lovely tones, with the brass being the deepest (relatively speaking). They’re also pretty and shiny – incredibly shiny as you can see from the reflection in the image of me taking the photograph.

I find my bell exceedingly useful. I live in Miramar so my ride to work is on shared paths for a good deal of the way. If I want to pass someone or just let them know I’m there, or if I’m coming up to a blind corner on the waterfront, the bell says it all for me. I’ve noticed lately that pedestrians (aka ‘people walking along’) are getting more responsive to bells, which I call progress.

So if you’ve got a spare $25 or so to spend on someone – including yourself – this is a lovely bell that combines form and function. I highly recommend it.

*Sweetpea gets extra cred for being comprised of Natalie the bike builder, and her husband and super cute bebbeh.

Crane temple bell


Dreams for the future and the dangers of the Golden Mile


Cycle Aware Wellington meeting, 4.10.2011

Cycle Aware Wellington is Wellington’s local branch of CAN, the national Cycling Advocates Network. This hard working and friendly bunch of people hold meetings on the first Tuesday of each month at the Library Bar on the corner of Tory St. Beers are consumed, minutes are taken and the hub of cycle advocacy in Wellington ticks along.

A happy surprise

October’s meeting held a surprising and exciting development! Martin Hanley, from Red Design Architects in Newtown and Victoria University’s School of Architecture, presented us with a plan for a beautifully designed cycleway connecting Island Bay to the city. It sounds like students at the School of Architecture have been beavering away on the idea for years and years and now they’re gearing up to release it to the public! Wellington City Council have contributed some money for the final planning stages. Martin explained that they are going to put the plan on the web to get grassroots support for the cycleway, building up momentum to get the funding to build it.

And what does it look like? Pretty fantastic. The students have done a super job of catering to cyclists’ needs. The route is to be suitable for “seven and 77 year olds” and designed for maximum safety. The main cycling ‘motorway’, or the ‘Bike Pass’, runs from Island Bay beach to Te Papa. It’ll follow an off road route behind the Berhampore golf course, down Hanson, Tasman and Tory streets to the water. Smaller ‘tributary’ routes will give access to it. Martin stressed that the cycleway won’t just be green paint on the road; there will be fully segregated facilities all the way. They’ve also made sure it won’t be next to parking, so there’s no chance of getting doored!  The idea is that no carparks will have to be lost. Most of the space will come from road narrowing; Martin says that motorists are happy with a kind of two-way courtesy system down very narrow streets like Devon Street, so they’re applying that idea here. Commuters will be happy to know that the cycleway will be paved and suitable for riding in street clothes.

The cycleway is designed to connect up several schools, the southern primary schools as well as Wellington High, Massey University, and the Te Aro campus of Victoria University. It’s particularly designed to work well with Option X. That’s the Architecture School’s concept for the Basin Reserve that is currently being considered by the council as an alternative to the NZ Transport Authority’s plan to stick a flyover through the area. Option X would see the flyover ditched for a cut and cover tunnel and the area made into a park. Imagine riding through a park on your way to work or school! How great would that be?

But unfortunately Option X is still up in the air and goes to a council vote on Thursday. The ball hasn’t even started rolling for the cycleway. Who will be prepared to put up the money? Wellington City Council sound interested but the project hasn’t yet been costed. At the CAW meeting however, optimism reigned. The project holds so much promise for Wellington’s development as a forward thinking city. It’s expected that the full cost-benefit analysis will be positive; think of the tourism opportunities! The health savings! The relief on congestion! Maybe we can swing it. And I’m sure Wellington cyclists will give the plan the full support it needs when it goes public.


Meanwhile, at the other end of town…

Other things discussed at the CAW meeting included the bus interchange at the Railway Station. The main message, which hopefully you’ve got already, is don’t go through there! It’s dangerous and it annoys bus drivers. There was some talk about advocating for Bunny Street as an alternative route through to Lambton Quay. Simon Kennett also got some feedback on the new Regional Cycling Maps. There was discussion of who to nominate for CAN’s upcoming Cycle Friendly Awards. A suggestion was made that the Wellington City Council could be nominated for their purchase of cycle friendly wavy sump grates. But it was also considered that the Victoria University School of Architecture could be nominated for their development of the Island Bay cycleway, although it hasn’t been built yet. If it’s already won awards, it might get some good attention from people who are capable of funding it!

Also, Beca Infrastructure Ltd. have done a safety report on Wellington’s Golden Mile. It came back suggesting that the area is not good for cyclists and recommends signing bus lanes also as bike lanes and highlighted the danger of angled parking. CAW is considering how best to use the results of the report to advocate for better facilities for cyclists in the area. Finally, the plans for Go By Bike day were discussed. It’ll take place on February the 1st next year and will include the regular breakfast through funding from the regional and city councils. It’s expected there will be lots of ideas for fun activities to do at the event! I’m sure I’ll see you all there.


