Episode 4: On your Onzo.

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The stats for the first month of Onzo ridership in the capital are out, with over 24 thousand trips registered with the dockless bike app.

During the initial two weeks, the Onzo app and its fleet of two hundred green, black and yellow bikes (which remind this writer of the classic Raleigh 20 of his youth) accounted for just shy of 14,000  trips.

That figure dropped to 10, 470 for the second half of the month.

Perhaps the novelty value and initial publicity, which came with the October 7th launch, had worn off. I also recall some rather ordinary spring weather over that period.

If we take the second half stats as being more realistic, it appears Onzo is most popular during the morning commute, with over a thousand trips between 8 and 9am. But even after dark there are Onzos on the road, with 41 trips picked up in the hour before midnight.

And when the sun shone on a “can’t-beat-a-good-one-in-Wellington” weekend, the Onzos were out in force, and not just on the waterfront. I noticed at least a half dozen (relatively) neatly parked outside an Aro Valley drinking establishment.

My  Onzo experience was largely positive. I found the app easy to use (once I’d worked out which way to point my smartphone to scan my cycle) and the bikes simple to ride. They are trundlers, not speeders and for that reason, are well suited to shared paths, especially our wonderful waterfront. The front basket proved most useful for my recording equipment, with plenty of room left over, if I’d decided to buy a few items from the shop.

On the road, their slightly cumbersome steering and lack of acceleration hampered my ability to pedal it with the motor traffic. Oh, and the lack of gears also limits them to the flat for most users (I did see one bloke walking an Onzo up Raroa Road).

If I was to use the app just once, the initial $14 to download it (plus the $2 spent hiring a couple of Onzos) would struggle to compete with an inner city Uber trip, but based my weekend experience, I would Onzo again if my own bike wasn’t available.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bikes handled after a month of dockless ridership in the Capital. None appear to have gone into that great trolley park in the harbour just yet, although I discovered a few folk are taking Onzos home and keeping them for themselves (#Onzo shows on map, but is behind a locked door). Something for Onzo to consider as Wellington’s six month trial continues.

One thing I failed to find was a bell. Its location wasn’t obvious to my untrained eyes. Turns out it’s a twist grip on the right handlebar. Thanks to all those who pointed out my mistake. I’ll be sure to use it next time!

As for unclaimed Onzos getting in the way of pedestrians, I found most were parked in a considerate manner, and when I did find one stuck in the middle of a footpath, I moved it myself (it didn’t seem to mind).

On the basis of my observations and experience, I’d expect Onzo ridership to rise with the temperature, as Summer approaches. We might even need more bikes.  At the end of last week , 181 of the 200 initial bikes were in service. A drop-off of 19 Onzos a month isn’t sustainable, especially if their popularity increases.

But I’d say this to businesses worried about cycle-paths driving away customers in cars; build them, and the Onzo-dollar might come your way instead.

 

 

 

 

Episode 3: Pedestrian at Best.

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They tell me Wellington is a very livable and walkable city. Let’s set aside the city’s outer suburbs for this discussion. That’s for another day. But, thanks to geography, the central city is a compact little number. Whether it’s making the most of its geography is another matter.

Last week, I went for a walking tour with Ellen Blake from Living Streets Aotearoa. We started where a lot of visitors have started over the years, at the central railway station. Our plan was to make our way, via the “Golden Mile” (who gave Lambton/Willis/Manners/Courtney that name???)  to Tory Street, then down to Te Papa and the waterfront.

You’ll notice a lot of background noise. Some of it’s traffic, some of it’s wind. Not ideal, but does add to the realism. This is Wellington on a typical day.

Interesting thing about the waterfront, which I regard as one of the finest promenades in the country, if not the world (of course I’m biased!). It isn’t easy to access on foot from the city itself. In fact, you can’t even catch a bus to it!

There is plenty of parking at Te Papa if you want to go by car.

Speaking of which, my colleagues at RNZ have been looking at the latest market trends in private motor vehicle demand. Wouldn’t like to meet one of those running a red light when the green figure is flashing, or parked on a footpath (and in a lot of narrow suburban streets, the footpath is the go-to  option for wide vehicles).

Ellen has a bit to say about the latter issue. I’m planning to do a podcast on the former; I often observe pedestrians waiting (when they have the cross now sign in their favour) for cars running red lights. Why do so many pedestrians look so resigned to their fate?

But that’s for another Traffic Jam. For now, I invite you to download, sit back and let your imagination do the walking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 2: Around town with a Tradie

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I’d like to put some cards on the table.

I own half a car. I like driving.

But there’s no way our family would buy a second one. Given all the things we could do with the thousands of dollars needed to purchase another four wheels, it’s not worth it.  Even if our income increased by a quarter or more, I suspect we’d find better things to do with the extra dosh.

That’s why I cycle to work, that, and the fact it keeps me fit.

But I’m lucky. I have a choice.  Others don’t. My partner is a musician, she needs a car. And then there are all those people who need a motor vehicle not just to get to work, but to carry the tools and materials they need for the job.

That’s the ethos of The Traffic Jam; encouraging people to think outside, and beyond, their transport mode induced bubbles.

So before you condemn those whose mode choices you can’t understand, I invite you to spend some time in their shows, or in this case, their white van.

And while you’re at it, listen out for a special guest appearance from George the Cat, who likes cars, especially to sleep on.

Happy jamm’n’…!

 

 

Gidday!

Every journey starts with a single step, perhaps some of them could do with a few more…

I’ve been a broadcaster for half my life, and a good proportion of that half has been lived in Wellington, New Zealand.

I grew up in Auckland, when the motor car was king, and the motorway was its throne.

That was all very fine in the 1970s and 80s. Then the roads began to fill up, and no matter how many more they build, the extra tar seal can’t match demand.

Wellington was held up as this country’s public transport paradise. Compact, convenient, cool. I’m sorry to have to tell you Wellington, but you’re getting more like Auckland every day.  And this is just the beginning.

There’s a tsunami of cars heading your way, thanks to motorway projects to your north.

I love driving, but I really don’t want Wellington to go through what Auckland has experienced, before it unclogs its motorway arteries, or at least builds alternatives to them. Which is why I’ve started this blog, and the podcast which goes with it.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think the penny’s dropped on the people of the capital yet.

Sometimes that’s not easy, when the answer to a question on how we get around, is almost a  tribal statement.

Are you with the car tribe? Forever being made to feel responsible for the planet’s downfall? Are you that cyclist copping abuse on the road, or perhaps in online comment forums? Are you a a public transport user? Simply ignored (until recently)?

I’m all of those, and you can add in ferry and walking as well. I could be suffering from naivety, but I’m after the common ground, because it is, literally. We’re talking about shared public spaces. They don’t need to be a battleground.

So, in the hope of a little more informed debate, and a little less tribalism, here is Episode One, of The Traffic Jam.

It’s about the buses.

Welcome aboard.