Otago Rail Trail Day 3

March 27th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Yes that is frost on the ground. We left at 8.30 am and it was freezing – almost literally. Around 1 degree and it was nasty. My fingers were frozen and the wind bites through the jacket. The first 4 kms or so was very unenjoyable. But fortunately both the air warmed up, as did we. Next time I’m wearing full polar gloves, not fingerless gloves!

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Well above the river.

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And then closer to the river.

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Then we hit some nice open country. We had 42 kms to cover in the final day but had to do it in three hours to make the shuttle so had one brief stop in Hyde only.

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Once the day warmed up, it became easily the best of the days. Lovely sunshine, mainly downhill or flat and stunning scenic views.

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We stopped to celebrate having done 150 kms. Yay.

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I just love Central Otago views and you soak them up so much more when cycling through them than driving through them. Superb.

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Just to prove I was on the trip also!

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The memorial for the train disaster in 1943 near Hyde.

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This was rather cool. At first I thought they might be statues as they looked so still and just standing guard. But eventually they flew off.

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The last few kms are very straight, and fast.

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More great scenery.

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These km markers from the original rail line were very useful as you got to know where each town is in relation to them. The end at Middlemarch is at 64.

Often when cycling along, I reflected how amazing a train journey along here would have been.

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Middlemarch has a few remains from the train line.

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Yay, at the end. We ended up cycling 172 kms in 48 hours! As one of our party only started taking up cycling six weeks ago (and me only three months ago) this was a very good effort.

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Then we had a shuttle bus take us back to Queenstown where we once again enjoyed great views, and excellent wind and tapas at Eichhardts.

Despite some challenging conditions, absolutely loved doing the Rail Trail, and already planning the next trail. For those thinking of doing it also, here’s some advice.

  1. Do it in at least three nights, not two. It is hard going, unless you are an experienced cyclist. Almost everyone we met on the trail was surprised at the distances we were trying to do each day, and it left less time for entertainment
  2. Make sure you have really really warm gear, no matter how sunny the day looks, but also ability to strip off if you get too hot.
  3. Consider getting plastic bags to wear over your sock or shoes, in case it rains. Cycling in wet shoes and sock for five hours is not so much fun.
  4. Stay in Clyde the night before if possible so you have an early start on Day 1
  5. Have your valuables such as cameras and phones in a plastic bag in case it rains as panniers get soaked.
  6. While only a 2% slope, be prepared for it to be a long slog up.
  7. Don’t believe people who say it is all downhill after the highest point. It is mainly flat and downhill, but still has a few sections with an uphill gradient
  8. Try and stay at Muddy River Creek in Lauder and Kokonga Lodge if you can, with perhaps a night in Wedderburn between.
  9. Definitely do the alternate route of the river trail to Alexandra in the morning, even though it is longer.
  10. Trail Journeys were very good on customer service and helpfulness, but their administration was a bit loose as the booking for a shuttle back to Clyde was wrong. So double check all the bookings, but the staff were good sorting the problems out.
  11. Definitely go do it – the scenery is amazing, and far better than photos can portray.
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Otago Rail Trail Day 2

March 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Started off around 9 am and popped into the cafe at Lauder to get some food to eat while cycling as 21 kms to the next cafe.

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A rare bridge that is curved!

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The view from the bridge.

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At times the scenery looks like you are in the US West. On the first day we saw an actual cowboy – well a guy on a horse with cowboy hat and neckerchief. I observed this section would be ideal for an ambush by Indians!

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This is the former campsite of the tunnel makers.

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And the first of two tunnels. You are advised to use a torch and to walk through. I did neither :-)

It is a bit scary in the middle, as you really can’t see anything but a distant light and if one did ride into the wall it would be very painful!

After this it started to rain and rain heavily. We got soaked. Even worse it was raining from above and below. In the stretch before Oturehua it was basically a five km long puddle, which with no mudguards just sprayed water upwards non stop. My feet got drenched.

We had an early lunch at Oturehua. The plan was to lunch at Wedderburn but we needed hot soup and pasta now. Dried off slightly, and then headed back onto the trail with it raining even harder. Fair to say we’re all wet, cold and a bit miserable.

But then after half an hour or so, the rain (mainly) stopped. This was very welcome!

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Those old bridges are like human vibrators. Very jarring as you go over them, but fun.

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A cute tint cottage in the trees.

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And finally after a long slog up the hill, we’re at the highest point. There’s snow on the hills in the distance and it is damn cold.

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Downhills are fun! Less so on gravel. When doing 30 km/hr you really don’t want to fall onto gravel. Luckily I didn’t, but one close skid.

We stopped in Wedderburn for a drink at the pub and warmed up some more. We’re all still pretty cold so we decided that would be our last stop and just do the final 31 kms to Kokonga in one go.

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Don’t think I’ll swim in that one.

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Finally got to the very welcoming Kokonga Lodge.Peter Jackson stayed here when filming, and you can see why. Superb food and hospitality and a great fireplace.

In the shower my ankles were itching madly. Finally worked out it wasn’t craft insect bites, but the legs thawing out!

Had a very nice dinner, but was so exhausted I fell asleep at 9 pm. It was a hard 64 kms of riding with the weather, and we had a head on wind for the last 5 kms.

The final day is just 42 kms, but we have to be at Middlemarch by midday so an early start.

