Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wellington Cycling Culture

Having spent several weeks in Wellington this year, I thought I'd write something about its cycling culture. It's a great city - the best capital city in the world according to lonely planet - and it looks great to ride around: the city centre is relatively flat, but some good hills surrounding it for training rides. I spent most of my time in the city centre or the CBD as Wellingtonians like to say (and geographers too). Here are my main observations:

1. Everyone is geared up. I have never seen so many people riding full carbon BMC bikes. And they are riding them to work!!!! I even saw someone riding to work on spinergy wheels! A couple of people have been on fixed and a few more on single free, but still nowhere near as many as the BMCs. What is it with that? Surely its not down to Cadel Evans winning the tour - he's an Aussie after all. Maybe they all just have great secure storage at work?

But its not just the bikes, everyone is also wearing proper cycling kit to work. It must be the outdoors culture or something because I've not seen many people on sit up and beg bikes wearing a suit with their trousers tucked into their socks. Lycra is de rigeur. And cycling kit here is more expensive than it is in the UK.

2. People ride like nutters but there doesn't appear - at least to me - to be much complaint about this. The one way system, particularly down Featherstone Street, combined with the wind, means I've seen people tearing along, scarily. Maybe they don't have accidents, maybe they don't have people opening car doors, but it's not how I would ride. Defensive riding seems to involve going flat out, not dominating the space around you. Even along the quay you see people going a fair speed amongst pedestrians and skateboarders. I never saw any conflicts and it would be quite easy to end up in the harbour if you had one. Maybe this has happened, but I think the attitude is different to that on the Taff Trail where it's walkers and dog walkers who like to assert their right of way.

A quiet day in Wellington...
From NZ November 2011

3. You can see bikes everywhere, they are not hidden away on bike paths. The one criticism I have of the Taff Trail in Cardiff is that I just don't see anything of Cardiff when I ride to work. It's in it's own separate world. That can be a good thing, but I don't think it helps in generating a cycling culture or awareness of cycling and cyclists. Indeed that was one of the objections to cycle paths in the 1930s when they were first mooted. So in Wellington you see people rising down the main streets but also along the quayside in vast number.

Anyway, I wish I had my bike here. I'd ride up Mount Victoria and pretend its the Poggio at the end of Milan San remo.