When Kyle Donegan turned up at the Bike Auckland launch party last week, he handed me a small box containing a handful of glittery pink stuff. A little bit sandy, a little bit sparkly, it looked like fairy dust. And it might as well be – it’s a sample of the recycled glass aggregate that, when mixed with a resin base, forms the “pink frosting” on the magical new Nelson St pathway.
Kyle is the General Manager of Resin Surfaces Ltd, a locally owned independent company that since 2009 has covered more than 100,000 square metres of New Zealand with coloured textures, and has been working for years to develop greener surface treatments. Mike Coote, who founded the company, has been in the surfacing business for over two decades – long enough to want to move on from the hydrocarbon-based resins of old, in favour of something friendlier.
The fairy dust Kyle handed me isn’t just new, it’s New Zealand made. In combination with a plant-based resin developed by a local polymer scientist, the coloured and coated glass forms a smooth continuous surface that’s anti-skid in all weather, keeps its colour, and sparkles in the sun. This proprietary combo of resin and aggregate is called EverGreen.
That’s green as in eco-friendly, although if you’ve noticed extra-bright apple green “fresh Kermit” on bike and bus lanes – in New Plymouth and Christchurch as well as Auckland – that’s most likely Resin Surfaces’ work (NB the bike lane markings on Nelson St itself aren’t theirs, this time). You’ll also have seen their products on the Beach Rd bike path, and the waterfront ‘Barcode’ design for the Rugby World Cup.
The stuff is called EverGreen, but it can be made in any colour you like, including pink – or, as the vivid Nelson St offramp hue is properly called: Telemagenta. It’s a one-off shade: this isn’t just the only pink cycleway in the world, it’s the only surface in the world THIS particular pink.
The job involved almost 4 tonnes of resin, and 15 tonnes of glass aggregate. There’s 1T of pink stuff left over, with is being reserved for maintenance, if needed – and for other nearby ideas that might tie in to the project.
The powdered and pink-coated glass is extremely fine, almost velvety. Because the offramp won’t be subject to heavy vehicles, they were able to use pedestrian grade, designed for pedestrians and cyclists. This means the grains are about 0.5 – 0.8mm, as opposed to the more heavy duty road grit, which runs an average size of 2mm.
Applying it is a delicate art, and like everyone else involved in the project, Kyle and Mike and team have been pulling some arduous shifts to get things done. Once the tinted resin goes down, you have about half an hour to get the sparkly grit on top, and then it has to cure for 4-5 hours before anyone can walk on it. It’s then painstakingly hand-swept – like Zen monks in a gravel garden – with brooms and blowers, to gather the surplus grit for re-use.
Remember those glitter versions of the paint-by-numbers kits we did as kids? Like that, but on an epic scale; remember the offramp is about 700m long.
Trickiest of all was the spectacular koru design at the Nelson St end. This required a massive jigsaw puzzle of laser-cut plywood pieces, which were used as a sort of stencil to chalk the design onto the surface, which was then carefully masked with exquisite attention to detail. Then the pink frosting was applied.
Kyle loves to bike, loves the city, loves being part of a project like this, and is brimming with ideas for future possibilities (some of which are so exciting I would immediately spill the details if I hadn’t been sworn to secrecy). “Projects like this are the arteries,” he told me. “They’re the visible main parts of the system, but the veins will branch off into local streets. It’s all about encouraging people to see what’s possible, to remove the barriers so we can all demand more.”
For Kyle, the scale of the project is a huge part of the satisfaction of this job. Not only does the pink colour reflect directly onto the perspex screens and the gloomy underside of the K Rd bridge, it catches your eye from around the city… and beyond. Kyle says when he travels from the Shore to the city, especially at night, he loves to see the Museum all lit up, Sky Tower… and now, the dynamic light show and the pink glow of Nelson St will be part of that magical vista.
It’s the icing on the cake, in every sense. Sweet as.
Thanks to Kyle for photos and info, much of it conveyed the evening before the ribbon-cutting, while putting the final touches on the surface! Talk about grace under pressure.