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Otago Rail Trail Day 1

March 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Had a great night in Queenstown staying at the superb Villa del Lago (stunning views) and a few wines (okay five bottles!) along with superb rotisserie chicken at the Searle Lane Bar & Rotisserie.

Despite that we were up fairly early and Trail Journeys picked us up at around 9 am. A fairly quick drive to Clyde, and we grabbed the bikes and we were off. We decided to do the Clyde River Trail for the section to Alexandra, even though it is 7 kms or so longer. Figured the views would be worth it, and it was.

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Starting off by the bridge in Clyde.

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The river trail part was very beautiful in parts, but also a bit challenging where there was gravel, slopes and bends.

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A lovely part with the trees leaning over.

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This was very cool – a seat in a bath.

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These old rail bridges are bloody bumpy.

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A falcon keeping watch.

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One of the many old buildings on the trail.

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The view from another bridge.

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The stretch up to the Chatto Creek Tavern was pretty tough as was uphill and a head wind. The gradient is only 2 degrees but when it goes on for some kms you really feel it. Speed drops from say 23 km/hr to 12 km/hr. We were very ready for lunch as it was 2 pm. Very friendly service.

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I loved this, the cat sitting under the table waiting for food scraps.

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Some great views as we keep heading up.

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Then we got to the Muddy Creek Cutting B&B. They have geese, roosters, turkeys and a peacock – plus a very friendly dog.

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This is the place we stayed in. It is first class. Can not recommend it highly enough. You should stay here even if just driving through the area. It’s a mud house and the inside is beautiful,and great fireplaces.

Even better is the food – we had very very slowly roasted lamb. Also some more wine, but not as much as in Queenstown luckily.

Overall a great day but harder than I expected. We cycled 56 kms, and I’d never done more than 25 kms before. And it was all off road, and quite loose shingle at times. My legs were remarkably painful and burning at the end.

Tomorrow we have 64 kms to cycle. Heading from Lauder to Kokonga. Quite a bit of uphill but yay also some downhill.

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A Green policy with some merit

March 15th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Greens have announced:

The Green Party has announced a new policy to make walking and cycling to school safer.

We will invest $200 million in new transport infrastructure so kids can cycle and walk to school safely and to ease congestion on New Zealand’s roads.

Our aim is to get most kids walking or cycling to school again by making it a safe and pleasant experience.

A generation ago, most kids walked or cycled to school. Today, only a third do When kids walk or bike or ride their scooter to school, it’s good for their health, it’s good for their learning, it eases congestion and it’s good for the environment.

I agree with the aim of the policy. Far better to tackle obesity by making it easier for kids to cycle to school, than trying to ban large easter eggs and tax certain foods.

Allocate $50m a year for four years to build modern, convenient walking and cycling infrastructure around schools: separating kids and other users from road traffic, giving a safe choice for families

The $50 million a year seems a figure plucked out of thin air. I’d rather a smaller sum spent on say a couple of dozen schools and measure the impact it has on cycling rates before committing to a larger spend.

The latest research shows that we can get up to $20 of gains for every dollar spent. That’s a billion dollars of gains for each year’s $50 million investment.

First of all it isn’t 20 to 1. Eric Crampton points out they’re comparing benefits in 2051 to the cost today, not taking into account the cost of money over the next 40 years.  At even a 5% discount rate $1 today is $7 in 2050. And the benefit to cost ratios they cite range from 6:1 to 20:1 so in fact they may not provide a net benefit. As I said, it could well be beneficial, but if it really was a 20:1 benefit – would have happened by now.

A key is whether the rate of kids cycling to school will increase as they have assumed. Best to test it, before you spend $200 million.

The other issue is paying for it. They say they’ll divert money from roads. They should be more specific and say explicitly which current road project they will scrap. To be credible it has to be one that has not yet started construction.

But overall not a bad policy.

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Mountain Biking

January 29th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

An advertorial post from Evolution Cycles:

Whether you are an experienced mountain bike rider or are just getting into mountain bikes, New Zealand’s North Island has variety of riding opportunities for every skill set. Whether you want to experience the blood curdling rush of high speed downhill or slowly meander along a flat road, you will find it in the North Island.

Mountain bikes are a great way to see New Zealand and cycling is very popular here. Getting out of a motorized vehicle and onto a two wheeled device powered by nothing but legs, is a great way to get a discover the country and all it has to offer. You will experience unique wildlife and the serene countryside you as you have your adrenaline pumped like never before. Here’s my top 10 list (in no particular order), I welcome any criticism and comments. I’m happy to update this list if I’ve missed someone’s favourite spot!

#1 Waikato River Trails – this network for mountain bikes has trails for all ability levels. There are boardwalks, farmland, forest and riverside with a wide range of interesting geological formations and notable landmarks. This network of trails runs 100 km and goes from Lake Karapiro to Atiamuri’s hydro dam.

#2 Summerhill Farm – for beginners on mountain bikes, this privately owned park has something for everyone. There are trails for walking or riding that take you through native forest and green farmland. There is a single track and also a skills area. Guided tours encompass a combination of kayaking and biking, giving you access to a variety of islands that are located in the Tauranga Harbour.

