Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Staying Alive

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  • James Butler, in reply to Jon Briggs,

    Does this include jumping red’s when you consider it safe to do so? So many intersections in Auckland are terrifying. Three lanes at the lights on a two lane road. A bus in the left most lane. I sometimes feel safer taking the decision into my own hands and crossing an intersection against a red light, rather than relying on the decisions made by drivers.

    Can’t speak for Russel, but I definitely consider obeying the law secondary to saving my own skin, and will occasionally run a red light if I think it will help. That said, I’m a comparatively conservative cyclist, and will obey the road rules by default. Not all do.

    ETA: Mark Thomas, snap.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Bowden, in reply to Jon Briggs,

    As a sometimes cyclist, I hate seeing cyclists disregard traffic laws. Jumping red lights, even for what you consider a 'safe' reason, just gives the average car driver another reason to hate cyclists. Similar justifications to yours are used all the time by motorists for entering bus lanes or ignoring other traffic rules they consider minor. There are always legal options - if you are really worried about your safety perhaps get off the bike, cross like a pedestrian, and then get back on the road. It will cost you a minute or two but a small cost to save your life. And it will go a small way to convincing the average motorists that cyclists are the true renegade road users.

    I always found that my worst cycling decisions were made when I was in a hurry.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    Perhaps if cyclists were to contribute some form of license fee

    I'm pretty sure most adult cyclists also own and drive cars

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Chris Bowden,

    As a sometimes cyclist, I hate seeing cyclists disregard traffic laws. Jumping red lights, even for what you consider a ‘safe’ reason, just gives the average car driver another reason to hate cyclists. Similar justifications to yours are used all the time by motorists for entering bus lanes or ignoring other traffic rules they consider minor.

    I feel no compulsion to be "better" than drivers just so I don't offend their sensibilities - I try to be better when, and because, it's safer for me to do so. And as a cyclist I carry a larger part of the total risk of my actions than does a driver, so I feel somewhat more empowered to be calculating about those risks. As it is I break the law very seldom, except for my aforementioned 100m footpath-ride.

    When I cycled less often, I felt more like you do. Now I can't be bothered.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Deborah,

    It made me very aware of the need to keep an eye on parked cars.

    And that is the clue we should be looking at. There is little point in abusing a driver for a momentary lapse of caution when you are in a coma.
    I rode a bike for years back in the UK with few problems. The trouble with NZ is that once people get on the road they turn into Nazis and that includes cyclists.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4810 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Well, the drafters of the legislation obviously felt people would quibble

    And this?

    if the overtaken vehicle is a light rail vehicle moving in the same direction, the light rail vehicle must not be—
    (i) signalling an intention to turn left...

    Has nobody pointed out the fact that light rail vehicles travel on, well, rails? bit hard to "turn left" I would have thought.
    As with much legislation in this country the drafters were lacking in practical experience I think.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4810 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas, in reply to Chris Bowden,

    As a sometimes cyclist, I hate seeing cyclists disregard traffic laws.

    I've had this discussion quite a few times with other cyclists and car drivers, and I agree with you that jumping red lights does nothing to improve the perception of cyclists. But cars always try and squeeze past me at this particular intersection, and they don't seem to realise that it would be so easy to "accidentally" kill me. In this particular case, I think I can live with their annoyance/hatred.

    if you are really worried about your safety perhaps get off the bike, cross like a pedestrian, and then get back on the road

    Yep... or just get back in the car. At the moment I'm commuting from Parnell to Penrose daily, and I found it way too dangerous to cycle down Great South Road. The bus/train is ok if you're willing to waste two hours a day, but the car is just too damn convenient

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    There are such things as points, I believe.

    (I've never seen indicators on a tram. In Europe, the general rule is that trams have absolute priority - which is backed up by their size and weight. The old Christchurch trams were the opposite I think?),

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4447 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Has nobody pointed out the fact that light rail vehicles travel on, well, rails? bit hard to “turn left” I would have thought.
    As with much legislation in this country the drafters were lacking in practical experience I think.

    Without going back to said legislation, I think trams would meet the definition of "light rail vehicles. Personally, that's one of many respects in which I wouldn't mind Auckland being a lot more like Melbourne but IMO and YMMV of course. (And, yes, being a complete nitwit of a tourist it was more good luck than good management I didn't get wiped out by a tram on my first visit. "Don't be a dick" and "pay attention, 'cause it's not all about you" are fine principles for pedestrians too. :) )

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11931 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Has nobody pointed out the fact that light rail vehicles travel on, well, rails? bit hard to "turn left" I would have thought.As with much legislation in this country the drafters were lacking in practical experience I think.

