The COVID-19 lockdown was a spectacular joint effort by all sorts of people to keep each other safe. It’s also been stressful: the awfulness of people getting sick (and worse), the anxiety of work lost and incomes reduced, the challenge of “working” from home while the kids are scratching at the door...
But the streets have been a pleasure to use, haven’t they? The restrictions required under Level 4 have allowed the streets of our suburb to flourish. Pt Chev Road has seen all sorts of people on wheels using lanes previously dominated by cars. Skaters, rollerbladers, scooters, joggers, buggies, lots of very happy dogs, roadies in lycra, riders in jeans, families on bikes, rusty riders getting their confidence back, and parents using the opportunity to teach young kids how to bike safely on the road.
This has been a reclamation. For the decade I’ve lived in Pt Chev, our streets have been dominated by traffic. This past month our streets have been taken back by people. And so many people I’ve bumped into (at a two-metre distance) seem to think that’s been a good thing. A really good thing.
All this ‘bumping into each other’ is another huge silver lining in this month of constraint. The biggest irony of the lockdown for me is that, while we’re forced to keep two metres apart from one another, we’re now out on the streets in such numbers that this is one of the most social times in our lives.
And the fact we’re walking or cycling plays such an important part in that. It’s far less easy to stop and chat to a friend – or to spontaneously grab something from one of our great little shops along the way – when you’re each surrounded by a tonne of steel and moving at 50km/h.
Not having all those tonnes of steel being powered through the suburb all day has had other effects too. The dominant sound in many parts of the suburb became birdsong. Fantails in the garden, tūī giving it their all.
Conversely, as the cars and vans and trucks start to come back, you suddenly realise how visually jarring (and how stressful on the ears) it is to have these big objects moving around us at such speed. You’re in a constant state of alert. It’s such a contrast to the stress-free streets we all enjoyed during lockdown.
Our main streets, which for a good month and a bit felt like a shared public square, are turning back into canyons it’s tricky to cross, especially if you’re slow, or small. That doesn’t feel good, especially when you’re doing the responsible thing by biking on the road or walking around parked cars so as to make healthy social space for people on the footpath.
And that’s another irony. The risk to us, our families, friends, and neighbours – which we’ve all worked so hard together to reduce during lockdown – just got a lot closer to home.
So perhaps the question now is: how can we bring that spirit of “be kind, stay safe” and “team of five million” to our little corner of the world, as the world opens up again?
At Bike Pt Chev we’re thinking of ways we can retain some of these good things we’ve witnessed during the lockdown as we transition to Level 3, then 2, then beyond. How can our community hang onto the peaceful streetscape, the social interactions, the health of families getting out and exercising - while local businesses open back up, people start commuting to work, and the kids get back to school.
We’ve got heaps of ideas (and are already working on some of them), and we’d love to hear from people across Pt Chev about what you and your families need and how we can help. Especially from anyone who’s dusted off an old bike in the past month and is trying to work out how to keep enjoying biking, post-lockdown.
We’d also love to hear from our local shops, who are rapidly adjusting to how to do business in a whole new way. What do click-and-collect and delivery look like, with more of us walking and biking, and all of us needing a bit more elbow room outside shops? What new opportunities are you seeing?
So...a couple of things for you, for starters:
We're conducting a survey about bike life in our neighbourhood during lockdown and beyond. The results will help Bike Pt Chev create useful local resources aimed at helping more of us to bike more often. This is also a way to flag any help you personally might find useful. Need info about commuting on the northwestern? Need to know how to get the kids safely to school by bike, or have an idea where we should install bike racks? It'll only take about 5-10 minutes and can be accessed here.
Now we’ve had a month of lockdown, we’re keen to see people’s vision for Pt Chev roads. We've had weeks of using them in all sorts of different ways - if you could have it your way, what would they look like in the future?
Download the picture, draw your vision for a Pt Chev streetscape on it, colour the page in, and send to email@example.com (along with your name and age group). Then stick it in your window next to your bear, rainbow, easter egg etc...
We've got prizes for three different age groups: 1-10, 11-20, 21+. (Note - we may post your picture, with first name and age, on the Bike Pt Chev website or social media accounts, so give it your best shot!).
If you don't have a printer at home, find a friend that does. If you're really struggling, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll try and sort you out...
Entries must be in by 5pm Sunday 10th May, with winners chosen and notified the week after. Competition open to Pt Chev residents only.
That's all for now, but look out for more from Bike Pt Chev in the coming weeks. And...we hope you enjoy the pop-up bike racks...more on that soon!
Bike Pt Chev.