How we rolled

Go-By-Bike Day NZ was Wednesday 16th February.

Some of the team got into the spirit and we met at Victoria Square for the free breakfast organised by the spiffing chaps at Spokes Canterbury, (the Canterbury Cyclists Association) among others.  (Where were you Soph?)  From what I understand the different venues were organised by different groups.  Vic Square had free coffee!  Click on Spokes to go to their website and tell ’em what a jolly good show, chaps!  Also in attendance was Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) whom last year I bought this excellent accoutrement from:

less cars, more calf muscles.

As was the nice gentleman from Velo-Ideale, emporium of fabulous bikes and pieces such as this: (it might not be the best bike shop in the world, but at least it’s not in Islington…)

coffee time, comin' through!

As sported by our very own Chief Executive on her awesome retro bike – and my own Boss-Lady couldn’t resist getting one for her new/old treadley either.

I noticed that the only coverage Christchurch’s-own bastion of mediocrity, The Press, provided the next day was a small article headlined “Cyclist hurt on special day for cycling” or something like that.  It went on to describe the one and only negative incident to mar an otherwise excellent promotion.  But I suppose “Hundreds of cyclists enjoy incident-free commute, free breakfast” doesn’t make for good (sensational) news.

Or does it?  Here’s a little feature on Canterbury Television about the event at Vic Square.

And how do we roll?  Well a little bit like this:

The Chic Cyclistas

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Go-By-Bike Day!

Yes yes, you say.  We get all this good stuff about why active transport is so great yada yada. So what are we doing about all this?  Aha!  I’m glad you/I asked!

Obviously I’m not the only one who sees the importance of getting people active (obviously).  I’m just the only active blogger promoting active transport who’s actually ‘bone idle’ (as my brother would say).  It’s a strange claim to fame, but I’ll take it.  I’ve just noticed that my bike has mysteriously become covered in cobwebs…

IT’S BIKE WISE MONTH!

Anyway.  I wanted to shine a light on this great event which is part of Bike Wise Month held every year in NZ during February.  Implemented and promoted by Bike Wise, a government initiative funded by the NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry of Health.  I hope that doesn’t make it somehow less sexy, I just wanted to say ‘fair go’, the G-men are actually trying to do something positive.

This coming Wednesday 16th February is Go-By-Bike Day nationwide.  By my reckoning on the Bike Wise website there are about 80 events planned for Wednesday alone.  Let alone the rest of the month.  Go-By-Bike Day events tend to involve enticing commuters to cycle by offering free breakfasts to cyclists.

Here’s a link to the Christchurch event, they’re offering brekkie at 4 different locations in the central city.  I’m gonna try and get my whole team to bike to work and meet for a breakfast together so if you’re in ChCh bike along and I’ll see you there!  I’ll be giving away free subscriptions to ToC 😉  And while we’re at it maybe we’ll all wear our best ‘bib n’ tucker’ and make it a real cycle chic event.  Boss-Lady recently purchased a rather fabulous reconditioned granny-style, sit-up-and-beg (love that name) bike, complete with basket on the front.  Puts my mountain bike to shame.  But wait til they get a load of my retro suit!

Need some inspiration?  Look no further.  Well no, do look further but here’s a good start…

How to Make Biking Mainstream: Urban Planning Lessons from the Dutch

How to Make Biking Mainstream: Urban Planning Lessons from the Dutch by Jay Walljasper.

Another interesting article in Yes! Magazine.  The Netherlands have a story to tell when it comes to getting more people onto bikes and out of cars.

A commitment to biking is not uniquely imprinted in the Dutch DNA. It is the result of a conscious push to promote biking.

So it’s not easy but it is possible.  We just need the will to do it.

Some amazing stats in here:

In the Netherlands 27 % of all daily trips are made by bicycle. Doesn’t sound like much?  Compare it to the best of Europe: Denmark is 18 %, Germany 12 % and the U.S.? Try 1 %.  Oh dear…

Get on yer bike!

(Now where did I put my copy of ‘Learning how to Practice what you Preach in 10 easy steps…’)

And another thing… Pedestrian Thinking?

Following on from the last post – no wonder we have such a hard time convincing people to consider the creation of a walking city (note: a walking city includes our rollin’ brothers & sisters).