#3 Woodhill Forest – this beautiful (and incredibly popular) forest contains 150 km of tracks for every level of rider. There is also a network of 50 bike trails throughout this area. Many people would put this right at the top of their list, it’s one of those places you must see when visiting New Zealand. You might recognise this forest as the White Witch’s camp in the Narnia film series.

#4 Waihi and the greater Coromandel Peninsula area offers a range of rides (and terrific walking tracks) through this historic region whether you prefer a guided tour or to go it alone.

#5 Te Aroha – This mountain bike track is tucked snugly into the lower part of Mount Te Aroha (where I lived for 5 years) and features a scenic 10km ride that is open all year round. Every 500m or so, you have a choice of expert or beginner track (one of my favourite features). The track takes you past bush covered foothills, mountain streams, past the Mokena Geyser (the only know hot water soda geyser in the world) and waterfalls. While living there, I worked for the council and helped build some of this track myself, so it has a special place in my heart.

#6 Rotorua Thermal Region – a globally renowned destination for many dedicated mountain bikers. Rotorua is one of my favourite places to visit, we go there several times a year. The Redwood Forest (part of the Whakarewarewa forest) is a popular location and bikes can be hired at the location itself. There are local cycle shops that hire bikes as well and maps are also available almost anywhere. Just a few minutes drive from town, these tracks cover over 70km of very unique terrain beautiful surrounding views.

#7 Pan Pac Eskdale Mountain Bike Park – This park is one of the largest mountain bike parks in New Zealand. It is located with a privately owned commercial area – the Tangoio Forest. The park has been developed by the Hawke’s Bay Mountain Bike Club for use by all mountain biking enthusiasts. There are some spectacular views from the 290m peak of the mountain and more than 80km of trails to be ridden by anyone of any skill level.

#8 The Whirinaki Forest Trails were rated “ride of the trip” in 2009 by Australian Mountain Bike Magazine. These trails include the 36km Moerangi Trail and Whirinaki Loop track. A serious bun burner, these trails are sure to satisfy even the biggest adrenaline junky.

#9 The Central North Island Ruapehu region offers 14 tracks for every level of cyclist which includes the Tongariro Forest Park’s 42 Traverse track which covers 46km of challenging terrain on a volcanic plateau.

#10 Taranaki downhills – the 18 km Whangamomona Road is located along Forgotten World Highway and offers a grade 3+ mountain bike trail starting with the “Bridge to Nowhere” and ending at the Whangamomona Pub. This trail is not for sissies, and was carved into the rugged landscape over a 100 years ago

So that’s the list, I hope you’ll be able to visit some of these amazing places the next time you want an adventure!

Written by Daniel McCarthy from Evolution Cycles

Evolution Cycles offer a massive range of bikes, scooters, bike components and accessories. We are also the only bike store offering Free Shipping NZ wide. Visit Site>

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Cycling safety

January 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Having had friends suffer some horrific injuries while cycling, I’ve been reluctant to buy a bike for use around Wellington, as we have so few cycle lanes and pretty narrow roads.

You shudder when you read reports of collisions between vehicles and bikes, because the vehicle driver merely gets a nasty shock while the cyclist can get broken bones, maimed or killed.

But some cyclists can do more to be safer. The Herald reports:

Cyclists accounted for 60 per cent of red-light runners surveyed at four Auckland intersections, the city’s transport authority has revealed.

Car drivers were responsible for 37 per cent of 360 red-light breaches observed by Auckland Transport, and buses, trucks and one motorcycle made up the balance.

The survey was taken nine months ago, and used by Auckland Transport to formulate safety messages aimed at encouraging all road users to obey red lights, but was not publicised at the time.

Cyclists are 2% of road users so making up 60% of red light runners is a massive over-representation.

She referred to a presentation by a senior Auckland Transport official which won an accolade at an engineering conference, noting many instances of red-light running by cyclists were left-hand turns or motivated by riders wanting to get a head-start on other vehicles for safety reasons.

“Overall, cyclists’ red-light running is a relatively infrequent and safe behaviour,” corridor and centre plans team leader Daniel Newcombe said in the presentation.

Among recommendations he made to the Institution of Professional Engineers’ transport group conference was for cyclists to be allowed to turn left on red lights, while treating the manoeuvre as a “give way” and assessing the risk to pedestrians.

The trouble with doing that is noted here:

Police believe John Tangiia, 37, was probably freewheeling down Parnell Rise on Tuesday before turning left into Stanley St and colliding with a truck which appeared to have a green light while crossing the intersection from The Strand.

Personally I think turn left on red if safe is worth investigating as a law change for all road users, not just cyclists.

Despite the concern about last week’s death, which remains under police investigation, he noted a 64 per cent reduction in serious cycling injuries in Auckland in 2012 compared with 2011 – from 51 to 18.

Always good to have some hard data. Wellington had 33 serious injuries which reinforces to me how cycle unfriendly most of Wellington is.

The Ministry of Transport has some interesting data on cycling injuries. In terms of Police reported crashes with injuries the numbers have been basically declining from a recent high of 895 in 2008 to 783 in 2011. The low point was 559 in 2000 and it increased most of the eight years in between. If we go further back it was 1054 in 1990 and declines for ten years in a row until 2000.

Of course the better data would be number of injuries per x hours spent cycling.

MOT reports that cyclists had fault in just 37% of crashes and primary fault in just 23%.