Cycling for everyone – how it’s done

Are you:

– Thinking of riding a bike in your ordinary clothes?

– Considering ways to bring your colleagues/boss/company on board for the cycling ‘revolution’?

– Wanting to improve road safety for bike riders and everyone else?

– Wondering how to get your council/government to commit to better great cycling infrastructure?

Allow me to provide you with this delightful piece from the Dutch Cycling Embassy.

Cycling For Everyone from Dutch Cycling Embassy on Vimeo.

Thanks to Simon for sending it over!



The near-ideal Wellington commuting bike

Cross-posted from Stephen’s blog.

For some years I’ve been riding a bike to work most days for various reasons: economic, environmental, health and personal contrariness. I have been riding an elderly Specialized mountain bike with street tires, which I got second hand on Trade Me. It has served me well, but I was starting to tire of it for a few reasons:

  • it was ugly;
  • the frame was a bit small and I couldn’t get the seat and the handlebars into a configuration that was both comfortable and safe;
  • every now and then the derailleurs would shit themselves and eat a chain in the middle of town, because emergency manoeuvres are a fact of life in inner-city cycling;
  • the cleats and bike shoes that seemed like a good idea for the Mt Vic ascent were a pain.

The Cycling in Wellington blog drew my attention to the fact that there is a whole other kind of bike out there which is intended to be ridden by everyday people at an everyday pace to do everyday things, and that such bikes can be attractive and suitable for a chap in a tweed jacket. I don’t race, I’m not into mountain biking and neither a road bike nor a mountain bike nor any in-between hybrid appeals like a bike that’s meant for utility travel. I’d been thinking about 8 speed internal hubs for a while, but following the trail from Cycling in Wellington to Lovely Bike and Velo Ideale and Mamachari made a few ideas coaelesce in my head.

So, let me present my new pride and joy. It is a Linus Roadster customised for me by David at Velo Ideale. I asked for various features and tweaks which I thought would make it best suited to my needs, and now that I’ve been riding it for a week, I’m pleased to say I feel really good about my choices. It has been a pleasure to deal with David too.

I chose the Roadster as a base because they have the old-school look I was after, they are cheap-ish, and Velo-Ideale had a great picture on their site of an already modified one which inspired me. One day I might drop several grand at once on a Pashley, but not yet. My judgement has been validated because I get unsolicited compliments on my stylish bike.

The Shimano Nexus Red Band 8 speed hub is marvellous. Unless and until something mechanically terrible happens, I cannot see myself ever going back to derailleurs. The gear range is such that I can climb from Cambridge Terrace up to Alexandra Road by way of Marjoribanks, Hawker, Palliser and Thane as easily as I could on the 21 speed mountain bike, but I can crank along Evans Bay parade at high speed. I can shift when stopped. Shifting is very smooth, so smooth in fact that between some gears you can only tell because of the change in resistance to pedalling. Supposedly internal gear hubs are not quite as efficient as derailleurs, but I cannot detect this. And on the other hand, the chain is always perfectly aligned between the chainring and the rear cog, unlike on a derailleur system. Since there’s no front derailleur, the guard plate next to the chainring is big and so while I generally use a reflective trouser clip for visibility, there’s no need to worry about getting my pants caught in the chain any more.  The unit is sealed and can’t get crap in it, and probably won’t need servicing for 2 or 3 years. This is probably the most expensive component in the whole bike, and the most unusual one, but it is definitely what makes it well-suited to local conditions.

The big wheels give a smooth ride. White sidewall tyres just look good with a black frame. I’m keeping an eye out for cream ones though.

I asked for toe clips. They have white straps to go with the white sidewalls. They haven’t taken long to get used to, and they really help with a sustained climb like my ride home from work. I’ve discovered that my most formal shoes actually make the best bike shoes, as they have stiff leather soles. It’s very nice to wear proper shoes to work, be secure in the pedals all the way, and not have to change shoes.

The handlebars are flipped because that’s how the cool kids had them in the 80s and I just like it. Generally, I find the grip angle easier on my wrists. I am really appreciating a more upright riding posture. I can see more. My lower back is grateful. The only niggle is that my little handlebar mirror doesn’t have a stalk and I can’t position it usefully on these handlebars, and I haven’t found a mirror that’s stylish and suitable yet. I do miss the mirror. On the other hand, in an upright position it’s easier to turn my head and look over my shoulder.

We all know New Zealand is a pluvial country, so while I’ve escaped riding in the wet so far in the last couple of weeks, it’s bound to happen. I’m looking foward to having proper mudguards protect my trousers.

