A year on two wheels

As an experiment I cancelled my permanent carpark before Christmas 2014 and put a piece of card on my garage wall to record my daily commute in 2015 with three options: Scooter, Bike or Car. I also kept a running tally of carpark costs.

My commuting bike is an e-bike – which means it’s electric assist. I can go along about 10-15 km/h quicker for the same effort than a standard bike will do. Speed is an advantage and it’s excellent in the wind and on hills. In theory you can ride it without pedaling but it doesn’t go that quickly on anything other than the flat, and in any event not for long. Another advantage for me is that I can commute in business attire and although I’m warm (and wide awake!) when I arrive at work, there’s no need for a shower.

My scooter was a 50cc moped at the beginning of the year. I found the Scooter more challenging than the bike. I found car drivers treated the scooter as simply another motor vehicle, with unrealistic expectations of acceleration and speed. On the bike, my experience has been most motorists are considerate and respectful of the cycle’s limitations and your vulnerability. Of course there are exceptions and I could write a blog or three about that!.

I recently upgraded the scooter to a much more powerful machine requiring a motorcycle licence, and now my Driver Licence is clearly marked “Learner”.

During the year the daily rate for parking went up from $13 to $17 so that had an impact on the days I took the car. Other factors included a rule that if it was raining I wouldn’t start the journey by cycle – that rule went by the wayside once I got some excellent rainproof gear from Europe – and I wouldn’t take the scooter if it was going to rain.  With the new scooter I don’t worry about the rain at all.

IMG_4810Ignoring the statistics, my recollection of the year was that the preferred form of travelling by far was the e-bike, especially with the Grafton Gully cycleway opening and more recently, Te Ara I Whiti, the Nelson Street cycleway with the striking “blood of the Totara” coloured surface. I frequently used the bike to go to clients, to personal appointments, and to do errands after work. It has a range of about 40 km on one charge, and I ran out of power once I think, quite close to home.

When I got my new scooter the e-bike took a back seat. Maybe it’s the newness, but it was first choice for the weeks before Christmas after I got it. Like the e-bike, I can use the bus lanes, generally get to the front of the traffic queue if required, and parking is free, right next to the office.

I used the car when I had to take someone somewhere, needed to go somewhere where the bike couldn’t easily go, such as over the Shore, or on occasion when I was very tired.

Not counted in the stats is the use of the car or a taxi to the airport when travelling – which accounts for many of the missing days in my tally. The other missing days are leave and public holidays.

So where did it end up?: The scooter was used for 37 commutes, the car for 50, and the e-bike for 68. I also recorded a lonely 1 for “bus”.

Overall, two wheels combined beat the car 2:1. I spent $917 on parking which was less than half the amount I would have paid for the permanent carpark. And there were other costs – charging the e-bike costs about 1.2 cents a time – yes you read that right!, and having a second vehicle costs a vehicle licence and insurance.

Reflecting on all of this, twice in the last week I’ve taken my road bike up the northwestern cycle lane next to the motorway. A great cycling route. As anyone that goes out that way will know it’s about 15km of motorway reconstruction. Some of it looks so wide it must be 10 or 12 lanes all up, which I imagine will include bus lanes. The signs promise “More lanes by 2017”.

Roading infrastructure is important and we’ve been behind in New Zealand for a long time. But there will be a limit – roads that were relatively recently expanded become jammed up and there’s little doubt that New Zealand cities are moving to more public and self transport options as priorities ie non-car!  The experience in other countries which I have seen first hand convinces me it’s the right move for a much more liveable city.

Even if you don’t consider cycling for any altruistic reason, I’m pretty confident that cycling once or twice a week will have most people smiling at the enjoyment and health of it as a commuting option.

Two things make the cycle the number one choice for me: the movement – I’ll call it that rather than exercise – the e-bike is not what I’d call a workout,  that’s what my road bike is for – and the alertness required (which also applies to the scooter). I arrive at work much more energised and connected. And with all the other friendly commuters to chat to at the lights there’s a real sense of community.

