Message from Barb: We are super happy to welcome Jolisa Gracewood to our blog panel and growing team of people working to make Auckland a cycling city.
Huge thanks to Cycle Action’s benefactor for making Jolisa available to boost our ‘reach and revolution – delivery power’ for cycling!
I’m delighted to join the Cycle Action team as ‘storyteller-in-residence and helper in all things that will boost cycling in Auckland’. (Who needs a small job description!)
Fresh from saving some great old trees, my mission is to bring you stories and pictures of all the ordinary everyday people getting out and about on bikes in Auckland. I’ll also be helping Cycle Action’s work with lobbying and initiating new and upgraded cycle routes across Auckland, in collaboration with Gen Zero and Transport Blog. What a fabulous mission – let’s get cracking!
What’s my biking background? Well, in my family, riding a bike is just something we do, wherever we are. Mainly because it’s free and it’s fun — not to mention fitness with bells on.
That’s me aged two with my first bike: a red yellow and blue tricycle. Frocks on Bikes, junior edition. Already ahead of my time.
Within a couple of years, I traded up to a bright yellow two-wheeler with training wheels, and my brother Greg got the trike. Here he is gallantly giving me a double.
I remember riding my yellow bike across a friend’s front lawn in Naenae – and straight off the edge of a stone retaining wall. The rest is a blur. I must have landed on the driveway and steered into some bushes, because I survived, and so did the bike, which got handed down to Gemma and Ben in turn.
We moved to Papatoetoe, where the streets were full of kids on bikes. It paid to get to school early, because the bike sheds were always full to overflowing. We biked in all kinds of weather. Indeed, the smell of damp woollen jerseys slowly steaming dry still takes me straight back to school days.
I got around on a second-hand Raleigh 20 while saving up my paper-round money for something flasher. Eventually I bought my very own brand new ten-speed: an ice-blue beauty, from Pennyfarthings in town.
I took that bike away with me to university. Christchurch was a dream to cycle around. The streets were full of students on bikes. Riding home in the dark through wintry wood-smoky streets with my then-boyfriend, now husband, is one of my favourite sense memories.
Then I moved to Tokyo and fell in love with trains. But I’d often borrow a bike and get lost on purpose so I could enjoy finding my way home again. What better way to become familiar with a new city? The streets and footpaths were full of ordinary people on two wheels – old ladies, men in suits, young mums with kids perched fore and aft. As a pedestrian, I learned to step aside when I heard that “ding ding” from behind.
The northeastern US brought a whole new set of biking challenges – long snowy winters, blazing summers, big steep hills in Ithaca and Providence. We lived for a few years in pre-Janette Sadik-Khan New York, where my main wheels were the ones on my baby son’s stroller. And then we moved to New Haven, a college town which was undergoing a cycling renaissance. I bought myself a sturdy city bike and a baby seat. We joined the annual Rock to Rock bike ride across town, with first one kid — and then two.
One day during our last winter there, I caught the train down to New York City and came back with a second bike: a giant Finnish beast, built like a Clydesdale, kitted out with baskets, perfect for shopping in the snow.
The combo of small neighbourhood shops, proto-bike lanes, and bikes was catching on, to the point where all the local businesses were racing to add bike parking. Talk about your virtuous cycle! New Haven was a great little liveable city.
And now we’re back in Auckland. Like most Aucklanders, we use the car a fair amount. But we feel great when we manage a car-free day, and sometimes we manage a whole car-free week. My kids get to and from school independently on bikes, my husband alternates taking the bus with riding the NW cycle path to town, and I tootle around the neighbourhood on my ‘Moominmamma bike’.
This is what ‘Friding‘ looks like at my house: school run, bookshop, library, supermarket… and then the long way home because it’s so sunny.
Sometimes the big bike goes on even bigger adventures. I took it into town on the train for the Frocks on Bikes ride with Janette Sadik-Khan. (Oh, how I wish I could take it on the bus, too).
I’m currently window-shopping for electric bikes (to handle those bugbear hills!), but for now my zippy silver bike takes me everywhere else I need to go. Like to last year’s Ciclovia event downtown, where I met up with my sibling bike gang. Check it out – all grown up, and still messing about on bikes:
And witness the next generation, already fully at home on two wheels. Take the lane, Baby G!
And that’s my bike story, in words and pictures. Looking forward to helping tell yours! We’re keen to profile bike champs from all backgrounds, so if you’d like to share a story, let me know using the form below. [contact-form subject=’Bike stories for Cycle Action blog’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]