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Waikato River Trail

January 1st, 2014 at 7:14 pm by David Farrar

Waikato River Trail


EveryTrail – Find hiking trails in California and beyond

Had a lovely day doing around 26 kms of Waikato River Trails. My longest distance on a bike since school. Lots of fun. Want to work myself up to be able to do 75 kms or so in a go.

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Christchurch Cycling

November 3rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reported:

The Government’s transport plan for Christchurch is being hailed as another big boost for cycling in the city.

Keith Turner, chairman of the cycling advocacy group Spokes Canterbury, said the cycleway initiatives could put Christchurch on a par with bustling cities like Copenhagen.

Earlier this year the Christchurch City Council agreed to invest nearly $70 million on creating a new network of suburban cycleways.

Now the Government has confirmed plans to turn the new central business district into a cycle-friendly area by slowing down traffic and building separate cycle paths where possible.

“It is everything we hoped for and everything that people were asking for as part of the Have a Say campaign,” Turner said.

Under the government plan released on Wednesday, key cycling routes will be prioritised for cycling and some paths will be for cyclists only.

Christchurch is such a flat city, that it is made for cycling. In Wellington cycling to and from work can be a form of Russian Roulette!

Would be good to see Wellington City Council do what it can to make Wellington a safer city for cycling.

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Can’t people tell it was a joke?

February 19th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Wellington businessman who has declared “open season” on cyclists has outraged cycling advocates who say his comments are frightening and dangerous.

David Ware, managing director of publicly listed mobile radio company TeamTalk, wrote an editorial in the latest company newsletter railing against cyclists.

He calls them “sodding road vermin”, “roadkill”, “weasels in Lycra”, and said “it’s time to declare open season”.

“More than anything it’s their unbridled arrogance that gets up my nose.

“Unlike the rest of us they don’t pay road user charges or extra ACC premiums. But in spite of being guests on our roads they think they have some god given right to ride wherever they bloody-well please, whenever they please.”

However, Mr Wade said he had just bought a bike and would let readers know how he went.

The editor of cyclingnz.com Tim Pawson said the article was “distressing and appalling”.

He said it was frightening to see such anger in the editorial.

Oh good God, it is a pisstake.

The “editorial” is here. David Ware has just taken up cycling. He is actually taking the piss out of anti-cycling views. Does anyone think you would seriously write an anti-cycling rant and then announce at the end that by the way I am now a cyclist.

David is well known for being slightly wacky. He once settled a commercial dispute with an arm wrestle. His company’s annual reports are half annual report and half cocktail guide.

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Coroner recommendations

February 18th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton blogs a list of recent Coronial recommendations, including:

The problem we have is Coroners only look at how to reduce deaths. They seem to often miss any requirement for balance such as whether their recommendations are practical or affordable – or if they may have undesirable consequences.

Lucy at Cycling Auckland takes issue with the last recommendation:

The Coroner made two recommendations, both of which I feel quite strongly would not help to improve cycling safety. Irritatingly, neither of them seem very relevant to the actual accident he investigated.

First, as mentioned in the media, he recommended that the wearing of hi viz should be made mandatory for all cyclists because he saw it as a “no-brainer.” He doesn’t present any evidence to support this view.

This recommendation seems oddly unrelated to the case, given that the crash happened at 5.20 pm when it was just getting dark and Stephen Fitzgerald was wearing both reflective hi viz stripes and functioning lights.

So it is not even relevant to this case – but the Coroner just thought it was a good idea. It isn’t.

The problem with both of these recommendations, in my opinion, is that while they would probably make individual cyclists safer if they followed them (although it’s arguable in the case of hi viz, because there is some evidence that drivers give cyclists more space when they look less experienced) overall they make cycling less attractive.

This is particularly true of the hi viz recommendation. Even riders such as myself, who have very little interest in fashion, would probably be put off by a permanent requirement to wear hi viz.

Because I don’t particularly want to walk around the supermarket or go to work in hi viz, such a law would require me to permanently wear a hi viz vest over my normal clothes. This would not only be hot in summer but also would be annoying to carry around when I reached my destination.

Obviously, of course, riders who actually care about how they look while riding – such as teenage girls or the Frocks on Bikes types – would quite likely choose not to ride at all if hi viz was mandatory.

I’ve yet to see a single person support the Coroner’s recommendation.

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Another daft Coroner recommendation

February 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Coroner is calling for high-visibility clothing to be compulsory for cyclists after a top road safety cop was struck while cycling in Petone.

Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald – who served for five years as New Zealand’s top traffic officer – was killed in the Lower Hutt suburb while cycling home from work in Wellington to Eastbourne on June 19, 2008.

The truck driver who hit him, Desmond Wilson, was found guilty of careless driving causing death, ordered to pay $2000 reparations, and disqualified for nine months. 

Now, Wellington Regional Coroner Ian Smith is calling for high-visibility clothing to be as compulsory as helmets for cyclists, enhanced cyclist education, a one-metre gap between motorist and cyclist be added to the road code, and clear rules about when a cyclist must use designated lanes only. …

‘Turning to the issue of hi-vis clothing it is in my view a no-brainer. It should be complulsory for cyclists to wear at all times when riding in public.”

Sigh.

First of all, if you are cycling at night you are a special sort of moron if you do not wear hi-vis gear.

But do we want a country where it is illegal to ever ride a bike if you don’t have hi-vis clothing?

