Confessions of a Newbie Cycle Commuter from Jafa-land

What’s it like to take up cycling to work when you’ve never done it before? That was the interesting test when my partner Tracey landed a new job at Christchurch Main Hospital and decided that commuting there by bike was going to be the best way to get there.

Tracey and her e-bike, all ready for the morning commute

Tracey had previously lived in Auckland. Certainly up there she never even contemplated biking to work (or to anywhere really). “It was far too dangerous, there weren’t many cycleways, and it was too far really to ride from my home to work. And when I moved to the North Shore, with no cycleway on the bridge I couldn’t even bike to central Auckland anyway.”

Christchurch was a completely different proposition, with her workplace being only 3.5km away, or about 15-20 minutes ride. “It helps that most of the route is along separated cycleways or quiet streets. Staff told me that car parking near the hospital was a nightmare, so it made sense to bike.”

The entry into the main Chch hospital bike parking area

At the hospital, there are two big locked up areas for staff bikes – in fact, a third area is being completed at the moment. “I can park my bike easily in the lock-up area, it’s secure and under cover.”

Lots of bike parking space available

Tracey got an e-bike for her commute, and that has certainly helped. “It’s very fast, very cool, I like it!” The e-bike has a display showing info such as power level and speed – “I like trying to beat my high score for top speed; I managed to get to 31.4km/h the other day!”

Tracey’s lovely e-bike

The first week of her new work was notable in Christchurch for having some very cold, near-zero temperatures (even minus 1, one morning) – not entirely fun when you have to leave soon after 7am for a 7.30 start. This is where good clothing layers have been invaluable: “The cold is OK; I can manage anything above 1 degree, lower is a bit chilly.”

The other challenge was getting used to the city’s streets and learning how to find her way to and from work (and other destinations). “I got lost 3 days going home, but I’m definitely getting better at finding my way around now, so it’s a much better commute than battling Auckland traffic!”

Ready to ride… (now with hi-vis backpack cover)

The best part about cycle commuting? “The fitness aspect; I like getting some exercise and the adrenalin from trying to beat my top speed. It’s like a 15-minute spin class twice a day! Also the ease at which you can get around and park.  It’s cheaper, and saves lots of petrol.” (Tracey hasn’t had to top up her car’s tank in a month)

And the worst? “The rain! Not a fan… I don’t like how the rain (and the helmet) wrecks my hair. But I’m finding ways to get around it, including taking my hair straighteners to work… And I still have to keep an eye on the occasional driver who doesn’t pay attention when crossing my path!”

After three weeks on the saddle,  Tracey has this to say to anyone else thinking about getting into commuting by bike: “Do it! No stress and a daily workout has to be good for my heart health! And get an e-bike; they go faster…”

Have you started commuting by bike? How are you finding it?

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Newbie Cycle Commuter from Jafa-land”

  1. Jolly well-done Tracey – do you feel like the missing car parking is the reason for your cycling or is it just one of a bunch of reasons to cycle or you would have anyway ? (or not just because of your forever encouraging partner lol)

    1. Not so much the missing car parks as there are plenty onsite, it’s the cost of it! plus having spent hours in traffic in Auckland over the past 20 odd years I was more than happy to get out of the rat race and take a less stressful way to work, but the main reason was I recently had heart issues so getting fit was my main priority and yes, my lovely partner is very good at encouraging me not to give up

  2. We’ve had more rain lately than normal – but it is the middle of winter.
    If you can do the commute in these conditions, you can do it in anything Christchurch weather can throw at you.

    One thought – presumably your ebike has lights, but there’s nothing from the side except tyre sidewalls, and the coat/bag is quite dark. One of those super-reflective backpack covers could help. Personally I like the white clip-on spoke reflectors because they show motion, whereas the sidewalls are just static circles.

    1. Yes, I have a bright headlight and rear light with an extra flashing light on the handlebars, I also have a reflective bag cover and arm bands so they should see me coming now!

  3. Tracey good effort! By October weather will have improved and biking will be a joy!
    My hope is that there can be a separated cycle way between Halswell and Christchurch Hospital/ city. The cycle way down Sparks road takes me Ks out of the way and Halswell road / Lincoln road route is now terrifying after several close calls.
    The more truely separated paths the better. This would also minimise the parking woes at the hospital.
    Wishing you tail winds and clear skies Denise

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *