Getting my frock on

On a lighter note than this morning’s post, I’ve been inspired by Julie Anne’s epic ride to Southland to set myself an insurmountable biking challenge. Unlike Julie, I’m unlikely to actually achieve it!

I’ve participated in the Bike Wise challenge for the last two years, trying to clock up more kilometers on my bike during February than anyone else the Green Party office. Not satisfied with failing to beat my nemesis/friend/colleague Robert Ashe two years in a row, I’ve decided to set my sights even higher in 2012 and take on that doyen of the cycling world, Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard in a head to head challenge.

I should have been suspicious when he so readily accepted – turns out he’s in training for the Graperide, a 101km race in March, so is relishing the opportunity to intensify his regime. I should also have checked his facebook page first, for such gems as “did Hutt to work via Makara” to give me an idea of what I am in for.

However, I am undeterred, and my approach will be to use my bike(s) as my primary form of transport for the month and see how many kms I can rack up going about my daily business – and in a frock as much as possible of course.

I warmed up today by taking my “pretty” bike, Prudence, for a leisurely cruise around Wellington Harbour to work from Petone. I truly believe that with the right cycling infrastructure, this could be one of the best cycle commutes in the world – it’s all flat, round a gorgeous harbour (where on a good day you can see dolphins, like I did yesterday) and with plenty of good coffee pit stops on the way (like the cart on Petone esplanade, the french cafe on the Hutt Road, the the bike shop/cafe on Thorndon Quay).

However it’s severely let down now by the lack of a dedicated cycleway from Petone to Ngauranga, and the poor quality of the existing cycle lane the rest of the way. On the way from Petone to Wellington it’s okay-ish – you ride on the shoulder of SH2 for about a kilometre before the cycleway starts (though you take an increased risk of punctures by actually using the cycleway as it’s often covered in broken glass. Many faster riders than me opt not to use it).

On the way home from Wellington to the Hutt Valley, you’re faced with the unhappy choice of riding on the shoulder of SH2 the whole way, which is in that direction very narrow and often invisible to motorists around the sharper corners, or riding back on the cycleway, which leaves you stranded to ride the last kilometre on the shoulder of the motorway GOING THE WRONG WAY. Not a happy conundrum. I usually opt to take my life in my hands and ride on the shoulder the whole way, but that hairy moment when you wobble uncontrollably as a huge track or bus takes a corner 10cms from you is not cool.

Urgently upgrading the Petone to Ngauranga cycle route as part of the Great Harbour Way project was identified in the Hutt Corridor Plan as a key priority (after lots of submissions urging for it, including mine), but action is still slow. I hope to keep pushing for improvements and to use my riding in February to raise awareness. I’m sure there are many more casual riders like me who would love to ride from the Hutt to Wellington but who are put off by safety (and maybe the fear of lyrca).

Despite these concerns, I had a beautiful ride to work today – which is good ’cause I’ll be doing it a lot in February. Who knows whether I will topple Trevor (the odds are not good), but I do at least have a secret weapon – as well as Bike Wise, I’m doing FebFast and giving up alcohol for the month of Feb. Who’s laughing now, Trevor?

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