Even on a country lane on a bright sunny day?

And don’t even think about how many Police hours would be spent on checking if a cyclist has their hi-vis clothing on.

I recall the report about how the lack of a helmet law in the Netherlands has led to vastly more people cycling there, and overall health gains.

Imagine how many people would be put off cycling with such a daft law?

The suggestions on the one meter gap and the rules about using designated lanes seem worthwhile though.

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Cycleways in Chrstchurch

February 13th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Lois Cairns at The Press reports:

If Christchurch is to become a city for cyclists, then the city council should spend the $69 million needed to create a city-wide cycleway network.

That is the view of Cr Aaron Keown, who says that if the council is serious about turning Christchurch into the Amsterdam of the South Pacific, it needs to put its money where its mouth is.

He said number crunching by council staff showed that if ratepayers were prepared to accept an extra 1 per cent increase in their rates, the network could be funded and built within two years.

“The average household in Christchurch pays $1600 a year in rates, so a 1 per cent rate increase is an extra $16 a year,” Keown said.

“If the people of Christchurch really want a cycle network, are they prepared to pay an extra $16 a year for it?”

Christchurch looks to be an ideal city for cycling as it is so flat. The idea of cycleways is a good one. However I am unsure about the robustness of the $16 a year figure.

There are around 140,000 households in Christchurch. $69 million is in fact $492 a household. Not $16.

The story refers to it being funded within two years. So that would in fact require $250 a household per year – not $16.

This wasn’t hard to calculate. It would be nice if media had the resources or inclination to fact check claims made by politicians, rather than just report on them.

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Guest Post on Accepting Drugs in Sport: the Case of Pro-Cycling

October 30th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Mike Wilkinson, a former Ironman tri-athlete and a keen Tour de France follower:

The downfall of Lance Armstrong in the sport of professional cycling now seems complete.  Yet, as the dust settles, many are left wondering what’s next for pro-cycling: can it recover its credibility?  Or will it once more be tarnished by the brush of doping?  There seems little cause for hope, unless the Armstrong scandal helps the public reach a new acceptance of drugs in particular sports like pro-cycling.

Much has been written about Lance Armstrong. including allegations that he’s brought the sport into disrepute.  Although I’ll say that we can hardly expect successful pro-cyclists to behave like Mother Teresa, I have little to add about the man’s career.  I think, however, that there’s one important thing to keep in mind: the significant role of drugs in professional cycling goes well beyond just Lance Armstrong.

Before Armstrong, so many of cycling’s big names have tested positive for drugs.  They include Armstrong’s former rival, Jan Ullrich, five times Tour winner, Miguel Indurain and even the man who’s arguably the greatest road cyclist of all time, Eddy Merckx.  

Drugging does not seem confined to just individual athletes, either.  In 1998, the year before Armstrong won his first Tour de France, pro-cycling went through the Festina Affair.  It started when a team car that was stopped by the authorities at a border crossing and was found to be packed to the gunwales with EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs.  The case sent shockwaves throughout the sport and resulted in the trial of 10 people, including cyclists, team doctors and team managers   There were plenty of calls for pro-cycling to clean up its act following that fiasco, too.

But why is doping so rife in pro-cycling?  For my part, I think people need to appreciate just what the sport involves.  In the Tour de France, for example, competitors ride approximately 3500 kilometres.  Over that distance, the winner sets a phenomenal average speed of around 40kmh. And even with that pace, riders get just two rest days through the 23 days of the race  

I don’t doubt how hard it is to be a professional sports person in any code, but surely there are few sports where competitors operate so near the upper bounds of human endurance.  Cyclists must face a massive temptation to seek performance from wherever they can find it.

Some are calling for some sort of amnesty in which riders can come clean.  Whether or not that happens, you have to wonder just how long it will take for riders will start doping or not.  When someone in a race performs well, everyone else is going to think that person’s doping and they should, too.

Do others share my scepticism that the sport can clean itself up?  Yes, including some pretty important people.  One big name sponsor Dutch bank, Rabobank, has been involved in cycling for 17 years.  Yet, after the Armstrong scandal, it announced it was ending its sponsorship of both men’s and women’s professional cycling, saying that it was “no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport.”

What does it mean for something to be a fair sport?  Surely, it’s that players know the rules and abide by them.  What if the rules were changed so that a level of doping was acceptable?  If everyone was able to take drugs, wouldn’t the sport still be fair?

While cyclists might by themselves reach this point, it’s doubtful that the general public would accept any sort of doping.  This is my reason for writing this post for Kiwiblog and not for some cycling forum.  Isn’t it time that we woke up and ask whether, for some particular sports, a level of doping might be ok?

For my 2c I think it is desirable that top titles are won by those who are the best athletes, not have the best chemists. However it would be great to have a “main” Olympics and a “freak” Olympics where anything goes from drugs to biotechnology – and have the winners from both compete against each other :-)

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Whale v Duck tomorrow

August 20th, 2011 at 4:52 pm by David Farrar

David Fisher in HoS:

In a year of mismatched and painful political races, tomorrow’s is likely to be the silliest.

The blogger known as Whaleoil will face off against the “bovver boy” of the Labour Party in a 60-kilometre bicycle race in Auckland’s eastern suburbs.

