Saturday, 1 June 2013

Cycling in New Zealand

It was great catching up with our cycling khakis while we were back in Singapore last month. One of the questions often asked was how cycling in New Zealand like. My answer (very cliche I know),  it depends.

More often than not, we've found it an absolute joy riding in Wellington. Depending on which part of the city, there is quite an extensive design of cycle lanes or bike trails that provide cyclists a dedicated safe path on the road. The Journey Planner is a wonderful resource for planning your cycling routes in Wellington.

We were also very impressed with how much attention to detail was put into educating road users on New Zealand traffic laws and safe driving practices. Check out the Official New Zealand Code for Cyclists published by the New Zealand Transport Agency. 

Here is an extract from the code,
Cycling is a great way to get around and a sport enjoyed by more than a million New Zealanders.
If only three in 100 people took up cycling instead of driving, New Zealand would save more than 1 billion dollars per year! Cycling is the pollution solution that improves your health, increases your productivity at school or work, and enhances the safety of your community.
Every time you ride, you have an opportunity to contribute to a cycle friendly culture. It is important to ride with courtesy and respect for all other cyclists and motorists. Make sure you are visible at all times and clearly show your intentions. Thank other road users when you can. For example, let them know you are happy they waited for you by waving, smiling, or giving them a ‘thumbs up’. This will make sharing the road easier for everyone.
Practise your skills, take care of your bike, follow this code and enjoy a lifetime of cycling through beautiful New Zealand.
We couldn't agree more.

The public transport system here is also very supportive of bicycles. Foldable bicycles are allowed on all buses and trains at any time during the day. Full size bicycles are not allowed on buses at all times but allowed on trains during off peak hours and certain timings during peak hours. The last mile concept could work very well here.

Brommie very much welcomed on board

Foldable chairs that make way for bicycles
I especially like the bicycle priority area. When there is a bike on board, the chairs make way for the bike. Coming from Singapore, that's a sight we're not used to at all.

So what's stopping us from getting on our bikes more often? The climate and terrain. If slopes are friends, Wellington is a very friendly place. Windy Welly did not get her nickname for nothing. Winds can go up to as high as 100km/h and the occasional cold prevailing southerly wind does make you think twice about taking your bike out.

While the cycle lane network is rather extensive, certain parts of the city still do have very narrow lanes. Couple that with impatient drivers, it's not the most ideal for safe cycling. Honking at cyclists while less common here, still do exist! I've seen it.

At the end of the day, it's about being safe and enjoying your ride. New Zealand can certainly be a wonderful place to cycle in, you just have to know where and how.

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