A guest post from Nic Williams reporting on the success of their Frocks on Bikes ride with Janette Sadik-Khan.

JSK - On an electric bike we are pleased to see!
JSK – On an electric bike we are pleased to see!

Frocks on Bikes Auckland were thrilled when Janette Sadik-Khan agreed to come on a bicycle ride with us as part of her hectic four day schedule in Auckland.  Given the relatively low proportion of women on bikes generally in New Zealand, we wanted to introduce her to the amazing women working to make this city a great place to cycle, as well as hear her thoughts on how to improve our streets for all the people who use them.

A group of about 25 frockers set off from the Cloud on Queens Wharf with Janette on the Mayor’s borrowed electric bike. Janette is obviously a confident urban rider, however we

Frocks at the Cloud
Frocks at the Cloud

thought an e-bike might help her enjoy Franklin Road a little more after recently arriving from NYC.  We were joined on the ride by Seth Solomonow, Janette’s colleague from the NYC Department of Transportation (where Janette was Commissioner until 2013) and a group of gentlemen frockers who politely kept their distance from the excited women riders.

Our route began from Queens Wharf where we were immediately met with the test of negotiating the western end of Quay Street to access the Viaduct. Given the difficulty of moving from far left to far right lanes to access the Viaduct, we opted for a safety first approach that meant carefully and respectfully sharing the space with the ‘promenaders’ along the wider northern footpath of Quay Street.

Frocks at North Wharf
Frocks at North Wharf

Once across Te Wero bridge, we cruised effortlessly along North Wharf, crossing at right angles over the former rail tracks like a free-flowing Melbourne-shuffle. The activity in Wynyard Quarter and the vegetated progress of Daldy Street was a delight and crossing Fanshawe Street at the signalised intersection over to Victoria Park was relatively smooth. Zorbing and skaters abound in the Park and we cruised under the flyover, then those on electric bikes zoomed up Franklin Road, closely followed by the fixed and few speed velos. After a welcome breather at the Ponsonby Road ridgeline, we eagerly headed to our afternoon tea at Alleluya Café in St Kevin’s Arcade overlooking the beautiful Myers Park. A bonus for Janette was being able to drop by the Generation Zero office in St Kevin’s Arcade to see their campaign plans including a petition for protected cycle lanes on K’ Road http://krdcyclelanes-generationzero.nationbuilder.com/

Victoria Park viaduct
Victoria Park viaduct

Despite the Wellington style wind, we felt really proud on parts of the ride showing off Auckland – particularly through Wynyard Quarter and the newly opened section of Daldy Street. Whilst parts of the ride showed just how far we still have to go, Janette is very excited by the potential of what she has seen so far and really thinks we are at a tipping point for transformational change.

Fortunately for us we got Janette and Seth back to their hotel after a really enjoyable bike ride, with the majority of people along the way waving and smiling at a group of women having so much fun on their bikes. The more women out and about on two wheels, the safer your city. Women on bicycles are an “indicator species” for a healthy urban environment. The sight of women on bikes sends a message that cycling is fun and that roads are for sharing, which encourages even more people. In other words, there has been never been a better time to ride.

Later that night Janette tweeted:

Many thanks to Janette and Seth for their enthusiasm and inspiration. We loved “frocking” with you. A special thanks also to Susan Quinn from Auckland Conversations for making the arrangements with Janette for the ride, and big ups to Cycle Action Auckland and The K’rd Business Association for chipping in to get these stunning photos taken of the ride by Richard Leonard.

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