By Brendan Moyle 02/03/2018

It’s been a harder challenge for me this year. I injured myself with a lumbar strain and have had to avoid strenuous exercise for most of the month. While I still ended up with a lot of rides, I was down in both distance and number compared to last year. And certainly none of the big rides I managed in January.

The top two riders at my workplace managed 41 bike trips between us. The rest of the riders 18. In some ways I’m not surprised. The cycling infrastructure on the North Shore is not  well developed. And I’ve met several riders who simply won’t bike on some of the trunk roads here. One of them is a road I use, well, about twice a day. This pattern of most rides recorded by a small percentage fits most studies.

Since Geller’s research on cycle transport in Portland, it’s been common to class cyclists in 4 categories. Those that identify strongly as cyclists and are willing to use busy roads without cycle lanes, are a minority. They are often around 1-4% of the cyclist population. These are the ‘Strong and Fearless’. A larger group is the ‘Enthusiastic and Confident’. They also like to cycle but are perturbed by roads without cycle lanes.  The largest group of potential cyclists are ‘Interested but Concerned”. These are people would be willing to use cycling as a transport option, but don’t because of safety concerns.

In short, in the absence of good cycling infrastructure, most rides are going to be done by a tiny group of people who ride even if there was no such infrastructure. In some ways however, I’ve found that cycling has become safer in peak travel times. Cars are simply stationary, or moving slowly, for most of the commute. They’re moving too slowly to pose a risk.

Roundabouts however remain one of my main risk spots. I don’t know if it is lack of attention (strongly likely for that guy talking on his cellphone, driving an SUV), or not judging speeds. I have a suspicion that some motorists don’t realise how fast road bikes do travel, and assume I’m moving at a slower speed than a car because, well, I’m on a bicycle. If I’m traveling at the same or higher speeds, then motorists do need the same gap to enter a roundabout they do as a car. I have been doing my bit to educate a few drivers of this. A  loud, non-professorial public evaluation of their driving aptitude is all for the public good.

I am wondering if the desire to escape congestion will drive more people toward bicycles. I know at peak travel time I can reach work faster on my bicycle than by car. And there’s less parking issues. I’ve also realised somewhat surprisingly, that I can run to work in less time it takes to use the local buses. Part of that is because if I run, I can take shortcuts through parks and reserves.  I’m not restricted to roads. And partly because buses take a circuitous route to campus, stopping regularly to pick up and drop off passengers.

If you think cycle commuters are a rare thing, their numbers actually abound compared to runner-commuters. It is slower than biking, but at least I don’t have to worry so much about the traffic.

0 Responses to “Aotearoa Bike Challenge 2018”

  • Typo: “less sparking issues”.

    Roundabouts are often a problem because there’s cars in the background and motorists aren’t looking for something as small as a bicycle. But I’ve also found that they seem to be an area where a lot of motorists are quite aggressive to each other, let alone to cyclists. Maybe it’s one of those “push in or you’re stuck for ages” things, but even a 900 Lumen head torch in the eyes doesn’t stop some of them. I tried that because there’s one roundabout I use where I can be stuck until a motorist comes up next to me and pushes in. So I thought “if they have to shade their eyes to see it means they’ve seen me”… and yeah, nah. See me, pull out anyway. {eyeroll}.

    That said, I had one guy apologise to me when I pulled up next to him at the lights, after I had to stop when he went trhough the roundabout without even slowing down despite me having the right of way (and both constant and flashing headlights chosen because they’re visible over 180 degrees or more (I have a dyno headlight over the front wheel for seeing with… why yes, I am fricking paranoid about being seen, why do you ask?)).

  • Hi Brendon,
    I wonder if you have noticed an increase in the number of e-bikes. At least on the North-western
    cycle way their number is rising and it would appear to create a new category of bike riders. If the number of such cyclists continues to increase it will be a game changer I think for how people see cycling and the need for additional infrastructure.

    • Hi Neil- no, I’m afraid I rarely see any other cyclists on my routes to Massey (Albany), let alone e-bike riders. I concede that with one of the hills I have to tackle (rises constantly for about a km up to the ridge along the East Coast Bays) I often wish I did have a little electric engine on the bike. I think they do have the potential to get a lot more people cycling also. They tackle two things that hold people back. One is the hills. The other is perspiration-issue. Not everyone has access to a shower at (or near) their work place. So not having to pedal as hard should appeal to those.

      I fear though that the main hindrance- lack of perceived safety- won’t be fixed with e-bikes though. I was surprised on a local facebook page to discover the road I took twice a day scared all the other cyclists from using. Unfortunately the roads I use have very fragmentary cycle lanes and large gaps. Which bemuses me every time a motorist complains about cyclists riding two abreast… I mean, when will they ever see *two* cyclists using the same bit of road around here, let alone them riding side by side…

  • Hi Brendan,
    I would not ride a bicycle on the road where I have to share space with those fleeting vehicles in North Shore, although most people drive safely in the day but I wouldn’t risk it anyway. Also, the hills also prevented me from bicycle. I think you have mentioned a good point of the absence of good cycling infrastructure. I did find a few sharing bikes around the CBD and it looks all good when the car can’t move fast in CBD, people were not wearing helmet which it confused me, as I thought you have to wear a helmet in NZ for the safety concern. Back to China, the shearing bikes are now distributed to every corner of the cities, I personally think it’s a great idea despite the issues of “people leave it disordered after use” which make chaos and mess xD. But it’s a perfect alternative when you are going to do short-distance travel (within 2km maybe?). Given the bad traffic situation in most of China’s cities, in some sense, maybe it’s “easier” and “safer” to ride bicycle there…

  • I think in some ways the North Shore does lag behind other parts of Auckland in terms of bike lanes. One of the main roads I use is Oteha Valley, which in recent months has had a pedestrian and cyclist killed. Generally I also avoid the Albany Highway outside the campus, having been knocked off my bike by a motorist once already. Nonetheless, at peak travel times the traffic is barely moving at all, is backed up for great distances, and I can cycle past well, a sea of single occupant vehicles at a good speed.

    I can’t imagine why a University would have so few people biking to/from campus unless it was perceived as risky. Bike lanes set out as a *proper* network are I fear, a necessity to get more people biking. I note that the Canadian Automobile Association has recently stated that in a report on congestion ( that bike lanes are a relatively low cost way to encourage more biking, reduce congestion and reduce accident risks for cyclists.

    Technically I do believe that cyclists are supposed to wear a helmet in NZ but I suspect that enforcement is lax enough in the CBD for this not to concern many bike-share cyclists.

    I thought it was interesting just a few weeks ago when I went to the Albany Bus Station to take a bus into the CBD to do some beer drinking with some friends. I biked, and found that the cycle racks available were under-subscribed. The car spaces however were heavily used and cars were parked all over the place around the bus station.