Give a Wellingtonian in Tāmaki a discount e-bike and see what happens… Guest poster Isabella has been buzzing around astride a Smartmotion E-City courtesy of Big Street Bikers.  She has some reckons about Auckland for us Aucklanders, so strap in. 

Hey Auckland, let me (a Wellingtonian) tell you some Facts about your town.

  1. You have mini towns scattered all over the city. With excellent restaurants and bars, and cool places to buy stuff, and neat breweries and cideries and theatres and bookshops and places where people work and play and learn and meet, just randomly scattered all over.
  2. All this is spread over a lot of hills (and yes this is Wellington speaking).  Hills and gullies and promontories and some pretty complicated geography.  (What’s the plural of “isthmus”?) So getting A to B is usually up and down and hither and yon and up and down some more.
  3. You have a lot of horrible stroads, and scary arterials. Baby wannabe motorways everywhere, and heavily-trafficked overbuilt intersections with multiple lanes and turning lanes and nary a scrap of bike infrastructure (and sad withered little footpaths).

In this 20-year cycling person’s opinion…

All this makes Tāmaki a brilliant place to have an e-bike.

Like this one (I called it Leccy for our all-too-brief time together)

“Yes but I already have a bike (or two) and am awesome.”

You may be a biking person already, a two-wheeled tiger in Tāmaki’s urban jungle.  Rrroaarr!  So here’s a question.  When you’re somewhere and considering your options for where to go next – perhaps a Friday night between post-work drinks and finding some dinner, or figuring out where to have a business meeting with someone who works in another mini-town.  Maybe you’re planning weekend brunch or a beer and meeting a friend and a bit of shopping. You’re planning by bike, because you’re a tiger.  But how much are you subconsciously limiting yourself in deference to all them hilly bits between Auckland’s cool places?

What if those hills really didn’t mean much? How much would your everyday horizon expand?

No sweat

And if you’re in a hurry in the city, and you decide to do battle with the main roads, how much do you and your brain just suck up the toxic cortisol from being close-passed off every red light because Driver Steve behind you is Very Important And You’re In His Way?

Wouldn’t it feel more serene if you could zoom off the lights with a little burst of power and then comfortably sit in the middle of the lane, under leg power yet taking your rightful place as a road vehicle? (If you want to pass, Steve, good luck to you; I’m doing 30k up here.)

This, Tiger, is the quietly life-changing experience of an e-bike.

“But I don’t want to be a tiger in the jungle, I’d rather chill while I’m getting around”

So maybe, dear Auckland reader, you’re someone more like me.

You’re someone who’d like to bike around but would rather not do battle with four-plus lanes of oversize shiny urban assault vehicles converging on each other.  Which means you stay off the ridgelines that are the city’s only flattish ways to get around (roll on the K Road upgrades please!).  Well, good for you.  This is really rather sensible.

Thing is, in this biker’s Auckland experience the more chilled out routes of the non-main drags invariably mean more upsing and downsing. While being away from the ridgelines means one is less likely to experience the cold sweat of mortal terror, one definitely gets more of the sweaty sweat of hard work.

So, chilled out person, an e-bike is for you too. It means you arrive with a gentle glow, rather than having to fan yourself and do the stealthy sweat-patch check.   And, when your back-streets routes inevitably intersect with some of the larger roads and you have to do a hill start at pace to get across, you can lay down a burst of speed that would ordinarily require thighs like a Tour de France sprinter – except you have leccy power!

Normal shaped person who can smash mean hill starts like a pro  Photo: NZTA

Quaxing power

The final word must go to the grocery shopping.  I did none of this, but I towed my week’s  luggage between Britomart and Morningside and I can testify its weight was easily equivalent to a good hefty grocery shop.  I don’t know about your knees, but my almost-38-year old ones wouldn’t want to haul potatoes, wine, cans of beans, washing powder, dishwash et al without a spot of leccy power.

Going to the shop it’s power off, and you’re on a nicely-riding Proper Bicycle, zooming along under muscle power in the grand 200-year-old tradition (but with nice modern stuff like disc brakes).  Homebound, it’s power on and you work harder – but not so hard you think about starting to save for a knee replacement.

The verdict?

All up, the e-bike made me feel I could do the city by bike, but with more power, less anxiety and without getting sweaty in my favourite jumper. I could go forth and conquer Auckland!

Power yourself up

You can test ride all manner of ebikes at the eBike Expo on Friday and Saturday, and the free Victoria Park Electric Bike Market on Saturday.

And to buy one: Big Street Bikers are doing crazily good ride to own deals, from only $30 per week. So go check them out at their solar powered Rechargery pronto.  I found them incredibly helpful and obliging, allround enthusiastic about more Kiwis e-biking. If you’re a smart business (or want to make your employer be one), e-bikes offerings for businesses (a nice twofer with the new NZTA / Sustainable Business Council guide for businesses to help their staff get e-bikes).

And for when you’re off the machine, Big Street also have exciting bike-parking plans for all of us who get around on bikes.

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  1. Interesting post, thank you. I had to look up the plural if isthmus. The standard in English is isthmuses (just like octopuses) but isthmi has been used in medical science and can work because although isthmus has a greek origin it came to english via latin and satisfies a couple of other rules.

      1. Isabella, on your Christmas lisping mirth list don’t miss Miffy’s wordsmith verse to demyth this isthmuses versus isthmi curse.