    There are places in the world with large developed light rail (aka trams, aka streetcars) that have such complex systems that they have points in the streets - they do turn - and of course sometimes they turn left without points (it's the only place they can turn) and should be indicating there too just like any other vehicle

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2129 posts Report Reply

  • Roger, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I was looking for a decent photograph but yes, trams do have indicators and yes, they do turn left (and right as well).

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    “Don’t be a dick” and “pay attention, ’cause it’s not all about you” are fine principles for pedestrians too. :) )

    Indeed. In fact I would like to see it apply to all people at all times.

    There are such things as points, I believe.

    Without wishing to become a pendant...
    I would say that to turn a vehicle one would have to be able to steer it, surely?

    And then I read This
    From the Melbourne Tram Driver...

    if I was a #109 and wanted to turn up Cotham Rd, I would twist the points switch on the console as I approached the first dot. Between the first and second set of dots, there is a transponder that picks up the signal and switches the tracks. If I was a #48 continuing along High St, I would simply not touch the switch, as the default signal is "straight".

    It doesn't mention indicators though.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4810 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Meh, I think trying to parse that bit of the Regulations too closely is mad. The law is deficient if it doesn't allow for the incredibly common case of cyclists moving on the far left of a road at a speed sometimes slower and sometimes greater than the other traffic. Someone should fix that.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1347 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Otoh, I'll also sometimes take the defensive option on one stretch of Meola Road and actually pull over when I determine that it's unwise to move out around a parked car in the hope that following drivers will act sensibly. When passing lines of parked cars I look ahead for brake lights, indicators and bodies in drivers' seats. Staying alive.

    Yes, I frequent that road, and it's a study in poor transport planning, and how to make survival strategies. Firstly, I always bomb the downhills right in the middle of the lane. Then, along the dotted yellow line, I pull to the side to let cars pass. Then, when I meet parked cars, I take the middle of the lane again, even though I'm only doing around 20km/h by then. But 20km/h is actually around about the safe speed for cars along that stretch too - car doors are not only a risk to cyclists, they're a risk to cars, and the car passengers. When the road is tight, you should go slow, it really is that simple. Where there are no parked cars, I pull over to let people pass. Sometimes they will pass by actually overtaking on the other side - they would do this with a driver cruising along slowly looking for a park, it's a perfectly valid and acceptable maneuver, with low risk all round. Where the pedestrian crossings jut into the road, I take center, because there simply isn't room for a car and me, and they might misinterpret hugging the kerb. The most dangerous part is the uphill climbs, because you're going slowly, the bike rocks from side to side more, and there are parked cars. But I'm going pretty slow, so I think it's not too risky to pass the parked cars more closely, I have time to see if there are people in the car, and going uphill means I can stop very fast. If there are people in the cars, I ring the bell from quite a way back, until I see the driver look in their mirror at me.

    Like James Butler, I don't have very many experiences of driver aggression at all. When you are assertive of your road rights, but also courteous, people respect it. Ride "big", making yourself more visible. Drivers are more annoyed by timidity, which looks like indecision, and means they don't know how to react either. At a traffic light, I'll often make a long exaggerated signal, if I'm going to turn. People look, and they smile - it's like some kind of old-skool ritual to see a cyclist actually following the road rules, putting their arm out as an indicator of their intentions - drivers like it, because they have to do it all the time with their indicators.

    But this all comes with experience, both of cycling and of driving cars and riding motorcycles. The motorcycling training was really the most enlightening, I learned in Australia and they have a very comprehensive training system - it made me a much better driver of cars. Motorbikes are much more unsafe even than bicycles. Motorbikers simply accept that their lives really are in their own hands (or they die). I would certainly agree with anyone who suggested that defensive cycling courses should be freely available, that would save a lot of lives.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Roger,

    An odd little <br /> crept into your link, meaning it gives a "bad request" instead of the photo.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2070 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    In practice, we can't avoid some interaction. Cyclists can't spend all their time on cycleways any more than motorists can travel everywhere on motorways. That doesn't mean they're not sometimes useful, they're just not a panacea.

