Outside an architecture firm just off K Road, you’ll see a private business carpark space that’s been converted into a great little bike parking spot. What you don’t see is all the incremental changes that led up to this amazing transformation and leap of faith. In this guest blog post, Bobby Shen describes the tipping point…
Eclipse Architecture is an architectural design practice with over 20 staff and a wee family feel. We’re tight-knit, and we talk about most things with each other, including our commuting habits.
The office is tucked away in the industrial backwaters of Karangahape Road (soon to get a whole bunch of enhancements, including protected bike lanes!) next to panelbeaters, an assortment of mechanics, a car wrapping outfit and a motorcycle shop.
Did you read cars, cars and more cars? That’s precisely what the entire block consisted of. It felt like a time warp to the 1950s. Some of it was car banking by the mechanics. Some was cars belonging to residents from nearby apartment blocks. And during the day, commuter parking in this city-fringe location was highly sought after, leaving not a single gap.
Admittedly, most staff in our office used to drive to work, too, and this compounded the issue of on-site parking, on-street parking, and the silent parking war with the garages across the road. Having clients over for a meeting meant mass chaos – especially when none of your staff know how to shift your client’s manual car.
There was a breaking point where the car chaos outside our office was so bad that the bosses made the executive decision to reserve the on-site carparks for senior staff. And I wasn’t high enough up the ladder.
So how did we get from there, to here? What was the catalyst?
Is it me?
Although I’m known around the office as an advocate for cycling, that was hardly what did it. I sign the company up for the Auckland Bike Challenge every year, and this time I was the only one who participated. I’m not even the only regular cyclist in the office, but never mind.
I got into biking to work (on a Merida Crossway) by encouragement of my workmate who led by example. I also did one of Auckland Transport’s on-road cycling courses, which increased my confidence cycling on the road.
Or is it you?
The “you” is Auckland Transport, who in their slow-cranking roll-out of projects, flopped a footpath upgrade onto the street our office is on. At the same time, they installed parking meters to curb the problem of people parking over and on top of each other (and the footpath), clogging up the street.
What a difference this made! The street was finally free, and our clients could visit easily without resorting to illegal parking (usually straight over the footpath). Among the positive knock-on effects:
- Street parking was now available for our staff, clients and consultants.
- Our on-site carparks were relieved of their previous burden.
- Our neighbours across the road finally began to respect the parking rules.
- No more anxious checking to see if the parking warden is around.
It’s ALL OF US
Meanwhile, traffic was getting steadily worse and worse. I commute from Mount Roskill/Three Kings, and these days I dread driving in and only do it when I really need to. Other office mates were getting sick of the time and cost of public transport. A few wanted to be more active.
Bring on the bikes!
Many of my workmates didn’t know about the new cycleway networks that have been formed as a side effect of the Waterview Tunnel, linking to the good ol’ Northwestern and all of the dedicated bike lanes in the central city.
Using Auckland Transport’s bike maps, I showed several workmates how the cycleways near where they lived come pretty right up to our doorstep.
So we grew from one regular cyclist in the office, to an occasional three, to now five regular cyclists (thanks to some new e-bikes). That’s a whopping quarter of the office who had converted to cycling, and were really enjoying their new daily commute.
My colleague Jack’s story is a good one: he used to take the bus from Blockhouse Bay, which took about 40 minutes. At the lunch table one day, we started talking about how he could get an e-bike and get here in less time and get active using the cycleway. Another colleague, Murray, was also shopping for an e-bike so took Jack along to the shop with him to have a look. Next minute, Jack messages me saying he’s bought the e-bike he’d just tried. He hadn’t ridden a bike for years! Now he’s a regular bike commuter and loves it.
The Tipping Point
But where do these bikes go when we get to work?
At one stage, we were keeping our bikes outside in an enclosed yard, but Auckland’s sporadic rain showers made it less than ideal. When it did pour down, we’d scramble to get our bikes back inside, jamming them into the office.
Eventually, we started to keep our bikes inside the office, in part because the e-bike owners (myself included) put our feet down and refused to leave the electronics out in the rain all day.
That’s when the boss started consulting us on solutions – which was perfect, because as architects, this is exactly the sort of spatial challenge we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Several options were proposed: under the stairs, in the back room, or building a shed in the side yard (we’ve been designing bike sheds for Green Star buildings, so we know how that works).
Then my boss suggested we convert the dud off-street carpark into bike parking. One of four parking spaces out the front of the building (we have four more around the side), this was the ‘dud’ because it has a smaller entry and is harder to manoeuvre into and out of. At the same time, it’s under shelter, and CCTV had recently been installed, so the potential was obvious.
Our office manager researched a range of bike rack options, considering lockability, space requirements, the current number of bikes, and future-proofing for more. A meeting was called with all the office bike folk, and we went out to the site (the carpark), had a look, and trialled wheeling our bikes in and out of the space. It was perfect.
We Got There!
Now that the bike parking is installed, it is a real luxury. You rock up in your bike, under the shelter, lock up and walk straight into the office. We’ve squeezed 800% more capacity out of this one space – we now have space for 8 bikes, with capacity to add more in the future. At the moment, five staff regularly park in the space that used to hold only one company car.
Cycling to work is now more attractive with this purpose-built bike parking, along with our two showers, hot-water-cupboard drying racks, and a heated towel rail. And there’s no need to haul a heavy e-bike up a flight of steps and awkwardly open the front door.
I suspect this parking switch was going to happen anyway, but the street upgrade, new cycleways and nearby traffic issues certainly sped it up. Sharing our cycling habits and favourite routes over the lunch table also got people thinking.
And it’s not like there isn’t the option of driving in – sometimes special occasions require it and there are now better-enforced options that mean you can almost always park your car nearby.
So all around, it’s a win-win!
– Bobby Shen
Bobby Shen (@bobbythekiwi on Twitter) is a keen cyclist, who converted from being a daily car commuter. His trusty steeds are the Merida Crossway 10V and the Ebenz A6 AH26-S e-bike. He also helps out at the Roskill Bike Kitchen.
Bobby is running for the Puketapapa Local Board with Roskill Community Voice, hoping to advocate for better, safer transport options as well as ensuring quality in the developments at Mount Roskill, Waikowhai and Three Kings, with community needs being met.
He is an architectural designer by profession, an urban design/planning enthusiast and a Green Star Accredited Professional for sustainable design.