In a sport often called “chess on wheels”, the bike race between Cameron ‘Whaleoil’ Slater and Trevor ‘Duck’ Mallard will hear little mention of the word “mate’”.

There is mutual loathing.

That’s a little tough. More opponents than enemies.

The contest came after Slater goaded Mallard by calling him “cripple” over his badly broken leg.

The elder statesman of the Labour Party lashed back, calling the comfortably-padded Slater “blubber boy’”.

“I bet he is too chicken,” Mallard said.

Well, he did accept.

It is worth remembering that Trevor did challenge Whale and call him chicken. So Whale had little choice but to accept.

And Slater – known for obsessively hounding issues – has turned his compulsive nature to the race and cycled about 15kg off his frame.

Best thing Labour has ever done for Cameron.

Slater, who Mallard calls an “obsessive character”, is relentless.

“He is a cripple. And he’s running a crippled campaign.’”

Slater has been in training and, as his physical fitness improved, so did his mental health.

Slater had publicly struggled with depression, and credits getting off anti-depressants, good vitamin B levels and a good diet with the improvement.

I should see if Trevor would challenge me to a half marathon – could be just the motivation I need :-)

Otago University zoologist Philip Seddon said whales in the wild would always be faster than ducks.

“Almost whatever kind of whale you thought about,” he says.

Seddon – who runs the university’s Wildlife Management Programme – said smaller whales were faster.

Slater’s time could, perhaps, dictate whether the blogger was truly small and dangerous.

“Maybe he’s an orca… a killer whale,” said Seddon.

I love how they went to a zoologist for a comment!

The race starts at 1.30pm tomorrow, at Musick Point reserve at Auckland’s Buckland Beach.

If you’re up in Auckland go along to view the fun!

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Editorials 16 February 2010

February 16th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald praises the Tamaki deal:

The Auckland agreement is a credit to all leaders of the tribes concerned, particularly those of Ngati Whatua who have had to endure challenges to their long cherished tangata whenua status on the isthmus. It is also a credit to the Government’s appointed interlocutor, Sir Douglas Graham, that the vexed issues appear to have been resolved fairly rapidly and amicably.

The Press looks at cycle trails:

With 54 regions across the country bidding for a slice of $50 million earmarked for the New Zealand Cycle Trail project, there were always going to be winners and losers.

Unfortunately, when the Ministry of Tourism released the list last week of which 13 proposals got the nod, and the money, to proceed to the feasibility study stage, Environment Canterbury’s Mountains to Sea trail from Arthur’s Pass to the Waimakariri River mouth was not among them. There will still be a cycleway from the mountains to the sea, but this Alps to Ocean scheme will be located further south, between Aoraki/Mt Cook and Oamaru.

When the cycle trail proposal was unveiled by its architect, Prime Minister John Key, as one of the few concrete projects to emerge from his overhyped Job Summit, there were plenty of sceptics. Certainly his idea of a national cycle trail running the length of the country has been pared back to a more affordable series of individual rides showcasing natural attractions.

But the number of bids for funding suggests that Key’s idea has defied its initial critics and captured the imagination of many New Zealanders and local councils.

The Dominion Post talks homework:

There is an important qualification in Professor Hattie’s dismissal of homework. He says “it’s far more important to have interaction with parents rather than spending some hours on some project”. The key is the interaction with parents. Nothing will be gained by the Karori pupils, or those of other schools that abandon homework, if interaction with parents turns instead into more time in front of the television or computer screen.

Just as parents ultimately take responsibility for ensuring homework is done, in the end it will be up to them to make the no-homework strategy work.

I’m just glad I don’t have homework anymore!

The ODT discusses campervans:

It would not be unfair to say members of the Otago Conservation Board are a group of somewhat “unhappy campers”.

Their call for a national ban on the use of campervans smacks of a cause in search of publicity.

If their initiative in voting unanimously to draft a letter to their Department of Conservation seniors, calling on the Government to create legislation towards such a ban, has raised a fair old stink, they would say it is nothing compared to what the tourists in their four-wheeled portable tents are doing to the countryside.

Such a ban is, of course, a far-fetched proposal and is highly unlikely to gain serious traction, but it might be argued that the board, in promoting it, has done the country, the rental vehicle and tourism industries, and regional and district authorities a favour.

It might be argued. It might also be argued that have made the Board look like unbalanced zealots.

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“Beauty vs the Beast”

November 3rd, 2009 at 11:21 am by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Kaye Breaks Ankle Ending “Beauty Versus The Beast” Race

Excitement over an upcoming parliamentary cycle race dubbed “beauty versus the beast” has been dashed by National MP Nikki Kaye, who has crashed and broken an ankle.

As amused as I am by the headline, I have to say I’d never heard anyone refer to the contest in that way previously.

Central Auckland MP Ms Kaye was due to square off against senior Labour MP Trevor Mallard in the upcoming race around Lake Taupo.

They and other MPs have been in intensive training , but it all ended in tears for Ms Kaye yesterday when she fell on the streets of Auckland.

Ms Kaye said a car had moved close to her, so she had swerved to avoid it but crashed with her foot locked into the pedal.

Her awkward fall resulted in a very painful break in her fibula, near the joint with ankle.

She was expected to be in plaster and on crutches for up to six weeks.

Where’s a dedicated cycleway when you need one!

