Gillies Avenue

Gillies Ave. recently became part of my daily cycle commute, and I am concerned about the safety on this street.

Today

It is a heavily used street by school students of all ages, and yet there are many hazards:

  • Moving traffic is directly next to the footpath in many places, without any buffer such as a berm or parked cars.
  • Footpaths are narrow in many places, either due to property line and kerbside being very close, or due to permanent obstructions such as bus shelters or poles.
  • Footpaths are often heavily obstructed, including significant foliage overgrowth, rubbish bin collections on Tuesdays, poorly mowed berms, or occasionally vehicles.
  • Footpaths are uneven and treacherous in many places, due to wear and tear, or one area with an intentional permanent drainage trench.
  • North-bound rush hour traffic is intense on this street and there are no traffic-calming measures in place.
  • Several commercial driveways in use during school travel hours.

For cycling in particular Gillies Ave. poses many difficulties:

  • Significant parts of Gillies Ave are marked for two lanes of road traffic, and the traffic density makes cycling on the street intimidating in those portions, not only for school students but for other commuters as well.
  • The footpath has all of the immovable hazards mentioned earlier, but in addition there are many pedestrians.
  • The adjacent north-south main thoroughfares are Mt Eden Road and Manukau Road which are even more intimidating with the partial bus lane and the T3 lane.
  • The resulting behaviour for cyclists on Gillies Ave is to weave off and on the road, which often appears unpredictable to motorists, creating more risk of accident.

However, there is significant potential in the street to create something better:

  • Gillies Ave is very wide, and there is plenty of space to make adjustments.
  • It is only the north-bound traffic which is heavy, the south-bound traffic is much lighter, even in morning and evening rush hours, and the two lane sections are not heavily used.
  • Even where parking is available on Gillies Ave, it is rarely occupied.
  • The traffic flow requirements are quite simple, the majority of people are merely trying to get onto the motorway, or get their children to school safely.

The Future

Gillies Ave. could become a fantastic transport corridor for school students, both walking and cycling.  Currently many students from several local schools already use it: Epsom Girls Grammar, Auckland Grammar, Kohia Terrace, Auckland Normal Intermediate, and Epsom Normal. If it became a safe and comfortable transport corridor, it would surely attract students from other local schools, including St. Cuthbert’s College, Diocesan, Dilworth, and Newmarket Primary. The combined roll of these schools probably numbers over 10,000 students.

Fortunately, the space is there to make this happen:

  • For most of Gillies Ave south of Epsom Ave the lanes are very wide, and space could be reclaimed by repainting alone.
  • The very under-utilised on-street parking can be removed to provide space.
  • Extra-wide berms in many places can be repurposed.
  • Between the motorway and Epsom Ave south-bound traffic is light, so reducing to one lane would have minimal impact.

Detailed Map

The following maps of Gillies Ave. identify some specific features, both issues and opportunities for improvement. I will expand this information with photos of specific features to illustrate the hazards, including foliage and rubbish bins.

Gillies Ave North

Gillies Ave South

Futuristic Ecology

Environmental protection, conservation, preserving ecosystems — it’s what’s expected of us. It’s part of government policy, part of personal choice, and a tool of Industry. We do it for the love of nature, out of fear of change, and importantly for profit, to protect our fragile mono-culture crops. Our society puts a lot of effort into conservation.

But it’s a losing battle. We can’t even keep large species out of New Zealand, so we don’t stand a chance against insects, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Park land is eroded globally by small shifts in government policy, and is irrevocably lost once Industry has had its way. But perhaps most pervasive are pollutants: clean green NZ mines coal to sell to China, forgetting that we share an atmosphere; wanton consumerism produces more waste each year; last decade’s wonder chemical becomes this decade’s pollution nightmare.

And we continue to spend our money on this museum piece of doomed ecologies. How about looking forward instead of back? We could accelerate our ecological change and maybe get a glimpse of the future of our planet. The future might be new and exciting, or perhaps the toxic death that some predict. Either way it’s fascinating, and I’ve got a plan to create this futuristic ecology.

The principle is simple, choose an island somewhere and reverse the rules of conservation. We don’t isolate it from new species, we actively encourage their introduction. Waste is welcome, in all its forms. Exploitation of the land is encouraged. The island becomes a Darwinian battleground, without humans protecting the weak.

Happily, the plan is quite viable. Income can come from several sources: many countries would happily pay to dispose of their excess garbage; the tourism industry is always looking for unique experiences, like visiting a brand-new ecosystem, or even the opportunity to be remembered as the benefactor of a dominant species you chose to introduce; finally science and industry would have ample opportunity for experimentation in a more liberal environment, including all the genetic engineering they desire. Of course, the problem of choosing a location is easily solved with a bit of financial incentive to one of the poorer nations.

