Aimlessly riding around in the dark.
On Monday morning I was riding around the Northcote/Birkenhead area well before the sun came up while my son was training in the local pool. If you don’t mind hills these are great suburbs to explore by bike and I was blown-away by some of the architecture and civic-design I stumbled upon.
After mooching around the shops up in Highbury I rocketed down Colonial Road and through the park tracks to the sugar refinery. At 6.00am the car-park was starting to fill with workers ariving for their shifts. From here I skirted around the coast and up a (very steep) path following my nose until I got to the new Birkenhead Library. Whoa! I don’t know if they leave the lights on every night but this building and its surroundings are just plain stunning lit up at night. It is an impressive structure but the landscaping and sculptures outside were just as striking.
Leaving the library I flew down Hinemoa Street (another big hill) to the ferry terminal which has also received a lick of paint since my last visit more than a decade ago. Once again, quite impressive, at least in the dark. Equally impressive was the percentage of bike-commuters boarding the ferry. Out of a dozen or so passengers half of them were cyclists! One young guy was getting a bit of a lecture about giving cycling a bad name, and as much as I wanted to defend him the “overtaking two cars and blowing-through a red-light” story sounded pretty damning. I think he probably deserved a dressing-down!
The sky was starting to lighten as I spun back up to Highbury past antique shops and cafés that deserve return visits at a more social hour. The traffic up until now had been very light but by the time I got to the top of Onewa Road just before 7am it was gridlocked. How people can participate in this living hell everyday without thinking about taking the bus is beyond me. I know some are traveling beyond the city and others need a vehicle for their job but I suspect nine out of ten are just wasting time and petrol.
Through a cloud of exhaust fumes it took me a couple of minutes to reach the motorway but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the best part of an hour by car. The Clipboard-Nazis policing the transit-lane weren’t helping the situation either. If you’re driving down that left-hand lane with less than three people in your car it’s a $150 fine and apart from the occasional motorcycle it was almost empty.
At the bottom of Onewa Road stands what must be among the finest pieces of cycling infrastructure in the world, the Onepoto Cycleway. It’s not impressive for it’s utility (as it doesn’t really go anywhere?) but it teases the mind and swells the heart with its organic forms and sheer beauty. If the designer of this structure does not have a stack of awards on his desk it’s a crime, and a crime was probably committed to get the funding past the council accountants.
I had a great time at an hour that I’m normally tucked-up warm in bed, but if there’s one thing worth getting up early for it’s a bike ride!