Local Heart, Global Soul

September 25, 2018

Christchurch Cycling: The Path Of The Future…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

After the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, a webpage was put up by the Christchurch City Council where people could contribute ideas for how the “new” Christchurch would look, feel and work.

The ideas poured in in the thousands, practical, weird, wacky I think everything was there.

Of course the Council’s budget was stretched thin after the quakes so many were just too expensive but there were however a ton of very well thought out ideas, many with accompanying drawings and artwork.

These were ideas that local residents hoped would not just rejuvenate the decimated city, but also set it on the map as a new, innovative, safe, forward looking place to live and visit.

Christchurch residents wanted to not just rebuild Christchurch but to grab the opportunity to rebuild a city with improvements that were functional and practical.  Keenly interested in what was happening in my old home town, I read this public forum of ideas whilst it stood open, wondering which ideas would be implemented.

At the time it was difficult to imagine how the city close to my heart could possibly recover when it stood looking so broken, but seeing the contributions made me realise that many other people were equally concerned that somehow the “New’ Christchurch should be a the silver lining to the tragedy that had befallen the South Island’s biggest city.

Christchurch is the only large New Zealand city that is almost completely flat (the outer suburbs on the Port Hills excepted) so it was brilliant for me to see that several ideas popped up in the survey of ideas over an over and over and over again: The request for cycle paths set apart from regular road traffic and for the city to be as “Green” as possible.

My cousin told us during our 2013/14 Christmas trip that several people from the city council had come to meet with Dutch city planners and experts on cycle paths here in the Netherlands but that not much had been heard at the time about if, how, when or where cycle paths would be implemented. Many feared that there would be token gesture instead of the extensive network that was hoped for. Light rail, electric trams were other alternative ideas that were lobbied  because there are now so many people living further out from the central city and of course the completely demolished suburbs in “red zones”. (More on those in a post coming very soon).

Now, during our visit of January 2018 I was delighted to see evidence of these requested cycle paths springing up as a network in the city. I have no clue how far it all extends from the central city area but this at least is in my eyes very positive start. It also meets the “Green” request of local people whilst providing a safe way for people to commute around the city and get exercise. For the Council it would cut down on the numbers of vehicles in the central city so surely this idea would have been a no-brainer from the very start. One thing is for certain, Christchurch’s cycleways are the new healthy, green transport option, and a definite path to the future.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 20, 2018

Pedalling Peddle Power…

Filed under: Gardens By The Bay,Marina Bay Sands Hotel,PHOTOGRAPHY,SINGAPORE — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

I missed slotting this post in with those of the Marina Bay Sands, but since I am still not so far away I will add it now. There are bikes for hire in various places around the city, these one sport bright colours which caught my eye. I think it’s an excellent idea for hotels to have bikes for hire: who needs the gym when you can combine exercise with sightseeing ? Excellent for combatting deep-vein thrombosis and jetlag after long international flights, these particular ones have the added bonus of being on the edge of the Gardens by the Bay, which is so large that a bicycle really does come in handy. Added to that the Singapore Flyer is just a short distance away, as is the Marina Bay, with features like the Merlion to see.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 23, 2013

A Very Different Sort of Parking Garage…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In my final post  for the moment about Hollands Spoor Station, I am always amazed about how many people in the Netherlands cycle… in fact there are said to be around 14 million bikes in the Netherlands, and with a population of about 17 million people that’s some serious cycling.

What’s even more amazing is how often these bikes are used… forget just taking the bike out for a Sunday jaunt maybe if the weather is nice, No: the Dutch ride their bikes daily, in rain, hail, sleet and shine.

Due to my lung condition I’m the only non-cyclist in our household, but our home still currently boasts  four bikes, plus  a child’s “step”  (a non-motorised scooter) and a unicycle that Kiwi Daughter is admirably proficient in riding.

Until a short while ago we had several more kid bikes on top of this tally too but they’ve gone to the neighbours after our kids grew a bit big for them.

Bikes here in the Netherlands are regularly seen overloaded with goods you wouldn’t think possible on a bike:  Amongst the things I’ve personally seen locals peddling down the city cycle paths with are:  a mattress for a double bed (I was waiting for a tram and when this guy went past everyone in the tram halt laughed and then loudly cheered and encouraged him on), a man balancing large IKEA-like flat pack furniture, a bedside cabinet perched on the back carrier…

And then there are the human cargo’s: a girl peddling whilst her boyfriend on the back carrier  held on to two crates of beer, one on each side,  a young guy peddling with a girl on the bar, another on the handlebars and a third on the carrier behind, and people carrying  kids, groceries, shopping parcels and flowers in such massive quantities that the tyres were  squished almost flat to the road… and much more too much to detail in one blog post.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s common practice for Dutch train commuters to own two or three bikes: two will be old bikes that are hopefully not worth stealing… one gets ridden from home to the train station, and left locked up in the bike racks there, the other is waiting in a bike rack at the Station of their destination and get ridden from the station to work. The process is reversed for the journey home.

Often there will also be a “good”  bike at home that lives in the hallway, or in the garden shed if you are lucky enough to have a garden or kept in  a “fietsstalling”  ( with a paid local bike storage business). This is the more expensive bike that’s used for recreational touring,  social trips etc.