The word ‘pedestrian’ has become in our society a kind of insult, meaning: slow, stulted, non-creative, inefficient and a bit lame.  In other words not fast, not sexy, not cool.  Which is why I love the work of Living Streets Aotearoa. From their website:

We want more people walking and enjoying public spaces be they young or old, fast or slow, whether walking, sitting, commuting, shopping, between appointments, or out on the streets for exercise, for leisure or for pleasure.

Let’s take back our public spaces!

This is from the page I linked to in the previous post: the Traffic Transport & Road Safety Associates (Ireland) website.  But it was so compelling I just wanted to give it a post all to itself.  Here’s the link again:

Pedestrianisation.

Why Pedestrianise?
  • Improving Road Safety – reducing the potential for conflict between vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists and motor vehicles creates a significant reduction in the number of accidents within the pedestrianised area.  In Odda in Norway accident reductions of over 80% were reported.
  • Improving Economic Vitality – most retailers, at least in town centres, appreciate that the number of people walking past their shop and not the number of people driving past their shop is key to getting people inside to spend money.  Pedestrians comparison shop, and research conducted in the United Kingdom reported increases in sales of upto 20% per year in the first few years following pedestrianisation. Research from 11 cities in Germany showed average rent increases of 50% after pedestrianisation. Chartered Surveyor Weekly reported that following the introduction of the footstreets concept in York, United Kingdom, a boom in retail sales was accompanied by rent increases of upto 400%.
  • Improving Social Interaction – increasing the amount that people meet, talk and interact, has been shown to have health benefits, but also creates a sense of community and a pride in the space or place.
  • Improving Health – in the same way that providing streets to drive on has been shown to increase traffic levels, providing a good walking environment has been shown to increase the number of people walking. Studies tend to show that the number of people walking within the immediate area will increase by over 50%.
  • Improving the environment – It is over 30 years since the OECD studied the link between environmental improvement and the removal of traffic.  Whilst some of the noted benefits such as reductions in Carbon Monoxide have now been addressed through the introduction of catalytic converters to vehicles, creating a modal shift from the car to walking reduces the level of CO2 helping the country to meet its emissions targets. Noise levels are also reduced by up to 15 decibels.

 

So, what kind of city do you want to live in?

A Design for Life*

Just a quick post about some cool stuff I’ve seen – actually ‘on-topic’ too…

The Riversimple Car: for those who've always wanted a sort of Pixar-animated flying beetle car.

As seen in this years Brit Insurance Designs of the Year nominations.

Now we’ve got our thinking caps on.  Making the ‘Eco’ and ‘Human’ friendly options more convenient than the alternatives.

The Riversimple car can reach 80km/hr (50mph) with a range of 322km (200 miles), with fuel consumption claimed to be equivalent to 300 mpg (miles per gallon). The cars will be leased with fuel and repair costs included, at an estimated $315 (£200) per month. The company hopes to have the vehicles in production by 2013; next year, it will release 10 prototypes in an unconfirmed UK city.

Imagine sharing the lease between a couple of families living close together.  Or whole neighbourhoods getting together to lease several.

The second image after the jump is about the urban cycle hire project.  Also check out the awesome and somehow sci-fi ‘energy harvesting’ paving slabs!

Brit Insurance Designs of the Year 2011 award nominations

* Manic Street Preachers from the 1996 album ‘Everything Must Go’.  See a pattern emerging here?

When they are good they are very very good…

Yesterday morning my bus driver played what must have been his favourite romantic mix tape on repeat, loudly. The highlight for me was Dan Hill’s maudlin meanderings repeated THREE times on the way into town.

Allow me to treat you to the pearls that are the lyrics.

“Sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much, and I have to close my eyes and hide. I want to hold you till I die, till we both break down and cry. I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides. “

I’m tearing up here. But wait there’s more.

“At times I’d like to break you and drive you to your knees…”

That’s romance for you right there folks. But my torture did not end when I fled the bus, as this cheery little ditty is also a mind worm on a truly epic level.  I sang it walking down the street, I hummed it in the loo, I whistled it doing my work, the little horror got stuck in my head with a bulldog like grip and I’ve been alone in a dark place with it ever since.

But it’s not all bad music out there on the buses.

Last week I took the fractious toddler, who was fighting yet another cold, into town. On the way home she fell asleep on me, and as I supported her head and dreamily watched the growing patch of drool on my shirt, I tuned into the conversation the bus driver was having with the front seat passenger.

