Auckland accountant Monica Strange still giggles at the memory of her late father riding her Raleigh 20 bike over the harbour bridge with his work satchel on the front.

"I used to ride that bike to school every day and to tennis on Saturdays."

But not that wintry day in July 1974. Birkenhead commuter Trevor Lanigan, then aged 52, was very put out the buses weren't running.

Every morning, after a breakfast of porridge and two poached eggs on toast, he caught the 7.20am bus into town where he worked in the regional engineer's office at the central Post Office. At 4.50pm, he caught the bus home again to Birkenhead Pt.


"You could set your clock by the time he left in the mornings and the time he would arrive home," Monica says.

That day, with no other way to get to work, Trevor borrowed a hand-me-down bike belonging to Monica, then aged 9, put bicycle clips on his suit trousers and set off.

Two lanes of the harbour bridge were closed to vehicles that day to allow commuters to walk or bike over the bridge.

His widow Mary, 83, remembers the photo of her husband, who died in 1999, appearing in the New Zealand Herald.

"I told him 'you look silly riding that kid's bike with a little basket on the front'," she laughs.

The couple were married in 1958 and, the next year, they walked over the newly-opened harbour bridge with Mary's parents. Mary is all in favour of plans to build a cycle and walkway underneath the bridge. She speculates that if the cycleway had been built in her husband's time he would have "got himself a new bike and he would have been off".

But the Lanigan family doubt he would have ever considered moving to the other side of the bridge.

His roots were firmly on the North Shore. Trevor's father was involved in building the Chelsea Sugar Refinery and his grandfather helped build Devonport's Calliope Dock.


Trevor's father also built the family home in Birkenhead's Tizard Rd in 1913 and Trevor continued living there after his parents died, marrying late and raising his own family in the house.

Every day, for 44 years he caught the bus to and from work at the Post Office, apart from a few years away serving in World War II, and the day the bus drivers went on strike.

After his best friend died of throat cancer in his 50s, Trevor decided to give up smoking and retire at 57, mindful that he had three young children.

Monica remembers being in the third form and "very embarrassed" that her father had retired, particularly when he turned up at her school to work as a part-time gardener.

"I was mortified ... I didn't appreciate him until it was too late."