Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Alastair Smith

This afternoon I received the sad news that Alastair Smith, the leader of the Folding Goldies Group, and staunch Wellington cycling advocate, had passed away today, 20 November 2019.

I first “met” Alastair online, in August 2013 when I found a website called Great Harbour Way, on which he was one of the main contributors.  On this website he was advocating for a continuous cycleway to go all the way around Wellington Harbour, from Eastbourne, around the Miramar Peninsula and as far as Sinclair Head.

We had recently got our folding bikes, and started this blog, and I was trying to find more areas to cycle. I contacted him and sent him a link to my blog post about a recent ride along the Wellington Waterfront. He replied, saying he was interested in folding bikes too, and he sent me a link to his blog about a trip in Europe, during which he and his partner had used folding bikes, because they were easy to take on the train. 

We met Alastair in person during the Cyclovia in February 2014, where he was one of the organisers, and I recognised his folding bike. I introduced myself, and he actually remembered my name and my email. 

A few months later again, we met him and a cycling friend on the cycletrack along Cobham Drive, where we had a brief chat. This must have triggered something in his mind, for a week or so later, I got an email from him proposing a group called "The Folding Goldies”. The idea was that people who were in possession of both a Gold Card (entitling them to free public transport) and a folding bike, would be able to take the folded bikes on the train to a more distant destination than one would normally bike, and bike back to another station along the line.

The inaugural ride of the Folding Goldies took place on 18 July 2014, on a very cold and somewhat damp day. Five of us took the train to Upper Hutt and biked back to Lower Hutt. It was the start of nearly four years of mostly monthly Folding Goldies rides, organised by Alastair. We got to meet a good number of other folding bike owners, as well as some of Alastair’s longtime cycling buddies (who came along on regular bikes).

Alastair on that first Folding Goldies ride (photo by John)

Lunch at Janus Bakkerij at the end of our inaugural FG ride. (photo by John)
From left: Desiree, John Baldwin, Alastair, Russell Tregonning 

By May 2018, the group had grown to more than a dozen participants, when we took the train to Waikanae, and rode back to Paekakariki to catch the train back to Wellington.

Alastair on our last Folding Goldies ride – 10 May 2018

Sadly, that was our last Folding Goldies ride, because soon after that Alastair’s health started to deteriorate, and he was no longer able to take on the responsibility of organising further rides.

During the time we knew him, he was a real inspiration to us. He introduced us to not only many local rides, but also inspired us to travel around New Zealand and bike in many wonderful places.

Many thanks for the good times, Alastair. You will be missed by many.

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