Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: One Hundred and Thirty-one Million Reasons to Copenhagenize Christchurch

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  • Gee,

    Another sterling set of calculations. What's the chance of you presenting this to the Council &/or CERA?

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    as someone who has been cycle commuting for almost 10 years (in Tokyo), i pretty much agree with everything David has written. i would just add a few minor points:
    1. i suspect the 15k/h average speed is a bit high. i used to commute 20km each way, and i go quite fast (on a cross country bike not a road bike, so not that fast), but i still took a bit under an hour. my current commute of 17km takes about 50-55 mins. i would suggest that less aggressive (more relaxed) commuters would average 12k/h or so.
    2. sunshine isn't important, imo. what you need is moderate temps and hopefully no rain and little wind.
    3. good bike parking facilities and shower facilities for those who get sweaty are important.
    4. NZ needs more choices in types of bikes available. commuter bikes that are not road bikes (racing bikes) or mountain bikes, bikes that can be fitted with good child seats (Hamax, Topeak, etc.), electric assist bikes, Japanese mama-chari-style bikes, etc.
    5. A lot of people will only want to cycle commute a two or three of times a week rahter than every day. i used to cycle to work twice a week. so public transport options are important too.
    6. cycle tracks through parks and along rivers are the best. people will really enjoy it once they try.
    7. maybe some subsidies for certain types of equipment would be in order (lights, rain gear, helmets, etc.)?

    cheers!

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 635 posts Report Reply

  • John Marshall,

    Wow, I'd just about move to Christchurch for infrastructure like that!

    In case anyone thinks the cyclist pictured is going the wrong way (on some kind of contra-flow bike lane): those apparent arrow heads pointing towards the camera are actually "shark teeth" signaling lane users to give way, here to the pedestrian crossing.

    Cambridge, UK • Since Nov 2006 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I commuted by bike for five of my six years in Christchurch, and I really can't recommend it enough; apart from a few rough patches like that really godawful week of rain last May, it's fast, cheap, pretty easy, and gives you enormous flexibility in terms of not having to have a park/find a park, not being tied down to bus timetables, etc. I commuted straight down Wairakei/Rossall/Carlton Mill Rd into town, and it was significantly faster than taking a bus leaving at the same time, and very significantly faster than all the cars I was flying past.

    It's not just the commuting, either; having a bike really does give you options in terms of running errands in the neighbourhood. We were far enough away from a dairy that I'd have taken the car quite often if I hadn't had a bike. With one, there was really no excuse unless I needed something that didn't fit in a backpack.

    Your timing estimates are quite accurate, too. I was doing near enough to 5km and at peak traffic it was a tidy twenty minutes from my front door to the bike stand, unless every traffic light went against me. When I was a student and closer to uni, it was more like 10min for a 3km ride, once I optimised my route to back roads without traffic lights. Not sure what it'd be like in the Port Hills, but certainly around most of the city it's very easy. And I'm really not that fit. (Which is another thing - commuting by bike is an amazingly efficient weight-management strategy. Forty minutes of exercise a day, every weekday. I noticed it when I stopped.)

    7. maybe some subsidies for certain types of equipment would be in order (lights, rain gear, helmets, etc.)?

    I'd agree with this; you do need a surprising amount of subsidiary equipment to make it really pleasant/safe (a decent D-lock, for starters), though a bike/helmet/basic lock will start you off in summertime. I never got proper rain gear because it was always enough above my student budget to put me off, and I suffered for it a time or two. If people are encouraged to get that stuff fairly soon in they won't be put off by a week of bad weather or the end of daylight saving.

    All that said, though, it won't replace car ownership. People own cars in Christchurch because it's spread-out, and if they want to socialise or have options while shopping, you need a car. I went without for six months just before I left and it made some things really difficult, and some impossible unless I could cadge a ride. Sure, there are buses most places, but when you need to get from one odd bit of the city to another at a non-standard time, it can take a very long time. I had family in Rangiora and seeing them by bus meant losing a whole day, which is fine if you have the time, but you may not. That's not even looking at the fact that a lot of people have family in other bits of the South Island, and driving is the cheapest/easiest way to do trips with a family. There are a lot of benefits to increasing cycling, but I sincerely doubt it will decrease the number of households that own cars. The number of cars per household, very possibly, but not the fact that they own at least one.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I commuted across town to Uni in Chch for a couple of years - can they do something about the wind that blows from the Uni in the mornings and towards it in the afternoons?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2201 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Some very interesting comments here – just a quick reply to one or two while my son has his shower:

    Lucy Stewart wrote:

    All that said, though, it won’t replace car ownership. People own cars in Christchurch because it’s spread-out, and if they want to socialise or have options while shopping, you need a car.

    Agreed – that’s why I didn’t take that into account. But, as you say, I do think it’s very possible that many households would give up their second car in the event of widespread cycle commuting, which would still be a major saving to both them and the Christchurch economy (a savings that I haven’t considered in these numbers).

    Paul Campbell wrote:

    … can they do something about the wind that blows from the Uni in the mornings and towards it in the afternoons?