Some around Parliament joked Mr Mallard had knobbled Ms Kaye as he feared defeat by a younger MP, but Labour MPs insisted he was nowhere near the accident scene.

What I find funny is that Labour MPs actually checked that Trevor wasn’t in Auckland and were briefed to deny it was him :-)

Trevor has been training massively for the race, and is set to knock 20 minutes or more off his 2008 time of 5:35. I hope he keeps the motivation level high as the more time Trevor is on a bike, the less time he spends making trouble in Parliament!

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Police inquiry after cycle/road rage allegations

October 30th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post report:

Labour MP Trevor Mallard has been caught up in a police investigation into an alleged road rage incident in central Wellington.

Mr Mallard says he was forced to defend himself from a driver on Willis St who drove through a group of cyclists then hit him with a bag.

“I very nearly fell off my bike from this guy jumping out and swinging his bag at me,” he said. “I got my foot out of the [bike] pedal because I thought I was going to fall off and there was contact between my foot and his bag.”

The car’s occupants laid a complaint against Mr Mallard, but police would not give details of the complaint. They confirmed they knew of an incident but would not say if charges would be laid.

Now I know some here will automatically conclude Mallard must be in the wrong, but I would advise people not to jump to conclusions.  First of all in my experience many motorists are very inconsiderate around cyclists. Secondly, the eye witnesses back up Trevor on what happened.

Mr Mallard said he had been riding with a bunch of cyclists on Wednesday morning and was on the way back to Parliament about 8.10am when a car drove through the group “and got comments from a few of them”.

A man then got out of the car and swung a bag at Mr Mallard.

When asked if he hit or grabbed the man, the MP said: “No, I defended myself against him. I didn’t touch him at all.”

When asked if the man hit him, he said: “Yes, he did hit me with his bag.”

Mr Mallard said there was shouting from both sides over the incident, and he rode off.

I would be surprised if the Police charge anyone, if the reports of what happened are accurate. I would say that most blame lies with the motorist who got out of his car, if the facts are correctly reported.

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Cycleway Editorials

July 29th, 2009 at 8:38 am by David Farrar

The Press says:

When Prime Minister John Key proudly unveiled the national cycleway project his critics were quick to label the plan a pipedream.

To an extent this view was justified. Key’s original proposal was for a ribbon of concrete stretching from Kaitaia to Bluff, the construction of which would employ about 3700 workers. This was always an unrealistic goal, especially as the announced budget for the project of $50 million would have been woefully inadequate. Yet although the seven cycle trail projects announced this week, including one at St James in North Canterbury, represent a major scaling back of that original feel-good vision, it is still a promising and achievable start.

And the Dom Post:

Prime Minister John Key’s grandiose plan for a concrete cycleway stretching from Kaitaia to Bluff has become something rather more humble seven regional tracks. That does not mean it is a failure, or that it should not be applauded.

Both saying much the same. The original was too ambitious and over-hyped. But even the more modest plans are not a bad thing.

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Armstrong on Cycleway

July 28th, 2009 at 8:16 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong is underwhelmed:

Is that it? John Key says there is a lot more yet to come. But yesterday’s announcement of the first sections of what is intended to add up one day to a national cycleway from North Cape to Bluff is slightly underwhelming – especially given a prime function of the project was to be a relatively cheap, easy and quick method of soaking up unemployment.

On that score, yesterday’s unveiling of just seven “potential” routes where construction “could” start this summer failed to live up to the high expectations that Key himself raised when he first mooted the project at his Job Summit back in February.

I’ve never been convinced that the cycleway was going to make a major impact economically or in terms of jobs. In fact it will be interesting to see the exact cost-benefit analysis done for each route.

However what I have noticed is that recreational cyclists are absolutely enthused about it. One I know is almost apolitical – does not follow politics much at all. And he said that he and his mates now see Key as God (pardon the blasphemy) because they are fanatical about having more cycling routes.

Whether the national cycleway will be a plus or minus for Key politically depends on how much actually gets built in the two years before the next election.

But, tellingly, Key’s “vision” of a national cycleway is now being pitched in terms of the environmental, health and longer-term job-generation benefits of the project.

The shift is admission that Key’s high hopes of the national cycleway being a stunningly successful stop-gap job-creation scheme have foundered.

Yeah as the costs were more fully done, it became clear it would incredibly expensive.

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The Mallard-Kaye challenge

July 19th, 2009 at 4:46 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard blogs:

I’ve known Nikki Kaye for about a decade. But not well enough.

On budget night she challenged me to race around Taupo during the Challenge in November.

I do a bit of biking. I’ve done Taupo four times mostly taking between 5.31 and 5.36.   Over 6.20 first attempt. Ok for my age.

I looked at Nikki. She’s young, looks pretty good but didn’t impress me as a finely tuned athlete. I accepted her challenge.

How wrong I was. Nikki did the coast to coast last year. Not as part of a team but as an individual. And she was only one off a top 50 finish.

Experts tell me that it is the equivalent of a 4.45 Taupo. My limit would be around 5.15 if training went well and conditions on the day were great.

Now Trevor is a pretty good cyclist. But he is an even better politician and is doing the old politician trick of reducing expectations.

Trevor did get 5.36 last year. I have no doubt he can make 5.15 with sufficient motivation, and maybe even better that. My spies report he is spending much spare time cycling.

