An ode to mixing cycling with public transport

I’ve relied on my bike and public transport to get around Auckland without a car for about 6 years. Whizzing on my bike from my house on Mt Victoria to the ferry, waving to mates doing coffee on mainstreet cafes, is how I start most days. When I’m at our Waiheke place, my ride is a bit longer and even more rewarding – riding from Palm Beach to Matiatia connects me with even more people, sights and sounds. Love it!

Bikes in the "boot" on the Devonport ferry.

Chatting to other people with bikes parked beside mine on ferries or on trains teaches me about priorities for Cycle Action’s work. I know most people don’t need or have the option to mix cycling and public transport – yet! – but I love these chats, because they tell me about both what’s ultimately possible, and what’s currently needed.

Bikes in the “boot” on the Devonport ferry.

I have to confess my love affair with the Devo ferry has been tested since the Kea hit the wharf and we’ve had to squeeze our bikes into the small back deck space on some of the fill-in ferries. The non-cycling passengers have been amazingly patient, and Fuller’s staff have been legends in working all their berthing ropes around the congestion of bikes. Since the Kea crash we’ve had crowded ferries and missed sailings caused by the extra time needed to load and unload passengers, especially when cruise ships spill slow moving passengers for Devonport day-trips.

Bikes and cruise ship Devo ferry

I’ve asked Rabin Rabindra, AT Board member, why AT isn’t taking more interest in this issue by supporting Fullers to order more multi-purpose ferries. He was remarkably off-hand, saying the service is not subsidised by AT, so they have no input. Really? [Ed: a topical discussion – see also the debate around fare structures, where Fullers’ status has a disproportionate impact on ferry users].

Surely that doesn’t mean AT can look the other way while passengers are inconvenienced on such a regular basis due to a single boat crash. What does this say about the resilience of the public transport network? Sorry, guys, I doubt that the NZTA would sit on their hands if part of their transport network were exposed in this manner.

Moving right along to a happier theme… We’ve been working with Auckland Transport’s cycling team for a few years now to make it easier to for more people to get to and use PT as part of their cycling journeys. (“Trip-chaining” is the word for this – biking to the bus or train or ferry, and linking together multiple modes for one journey.)

The discussion with AT focusses on making bike routes to public transport nodes safer and more convenient – and then we get into the thorny topic of effective and affordable bike parking. Our blogs and on-line surveys have taught us most people value undercover bike parking so they can  stay dry when parking, loading and unloading gear; they also want good CCTV cover for security, and bright lighting so using locks is easy and we feel safe at all hours.

And of course a convenient location near the bus, train platform, or ferry berth is key.

AT has been trialling some new bike-parking options. Thanks to everyone who got to Queens Wharf last week to try the bike parking gear and fill in the online survey. I’m checking today how long the survey is running – but it’s not too late to drop in to the ferry terminal and give the gear a go.

Friendly AT crew helping teach cyclists how to use the new bike parking options, and surveying for satisfaction.
Friendly AT crew helping teach cyclists how to use the new bike parking options, and surveying for satisfaction.

I have to do another rave about the fantastic AT cycle team staff who spent 2 hours from 7am every day meeting, greeting and leading people over to use the new stands. It makes me proud to be working with people like that when I see how upbeat and skilled they were in handling all the queries. High five, guys!

Reminder: the parking gear is still there this week if you want to drop by to get some hands-on fun.

We’ll report back soon on the results of AT’s online survey. The plan is to install the most popular gear in 4 new pilot bike parking shelters coming by the end of June for Half Moon Bay ferry terminal, Matiatia ferry terminal, Glen Innes train station, and Albany Northern Express bus station. The goal of the pilot is to test if this model works well. I like the fact they are designed to our brief and are way less expensive than the hapless bike cages built last year, so we should be able to get more shelters built across the public transport network.

Just to round out this story – I hear that AT is planning to remove the security doors from the existing bike parking cages at Papakura, Papatoetoe and Birkenhead, because the need for a special swipe card seems to be a barrier to people using them. What do you reckon – is this a good move?

Bike cage at Papakura. (Photo via Transportblog)
Bike cage at Papakura. (Photo via Transportblog)

 

 

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