Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: I'm not a "f***ing cyclist". I'm Ruby's daddy, on a bike

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  • Greg Wood,

    The story is a melange of incidents and experiences, but the background is this: on the one day that I'd decided to follow every single rule to the letter, I was sworn and spat at for being a "f***ing cyclist", while riding my bike in my lane on a not-too-busy road towards a red light. The guy who yelled at me clearly had other issues, but the disdain and passion he showed made it seem like I was in his mind a "f***ing cockroach!".

    And now a spate of deaths and injuries have shocked everyone - but once again raised the hackles of all those who have forgotten they've ever ridden a bike, or know someone who has, or does. The discussion is threatening to turn back into the good old "us vs. them" arguments.

    There is no us or them. There's only you. And me. On a bike. Or in a car.

    The original post contained the full swear words to carry the weight of passion I've been experiencing, but we've chosen to insert asterisks to make it easier to share. Please feel free to copy and paste and place it wherever you like, with a link back to this version or the original version, as suits.

    And mark December 5th on your calendar. Details to come!

    Now back in Aucktown • Since Dec 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    It has quite a different impact with the asterisks.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1861 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    Yesterday, I wrote on my Facebook page:

    Tragically, a young man accidentally - well, carelessly actually - shoots a young woman in the face, killing her. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, is overwhelmed with grief, will serve time, and the charge of manslaughter will hopefully make other careless hunters think before pulling the trigger.

    But far more common is the careless use of a vehicle - that can (and does) kill, just like a gun can - and the careless drivers seem to be out and out belligerent with regard to the safety of cyclists.

    I think they should be charged with attempted murder if they run them off the road, manslaughter for causing death if they are clearly at fault, and grievous bodily harm with an offensive weapon if they injure. And murder if they run them off the road in a fit of road rage, resulting in death.

    As a friend who visited here from the UK once said to me: NZers are some of the nicest people in the world...until they get behind the wheel of a car, and then they go all Jekyll and Hyde and become some of the ugliest people in the world.

    Thank you for your post, Greg. I'm sharing it.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert, in reply to Greg Wood,

    I've been threatened with a hammer, run off the road, had a guy threaten to kill me - I'm pretty sure he was serious, and dealt with abuse on an almost daily basis while cycling to and from work every day for many years.

    Now I generally only cycle when the weather is bad and ride a push scooter 11km each way from Blockhouse Bay to Grafton. One thing I've noticed is that I arrive at work and home much more chilled out when I don't have to deal with the arrogance and aggression of many rush hour Auckland drivers.

    Since Nov 2006 • 80 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Logically, I'm fully down with the we're all individuals and look beyond the label at the person thing.

    But since the press has been full of stuff like this over the last couple of days, I'm finding it very difficult not to want to punch the self-righteous sense of unthinking entitlement out of a few drivers.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • GLaird,

    My theory is that it has something to do with the fact that you can sue for personal injury in countries outside of NZ so people are generally more careful (whether subconciously or otherwise) about and courteous to cyclists and pedestrians.

    Sydney • Since Oct 2009 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    I think you become more considerate and conscious, as a car driver, about bikes on the road, is when you do both. I am now rilly, rilly careful about checking before flinging open a car door.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2317 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    My theory is that NZ drivers are aggressive to the point of psychopathy. There is no sense that they have to share the road with others - cars, much less cyclists.

    A general socialisation (political correctness GONE MAD) advertising program is probably needed over a series of years. Re-testing drivers every 5-10 years for driving skills is almost certainly part of the answer.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    My theory is that NZ drivers are aggressive to the point of psychopathy.

    I agree. I don't cycle (my mum won't let me. No, seriously), but I am a slowish driver who tries not to upset cyclists and who spends a lot of time pulling over in rural areas so that the meataxe-level-mad people who populate our roads don't try to overtake me on blind bends. I don't know what the fuck is wrong with us but it would be nice if we had some sort of public service announcement programme in place. The other day on FB I suggested a slogan something like 'just think how long this journey would take you in a horse and cart, and stop being an idiot'.