  2. Down Parnell Rise and then whatever happened to the tunnels under Albert Park?
    I remember someone saying they would be a big tourist attraction and a encourage more pedestrians and cyclists from Parnell.
    See you at the Cloud today where I will be looking for a good deel on an ebike.

  3. Thanks Isabella, this had me chuckling. I guess I’m one of the many who enjoy buses for my longer trips and may “modeshift” to an e-bike instead when there are some more safe routes. Each attractive recommendation like this is tempting me though.

    Big Street’s bike parking plans look interesting… If I’d costed the time I’d spent trying (unsuccessfully) to get AT to put in bike parking over the last few years, it probably would’ve been cheaper if I’d simply used a DIY approach… I must look into the cost of Big Street’s models.

    1. I’m the same at home: bike 25 min to the rail station, train 20 min to home. With an e bike i would probably ride all the way. Next step: when there’s carshare out in Porirua I’ll be lobbying for us to be a carfree household!

      1. Funny thing is how we changed so much in our lifestyle over the last dozen years that we just haven’t needed the carshare. I’ve heard that’s quite a common story.

        1. When we went down to one car a few years ago we got a Cityhop membership – yet to use it.

          I’ve hired a car once to head down to Taranaki to do some climbing and my wife still needed our car for the kids.

          It’s amazing how much the number of cars in the house impacts driving decisions, I imagine having none would be even more dramatic.

        2. Dramatic is the right word — you’d mostly be stuck at home, and if you’re lucky those 1 or 2 places you may be able to reach on PT in less than an hour.

          (unless you ‘pay attention to where you buy a house’, but that mostly boils down to having a ton of money)

  4. When the cyclepath is complete from Glen Innes to the mission bay road it will make for a mean loop on conjunction with the pink path, NW, see etc.

  5. Great points, well made. The gradients in Wellington are often far more challenging. Auckland works on all types of bike but so essential to get a refresh on the skills training (Level 2 to 3 minimum). The improved cycle routes are gradually appearing but quality, maintenance and ensuring facilities are fit for purpose remain clear challenges. As battery technology improves the e-bike is becoming a great addition to the range of options on offer 🙂

    1. Serious stuff. “I’m incredibly disappointed, it’s terrible. But otherwise people would have lost their jobs by Christmas. And I would not have been able to look at myself in the mirror.” Chuckle.

      1. Worse than a refugee crisis apparently- dunno how he figures that. But still it is very Dutch to see a problem and take a practical action. Anglo countries need a white paper, a select committee and a public submission process and that is just to figure out if there is a problem.
        As an aside I was talking to a friend this morning from Mt Albert. He has had stuff put in his mailbox- one about the trees but worryingly another that seemed to be straight out racist or alt right. Seems a shame we can’t just argue about trees without New Zealand’s feeble minded getting involved.

        1. I got the same. The Hobson’s pledge fellows have latched on to the tree felling protest, anti the Maunga authority doing what they have the right to do.

  6. While from an environmentalist perspective, e-bikes are an improvement over one person driving an otherwise unoccupied automobile; unless you’re physically incapacitated, surely it’s still not as good as just riding a normal bicycle without an electric motor?

    1. Depends on how far you want to travel. Extending the range of pure pedal power for the entire group of cyclists, and potential cyclists, by using electric assist, is surely a lot better for the environment, including both emissions, and spacial requirements, then the alternative of jumping in a car.

    2. It is very small compared to a car. A Nissan Leaf has 40 kWh worth of batteries. Compare this to about 1 kWh for a speed pedelec, and even less for a plain e-bike. So if your family can go from 2 cars to 1 car + couple of bikes, that is a win.

  7. Interesting post thanks. Have yet to try an e-bike but I see hourly, 1/2, full day hire etc is available from that Big Street Bikers mentioned I noticed for a pretty good rate which would be good to properly try and see if they a suitable before buying.

  8. Great article… roll on the e-bike revolution!

    One minor point, please can you credit Sustainable Business Network, rather than Council, for the e-bike guide? Many thanks!

  9. Here’s why I’m wary of E-bikes. Once I go down that road, I can see myself losing the ability to ride a non-E-bike. And I don’t think I am ready for that yet!

  10. I think I”ll confidently ride all the way into town from Porirua with an e-bike, whereas the rise into Jville/Khandallah/down again through Ngaio to the city centre puts me right off ATM. I”ll be keeping my Proper Bike too though, for everything else. I feel ya – nothing like the simplicity of muscle and mechanical power 😀

    Also, I ride at pedestrian pace on the footpaths sometimes (just briefly) when fear-of-death or massive inconvenience requires. And then I value the 100% controllability of purely muscle power. I don’t trust myself not to forget to turn off the juice, and the bike does a little surge unpredictably amongst walking people. So proper bikes definitely better there.

    1. Yes indeed. The highest point on the ride from Porirua to Wellington (via Khandallah) is 177m right by the entrance to Onslow College. That’s quite a climb up-and-over from virtually sea-level in Porirua and Wellington. It’s a bit less of a climb if you go via the Ngauranga Gorge but who wants to do that? Even though there’s a bike-path of sorts, the traffic hurtling by is horrible and the headwinds and gradient can be tedious. The back route is more civilized, in spite of the extra height.
      Good on you for contemplating this ride, which as you say, an e-bike makes much less of an ordeal. Don’t try it in the dark on a foul Wellington night however, unless you’re really keen!

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