Regular guest writer Robert provides an update on a growing cycling group…
Wednesday November 20th 2019 marked the second birthday of the St Albans Bike Group (aka “The Wednesday Wheelers”). The St Albans Residents Association hosted a lunch to celebrate, at the Association’s temporary meeting place at the St Albans Tennis Club.
The group meet at the tennis club every second Wednesday at 10.00am to ride for up to two hours. There are a variety of routes to choose from, all following part (or all) of one (or more) of the Major Cycleways. Since November there have been further routes added, taking the choice to over 20. The emphasis is social and relaxed. The routes taken are chosen for their ‘enjoyable’ rating. Safe, easy, an interesting destination, and sites to see along the way. Perhaps even a cafē visit.
It is not uncommon to see other groups of people around retirement age participating in a week-day bike ride bike around the city (often on a Major Cycle Route) What makes the Wednesday Wheelers a little special is how it came about…
The St Albans Residents Association was involved in the discussions and consultation process for the development of Papanui Parallel Cycleway from 2014 onward. After the official opening in June 2017, two of the members (of the ‘interested but concerned’ cycling genre) decided that it was time for the intense debate to abate and that the new infrastructure was there to be used and enjoyed.
First ride was a simple circuit to Papanui and Hagley Park (see map) and thoroughly enjoyed. Over the two years, numbers have increased from 4-10 each ride to 10-20. A couple of members may ride greater distances with others on other group rides, but return regularly for the slower, more relaxed social atmosphere. Three riders have attended Ride Leader Workshops run by Cycling NZ, ensuring that rides can be managed in a responsible manner.
It has been my pleasure as a Spokes Member to assist the group with route choices and act as a guide. The reward has been to watch progress in the riding confidence of some of the group. Also, to share the journey of discovery as we visit areas of the city previously unknown to some, despite years of living in Christchurch. Friendships have been made; the common bond being the love of riding a bike, discovery and conversation.
Also of interest to me is the challenge to create routes that will cover interesting areas of the city in 2 hours, routes that avoid compromising intersections or unfriendly arterials. Cycleways (cycle lanes generally exist on the roads we try and avoid, but are at times inevitable), shared paths, alleyway short cuts, green spaces and quiet streets are the priority for a good route. Favourite destinations include Halswell, University, Red Zone, The Tannery, Heathcote River, Southern Motorway Path, Styx Mill Reserve. Longest ride to date has been 28km to the Halswell Library. Several achieved their personal best on this one.
Without the Major Cycleway Project it is unlikely that a social group such as this would exist. The benefits are many. Exercise, social interaction and entertainment for little cost. The only commitment required is to get out of bed and get on your bike to join your cycling pals.
It is good news that Christchurch City Council have confirmed that during 2020 work will commence on building 2 further cycleways and completing an existing one. A big tick of approval from these “OK boomers”…