Monday, September 22, 2008

I want to ride across the harbour bridge!

They say there is enough room to add an extra lane. It would be a tight fit.

More Lycra than the Olympics out there

This Sunday I attended a rally in support of bicycle and pedestrian access to our only harbour crossing, the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Well that's not quite true, there is an "upper" harbour bridge, but it's so far away from downtown Auckland you are more or less driving around the entire harbour to cross it. I had to drive my car over the bridge to get there with Pugs on the bike rack, which is the whole point I guess. It's either that or ride miles out of my way for an expensive ferry trip.

I'm not involved in any kind of bike advocacy but I do support our local organization, Cycle Action Auckland. One of their major initiatives at the moment is lobbying for bike and pedestrian lanes to be included in the planned bridge renovation. Basically the outside lanes need to be strenghened before they plunge into the ocean in a shower of rust particles. They say it is perfectly safe, but only allow trucks on the inner lanes. How very reassuring!

The bridge was completed in 1959 and links North Auckland with the city, much like Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was badly planned from the start and 49 years on the bureaucrats making the decisions are still small-minded and not looking to the future. The original structure opened with four lanes, two in each direction. Your next door neighbours' dog, with a brief introduction to town planning, would have worked out that wasn't going to be enough. 

In 1969 two lanes were added to each side, doubling the number of lanes from four to eight. The sections were manufactured in Japan and immediately nicknamed the "Nippon clip-ons".
Despite the doubling in capacity the thing is always gridlocked at rush hours, just as it was when I was a child in the 70s, and they still didn't include footpaths or bike lanes. The original design had them, but they were removed for budgetary reasons. How dumb are these people?

I was a bit disappointed with the turn-out. I'm guessing there was only 500 people or so, in a city of more than 1 million. That goes to show what a car-centric society we are. 
Still, It was good to hang out with fellow cyclists and realise I am not the only one commuting by bike, as it often seems. 

As we say in New Zealand - "I don't think there's a shit show of it actually happening", but you have to stand up for what you believe in, right?

Some local politicians got up on stage to massage votes out of the crowd. One from the Act party suggested "user pays" was the way to go, and cyclists should be charged a toll to help pay for the work. I'm surprised he wasn't stoned there and then and thrown off the top of the bloody bridge - it was in walking distance. 

The Viaduct Basin with Auckland City in the background. Architects shield your eyes.

The speeches were short and sharp and it was such a nice spring day I went for a ride along the waterfront to downtown Auckland. It was great to see so many cyclists on the roads. The majority were Lycra-Cowboys (my term for roadies) but I saw a real variety of interesting machines. I've got a bit of a thing for folding bikes and I saw a couple of Birdies, some space-age looking Giant Half-Ways (with single-sided front and rear forks) and even my first Rivendell. 

Just lovely, all lugs and shininess. I thought of Doug's new stead.

I cruised through an area we call "The Viaduct" where the America's Cup was hosted before New Zealand sailors won it for the Swiss and took it to Spain ;-)
It's full of caf├ęs and bars, and the rich (and those without children) sit there and look out in envy on the yachts and floating gin-palaces of the even richer. 

It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and really made me think how great it would be to be able to ride over here from home with the family without having to use the car or sell a child to afford the ferry. We don't have rail and you can't take your bikes on the bus. There are no other options.

Here's hoping the bureaucrats see the light.

Looking back towards Devonport on the North Shore from downtown Auckland. I'm normally on the top of one of those little hills looking back this way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Not a cyclist, but I do ride bikes

I haven't done any mountainbiking lately or long road rides, but I am on my bike most days, if only to pop down to the shops or commute to work.

The Nasty Evil Bike waits impatiently for my morning commute. 

We don't have many bike lanes in Auckland, there is no rail in my half of the city, the buses don't have bike racks and you can't ride across the harbour bridge, but you are permitted to ride in the transit lane and get flattened by a bus. Here I am taking the midget assassin to the doctor.