Finally, some practical details need to be sorted out, and unfortunately rules too. First off, nuclear waste is problematic, despite being a great catalyst for mutation and genetic advancement. It would be boring to discover that radiation eliminates large organisms; but more importantly it eliminates the experiment as a viable tourist destination. For these reasons, nuclear waste will be prohibited. Secondly, the overall toxicity of the environment needs to be controlled, because we all know that humans are not the most resilient organisms in a toxic environment. Thirdly, the role of industry must be contained in order to retain some recreational spaces for tourism, a model followed by our typical civil planning. The founding of another ecology which eliminates these rules would certainly be interesting.

This project may seem abhorrent to traditional conservationists, but those wiling to test their beliefs had best embrace it. At worst they will discover they are wrong, and at best there will be a toxic island to stand as testament to the ideals of conservation.

Recumbent

A recent “warranty issue” (I broke my frame) had me checking out bikes on TradeMe where I found a reasonably priced recumbent. I’d been thinking about getting one for quite a few years, so I took the cue and bought it.

Recumbent.jpg

The seller was John Fisken at http://www.recumbents.co.nz/, who regularly imports recumbents to sell on. He’s been helpful in getting me on the road (although I am pretty motivated with bicycles) and provided me lots of advice. This one was manufactured by twbents.com.

The first ride was very weird. And very wobbly. It’s probably as close as I’ll get to learning how to ride a bike again. I had someone to steady the bike as I rode the first little bit, and pretty soon I was able to get around without wobbling too much, although turning was pretty tricky. I’ve been regularly riding upright bikes for over 25 years now, so it will take a long time for my perspective to catch up. Perhaps the strangest sensation is being on top of the bicycle, instead of feeling as one with it. Whenever I hit a bump I think about the possibility of being bounced off the bike, since I feel precariously balanced there.

There is only one frame size, the seat and pedal boom are adjustable to accomodate different heights. Additionally the seat angle can be changed, and the handlebars too. This means an awful lot of fiddling in order to get things comfortable. I had some issues with the seat mounting, but a bit of drilling and adjusting the bolts got it straight. I’m 182cm tall, and its comfortable at the maximum boom extension and seat all the way back. The most difficult part was obtaining the extra few links of chain that I needed for the extended boom.

City Riding

It took a few more rides around the neighbourhood and a long trip on a cycle path before I felt comfortable enough to take it into traffic on the main roads. After that I braved the rush hour traffic and commuted into town daily for a few weeks. It helped me become comfortable on the recumbent, but also convinced me that it’s not an appropriate bike for city riding.

Because you have to raise your legs high to start pedaling, you need to balance while the bike is stationary, unlike an upright bike where standing on the pedals starts the bike moving immediately to give you balance. This is particularly difficult on hill starts, and can be nerve-wracking at the lights when there’s traffic behind. The bike is not as agile as an upright bike, it’s longer which makes cornering more difficult, and it’s not practical to move your weight forward or backward to deal with bumps on the road or going up curbs. Finally, you are much lower than on an upright bike, which prevents looking over cars to see other road hazards.

Country Riding

This weekend I finally took the bike out for a long ride, through the suburbs and then out into the more rural areas to the south east. I think I covered about 80km in four and half hours, which isn’t far off from my other bikes. It was definitely more comfortable than an upright bike, although my bum was a little sore at the end. Hills are a bit tougher, you don’t have the flexibility to stand up for extra power if you need it, but the real issue is that you can’t stop before the top because starting again is such trouble. You need to climb in a low gear with high cadence, which is my preferred style anyway, and I don’t like to stop until I’m at the top.

The position gives good visibility, and means you can enjoy the scenery a lot more, especially since you’re not thinking about sore arms, back and bum. I’m very happy with it, and will definitely use it for my country rides in the future. You can see the rack and paniers I’ve installed (birthday present), now all I need is the opportunity for a cycle camping trip.

Jelly Pie

When friends come to visit I like to give them a taste of something special from Aotearoa. Last time it was Jelly Pie, more unique than I realized. What was once a staple at my high school tuck shop was now an almost unknown oddity. Missing from the supermarkets and dairies I tried, and requests for it meeting with blank stares. Family friends began to doubt its existence, and my quest hit rock bottom when even internet searches couldn’t produce any mention of the existence of the classic New Zealand Jelly Pie.

So, I decided to rectify this terrible omission, and located a Jelly Pie at our local Pak ‘n’ Save. Here are the pics to prove it.

Refrigerated baked goods, that looks promising.

“Excuse me sir, you can’t take photos in here!”

“But I have friends who don’t believe in Jelly Pie.”

I see custard pie and apple pie, but what’s that between the Lamingtons and the Applecot Crumble?

And there it is, Jelly Pie in all its glory.

The ingredients give a good indication of the experience of eating it. Although I do wonder why fruit isn’t listed, is it an omission, or are those apparent chunks of pear in fact something much more sinister?

 

After the family taste test in which Grandpa gave up half way through his piece and my daughter held her nose while chanting “disgusting”, I think I understand why Jelly Pie hasn’t made an international sensation. Perhaps one day in the future someone will create a gourmet version.