When I started listening, he was talking about the challenges immigrants to New Zealand who don’t speak English as a first language can have getting jobs that match their qualifications and experience. He was a qualified teacher and a sports coach, as far as I could gather, but had had difficulty getting anything more than short term relief contracts, hence here he was driving a bus. It was a bit of a sad story and I think talking about it made our driver feel pangs of old frustrations because he started instead to talk about Serbia, whence he originally came, telling my fellow passenger about the places worth visiting there, the fine old cities and the beautiful fertile countryside.

He was an interesting man, full of enthusiasm for life and his stories made a pleasant diversion as we trundled through Heathcote. The weather was warm, the sun falling directly onto us through the window and Seraphine was getting overheated being so close to me, grumbling and twitching in her sleep. As we passed through the tunnel, I fumbled our things together one handed, and shifted my protesting sweaty daughter onto my shoulder, where she grizzled as we scrambled, ungainly and over laden, down from the bus.

We plodded up the hill, with the small person protesting the iniquities of life in my left ear. We’d just rounded chicken corner and I was mentally girding my loins for the long steep hill ahead when  I heard the sound of running feet and an out of breath male voice shouted “hey!”. It was the bus driver, brandishing Seraphine’s sun hat in his hand. I had unwittingly dropped it as I got off the bus, but instead of just turning it in at lost property, this very nice man had sacrificed his break between bus trips to run after us, up a total bitch of a hill. That’s above and beyond the call of duty by several miles. So yay for the heroic bus driver from Serbia. May he find his dream job, inspiring young Kiwis to be as nice as he is. And I must track him down through the labyrinthine bureaucratic networks of Metro admin and send him a bottle of wine as a thank you.


Adventures in Busland – The Quest for Grilly

OK, so the blog has been a bit bus-centric over the last few days but here’s one more little story about our latest experience.

You lovely regular readers might recall a post by Elizabeth about our progress so far and the potential stumbling blocks or issues that we were anticipating.  Some of them turned out to be mere paper tigers, one or two haven’t been encountered yet.  However one has been chipping away at our nerves like that dripping tap you’ve been meaning to do something about.  The visitation of ‘Grilly’.

Granny Lily is my mother.  She still lives in the family home and for all her 79 years she’s never learnt to drive.  That didn’t stop her raising four children though.  That should be all the inspiration we need – it was also pre- cell phones, microwaves, EFTPOS, the internet and people could actually smoke in hospitals.  But that’s another whole post in itself.  She was a gung-ho cyclist who taught me how to ride by taking me on long trips near our house around the oxidation ponds of the city seweridge plant.  Nice image.

She got everywhere on her trusty black, sit-up-and-beg bike that looked not a million miles away from this:

Thanks to Blue Earth

And boy, could she fly on that thing when she wanted to.

She had to give up on biking some years ago when she developed Meniere’s Disease which affects your balance and can cause black outs, which she discovered the hard way, while riding home one day.  Now she walks miles every week and is able to make use of the senior citizens’ gold card which gives her free bus rides in off-peak times.

Recently returned from an epic quest of her own into the depths of France, accompanied by my sister (now there’s a story), Grilly (also known as the Dowager Empress) had been suffering jet lag and the post travel blues and we were well overdue for a visit.  We’d put it off due to all of us having thick colds the week before (the last thing a 79 year old needs, jet-lagged, at the start of winter).  Now there was nothing for it, we had to embark on the two bus rides each way into the dark heart of Aranui, my ol’ stomping ground.

We hadn’t really done any family bus rides before.  Elizabeth buses with the Bobbin quite regularly but here we were, all three of us, bags and buggy and Bobbin.  The first stop was the Lyttelton Farmers’ Market for treats to bring Grilly.  Then down to the bus stop on Norwich Quay where freight trucks from the port thunder by in clouds of noise and fumes.  We were right on time for the 10.15 bus but it was nowhere in sight, in fact it never came at all so half an hour later we got on the next bus along with one of Lyttelton’s fearless hill skateboarders and a couple of soon to be disappointed Welsh rugby fans.  There are two spaces onboard the bus for buggies, prams and wheelchairs.  One has seats the other doesn’t.  On this first bus was a young fella with the biggest gear bag I’ve ever seen – he was on his way to play ice hockey and there was nowhere for his bag to fit except in one of the buggy spaces – unfortunately he chose the one with the seats so Elizabeth and I parked the Bobbin in the other space and sort of hovered around her.  Elizabeth doesn’t trust the buggy to stay put by itself, brakes or no brakes ever since she once saw it slide out around a corner, probably to the delight of Seraphine.  The journey passed without incident to the bus exchange in the central city.  We changed platforms and only had a 15 minute wait for the No. 5 to take us to Aranui.  Mid-morning on a Saturday the bus exchange wasn’t that busy.

