Jo Jalfon commutes daily from the east to town, by bike and train, despite some challenges along the way. Read on to see what she and other commuters from the east are up against, including the matter of parking…
I bike from Sunnyhills to Panmure Station to catch the train to work. Why bike? It’s quicker than driving to the train station, especially now that uni’s back in session. I love the freedom it affords me, and the ride over the Tamaki River and around the lagoon is scenic year-round. In fact, on Fridays when I have more time, I sometimes cycle home around the Rotary Walkway – but like most motorists, during the week I’m heading to work and not out on a Sunday drive. So the quickest and safest route is best, and at the moment that means Pakuranga Road to Panmure.
The ride from Glenmore Road in Sunnyhills to Panmure Interchange is a short ride, at only 5km – but at points, it’s more challenging than all my days of cycling to work in London. I start with a ride up and onto Pakuranga Road from Glenmore, which is an easy five minutes.
Then the decisions begin. Do I merge into the middle lane of three lanes of traffic with the turning vehicles at the intersection lights, cross at the crossing and enter the left lane with traffic coming from Howick and heading south, with less than half a metre between the curb and cars? Or do I weave around vehicles exiting driveways over the footpath that leads down to prestigious St. Kentigern’s?
I usually take option two; riding carefully between the static left lane of traffic trying to get onto Pakuranga Highway and into the city, and those heading straight on to Panmure and the Eastern Suburbs.
At the point where the traffic divides and heads in opposite directions, I move into the bus lane to allow traffic to move ahead without having to weave around me. It’s a temporary reprieve, as I’m soon back up on and pedaling my heart out to move as quickly as I can along Pakuranga Road and towards Lagoon Drive which will take me over the ageing Tamaki River Bridge.
The first bridge over the Tamaki River was built in 1865, connecting Panmure to Howick. The current ‘updated’ model dates from 1959.
The bridge groans like I do as I bike over it, taking the left lane. I often worry I’m holding up traffic by taking the lane – but as you can see, the footpath can barely accommodate riders or pedestrians, let alone both.
The downhill along Lagoon Drive means weaving in and out a bit to dodge trees that have pushed out past the yellow lines.
I try to ride into the middle lane to avoid them and then into the side Basin View Lane that takes me up onto Queens Road in Panmure. I can’t ride up to the notorious Panmure Roundabout as there is no eastern entry into the Panmure Interchange. Instead I cycle along Queens Road until I hit the pedestrian crossing, then go up onto the footpath that weaves past the closed shops in the morning and then across Jellicoe Road to the petrol station…
…and over the road to the footpath that leads to Panmure Station.
Which brings me to the bike parking. Auckland Transport have said that Panmure is one of the most highly used stations, being a connector from all suburbs from Ellerslie to Howick. The station staff are wonderful, and always advise me to make sure my bike is locked, as a few have been stolen from the indoors bike stand. Often the stands are full, in any case.
[Ed note: the bike parking, such as it is, was hard won – you may remember this discussion in 2013, followed by consultation on proposed options in 2014 after we pressed for adequate parking as absolutely crucial to a flash new station. The parking was eventually put on hold, as it was expected the access was so bad by bike that no one would ride there!]
So I’ve now started taking my bike on the train with me to town. This means taking it into the lift, which is a bit of a squash, or down the escalator, which is perilous.
Then it’s a matter of holding back until passengers have boarded, before my trusty bike and I try to find a small spot to squeeze into.
Exiting at Britomart is equally tricky with a bike – a lift or two escalators. From there, it’s a two minute ride to the Vero Centre where there are plenty of bike racks, plus changing facilities where I can quickly swap my helmet for heels and say triumphantly, once again, ‘I made it!’
One of the best parts of arriving at work is seeing I’m far from alone in seeing the joy in traveling by bike – even if it could be so much easier.
I know that safer streets for bikes in my part of town is a big, long-term project, although I’m keen to see it happen as fast as it can. [ed: the AMETI project will fix some stretches of the commute, although not the Pakuranga Highway] In the meantime, more and better bike parking at the stations, and better access TO the stations, would be a great start for those of us whose ideal commute is a mix and match of bikes and public transport.
(And then, of course, there’s the ride home so I can do it all over again the next day…)