    Oh, I know that wind. As one of my friends said: it’s not just the extra physical exertion, it’s the thought of all that entropy generation and its reminder of the eventual death of the universe.

    stephen walker wrote:

    ... maybe some subsidies for certain types of equipment would be in order (lights, rain gear, helmets, etc.)?

    That's certainly something that could be integrated into a 'reverse toll' system (if you wanted to go that way). For example, if you could work out your road maintenance savings per kilometre per cyclist then there's no reason that this couldn't be paid directly to the cyclists.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 993 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Compelling arguments, David. To get in ahead of Ian, perhaps we should Den-mark all NZ cities. On a visit to Copenhagen some years ago, I did wonder how how uncomfortable it must be biking on the inner city cobbled streets. They are certainly hard on the feet.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2345 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I'd actually rather they Norwayed Dunedin ....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2201 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to David Haywood,

    Oh, I know that wind. As one of my friends said: it’s not just the extra physical exertion, it’s the thought of all that entropy generation and its reminder of the eventual death of the universe.

    I was particularly baffled by how wherever you lived in relation to the university, that wind blew the same way in relation to your cycle route. Over four years, I lived south, southwest, and northeast of uni; coming or going, north or south, I was cycling into the wind. Perplexing.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Oh bugger I was going to suggest changing to to living on the other side of the University, sounds like camp fire smoke, it just follows you around

    Great Idea David, definitly a goer and now is the time to push the concept
    The only down side is the spread out nature of Christchurch, something the reconstruction is probably going to make worse as busines flee from central city and the reason I much prefer Dunedin for retail( we live half way between them both)

    Any thoughts on the nice Europen idea of rental bikes you can drop off at different stations

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 548 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    was particularly baffled by how wherever you lived in relation to the university, that wind blew the same way in relation to your cycle route. Over four years, I lived south, southwest, and northeast of uni; coming or going, north or south, I was cycling into the wind. Perplexing.

    Not just a case of "When I was lad I walked to school, and then walked home again. Uphill. Both ways." (Must admit I am all for David's idea, but hope that it includes supplying residents with hi-tech gloves. Still remember making it to 9 0'clock lectures from Bishop St in July, and not being about to move my fingers to take notes for the first ten minutes)

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 260 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Maybe this is just a physical issue - as all the students arrive at the Uni in the morning they displace air that flows outwards (or maybe as lectures start the lecturers heat it up), as they leave or the hot air generation ceases it's sucked back in again

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2201 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black,

    City of Sydney research showed a $3.88 return on every dollar spent on cycling infrastructure. Does anyone know where else you can get a 388% return on your investment these days?

    David - would you mind if I excerpted some of your article for a Cycling in Wellington post?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 65 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to richard,

    Not just a case of "When I was lad I walked to school, and then walked home again. Uphill. Both ways." (Must admit I am all for David's idea, but hope that it includes supplying residents with hi-tech gloves. Still remember making it to 9 0'clock lectures from Bishop St in July, and not being about to move my fingers to take notes for the first ten minutes)

    I only stopped biking to Canty regularly eighteen months ago. I'm fairly sure my memory hasn't suffered that degree of editing....yet.

    Any old pair of ski-gloves will solve the finger problem, really. The trick is not losing them.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    As a longtime cycle commuter, I think you've hit the nail on the head.

    One item of cycle infrastructure that's often omitted - which Stephen noted above - is safe places to park the bike. That means decent bike racks, which means proper Sheffield-style racks (the giant metal "staples" in the ground), allowing you to lock the bike frame to something large and immobile. The traditional "front wheel holder" bike racks that NZ seems to love are, frankly, rubbish; you can't lock the bike securely, and if someone knocks your bike you'll bend the front wheel.

    While I'm happy to ride on the road (mostly), I agree that segregated bike paths are a great idea. Riding in traffic is intimidating for new riders; segregated bike paths get around that. The problem is, they're absolute buggers to retrofit on heavily used roads. But as you say, this is the perfect time to get around to putting them in place.

    A final note here: in my experience, if a city has a good cycling infrastructure and a culture of cycling, people tend to use it. Even people who would otherwise drive a lot of the time. When something becomes "just how you get around", people use it. Cycling has the advantages of (relative in heavy traffic) speed and convenience (no waiting around for a bus); if the infrastructure is in place, people use it.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Lara,

    Love the article - will disseminate it! I've commuted the last 4 years to Canty (and before that to school etc). After the first 4-5km I found my fingers defrosted. Breathing all that cold air into a fast-warming body never got better though.
    Now I have classes out at Lincoln uni - a bit more of a stretch! But because of the rail trail, most of my trip is on a path blissfully separate from the road.

    Having more bikes in Chch would be fantastic.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2009 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I actually thought there were still quite a few cyclists when I was down last week – although obviously it was people going around the CBD. The twice-daily flow across Hagley Park, to and from the city centre, is gone for now.

    I was also reminded what a breeze it is cycling in a flat city. You can’t go far from where I live in Auckland without having to climb some sort of hill, but my little trundle got me to Avonside with minimal effort.

