Have you ever seen tens of thousand people on bikes all riding towards one spot? Since 1977, it’s has happened annually in Berlin, Germany, as part of the biggest ‘Radsternfahrt’ (‘Star Ride’) in the world.
Starting from all directions of the compass on over a dozen routes, thousands upon thousands of people converge on the centre of Berlin, to celebrate biking and call for better bike infrastructure. Some riders come from as far as Poland – 150 km away! – though most are just everyday folks and families from the surrounding suburbs.
These days, there are so many eager participants that several city motorways are partly closed during the event to cater for the influx of bikes.
A Star Ride in Auckland – to the Wairaka Fiesta!
And now the idea of the ‘Star Ride’ comes to New Zealand – with Wairaka Land Company organising Auckland’s first Star Ride for the Wairaka Fiesta in Mt Albert! The idea is to celebrate biking and to celebrate the Wairaka Precinct, a new Auckland suburb which will be particularly bike-friendly.
On Saturday the 24th of February there will be five rides towards the fiesta: from Te Atatu, Waterview, Pt Chevalier, Mt Roskill, and the CBD. Four of the rides travel along safe protected cycle routes – and, although the route from Pt Chevalier School doesn’t have a protected bikeway (yet!), you’ll be riding with others in a safe bunch.
Each branch ride sets off around 12:30pm at the starting points highlighted below on the map. Of course, you can also make your own way to the event at your own pace. But why not join one of the festive bike trains?
And once you arrive in the heart of the future Wairaka suburb, there will be live entertainment, a wide selection of delicious food, activities for the kids (likely including a bouncy castle and a bike obstacle course for the young ‘uns), and a bike market – fun for the whole family, running until 3.30pm
NB: you’re also very welcome to arrive on foot or take public transport to the event! If you feel you need to drive, please expect to park a little way away and enjoy a stroll through the park-like grounds, as parts of the campus will be closed to traffic to make it properly safe for the riders and the event itself.
Wait – what (and where) is Wairaka?
Wairaka will be a new suburb for living, working and studying, nestled between Pt Chevalier, Mt Albert and Waterview, at the northern end of Unitec’s expansive Mt Albert campus on the former grounds of Carrington Hospital.
Unitec Institute of Technology is currently consolidating operations at the southern end of the site, moving out of over a hundred scattered buildings into a dedicated modern hub. Over the coming decades, much of the rest of the site will be transformed into a mixture of townhouses and medium-density apartment homes. Together with new office blocks adjacent to the new Unitec campus, a whole new community will call Wairaka home.
The Wairaka Fiesta is an open day that gives you a chance to find out more from the Wairaka Land Company about the plans for the area. For example, the historic brick hospital buildings visible from Pt Chevalier will stay, along with most of the mature trees that dot the site, particularly those along Oakley Creek and along the planned new streets layout.
Particularly attractive from our perspective is that the new suburb is being deliberately planned to be very friendly to public transport, walking, and cycling. People buying and renting here will easily be able to live with fewer cars per family – even no cars, if they want. The many bikeways that already radiate (like rays from a star!) from the site will connect you safely to Te Atatu, Avondale, Onehunga, Kingsland and the City Centre.
Of course, to really encourage more cycling, you also need local bike paths and slow-speed areas. One of the reasons biking is so big in Berlin, for example, is that they have so many 30 km/h zones. Not coincidentally – very intentionally, in fact – the Unitec campus is already a 30 km/h zone now, and the new suburb will be, too. On top of that, its main roads will have proper cycleways designed to best practice standards. Living or working in the new suburb will be a transport dream.
By the time the new Wairaka suburb is fully completed in 10-20 years, we might well see tens of thousands of local and visiting riders join an annual Star Ride. For now, we’re hoping for hundreds and thousands on this first Star Ride. Perfectly doable, we reckon, given the thousands who came to the recent AT community event on the Waterview Shared Path.
We know people in the Inner West are keen on bikes – and we look forward to seeing you at the ride on the 24th!