Sometimes we go out looking for photo opportunities…and sometimes they come to us.
Today was Go By Bike Day. Alas, I missed the chance to grab a coffee at the nearby Unitec pit stop, but clearly it was a fun and busy morning – with some legends going out of their way to ‘collect the set’ by visiting all three pit stops before 9am!
As AT’s Walking, Cycling & Road Safety Manager Kathryn King said (per AT’s press release): ‘I could see the difference a year has made to the numbers cycling. Figures we put out from our annual walking and cycling survey in August 2016 showed that in the previous 12 months, 45,000 more Aucklanders have been getting out on their bikes.’
Of course, as we know, not all bike trips run along commuter corridors and/or into the CBD. At my local school, kids and teachers turned out in their usual excellent numbers… this is a school that takes biking seriously every day, and even a rainy day sees overflowing bike sheds.
But the best was yet to come. I biked down to the Pt Chev shops at lunchtime to catch up with Barb for a planning meeting. As we sat over coffee at Spilt Milk, a passing parade of people on bikes came and went on everyday errands. And for some reason, today it was mostly men. Was it Blokes on Bikes Day, and we’d missed the memo??
When I saw Ron parking his bakfiets outside the post office, I shot out of my seat to get a closer look. He’s a recent arrival to Pt Chev, fresh from (of course) the Netherlands. “You should have caught me earlier, with children in the front box,” he said. “It can fit four, although I only have two!” And note, the bike isn’t electrified – it’s all down to dad leg power.
Next a very sporty fellow pulled up outside the cafe… on a traditional basket bike! I had to ask, had he borrowed it? “Nup, it’s mine,” said Hare quite happily. “I live in Japan, and this is really the only kind of bike anyone rides there. I’ve just come to get some groceries.” Hare plays rugby with a Japanese team – how fabulous to see him bringing ‘mamachari’ style and casual bike shopping back to Pt Chev when he visits!
Heading back out to the town square, I bumped into another bloke with a basket bike. What the?! Ken explained the bike was one of Unitec’s bike share fleet, and he’d zipped over from the campus for a quick cafe catch-up with some of his colleagues. “It’s so handy!” he said.
Just as I set off for home on my own bike, here came another bloke on wheels… Billy, and his best friend Charly. I’ve spotted them round quite often, between the shops and the dog park on Meola Reef.
Turns out, Charly is a quake refugee! She belonged to a young Christchurch couple who lost their house in the quake, and was then fostered by North Island relatives before coming into Billy’s life a few years ago.
The timing couldn’t have been better for both of them. Charly had been trained to run along a bike, but she hadn’t been near a bike for about a year. Same for Billy, who’d been off his feet for a while, wasn’t able to walk very far, and wanted to get back into biking. They set off together for an experimental ride, and Billy pointed which way to go, and Charly followed.
“We probably cover about 50km a week like this,” says Billy. “I have a perfectly good car but I sometimes don’t touch it for five or ten days. Everything we need is nearby, and she needs the exercise, and so do I.” A match made in heaven!
What’s the moral of this story – beyond the fact that my local shopping centre is full of beaut blokes on bikes? I guess that every day is Go By Bike Day; that any encounter can be an encouraging ‘pit stop’; and that if you make friends with a person on a bike, you’ll hear some pretty great tales of how to be human in this city of ours.