The Brooks saddle is an extravagance which I chose purely for aesthetic reasons, but it turns out to be comfortable. I expect it will get even better as I wear it in.

As a whole, I’m finding my new bicycle very pleasant to ride. It’s stable – I can go no hands easily. It’s very smooth and quiet, though the mudguards create a little extra noise on a rough surface. It’s especially nice to ride slowly. It is a relaxing bike, and I look forward to taking it out every day. From a feature point of view, I can’t think what I would add to this bike that could make it better for its main job of getting me to work and back. (I already have really good lights from the old bike so adding built in ones would have been taking it too far.) And it cost a bit more than a year’s worth of bus fares.

Stephen Judd

Well exactly 2

As the name suggests, this post is a followup to “Well exactly” as posted here by Lisa on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.

I suggested in a comment to “Well exactly” that I would measure and categorise the cycleway infrastructure that exists in Wellington City. Someone has to do the good jobs!

This is important as an historical milestone (sic) in our pursuit of improved facilities. One day we will look back and remember the old days when…

To make these measurements I first had to locate all the candidate cycleways. I started at the WCC website, but it was too vague and only listed five cycleways. Then at the suggestion of SimonK, I planned a short trip on journeyplanner and compiled a list of the “shared paths” and “cycle paths” shown on the resulting journey map.

I limited the “paths” I measured to all-weather sealed type cycleways. These are the cycleways used by everyday commuters (like me),  so:

  • no forest tracks (need to get to work on time);
  • no downhills (gulp);
  • and no bus lanes, although there might be the odd useful one…

Finally came the fun part of pedalling and sightseeing.

Image credit: Nigel Prentice

Here is what I recorded.


Route name Date prepared: August 2011 Shared Path (m) Cycle Lane (m)
Kaiwhara’ Expressway Bottom of Ngauranga Gorge to Railway Station 3500 1600
The Waterfront Railway Station to Herd St 2000
Civic Square Branch 440
Jervois Bridge Branch 130
Queens Wharf Branch 150
Whitmore Branch 30
Waitangi Park Branch 180
The Oriental Herd St to Carlton Gore Rd 1200
Evans Bay Carlton Gore Rd to Cobham Dr (Zephyrometer) 1700 2400
Cobham Cobham Dr (Zephyrometer) to Maupuia Rd (Miramar Cutting) 1620
Coutts Cobham Dr (Zephyrometer) to Broadway/Miro St/Airport 1860 890
Island Bay Reef St to Medway St (IsBay shops) 1100
The Tunnel Taurima St to Brougham St 950
The Bypass Buckle St to Buller St 200 1000
The Basin Beside the cricket pitch 350
Aotea Quay Beside the Westpac Stadium (estimate due to RWC works) 400
Cable Car Link Cable Car to Salamanca Rd (feature picture) 440
TOTALS 15150 6990


So there we have it, a grand total of 22.14km, with most of the cycleway distance on shared paths (68%).

One commentator to the original Well Exactly (Malcolm) made a comparison with the grand total in Christchurch. On the face of it, these figures would bear him out. However Wellington is a compact city so comparisons have to be pro rata. The factors here include land area, population base, hilliness, and wind! But even that could be stretching credibility a bit too far, yeah right, and well exactly.

It looks too little to me, or did I miss something?



Wellington 2040 – transport cycling success

Next week Wellington City Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee will consider the recommendations contained in the nattily titled report Wellington 2040 City Strategy and Central City Framework: Feedback from Public Engagement. OK so that’s not actually a natty title.

Excitingly (yes, Council reports can be exciting), recomendation 1(b)(v) is that WCC alters the 2040 plan to “Strengthen focus on mixed modal transport options, including support for… safe cycling… infrastructure.” The report’s recommendations grew out of public consultation that expressed a number of common themes, including “desire for commitment to and improvements in public transport and cycling and walking accessibility in the city”. See, I told you it was exciting!

I haven’t read the public submissions, but I’d be interested to know whether they focussed on improving cycling infrastructure or whether there was a general desire for easier cycling and Council officers have thought “I know what that means, that means infrastructure!”

While I’m a big supporter of generous amounts of high-quality cycling infrastructure – and no-one is better placed to implement that than a council, I’d also like to see councils in our region step up to the cycling culture challenge. Infrastructure is great once you’re on a bike and riding to work or school or the shops or wherever, but what gets people on bikes is being able to identify with other people who ride for transport.

So what could councils do to give people that opportunity to think “I could do that”? How can councils work towards the cultural utopia pictured below? Suggestions so far include putting in some fun, attention-getting bike parking, and passing a bylaw making helmets optional. But what else is there? Answers on the back of a postcard, or in the comments box.

By Apoikola (Own work) [CC0 (], via Wikimedia Commons