The journey on the No.5 was only about half as long as the one from Lyttelton but had plenty of interest.  First off was a person reluctant to give up their seat in the buggy park for the second buggy that got on in the bus exchange.  This was soon sorted out.  Further along we encountered any number of surly individuals on what was my old bus route to and from town.  We had teenage girls at Eastgate Mall who were refused passage due to carrying huge milkshakes and armfuls of junk food.  They were vociferous in their displeasure with the driver, teaching Seraphine some choice new words in the process.

A few stops later was a woman who apparently wanted the bus but changed her mind after the driver stopped.  When he suggested to her that she should signal if she didn’t want the bus to stop she transformed into an Angry Person.  One of those that starts muttering abuse loudly but without making eye contact.  The driver appeared to think better of the whole encounter and closed the doors.  Just another day on the No. 5.

Getting off at my old stop we headed down the road to Grilly’s house where Seraphine gets to rowl around outside on some flat land for a change while we drink tea and eat gingerbread and Grilly’s famous bacon and egg pie.  Nom Nom.

After an hour or two we get to repeat the whole process to get home.  Joy.

When we finally reach the top of our not insubstantial hill in L-town it’s nearly 4pm and we’re shattered.

Inconvenient much?  Hmmm, I really did miss the car right then I must say.  What was that about effort?  At least it wasn’t raining.  And we did get to all have a big family lie down together in our bed.  All three of us snoozing happily for half an hour.  Now that’s what I call a successful quest.

Trailer Blazing

Sent to us by a friend and fellow MHP – practical ingenuity applied to a car-free existence.  And the capper?  They’ve managed to recycle old recycling bins.  I’m not sure if that’s ironic or just satisfyingly apt.

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Old recycling bins = FREE

Old bike parts, timber, fittings = $57.50

Looking like an enraged, feral hippie on a bicycle = PRICELESS.

With thanks (and apologies) to Steve and Beth.

Because you’re worth it

“The changes that we desire for the world can only begin with what we are willing to do in our own lives.” – James Keye

The above quote comes from an essay entitled Tyranny of Convenience by James Keye it is one of the inspirations behind the title of this blog.  Another phrase in Keye’s essay is “the hopelessness of an effortless life” a theme we’ll return to as we draw the connections between owning and using our car and our addiction to convenience.  How, in our efforts to avoid effort, we sacrifice our health and wellbeing and that of our environment.  Perhaps more usefully we’ll also be documenting and ruminating on the positive effects of not owning a car.  This is not an anti-car blog – I love cars!  If it’s anything it’s a pro-active transport/anti-sedentary blog – but that’s not a very snappy title is it?

So what do you think of our little middle-class crusade so far?  Do you think it’s just another case of the petty bourgeoisie on the latest hobby horse to assuage our First World guilt?

Or do you reckon that we might be just like you and making small steps in the right direction?  Putting good intentions into a little worthy action.  We’re already reaping a little reward too.

Possibly most importantly, we’re not alone.

In fact, there are quite a few other blogs about rejecting our disposable, inauthentic and unsustainable societies in general and going car-free in particular.  We’ve got a reading list as long as our arm and we’ll tell you about some of the blogs we like and why we dig them, as we go along. Here’s some that we have already checked out that got us going.

  • Carbusters is the quarterly journal of the World Car Free Network and they publish a thoughtful blog as well.
  • A lot of people have said to us, “but isn’t it much harder doing this with a kid?” After all, in this neck of the woods, once one has spawned, it’s more usual to scale up to a people mover than to scale down to a pair of sturdy boots. It’s very early days for us, but we reckon it’s all about not trying to pack too much in, and instead really relishing the stuff you do. There’s a couple of blogs out there, both called Car Free with Kids; that agree. Some particularly interesting stuff on how to raise children that love to walk. Car Free with Kids and the other Car Free with Kids.

We’ll also be adding our own Blogroll of useful, interesting and related links in the sidebar as we go along.   These people are making the effort for all of us, even though it’s not convenient.  Why?  The answer is in the title of this post.  And a little effort can go a long way.

As I tell myself when I’m struggling to knuckle down and work on my art – if not now, then when? If not you, then who?