This cycle “garage” at Hollands Spoor  is actually rather small if you compare it to for instance the one at The Hague’s Central Station… but the limit  is more imposed by lack of space around Hollands Spoor Station rather than by lack of numbers of bikes needing to be parked.

Over time, I’ve photographed it from a distance, from inside and from the trams that run alongside it:  Let’s take a look…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 30, 2010

So how many people can ya cram on a bike in Hanmer Springs?

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are back in Hanmer Springs, in the South Island of New Zealand…

One day we decide to hire one of the tourist bikes from the company located in the center of the village for a spin.

These aren’t “regular” bikes as you might know them, these are  a bicycle built for 2…. or 3, or 4 or 6 !

The guy behind the counter advises us to take the smaller single (bench seat) one instead of the  bigger double bench seater versions because we are only two adults cycling, there’s no set of peddles in the middle  for big kid (but she can barely reach them anyway so no loss there) and little kid will be sitting in the metal basket seat at the front.

Apparently these can be harder to peddle than they look  (Yes, I can attest that that’s certainly true!) so the recommendation was to get the smallest one of these that you can get away with.

That turned out to be a VERY good recommendation.  Everybody knows where the big hill is in Hanmer, but guess what, the rest of the township sits on gently undulating land.. and some of it steeper than you first thought, until your wildly protesting leg  muscles remind you.

Never say that you haven’t been warned, this bike is a workout!  Forget Spin class or a 5 km run, this will have your legs shaking once you get off.  One valuable hint: it goes better the more adults you have to peddle them.

Whilst all peddles link to the chain drive, and there are two sets of little steering wheels in the front row, only one of these works, the other is a “dummy”, a fake!

Yes, it turns, but isn’t linked to anything.  Mr Kiwidutch, unbeknownst to me, was  forewarned about this fact  and  promptly secured himself the set that did work, so I was left to unwittingly discover that no matter what I did with my steering wheel that it was all to no avail. (much to Himselfs glee at my frustration and initial ignorance since I thought for the first minutes that I was driving  this thing and that something must be wrong).

It’s a work-out but a fun one… the kids thought it was hilarious, roaring throughout the ride “Mama, Papa…  Faster, FASTER!!!” .. leaving us all breathless by the end of the hire time.

January 26, 2010

…”On a bicycle built for… …*HOW* many??!!!”

bike for three

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Bicycles are an integral part of Dutch life… apparently it’s estimated that there are somewhere around 13 million bikes in the Netherlands,  that’s roughly double the number of cars.

Considering that there are about 17 million people in the Netherlands that’s almost one bike for every man, woman and child…

Some of them look like they want to carry every man, woman and child as well LOL!

In this flat country where population density means that road traffic is often at a virtual standstill during rush hour,  cycling to work is often just as fast, if not faster than taking the car.

Add to that the fact that cars are an  expensive commodity, it’s no surprise that many people don’t own a car at all, so the bicycle is something that is far more than just a recreational item.

My husband grew up without a car and we were not financially secure enough to even consider one until about 10 years ago,  so it was completely normal that  grocery shopping  etc was bought home every week… on the bike.

Many families also use their bikes to commute themselves and their kids to crèche or school…  and when kids are too big (or too many) to be carried on a standard bike, then a non standard bike might just be the ideal answer.

Notice that on both these bikes that the middle seat doesn’t have peddles or handlebars and that the foot-rests are higher up.. so an adult will be peddling at the back, bigger kid will be peddling at the front and the littlest kid will be in the middle tucked in, in front of the adult.

bike for three

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

So, fresh air and exercise for the whole family.. well most of all,  an eco-friendly method of transport that is simple and practical.  Excellent !!!

January 14, 2010

Landmarks in Den Haag (The Hague) Cyclist battling wind Statue…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,The Hague — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Here is a very short post just to show you an interesting place in the city I live in… On the corner of Vondelstraat and Elandstraat in the Hague there stands a little statue.

Everyone knows it, and loves it but no one I know knows any story or history to go with it… just a piece of Art? Well, the person who made this one was inspired.. this so sums up Dutch cycling some days.

The Netherlands is a very flat and windy place, close to the sea, so it should come as no surprise that they say that it averages 360 windy days a year here. Of course naturally enough it’s not raging a gale every day, but yes, some days the wind is strong and yes some days you will see some brave souls cycling with one hand on the handlebars and the other hanging grimly onto an umbrella.

I love this whimsical statue.. it sums up a lot about Dutch attitudes to bikes, and whilst I am a detail fanatic, I find this to be both detailed and very simple at the same time,

Everything that needs to be conveyed is done so in simplicity and beauty.. it depicts reality and whimsy at the same  time. People ” get” and relate to it.

I couldn’t find any official name or sculpter, so can’t give credit where it is due. But I love it all the same, and if I am on the tram, even if I have my head in a book, when I know I am getting close to it, I always raise my head to take another look and it always makes me smile.

I hope you enjoy my little cyclist battling the wind and rain with their umbrella’s as much as I do.

