Opinion: Escaping Auckland's gridlock by using an electric bike is truly liberating

A month ago a bicycle commute wasn't an option for me. No siree Bob.

1 NEWS reporter Will Hine standing next to an electric trial bike. Picture by Electric Bicycle Hub Auckland. Source: Supplied

I live a slightly hilly 13 kilometres from work; too far and laborious to ride, I reasoned, and with no clear route into the city.

Now, after a two day dalliance with an electric bike on a couple of Auckland's choicest bike paths, I feel differently.

My mind began to change after doing a story on electric bikes in which I explained to an interviewee that commuting wasn't an option because of the gulf between my work and suburbia.

"I live 27 kilometres away and bike in every day." he replied, his every word throwing down a challenge that couldn't be ignored.

So, I took him up on the unspoken dare, trialling an e-bike on my ride from Blockhouse Bay.

The first few kilometres of the morning ride had me in a nervous sweat. Not from exertion (thanks electric bike) but from negotiating a route through the many stationary cars crowding the road through Avondale and Waterview.

With no bike path, it was road all the way, except for a bit of footpath in the tightest sections.

Then I reached the northwestern cycleway and everything changed.

It got flatter, smoother and easier, with the air tasting more like air and less like exhaust fumes. I could shift my thoughts on to things other than not-getting-knocked-off-the-bike.

Sales of the devices are skyrocketing so much the government’s looking at whether safety rules should be tightened. Source: 1 NEWS

By the time I soared down the fabled pink lightpath, I was exultant, the journey a triumph of muscle (and battery) over motorcar.

A few searches on Google later and I've discovered bike or shared paths are planned for all but one kilometre of the ride to my house from work.

I'm an early beneficiary of the spreading bike path tendrils that are unfurling through the city. In my case, from the CBD to Waterview to Avondale to New Lynn and beyond.

I'm delighted. After the bus route was shifted from near my house all that was left to me was the car, and a slog that has been taking an increasingly long time with the city's congestion.

Last week, the bike commute was five to ten minutes faster than my usual car trip, and that was just at a leisurely cruise.

'I don't know if I can quantify just how much I look forward to escaping the morning gridlock of suburban Auckland'

Pushed up hills by battery power, I arrived at work with minimal perspiration. And I didn't need to pay for parking. It felt truly liberating.

Kudos too, to all of the drivers who gave me space on the road. Perhaps they could sense the abject terror emanating from my saddle.

Money permitting, I think it's likely I'll purchase a bike in the coming months, perhaps after the new Waterview Shared Path snakes its way closer to my home.

I'm realistic. I won't use it when the weather is at its worst, and the high outlay for an e-bike will eat into any savings from parking and running a car. There will also be punctures and puddles.

On the other hand, I don't know if I can quantify just how much I look forward to escaping the morning gridlock of suburban Auckland.

Bike or no bike, my former dispassionate support for cycle lanes has morphed into an evangelical endorsement.

Not to replace roads, but to complement them, and give Aucklanders some choice at long last.