Saul Parkinson looks back on a decade of biking to work, crunches the numbers, and peers into the future…

Small individual actions can seem insignificant, unless we take a more long term view. As February 2017 rolled around, I realised I’ve been commuting daily by bike for 10 years now!

So, 10 years…that must be a few k’s, right? I did some quick sums and came up with some random numbers:

  • 4000+ rides
  • 35,000 km travelled
  • 1 time caught in a hailstorm
  • 2 grazed knees / bruised egos (achieved all by myself, care of 2 misjudged curbs)
  • $15,000 saved in bus tickets, or $20,000 in parking costs (let alone car & petrol costs etc)
  • 1,341 hours / 56 full days(!) I avoided sitting in a car in traffic

Goes to show, a little bit every day can add up to something really big.

My ride to work and home again is something I’ve really grown to value in my daily life. I love the way it breaks up my work day and my home day, and energises me between the two. It gets me out into the elements every day, and I’ve learnt to appreciate the variety of weather I encounter throughout the changing seasons. Not that it doesn’t sometimes rain more often than one might like in Auckland…

I ride 8km each way, from Pt Chev to Newmarket. My workplace, 2 degrees, is pretty good at supporting bike commuters: as well as indoor bike racks, they have basic shower and change facilities. They added shelves in the changing room at my request, and supported a ‘try an e-bike’ event I organized at work last year.

Over the ten years I’ve been riding, my route has gained at least 2km more awesome dedicated cycle lanes. The Northwestern cycleway has been extended and upgraded between Bond St and St Luke’s Rd which has really improved the ride – as have the bike lanes added to Carlton Gore Rd.

A few other things have changed in the decade I’ve been riding. LED lights have completely replaced every other kind of lighting. I get passed by people on electric bikes practically every day, which is great. And more and more people are out riding.

In fact, I would say the last 5 years have seen the biggest increase in people commuting – and there’s been a huge expansion in the choice of bikes available now. I notice it especially just looking at the number and style of bikes in the racks at work. It’s completely different from even a few years ago.

Saul and family on the new boardwalk through Pt Chev's Eric Armishaw Reserve.
Spot the other little changes in the last 10 years… Saul and family on the new boardwalk through Pt Chev’s Eric Armishaw Reserve.

Living in the Chev, or ‘urban utopia’ as a friend of mine calls it, there are a lot of locals on bikes and we’re looking forward to the new bike lanes. I’d love to see way more kids going to soccer on bikes – so I think we’d also need more crossings on Meola Road – and this would lower the traffic and parking demands at the fields themselves. Plus, there’s potential for developing more off-street parking for the soccer crowd. Maybe they could then get rid of parking on Meola Road, at least for that whole stretch around Seddon Fields, which might make the cycle lanes for that section even easier/cheaper to implement.

The protected lanes on Pt Chev Rd would definitely make it a lot safer and easier for me to head up and down the Chev with the kids in tow, rather than having to risk their lives riding on the footpath, crossing all the driveways, and stressing at every corner too. The alternative is, we just jump in the car to go to the shops, and then we think, oh well, since we’re in the car we might as well head over to one of the neighbouring suburbs, and we’re no longer local. My sense is that having a safer ride will balance out the loss of some parking spaces on the main road, because making it easier for people to cycle will help locals to keep shopping locally.

Looking back on my ten years of biking, I never set out with a 35,000km goal or anything – I just started riding to work one day and it quickly became my sole way of commuting. The big numbers just added themselves up, a little at a time.

Enjoying the Centennial Drive and Beveridge Track route in the Waitakeres.
Out and about, enjoying the Centennial Drive and Beveridge Track route in the Waitakeres.
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  • Mike

    Hi Saul,
    Great article. I too ride to work every day out to the Airport area.
    My intention is to ride every day but it is usually 9 times a fortnight as some times I need to be home early for one reason or another. Because I work near the airport I also sometimes get asked to take the (one) family car to pick up or drop off an airline traveller.
    I have done calculations like yours too. Very useful when trying to justify a new bike.

    My route to and from work has much variability, but sadly not too much change in the cycle infrastructure on the Isthmus heading towards Onehunga or across Mangere yet. Cornwall Park is a treasure on my route. Once I had to stop for 200 sheep to cross the road. I could’t believe I was only ten minutes from home.

    I too enjoy the influx of the new electrics zooming past me and I have ridden one to work occasionally when I want a change of pace.
    Your article also talks about the break of the Work time and Home time and the access also to the outdoors. These completely resonate with me also. I especially like taking the scenic route through Ambury Farm Park when time permits.

    Cheers and keep on writing (and riding)
    Mike