Here is another photo that I took of it in the summer, when they were working on the road… you’ll see that the “cyclist” and their child passenger are both holding umbrellas, they are depicted very flat and they are bent so far under their umbrellas  that you would have to go up close and look underneath to see that neither of them actually have heads !

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 7, 2010

Dutch Life and the Bike-Train-Bike combination commute…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Good for the environment and for keeping fit, bicycles in the Netherlands are  more than just  a leisure item, they are the workhorses of many families You need to realise that cars  (even second-hand ones) are expensive to both buy and run , petrol costs Euro 1.43 per litre ( USA compares with =0.69 per litre) according to this website: http://www.aaireland.ie/petrolprices/

(I used an Irish website here as my example because it give prices for December 2009 for various European counties, and also included USA in their International section which helps give a good comparison… and because another website I originally wanted to quote is only in Dutch, so too difficult for anyone to read who doesn’t speak Dutch)

So you get the idea that in a small country, with a large population density, cars are not cheap to own. Public transport is especially good in larger cities and a lot of people commute by train to work.  To let you know how bad the car traffic is, let me tell you that traffic jams less than 3kms long are never reported,  that traffic jams of around 20-30 kms long are workday norms, and record traffic jams of 60kms +  are happening more frequently.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yes people do drive a LOT in this crowded country, but bikes and trains make good sense as a commuter combination and are used by millions of Dutch every day. Here’s how it works…

Typically you if you commute by train you will own several bikes.. one is a real ” dunger” .. a beaten up bike that hopefully no-one will steal… it lives  with a big lock on it at the railway station  closest to your workplace so that  after you hop off the train, you can easily cycle to your workplace from the station… … and back to the station again after work.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You lock your bike well, at the station because (a) Bike theft is a national sport (b) the bike with the smallest and easiest lock to break will be the one that gets stolen, so a humongous lock steers thieves to easier pickings (c) you can use your mega lock on your other, more expensive bike(s) when out and about on those at other times (d) it’s a darned hassle to want to cycle off to work  after getting off the train to find that the rotten thing has been pinched (e) even second hand beaten up dunger bikes cost more than you think… more than Euro 75  each if you are lucky and often more than Euro 100, so there is method in the apparent madness of having a lock that is probably worth as much as the bike.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You then board your train, commute to the station closest to your home, go to the cycle racks to collect your second ” dunger” also well locked up, to ride home… Thus the train comes into the station and about 5 minutes afterwards hundreds of cyclists stream out of the station cycle stands to peddle their way home. The cycle stands in The Hague Central Station  looks just like a parking building for cars… it’s two stories and massive… but it’s only parking for bikes!

The alternative to the two-bicycles-and-a-train  senario is the small fold up bike that can be taken on board the train with you for no charge. These bikes have small wheels and the seat can be raised for cycling, and then it’s folded up and can be stored in your office at work , or easily at home. They look a bit strange but they do the trick and most people who use them will have a “proper” bike at home for leisure cycling as well, the fold up bike is only for the workplace commute.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

July 29, 2009

So… … On ya bike !

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

Why do the Dutch have such an amazing love of the bicycle? Well for starters, the county is so flat that one of the national jokes translates into English: “The Netherlands is so flat: if you dropped a marble at one end of the country, it would roll to the other side ” .

As is completely normal in the majority of European towns and cities, the streets in the centers are often narrow, winding and difficult to navigate with modern day modes of transportation in large numbers. These cities took form centuries ago, horses, carriages or wagons were the largest forms of transport and most of the population got around on foot. Bricks or cobbles lined the streets and large areas reserved for things like car parks were strangely absent in the minds of the city planners of the 15th to 19th centuries.

Of course these days, cars pack the highways… in fact traffic jams are not even reported if they are less than 3 kms (1 mile) long, and traffic jams between large cities often reach more than 25kms in length.

Add to that, that not all Dutch even own a car ( they are very expensive to buy, insure and pay road taxes on and after lot are paid, the petrol /gas prices will make you weep) Therefore it’s little wonder that Public Transport in this small country of 17 million people is indeed well used.

Trams, trains and buses provide the bulk of Dutch public transport, but if you commute to you work by train for instance, how do you get quickly and easily to the station? And from your end station to your workplace?

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

The solution is simple: you have two bicycles.. one that you take from home to the Station, (and leave locked there for the day) and another one parked up and locked at your journey’s end waiting to take you to your work. At the end of the working day you reverse the modes of transports, so in the Netherlands it is normal every day to see literally thousands of cyclists on the move on every cities “ fietspads” (cycleways).

“Parking” at stations is 90% for cycles and about 10% for cars ( the car spaces are usually for 30 minute parking only).

No skinny lightweight racing cycles here… the bricks and cobbles will eat a ten-speed for breakfast without crewing and spit them out… no, the Dutch opt for sturdy bikes, workhorses of the morning commute, able to stand up to the bone shaking bricked streets…

I’ve started yet another photographic theme: The Dutch and their bikes…

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

….Some of them are painted all bright colours… personal taste? possibly…. but more likely it’s so that they can find their bike at the station in amongst the zillions…

(photo © kiwidutch)

(photo © kiwidutch)

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