TRANSPORT – Launching BikeNow! by beating the traffic

23 August 2016

This week SBN launched its BikeNow! Project with an experiment. Could a bicycle and an electric-bike match SBN’s Toyota Prius hybrid between meetings in the city? 

Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. But for most of us in urban areas traffic is the biggest threat to our sanity.

The BikeNow! Project aims to tackle both. We want more people using bikes, especially during the working day. As well as promoting this, SBN is putting together a best practice guide for businesses to help increase cycle use in the workplace. The Project is supported by SBN members NZTA, AECOM and Fulton Hogan.

There are lots of new cycle lanes going into towns and cities across New Zealand. They are offering many more of us the opportunity to bypass the traffic with a healthier, low-carbon transport option.

We wanted to see what it’s like biking around Auckland at off-peak times during the day. For our test we would make use of the Nelson Street cycleway and Te Ara I Whiti, the Lightpath. We wanted to know whether bicycles and electric-bicycles represent a worthwhile alternative to the car.

So at 10am last Thursday Brigitte, our 23-year-old communications specialist, hopped in SBN’s Toyota Prius Hybrid. Andy, our 42-year-old communications bloke and sporadic cyclist, wheeled out his old mountain bike. And Phil, 52 years-young, the BikeNow! Project lead, took the opportunity to show off his Smart Motion e-bike, purchased from SBN member, Electric Bikes Auckland. Surprisingly, the old blokes didn’t even complain. But then, it was a sunny day and a chance to get out of the office.

A week earlier our IT support person from Analogue in Eden Terrace had spent 45 minutes looking for a parking spot near our office on Customs Street East. So for our experiment we travelled the 3.4km up to their office and back.

Two bikes made it up the hill to Eden Terrace within two minutes of the car’s arrival. And they would have comfortably beaten it if they hadn’t stopped on the Lightpath to shoot some video. On the way back they beat the car back to the office by more than 10 minutes. It took Brigitte another half an hour to find a park and return to her desk.

Andy says: “I do a fair bit of cycling. It saves me time having exercise mixed into my working day. But I can understand why people might not think about using bikes for cross-town meetings. Bad weather and big hills can be challenging. They make it tricky to turn up looking presentable.

“The big lesson for me was how much of a difference the e-bike makes. Watching Phil effortlessly pull away from me up the hill on Nelson Street was a real eye opener. If your firm invests in an e-bike then when the weather’s acceptable it’s definitely the winning option.

“You can do it in business clothes, no sweat. In business time is money, and you can save a lot of both. I would recommend an ordinary bike for some of the flatter cities, and for getting some exercise on the commute.”

Phil says: “Andy’s right, e-bikes can be a real ‘game changer’ in the hilly terrain of Auckland and some of our other cities.  They’re great fun to ride, especially when you get over that cheating feeling!  But providing an e-bike for staff to use is just one of many ways in which businesses can support cycling.  The BikeNow! Project will be engaging with our members to help get them ‘bike friendly’.”

Brigitte added: “The amount of time wasted by driving a car is crazy. I wasted 30 extra minutes on one seemingly small trip across town. I’d hate to think how much time people lose when they have multiple meetings in a day”.

Look out for more from this project soon. And get your firm geared up to use the cycle lanes near you.