Now a final note on safety.  Mum would feel much better if I kept to the car – she’s said so. Don’t charge out up Great South Road, or Dominion Road on the first strike out. Take it easy with some trial runs on a Sunday morning and let the confidence build up. Get lights, a high-vis vest, a mirror for commuting, a horn,and assume that no-one sees you. Mum will worry less then!

Stephen

Back on the streets

After a month in Europe it was great to back on the bike to and from work. I don’t cycle every day, but I try for three times a week. It’s 9 kilometres give or take, half or which is on dedicated cycle lanes and half on a bus lane. Cycling on a bus lane is not for the faint-hearted, but I’ve only had good experiences with buses – it’s the cars that cross or enter the lane who create challenges.

Rush hour in Copenhagen
Rush hour in Copenhagen

I had an impression that cycling in Berlin and Copenhagen would be quite special. It was. But not just for the infrastructure – I’ll come back to that shortly – but for the attitude of the residents. A cycle lane means a traffic lane for cycles that you respect as you would another lane of traffic – more so in fact because cyclists are obviously vulnerable – not a nuisance or barrier for ‘real’ traffic (as can often be the local experience). Cyclists are sensible too – not aggressive to each other or other road users – but like most traffic in Europe they move with intent. One of my sisters said that she’d be too timid to cycle on a cycle lane in Copenhagen – too busy she said – and she’s right, it is busy.

Some streets are just made for cycling
Some streets are just made for cycling

I found it invigorating to be cycling with so many like-minded people. And it’s not just the hardy or lycra- wearing (of which there were very little). But parents picking up their children after day care, business people commuting and Seniors getting around doing their shopping. Many apartments appeared not to have car parks in Copenhagen, but there were lots of cycles parked everywhere. A different normal.

Auckland has much to offer cyclists. Just get out there and do it!
Auckland has much to offer cyclists. Just get out there and do it!

Now Auckland is not flat like either of those two cities so there are challenges for cyclists (which e-bikes solve quite easily). Copenhagen was anything but a cycling city in the mid 1960s but decisions made to retrofit cycling infrastructure and prioritise roads for cyclists made it what it is. And there’s lots of signs of on-going improvements and changes to this day.

We’re at a tipping point in Auckland with some fantastic projects completed and underway which have the potential to transform the use of cycling as a viable means of transport. Normalisation and attitude changes to embrace commuters on cycles will hopefully follow. That’s when the tipping point will have been realised.

So why bother? It’s clean, healthy, reduces the need for roads to be built and above all else (if you want to be selfish), it’s so much fun! And being joyful is as good a reason as any to get on that bike. If you haven’t tried it for a while, I bet you’ll be smiling in no time. Chances are it will be faster than the car.

And what’s this got to do with leadership: You’ll start and finish the day in a much better mindset and it feels an authentic and connected way to move around. A virtuious cycle you could almost say!

Stephen

 

169 cars (and 3 buses)

Travelling on two wheels up the bus lane on Dominion Road most mornings gives me a sense of the futility of single car commuting. I spent years doing it, love driving and retreat to the car when I’m not feeling 100% or I feel the weather is a risk factor.

This morning there was quite a group of scooters and motorcycles together for most of the distance. A feeling of camaraderie and freedom. It’s a lot of fun too.

The e-bike is just as good, if not better, and not much slower. The fantastic Grafton Gully to Tamaki Drive cycleway is mine to luxuriate on for half the journey.

The other day I counted how many cars I passed on Dominion Road, many stationary.

No exactly Dominion Road, but Waiheke isn't far!
Not exactly Dominion Road, but Waiheke isn’t far!

I’m deliberately grouping bike and motorcycles together, there are similar advantages. It’ll take quite a lot more commitment by leadership to make it a preferred option for the solo-car commuter.

From the car it can appear mildly annoying, not like real road users. From the two wheels it’s freedom, fun and most of all fast!

It might not be an alternative across the bridge (yet), but for many people I see, it would be a great option. Forget lectures about the environment, congestion or your wallet.

