Friday, October 19, 2012

Cycling the "Adventure Capital of the World"

I've been perusing the Lonely Planet book "Cycling New Zealand" lately. The book continuously requests cyclists to avoid the city of Auckland proper. After having been here for a few days though, I'm not exactly sure why.

The book is aimed at lowest common denominator cycling, you know, those folks that think the granny gear is always the optimum selection.

But really, despite the boring exterior, this city does have a Portlandia feel to it (flight of the concords, anyone?) Cycling should be second nature. They also seem to have more coffee shops per capita than Seattle, no small feat.

Surly Aucklanders know that the little flag sticking out of the top of the recumbent creates high visibility and also that those riders of fixie brakeless conversions can't actually slow down. (Why on earth would you want to do that?)

So as a well provisioned triathlete (more on that later) I could certainly safely navigate these streets.

Auckland has a bit of old world charm. Cobblestones grace many streets. Though instead of granite they are a slippery volcanic basalt. And the curbs continuously vary in height, making it entertaining to watch pedestrians trip into the streets.

Back to the old world charm, city engineers circa 1860 built single lane roads and later they simply repainted the lines to make them two lanes, without adjusting the width. That makes perfect sense of course. The shoulders of roads just accumulate rift raft anyways. If you're a seasoned commuter from a city like London or Paris, these sidewalk free roads will relieve some homesickness for you.

But none of this should deter the optimistic cyclist. As long as commuter angst makes you feel alive, you should have no problems here.

Auckland drivers see things from a different POV. As a cyclist, you must be OK taking your life into your own hands and aggressive drivers are simply helping you get that adrenaline rush you've been seeking. Or you can think about this from a scientific POV. You have a cyclist, a caffeine crazed driver, six traffic lights per intersection and finite space. Just remember to look left.

My solution to these things is that drivers should just slow down and share the road (which I think is a charmingly Canadian way of looking at it.) I therefore encourage riders to take to the streets of Auckland. They have a highly accredited hospital right downtown and it is "the adventure capital of the world" after all.


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