    Well said, Isaac. Cycleways really are like bicycle motorways. I would like more of them, but I have to accept that I'm not going to have them door to door everywhere I want to go on my bike. Which means it's also on me to learn to cohabit with cars, trucks, buses, and pedestrians.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    From the Melbourne Tram Driver…

    The trolleybuses in Wellington have a much simpler system - the points in the wires are switched by the current drawn by the bus motor as it approaches the intersection. Want to change the points? Accelerate. Want to go in the "default" direction? Lift your foot. It's a simple, elegant solution, but of course it leads to a number of situations in which the driver can't respond sanely to the traffic conditions and correctly operate the points at the same time. Hilarity ensues.

    Anyway, even when a tram driver doesn't have a choice where to go, you can't necessarily expect every motorist to guess its direction by looking at the rails. Hence indicators.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    It doesn’t mention indicators though.

    But This does...

    Waterfront Auckland is advising cyclists, pedestrians and motorists to watch out for the rails, take care when crossing and listen for oncoming trams... ...trams have front and rear indicators and warning gongs that ring when the tram pulls out on to the road as it leaves each stop.

    As for...

    Is it that unreasonable to consider getting out of the passenger side?

    Are you 'avin a laugh?

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4810 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    But this all comes with experience, both of cycling and of driving cars and riding motorcycles. The motorcycling training was really the most enlightening, I learned in Australia and they have a very comprehensive training system – it made me a much better driver of cars.

    I have to admit, I taught myself to ride a motorcycle, which is ridiculously easy to get away with in this country.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Roger, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Sorry for my poor posting skills Chris; try this...

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Butler,

    . And as a cyclist I carry a larger part of the total risk of my actions than does a driver, so I feel somewhat more empowered to be calculating about those risks.

    This. Going down Queen St, one of my favorite paths of all, I will go through every single red light. I don't walk the bike, that's really unnecessary, I just wait for the first press of pedestrians crossing to begin dispersing from the center, and then roll slowly into the intersection, no more than about 8km/h, maintaining a wide gap from all pedestrians, until I'm clear, then I bomb onwards right in the middle of the road, which is 99% of the time completely clear of all traffic on my side. There is pretty much no danger at all in doing so, and it feels awesome. It's one of the best things you can do on a pushbike, feeling the freedom of freewheeling down an empty road with plenty to look at and no danger in doing so. I'll happily pay the fine if some copper ever takes exception.

    My thinking about how drivers feel about it is this: If I'm in a car and a cyclist rolls up in front of me, I'd rather they did cross with the pedestrians, because they will certainly slow me down when it is my turn to go, and that does actually pan out to cars further behind not actually making it through the light phase, and that does actually annoy motorists.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Also, should be noted that people aren't very good judges of what's risky behaviour when cycling, and they can't be expected to be*. It's the old thing: design systems for people, not people for systems.

    * Beyond some pretty obvious stuff, like not running red lights ffs, it's stupid and lethal. When you run a red light you do something unexpected, and that's when people die.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1347 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Bowden, in reply to James Butler,

    It is not about trying to be "better" it is just that I figure the more they see cyclists disobeying the road rules, the more likely they are to disregard cyclists as a nuisance and the less inclined they will be to make room or otherwise accommodate the next cyclist that comes along, or be in favour of better cycle infrastructure. Although I suppose some motorists will always get annoyed at cyclists, for taking up space on "their road".

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman, in reply to James Butler,

    I feel no compulsion to be “better” than drivers just so I don’t offend their sensibilities

    That certainly wouldn't be a good enough reason. For my part I try to obey the rules as closely as possible on the basis that drivers are thick and can't cope with my behaving unpredictably.

    When I'm not on the road I might rephrase that to "distracted" or "unfamiliar with cyclists", but in the moment I'm working with "thick".

    It's your call for your own safety of course, but I find there's no need to run a red light if I get in the queue a few cars back from the intersection. I'll indicate right as if changing lane even if I'm not, to account for any imaginary lanes the driver behind me might be perceiving, and I try to get in there good and early so people behind me have the option of changing lanes if they don't want to wait.

    I'm sure people find it weird, but there's no mistaking that I want the lane nor any doubt about whether I'm leaving room to pass. If they still want to make an issue of it, it'll at least be on the basis that they think I'm a cock rather than their not knowing what I was doing.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 133 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Bowden, in reply to Mark Thomas,

    It is a case of "if you build it they will come" in terms of safer cycling infrastructure (and better public transport options in general). I am sure that if there were separate, safe cycle lanes down the main arterial routes into the city there would be a lot more cyclists, and consequently a lot less cars on the road.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 26 posts Report Reply

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