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Fiáin d'Leafy on moving day.
Fiáin d’Leafy on moving day. (Design: Archi Banal)

AucklandFebruary 15, 2023

How I moved house entirely by bike

Fiáin d'Leafy on moving day.
Fiáin d’Leafy on moving day. (Design: Archi Banal)

Moving house typically requires a huge truck or at least a very crammed car. But with the right people and equipment, it can also be done solely by bike.

It was a dreary, overcast Sunday morning – January 29th, during Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland’s state of emergency sparked by freak flooding two days prior. The only remaining hint of the deluge on Don Croot Street, Morningside, was a swampy lawn and wet concrete. Birdsong was interrupted by the rattles of 10-plus bikes and their excited riders – it was house-moving day, and Fiáin d’Leafy, Bike Auckland’s chief biking officer, was determined to do it by bike.

D’Leafy and their partner, Cappuccino, went car-free late last year. “We generally do most of our trips by bike and public transport anyway,” said d’Leafy. They have a bike trailer, allowing them to do big jobs like City Mission donations and picking up boxes or potting mix. D’Leafy enjoys “the freedom to do what I need to do and not feel like I need to have a car,” particularly because of their e-bike, which “means I can travel much further than I would on an acoustic [non-electric] bike.”

All kinds of bikes descended on Don Croot – cargo bikes, bicycles with trailers, bags and baskets – stacked with shelves, desks, beds, and boxes. Sam Hood rode the sole (trailer-equipped) acoustic bike, loading it with a single bed and checking the weight with a short test ride. Moving house from his carparkless apartment was the catalyst for Hood, a daily biker, to get a bike trailer. He realised that with the right setup he could move house purely by bike. Cue hiring two e-cargo bikes from Bikes & Beyond and purchasing his trailer. “I thought I might use the trailer once every three or four months, but I actually use it way more frequently than that. It’s given me so much freedom.” 

The Bike Auckland house moving group.
Who needs a moving truck when you have this many friends with bikes? (Photo: Supplied)

Moving items by bike has been cheekily dubbed “quaxing”, which the Macmillan online dictionary defines as “transporting something unusual, awkward or unlikely using public transport or a bike.” The term came about after Dick Quax, the ex-Olympian and former Auckland politician, adamantly insisted that nobody would transport things by bike or train. Quaxing is now used and  frequently hashtagged worldwide.

With the possible exception of their queen-sized bed, D’Leafy was confident their entire household could be moved by bike. They were willing to borrow a car if necessary, but their friends assured them they could “make it happen”. On moving day, Michael Lawton turned up on a trailer-equipped, home-made tall bike – two bikes vertically welded onto each other. Lawton’s bold claim that they could transport the queen bed mattress on their bike trailer was easily proven correct, with a desk strapped on top to boot. Teva Chonon, Bike Auckland’s community activation manager, secured the queen bed base upright on its side on his bike trailer. 

In these biking circles, moving oversized or unusual objects by bike is a prideful and fun mark of achievement. Another friend, Dean Adam, loaded his cargo bike with a shelf. That was nothing – once, he picked up a deconstructed 15ft trampoline by bike. Day-to-day, Adam uses his bike for the school drop-off and to take his daughter on adventures, sometimes travelling 50km just for a playground. “When my daughter was one I took a punt on an e-cargo bike, and it changed everything for us. I loved it, but more importantly, she loved it.” said Adam, who has had “hundreds of amazing father-daughter moments” on their bike. 

A queen mattress loaded onto Lawton's bike trailer.
A queen mattress loaded onto Lawton’s bike trailer. (Image: Supplied)

Because “Mum didn’t like being a taxi”, d’Leafy grew up cycling in Kirikiriroa-Hamilton, gaining bike confidence at a young age. But that confidence didn’t always make biking easy. When d’Leafy moved to Tāmaki Makaurau, they found the roads too intimidating. “It took me about six months to start riding my bike again. At first, I would take my bike on the train to avoid busy roads. Then we moved to Don Croot, and it has been amazing to be so close to the North Western cycleway.”

Moving day, however, was taking them to a new house on the far side of St Lukes Road, with its busy traffic. “In some sections, it’s a six-lane road. It’s horrible to drive along, it’s horrible to cycle, it’s horrible to cross as a pedestrian: no one wins.” They identified St Lukes and New North roads as the least safe stretches of their moving route, but they had safety in numbers. 

Before they set off, the assembled convoy’s safety briefing stated: bunch up at red lights, wait for each other at the top of hills, and stay together on St Lukes Road. D’Leafy was the leader, and Carol Green was the tail – remaining at the rear to help with any problems. Their first challenge was the Don Croot climb towards Western Springs Road. At the top, someone had a flat tire which several people clamoured to fix. Onlookers cheered for them as they rode. In no time, their convoy reached its destination where they celebrated with pizza, cake and tea. “We were able to move by bike largely because we have friends with the right kinds of bikes and trailers to help us. Of course, this wouldn’t work for everyone” says d’Leafy, adding they were “super grateful” to all who helped on their “fun adventure.”

D’Leafy thinks making bike travel safe is vital to reducing transport emissions, which both central and local governments have committed to. Leaders acknowledge that the climate crisis caused Auckland’s extreme weather that weekend, noted d’Leafy, and they believe that “Council, Auckland Transport and local boards have the tools they need to empower Aucklanders to get around in ways that are better for the planet. And a huge part of that is giving people a genuine choice to ride a bike.”

Dean Adam with a very full load on his trailer and in his cargo bike tray.
Dean Adam with a very full load on his trailer and in his cargo bike tray. (Photo: Supplied)

Many people, including d’Leafy (who has limited mobility from a leg issue), “can do more by bike than most people realise… if it were safe enough then more people would choose to. But if it’s not safe enough then for most people there is no choice.” Studies show that protected cycleways make streets safer for all users – drivers and pedestrians included. Therefore, investing in a safe cycle network benefits everyone and will help achieve the government’s ambitious target of zero road deaths or serious injuries by 2050. “We know how to design our streets so that people don’t get hurt, so, of course, we should do that. To keep our tamariki, our whānau, our kaumātua safe. Isn’t that the most important thing?” d’Leafy says. 

Bike Auckland urges decision-makers to construct a network of accessible cycleways. More than a decade ago 2012’s Auckland Plan committed to 70% of the Auckland Cycling Network being completed by now, says d’Leafy, but “we haven’t gotten anywhere near that. Our decision-makers can make progress by following through with planned safety projects such as the Inner West Street improvements and the New North Road and Symonds Street Upgrade.” To construct a bike network quickly and cheaply, Bike Auckland advocates for tactical urbanism upgrades and safer urban speed limits to increase transport choices, particularly accessible cycling, to give Aucklanders more options to get around their city.

The group at their destination.
The group after safely arriving at their destination. (Image: supplied)

Undoubtedly, with more bike infrastructure, we’d see fewer thundering moving trucks and more groups of friends like d’Leafy’s gamely helping each other out, with little cost and zero emissions, on moving day.

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