    So, yes, David: you are even more right than you usually are.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Beautiful, beautiful…
    Copenhagen sounds great (and like Chch it too is on the east side of an island of Zealand – hell, we even have the cone
    so what yer saying is, basically, we’ll be Amsterdammed if we do
    and damned (stupid) if we don’t…

    Though looking at the figures Copenhagen is at least about 3 or 4 times the population of Chch :
    - while both are on a similar area (approx 450 sq km)
    - Chch urban population approx 400,000 (no City dwellers listed)
    - Copenhagen urban population approx 1,200,000
    plus the city has 540.00
    and that has to help when planning a big city – not to say that Chch can’t strive for a similar idea though
    (as long as the powers that be realise it isn’t
    a big city in the greater scheme of things!)


    PS the Crowd Source Proofreader says Octogenarian

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5169 posts Report Reply

  • Fooman,

    Just a few, partially relevant observations:

    1. Just spent the past week in the Netherlands:
    a) Very suited to cycling (flat!)
    b) Lots of cycles (1:1 cycles to car in the rural region, up to 20:1 in central Amsterdam).
    c) Helmets not compulsory (see David's earlier blog on this)
    d) Of the (approx) 10 000 bicycles I saw, only a handful were the classic 10-speed/MTB designs we get here. Most were old, sit up and beg style bikes. Lots of child seats (front and back), some with a "wheelbarrow" up front for 2-aside children.
    e) Not many fat dutch people were observed.
    f) People of all ages were cycling - a lot of the blue rinse brigade, more-so in the rural areas.
    g) Bus drivers were very cautious about giving way to cyclists on the roundabouts.


    2. Also spent a few years in Chch with a cycle as my main form of transport. Used to hoon through Dean's bush, Hagley park, Mona Vale, and avoid the big roads (was hit a couple of times by cars failing to give way).

    3. Now live in a hillside suburb in Wellington, and do the school run. Time pressures do not suit cycling. Nor does the terrain. I have put on ~15 kg from my "fighting weight" since joining the rat race.

    FM

    Lower Hutt • Since Dec 2009 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S,

    Suggest you push for 'cycle highways' or whatever you want to call them ascribing destinations and names to sell them as an idea that car mad urban planners can get their heads around.Linking them into better networks as time goes on.
    Already in Auckland I'm seeing a greater take up of cycling on the norwest cyclepath. Build them and they will come.
    A shift in personal transport is occurring with oil becoming a pricier and scarcer resource. Back to the future!

    Since Apr 2010 • 84 posts Report Reply

  • Gary Hutchings, in reply to JackElder,

    One item of cycle infrastructure that's often omitted - which Stephen noted above - is safe places to park the bike. That means decent bike racks, which means proper Sheffield-style racks (the giant metal "staples" in the ground), allowing you to lock the bike frame to something large and immobile. The traditional "front wheel holder" bike racks that NZ seems to love are, frankly, rubbish; you can't lock the bike securely, and if someone knocks your bike you'll bend the front wheel.

    Yeah, having a secure rack is a must, but they need to look good too, I am really liking these racks that are popping up in a number of places round Welly, they also visually reinforce that it is a space for cycles, rather than just a couple of regular loops of metal.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 108 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black, in reply to Gary Hutchings,

    Those racks also make it possible to park on a slope. The supermarket by Waitangi Park has - somewhat unthinkingly - put its bike racks on a gently sloping piece of concrete.

    I can't use the staple-shaped bike racks there because, unlike a car, there's no handbrake on my bike, but I can hook my handlebars in front of the Bikerakk 'handlebar' and my bike stays in place very well.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 65 posts Report Reply

  • MikeE,

    Considering the vast majority of petrol costs is taxation, wouldn't that figure of 34 million going offshore be a bit misleading..

    Kingsland • Since Nov 2006 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • Phaedra,

    I agree with everything you have said. Cycling infrastructure is vital if more than the dedicated few are going to ride bikes around our cities. It isn't because people don't want to ride, it is because at the moment it is difficult to ride (and often scary). I love cycling to work and would ride more often if I didn't have to worry so much about traffic, safety etc. Weather and hills are a secondary consideration to concerns of getting run over.
    I've recently moved from Dunedin to Wellington and am impressed with the number of people who ride here. The weather is on par - more wind but warmer and the hills are more significant I think, but the feeling on the road is different. There are signs all over the city that cycling is an acceptable way to get around, there is some infrastructure (we need heaps more) and in general, drivers are more willing to give you room, wait until it is safe to pass etc.
    There is a real opportunity to do something in CHCH at the moment and I really hope it is taken up by those driving the reconstruction.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2011 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to MikeE,

    Considering the vast majority of petrol costs is taxation, wouldn't that figure of 34 million going offshore be a bit misleading..

    I certainly didn't say it would all be going offshore -- I said a "significant proportion" of it would. It's difficult to find exact numbers (it depends on the retailer) but -- from memory -- it's at least 25 per cent in all cases. I'm on my bike going into Radio NZ now (on at 11.45 am), so can't check my notes.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 993 posts Report Reply

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