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(Illustration: Toby Morris)
(Illustration: Toby Morris)

PartnersMarch 20, 2024

Two wheels, to where? Exploring eastern Auckland by bike

(Illustration: Toby Morris)
(Illustration: Toby Morris)

Four people from eastern Auckland tell us why they love to cycle – and their favourite cycle routes.

With the launch of the new Taniwha Cycleway in East Auckland, lots of people have been prompted to rediscover cycling, or get their friends on bikes after years of cajoling. 

It’s not just the path along Tāmaki Drive, absurdly popular on weekends, or people hopping on the ferry at Half Moon Bay or Beachlands with their bike. Across the eastern suburbs, people are riding bikes to work, grabbing some things from the supermarket, getting to daycare pickup without worrying about parking, finding friends who want to ride with them. Here are some of their stories. 

(Illustration: Toby Morris)

Ling Lee: Reasons to ride regularly

Ling Lee had always been curious about bikes as marvels of engineering; she decided that she wanted to build a bike from a frame a few years ago. But she realised how much she loved simply riding bikes in the “great lockdown of 2020”, when she started doing laps around her neighbourhood as a way to get out of the house. “I started finding some of the cool bike paths and reserves, especially around the Ihumātao area,” the engineer says. 

Now living in Point England, she reckons that the more time she spends on her bike, the more she gets to know her neighbourhood. Her current favourite route is Te Ara ki Uta ki Tai, the cycleway from Glen Innes, near her home in Point England, to Tāmaki Drive. “It’s a nice wide path, though there are lots of people and kids and dogs on it too.”

Lee rides Te Ara ki Uta ki Tai every Sunday on her way to Tumeke Cycle Space, a community bike-fixing group she started volunteering at because she figured that if she was going to get better at riding, it would be useful to know how to fix her vehicle. “I found Tumeke when I needed help building a bike,” she says. “As an engineer, I enjoy the hands on work and the problem solving, and the instant gratification when we fix people’s bikes – plus there are cool like-minded folks to hang out with.”

She’s found that two wheels are perfect for exploring. “You notice cool things, like the different paths and beaches.” The Te Ara ki Uta ki Tai path is especially good because there aren’t cars, and as she drops into the Ōrākei Basin, the Auckland skyline is illuminated. 

“I’ve noticed heaps more cycleways recently, like Taniwha Street has just had a painted cycleway added,” she says. “It’s made me actually want to ride more regularly.”  

Recently, Lee’s desire to ride more regularly encouraged her to buy an ebike to give her another option for getting to work in East Tāmaki. “There’s a lot of traffic on Ti Rakau drive,” she says. “But at least on the ebike I’m going nearly as fast as the cars.” 

(Illustration: Toby Morris)

Graham Wadams: Discovering new long loops 

Graham Wadams has made something of a habit out of finding long bike rides. “I hadn’t done much riding around Auckland, because St Heliers is so hilly.” That changed when he got an ebike. “I use it for small supermarket shops with pannier bags, for short and medium distance errands – it’s very useful,” he says. “Even if it’s hot or windy or hilly I don’t mind biking now.” 

Key to getting back into cycling has been finding people who are keen to come with him. He’s joined a Facebook group for older people who like doing casual rides – and stopping at cafes – together. “There’s lots of merriment, all biking in a pack.” 

Wadams has found that a bike is a great way to “get to places you wouldn’t make the effort to walk to, and get there with ease.” It’s especially appealing for older people with knee or hip problems; he’s become an agent for an ebike company so people who are interested can come to his house to try out a bike. 

With more time on his hands these days, Wadams finds that a long bike ride is a good reason to get out and about more. “I can do a 45 kilometre loop from here, riding along the waterfront [Tāmaki Drive], up to the Northwestern pathway, following the southeastern motorway until you come out at Onehunga by the Māngere bridge,  going along the Manukau Harbour to Great South Road….” He then “whips” through Sylvia park, then skirts through the Waipuna basin pathway, crosses Pakuranga Road, then gets back home through Glen Innes. 

“I like finding all the hidden cycle paths – you go down a cul de sac, and there’s a walkway to the next street that you can’t drive down.” The bike is part of his everyday routine now, but it’s also a lot of fun. 

(Illustration: Toby Morris)

Ritchie Dolman: The hunt for the smallest bike helmet 

Ritchie Dolman is a health promoter for Te Whatu Ora. He lives in Pakuranga and works in Greenlane, biking to work every day through the traffic, then the green expanse of Cornwall Park. 

“I try to find routes where you don’t have to take any right turns across traffic,” he says; this sometimes requires a lot of research. It’s worth it, though. “I’ve always felt better about my work when I bike.” 

To get to work, Dolman rides the cycle path over the Panmure Bridge, then turns onto Marua Road. The flexibility of a bike is useful for timing: he often tries to get to work early so he can be back in time for daycare pickup in the afternoon, and it’s handy not to have to worry about traffic or parking. Plus, he gets to see the sunrise in the park as he gets close to work. 

Having a kid a few years ago gave him another reason to keep biking: it’s a great vehicle to go playground hunting. “Once she was eight months, the right size for the bike seat, I bought the smallest bike helmet I could find.” He and his wife will ride around with their daughter downtown, all around the ocean to St Heliers.

Now four, Dolman’s daughter enjoys bike rides more than ever. “I’m always hearing ‘go faster Daddy! Go faster!’” He laughs. “You don’t see her scared very often. She loves it.”

Roger Lacey: Racing along the Mount Wellington Highway 

It took more than a year of driving to work before Roger Lacey thought to try biking instead. “It took a while to build up the courage,” he says. He took it slowly. At first, he rode on the footpath, out of the way of the traffic. Now, he uses cycle paths where he can, but usually sticks to the road, since there’s less risk of drivers coming out of their driveway. 

He initially took up cycling again to train for a charity ride, and once he’d made some friends from weekend riding he wanted to cycle on weekdays too. “It’s important to know how to ride safely, not just wobbling in the gutter or past a parked car – I’ve learned to keep my line on the road and not make sudden movements.” He recommends that new cyclists take a course to improve their confidence. 

It was a cycle path that initially encouraged him to get on his bike: he could see the path on the road and thought “If no-one uses it, they won’t build any more.” Now he’s preaching the gospel of the converted: one of his colleagues just started biking to work after 15 years, and Lacey is stoked. “He says he loves it!” 

Lacey gets to work by biking down the shared path to Glen Innes, then along Morrin Road to Te Horeta Road, where he reaches the Mount Wellington highway. It’s exposed to traffic, but it’s efficient. 

On the way home, the bike is good for picking up a few bits and pieces from the shops. “I have a courier bag and a carrier to strap things to. It’s amazing how you find ways to make things fit,” he says. He and his family still have cars for bigger things and getting places together, but if the shopping list is small, the bike is the right vehicle for the job. 

Living in Kohimarama and working in Mount Wellington, Lacey has become used to the uphill climbs, but he’d like to get an ebike to make them a bit easier when finances allow. “Ebikes can flatten Auckland’s hills.” When we talk, he’s planning a biking trip around sustainable gardens in the eastern suburbs, trying to get some community involvement. “It’s nice to have a reason to get out there.”

Keep going!