One recent afternoon on the NW cycleway, I bumped into a little girl and her dad. Well, I say ‘bumped into’ – but in fact wee Penny was powering along well ahead of her father, overtaken only by the occasional lycra dude. It was a treat to see someone so young riding with such confidence, so I had to find out more.
Here’s her dad, Sam Tozer, with the scoop…
Ever since Penny learned it was possible to bike from home (Kingsland) to school (Newton Primary, across the motorway via the Waima St bridge), she’s insisted on doing it pretty much every day. We also figured out we can use the cycleway plus Lightpath, to deliver her younger brother Tommy to his daycare in Freeman’s Bay. Going via the Pink Path really adds a bit of pizzazz to the daily drop-off.
It’s so nice to be able to have the whole family on the bikes as part of the normal working week. My partner Nat and I both work at Lot23 Cafe in Minnie St, Eden Terrace, and it’s an easy bike to work through the Bright St tunnel after the kids are dropped off. It’s also only a 20 minute round trip to pickup Penny from school at 3pm via the same route. She then hangs out with me at Lot23 until I finish my day’s work, and we bike home from there.
Nat and I are so busy with a small business and the two young ones, that fitting in the gym or something like yoga is pretty near impossible. So this mode of daily transport has in fact become the whole family’s primary source of regular exercise.
The NW cycleway is a wonderful thing to have in our neighbourhood. We call it the ‘trail’. Part of what makes it so handy is the connections that provide easy access to dairies, shops and cafes. One of the biggest psychological hurdles for me with regard to leaving the car at home, particularly with Penny in tow, was the feeling of a lack of options and access to basic things, like the simple little purchases you need to make for a smooth domestic week.
So it’s fantastic being able to effortlessly pick up milk and bread for the morning as part of the cycle commute home – otherwise, you’d get home, put your bike away, and have to drive to the shops! Surely we will start seeing little spots open up along the trail as it gets busier… would you like some chain lube with your flat white, sir?
Often it’s hard to get Penny off the trail, she loves it so much. Particularly on Fridays, we’ll sail past our regular School Rd exit, swing past the Levonia dairy for some snacks, jump back on at Myrtle St, off again at St Lukes Rd, and end up in Western Springs for a picnic and a play.
We are having an increasingly social time on the trail too, as other families from Kingsland and further out are jumping on the trail at side connections near their block. We have met a number of young families not far from us we never would have met otherwise.
Having a path like this has really opened up the neighbourhood. It gives us a new way to get to after-school playdates, and easy access to Nixon Park. Having so many options to travel by bike as a family, mostly safe from the dangers of driveways and main roads, has created a tremendous sense of freedom for us and other families we know.
It’s the connections that make all this possible. While it’s great that the trails are also used as handy expressways by countless hi-vis-clad commuters, it’s the frequent connections along the way that promote community connectedness – something which can be so lacking in Auckland. Happiness anyone?
— Sam Tozer
Speaking of local connections… if you live or ride anywhere near this section of the NW cycleway, check out the current consultation on safe streets from Pt Chev to the City. This plan is a model for future neighborhood-level networks – so even if the inner west suburbs aren’t quite your own back yard, feel free to help make them better for bikes! There’s also a great discussion by Russell Brown on Public Address that helps put the upcoming plans in perspective (check the comments thread for news about developments in Mt Roskill, too).
PS if you’ve got kids on bikes who need a bit of a boost – Bubs on Bikes is running Learn2Ride sessions in Grey Lynn Park on Sundays in March.