Just for yourself. It’s fun.

Now that’s got to be a reason to do something!

Have you overlooked fun in your leadership today?

Stephen

Next blog about being imperfect.

Competition for Carlton

Saving up my paper round money I bought the beautiful Raleigh Royale 5-speed from Linwood Cycles, I think for about $145. It was a lovely machine, I wanted a ten speed but this was the machine on offer at the right time. It got stolen once by local ratbags (who turned into more serious criminals I learned), but I recovered it. So when I traded it up for a Carlton Competition from the bike shop in Papanui Road, I memorised the serial number and for some strange reason that number has stayed with me.

Rides up Dyers Pass Road, all around the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula, no helmet but toe clips to add power. I was so taken with it I kept it in my bedroom. Gleaming white and fast.

A few decades have gone by and I’m back on a road bike. The principle is the same, but a few things have improved. Weight, combined brake and gear shift levers, smoother gear shifts and a computer that tells me things I don’t yet know what they are (but apparently if I keep it at 80 then I’m having a good workout I think). The tyres seem pretty skinny and although there’s a puncture repair kit under the seat the Uber App might be the solution if I’m on my own when the inevitable happens! Chris at Cyco told me that you don’t glue patches onto the inner tube any more! Crushed. Toe clips have been replaced by clip in shoes and so far so good, I haven’t forgotten to come out at the lights.

Cycling is really so so much fun and being back on a commuter bike for the last 18 months I’ve learned quite a bit, with mostly good experiences. The road bike though, takes me back to being a teenager and the freedom I felt on the bike then is back.

I never articulated to myself at the time that it was freedom-giving, but for sure that’s what it was then, and what it is now.

The Carlton was a beauty at the time, just as the new one is special now.

So although Trek won’t be coming into the bedroom anytime soon, it’s a link back to an early experience of a most important value that so many don’t have.

Stephen

p.s.  Linwood Cycles is still there, by the look of Google Maps in the same place.

11/12/13

Seemed like as good a day as any to return for a blog. There won’t be another date like this for quite a while. Which is a bit like every day. But some days there are patterns.

I’ve been riding my electric-assist bicycle around a lot lately. Work, friends, even going to the movies. And finding I arrive feeling very alive and, as far as getting to work goes, much much quicker. I’ve also spent quite a lot less on petrol, and using the car has become like a treat.

Riding a bike in the city streets isn’t something I’d do half asleep that’s for sure. It’s full alert, defensive driving (riding) at its height. It’s liberating, fast at peak hour (especially if you find a bus lane as I am fortunate enough to have most of the way into the office) and there’s the added exercise.

And I'm loving it!
And I’m loving it!

I was talking to some colleagues at work today about the shape of one’s career. It’s not like a square paver path where each step is laid out neatly in front, but rather it’s like crazy paving, all over the place and you won’t necessarily know the next step until it’s laid out (credit to the unknown guru on LinkedIn who wrote this recently).

So why do we imagine it should be all laid out? Watch the cyclist. Rhythmic pedalling, and probably appears to the driver, give or take, like they are traveling reasonably direct. But the cyclist knows it’s a far cry from the easy (or hard uphill) journey. It’s watching like a hawk at the parked cars, checking for doors about to be opened, scanning the side roads, checking the traffic behind, watching the road, looking for potholes, avoiding metal plates and so on. It’s tiring without even thinking about the physical effort!

Have you sometimes thought that colleagues careers are all in order, one orderly step after another? And yours is chaotic, lacking direction, even meaning?

It’s partly about perception. On the inside chaos and crazy paving. On the outside, order and direction. I’d say take heart, if as you approach Christmas, and it’s crazy busy, that is just the way it probably is for everyone, and should be for you if you’re making progress in your career. If it’s too smooth and easy, it will be, and won’t be taking you where you want to. And you won’t be nearly as alive as you could be.

So on this day where the date is so ordered, with one number after another and as neat as can be, recognise that it’s a very rare and special event.

Not your everyday experience.

Stephen