Now Nikki is definitely very fit, has run some marathons, and did complete the Coast to Coast last year. But she is not a regular cyclist and proficiency in one sport does not always translate into proficiency in another. And 160 kms is a tough challenge.

As an example Caroline Evers-Swindell did the race last year slower than Trevor – 5:44.

So quite a compliment that Trevor thinks Nikki can cycle 160 kms one hour faster than an Olympic gold medallist.

A time of 4:45 would out Nikki in the top 15 for her gender and age. It would put her ahead of Shelley Hesson at 4:53 who competed in the 2004 Olympic Games.

It would even be a faster time than Jenny MacPherson (4:51) who has won three consecutive Tour Down Under cycling races.

So when Trevor casually mentions he reckons Nikki is good for 4:45, you should treat this with the normal suspicion of anything Trevor says.

To do a sub five hour race, Trevor (on 2008 results) would need to be be in the top 300 of the 1,300 in his age and gender group. Niiki, to do a sub five hour race, would need to be in basically the top 20 of 250.

Now I’m not saying Nikki won’t win. Obviously I hope she will. But the contest isn’t quite as uneven as Trevor would like people to think.

Cactus Kate commented:

I’m picking a Mallard victory on the basis that you have at least 4 spare hours a day in opposition to train for the event

Trevor has even blogged about some of his recent cycling.

Trevor responded:

Kate – I’ve certainly got a lot more time now that I’m not a Minister. But government backbenchers possibly have even more time. They are tied up in Select Committees a bit more but don’t seem to do the policy development work and caucus group travel that we do.

Heh. The thought of Nikki with spare time is fairly amusing as she is currently on three Select Committees (some MPs have only one) and the Auckland Governance Committee is spending around a month sitting from 9 am to 9 pm five days a week. And that is only select committee hearings – on top of that you have all your other MPs duties.

So I think the Mallard-Kaye contest will be a tightly contested race. Will Nikki’s fitness and youth overcome Trevor’s experience, strength and time?

By coincidence Kiwiblog may just be in Taupo to report on this race :-)

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The cycleways get $50 million

May 14th, 2009 at 3:42 pm by David Farrar

Well it has got the money. John Key has anounced:

The Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, John Key has today promised $50 million dollars over three years for the New Zealand Cycleway Project.

Speaking at the New Zealand Hotel Industry Conference in Auckland, Mr Key says the project, first raised at the Job Summit, will create a high quality tourism asset that will enhance New Zealand’s competitiveness as a tourism destination, provide employment, and stimulate economic development opportunities in regional economies.

“I propose to create a series of ‘Great Rides’ of New Zealand, with a long term aim of creating a network throughout the country.”

In this month’s Budget, the Ministry of Tourism will receive $50 million in operating funding to progress the Cycleway.

Well the Greens will be happy!

Oh except for the carbon footprint of the tourists flying over here to cycle. Maybe we need to have a cycleway from Australia also :-)

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Such guts

September 13th, 2008 at 1:24 pm by David Farrar

Paula Tesoriero picked up her third paralympics medal yesterday in literally blistering heat, getting bronze for the 25 km road race:

Tesoriero was not able to stand on the dais to receive her medal as a result of heat exhaustion in blistering temperatures. She will spend a day in bed to recover fully from her ailment.

All who compete at the Paralympics are awesome role medals. So far the NZ team has won nine medals (Paula is one third of that!) and four more days to go.

TVNZ report on the worthy stand in for Paula:

She was taken to hospital for a precautionary MRI scan so a stand-in was needed for the medal ceremony.

This position was taken by her husband Chris Bishop who probably deserved some reward for the stress he’d been though watching his wife!

Chris is the most amazingly supportive partner for Paula, and definitely her number one fan. I knew both Chris and Paula before they started dating. In fact we spent some time trying to convince Paula that we thought Chris was interested in being more than just friends with her.

Paula kept denying this, and kept asking us what made us think this. Finally one day we confessed “Well mainly because Chris has told us he is” :-)

A final reminder – friends and fans can vote for Paula on the TVNZ site. You’ll go in for a chance to win an Mitsubishi Outlander, and the top scoring competitor gets one also.

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A second medal

September 11th, 2008 at 4:15 pm by David Farrar

Well done to Paula Tesoriero for winning a bronze paralympics medal to go with her gold. And she didn’t do a face plant this time!

Her final race is tomorrow – the 25 km road race.

A reminder that friends and fans of Paula can vote for her on the TVNZ site. The paralympian with the most votes wins a Mitsubishi Outlander and everyone who votes goes into a draw to win one themselves.

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Go Paula Go

July 10th, 2008 at 8:03 am by David Farrar

There are few people who really inspire me, but my friend Paula Tesoriero who was on TV3 last night is one of them:

Wellington cyclist Paula Tesoriero is gunning for gold at this year’s Paralympics, and the world record holder in the 500 metre time trial is expecting nothing less than gold in Beijing.

Paula Tesoriero has always been determined to disable her disability.  A rare condition meant three of her limbs were damaged before she was born and even though she has only been cycling two years, she is already world class.

Even before she took up cycling, Paula was amazing for never letting her disability being a handicap. And the effort she puts into training for the cycling champs is beyond belief.

I’m not going to be watching too many races in the main Olympics. But myself and many others will be following the Paralympics cycling minute by minute!

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