End of the road for Bike Friendly North Shore
How the best photo I’ve ever taken ended my bike blogging career…
I captured the image above at the end of a scorching hot day in the Waikato, right in the middle of the drought. My son’s high-school rowing squad base themselves in Leamington and from there it’s an easy ride down this fantastic cycle path to Lake Karapiro. The 6km stretch was built in preparation for the rowing world championships in 2010 and will eventually join up with the rest of Te Awa – The Great New Zealand River Ride.
I was meandering back to camp when I noticed the parallel lines and the afternoon sun bouncing off the hills. I pulled over, took out the camera, and snapped a few landscapes. As I was shooting several bikes whizzed by and it occurred to me that instead of waiting for them to pass, I’d be better off trying to get one in the photo. This was the result.
Since that day I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes good bicycle infrastructure. You see, that section of path is almost perfect, so very different from anything we are doing in Auckland. It is wide, the surface is smooth, it doesn’t cross any side-roads or run beside parked cars, and it’s not littered with posts, poles and mail-boxes. But although the views are magnificent it’s not a “scenic” route, it’s a logical way to get from A to B. Design like this enables anyone to get around by bike, be they three or eighty three. You don’t need a flash bike, you don’t need a helmet, and most importantly you don’t need to be a “cyclist”.
Making cycling infrastructure so safe, so fast and so easy that anyone would consider riding a bike around town is what it’s all about, “cyclists” are going to ride anyway, we can’t get enough of it.
With that in mind I can’t see any point continuing with Bike Friendly North Shore. I started it up to connect with similar-minded individuals on the Shore and celebrate bike-culture, but with rare exceptions I haven’t found any. Recreational cycling is really heathy, I don’t need to encourage those people, we will ride our bikes anyway.
The blog has lots of readers, lots of followers, but there’s no interaction and rarely any comments. That’s partly my fault, I’m not the most outgoing person, but I gave it my best shot and failed.
The “clicks” have steadily grown since the first post in February of 2010, from an initial 406 per month to the 3,000 or so I’ve been averaging this year. I can see from the WordPress stats that roughly 75% of visitors are Kiwis, 15% from North America and the balance scattered all over the globe.
I plan to keep in touch with the bike-community in Auckland and I’ll do what I can to promote the bicycle as a practical way to get around. My unsociable hours of work make it all but impossible to attend any meetings (thank god!), but I’ll try to stay involved with bike advocacy. Anyway, riding your bike around and having fun doing it is probably the best advertisement for everyday cycling, and I’m pretty good at doing that!
With no pressure to create content for the blog anymore I’ll have time for some other projects I’ve been avoiding. All involve creativity of some kind, and a couple have that magical combo of bicycles and art.
I can see from search-terms used and hits on particular posts that “places to ride” and “cargo bikes” stand out like dog’s balls. There’s a lot of you looking for safe spots to ride with the kids, there’s a lot you looking for mountainbiking opportunities on the Shore. Sanders Reserve in particular pops-up day after day, folks are thirsty for information about it. I find it strange that millions was spent on building the Sanders Reserve facilities, but there doesn’t seem to be any maintenance or promotion?
I will the leave the blog live on WordPress for the meantime, there’s still a lot of information and links people might find useful. Over time links will go bad and it will be less relevant.
Some of the Highs & Lows:
2012’s BicyKill was just the best thing ever to happen to bike-culture in Auckland, I loved every minute of it. This is just the type of activity I craved when I started Bike Friendly North Shore. Tim White and his friends are doing more than anyone else in Auckland to grow the type of bike culture I want to see, they’re single-handedly making bikes cool again.
The Bike Graphic that Bounced
The most frenzied activity on BFNS was when my drawing above went viral (even though I look at it now and want to start over). The graphic was featured in Dutch and German magazines, tee shirts were printed in Austria, clothing and stickers in the States, it was blogged all over the world in many languages, and that’s just the “legal” reproductions.
Writing & Photography
I dreamed that writing, something you can do from anywhere in the world, would be very useful (and a possible career path), but I really suck at it! I hope, at least, a little of my sense of humour came through in those wooden sentences, I was never trying to take myself seriously or anything. Maybe I should do a creative writing class or similar to pick up some tips?
My prose might still be dreadful, but my photography skills have shown improvement. If I can’t spread my love of cycling with words, I’ll attempt to do it with pictures!
My extended test of the Larry vs Harry Bullitt (above) was a real eye-opener. I suspect David from Convoy Bikes was looking for a cargo-bike evangelist down-under and he surely found one in me, I’m now totally sold on the concept. A Bullitt was purchased by an Auckland family after the review (smart family), I’d like to think I helped a little in the decision, well just a tiny bit?
I had a blast riding the Soma Tradesman thanks to Tim at Rode. These front-loaders are so damn practical our cities should be full of them. It’s the courier van you can park on the footpath without pissing people off.
The lads at Bike Barn let me take a Kona Ute for a spin. This bike is well designed, well priced, and the bike most of us need most of the time. If they made a bigger frame for tall lankies like me I’d buy one in an instant.
I tried and tried to get a review bike from the importer, Bikes International. I was so excited by this bike and wanted to promote the hell out of it. I got some names and rang and rang them, but got fobbed off time after time, week after week. Kona is a great brand (and you should still buy a Ute), but it wouldn’t surprise me if the address on the warranty card was a large spherical structure in space and the boss wears a shiny black hat. Did someone say “evil empire?”
That Bloody Bridge!
Every time I look at the harbour bridge I realize I would struggle as a bicycle advocate, I don’t have the patience required. The getacross protest ride was such an empowering experience for me, a top-10 in my cycling life. Although there is a possibility the Skypath will happen, things are moving much too slowly for me to cope with.
I see public access (on foot & bicycle) as a “right” not a “privilege”, and would turn up with the family every six weeks to set fire to cop cars and throw eggs at bureaucrats if that’s what it took. Come on already, it’s such a no-brainer!
Take to the Streets
I tried to get people thinking about a ciclovia style event for Auckland with the posters above, but no one was as amped about the concept as me, not even the bike-advocate crowd. Once again I see this as a “rights” issue, the public should take back the streets, one Sunday at a time.
I’m starting to sound like a flaming greenie here, but the roads are for people, not just cars. Take away the cars and trucks and you begin to appreciate how much space is taken up by roading and how pleasant (and fast) it can be moving around the city under your own steam.
So it’s goodbye from me…
If you’ve made it this far down the page, thanks so much for taking the time. If you’ve ever left a comment on BFNS I want to marry you, one comment was all the encouragement I needed to keep going for weeks.
Keep the rubber-side down, ring your mother, and ride your bike twice as much as you do now!