    As a friend who visited here from the UK once said to me: NZers are some of the nicest people in the world…until they get behind the wheel of a car, and then they go all Jekyll and Hyde and become some of the ugliest people in the world.

    My husband has said this exact thing ever since immigrating here. 'You're all so laid back! Why do you become such assholes behind the wheel?'

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3661 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Because drivers deliberately set out to run people over and can only be frightened out of that behavior by increasingly dire punishments, escalating as existing condign levels of punishment fail?

    I've never seen any evidence that driver behaviour is actually modulated by the consequences of accidents. In many developing countries, drivers who kill a pedestrian or cow are likely to be lynched. That doesn't seem to make them drive any better.

    Also NZ has a high perception of road danger that is largely due to media reporting. In Europe or the US, an accident needs to involve the immolation of a minibus full of schoolkids to make the national news. Here, fall of a bike and graze your knee and you'll make the front page.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Keith had a twitter/facebook update yesterday in which he noted:

    In the past 12 months, 9 cyclists were killed on the roads; 35 pedestrian, 278 driver/passenger fatalities in the same period.

    I assume it was accurate.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Danielle,

    The other day on FB I suggested a slogan something like ‘just think how long this journey would take you in a horse and cart, and stop being an idiot’.

    Well said, ma'am.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich Lock,

    From that Dave Moore blurt:

    If only the cyclist had been using the marked cycle lane provided on the footpath, instead of the highway.

    That “marked cycle lane” is a footpath marked off for families toddling along in the sunshine. Nice enough, but unsuitable for anyone riding at commuting speed. It’s stupid to say the cyclist "should" have been there.

    If any irony can be seen in this not uncommon occurrence, where a cyclist has tried to avoid an opening car door, it’s that if a motorist had run into the same door or swerved into the path of other traffic trying to avoid it, then they would probably have been charged with careless use of a motor vehicle.

    What a load of fucking bullshit. A motorist opening a door into the path of another vehicle without looking is the same as a motorist pulling out into the path of another vehicle without looking – it’s quite clear who is responsible in that situation, and it ain’t the cyclist.

    What a disgusting little effort.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Ah. I see one of Moore's commenters has pwned him:

    Perhaps you could pretend to be a real journalist and find out what the law actually says, instead of making it up to suit your argument. "Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 7.2 Use of doors (1) A person must not cause a hazard to any person by opening or closing a door of a motor vehicle, or by leaving the door of a motor vehicle open." A smidgeon of compassion for the deceased would not go entirely amiss either.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Wood,

    I never do this, but I laid a formal complaint about Mr Moore's post, asking for retraction or correction, and apology.

    Now back in Aucktown • Since Dec 2006 • 76 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Greg, you may find his column from a year ago useful in your complaint.

    In the midst of yet more stupid invective about cyclists, he says:

    As it is, if a cyclist runs into an open car door it is the door-opener's fault for not looking first. If a car runs into an opening car door, it is the moving vehicle's fault because he or she was driving too closely - something obviously that cyclists are allowed to do seemingly with impunity.

    The first sentence is correct. He pulled the rest of it out of his arse.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Some of the comments about this including under that Moore ‘column’ suggest a bigger story about selfish, entitled attitudes and where they come from.

    The word “blocking” is thrown around but there’s simply no “right” to drive fast and where’s the harm in slowing down until it’s safe to pass a cyclist?

    LTSA’s rules for cyclists (h/t Greg) make it clear that they are legally entitled to not hug the kerb if it is unsafe – and are specifically warned:

    “Never ride in the ‘door zone’ (the space where car doors open) when cycling past parked cars. Allow at least one metre between you and a parked car.”

    Some commenters bray that cyclists have no right to be on roads because they don’t pay transport taxes or license fees. Echoes of the nasty neoliberal user-pays experiment conducted on our population for the last few decades? You’re only a real person if you can pay.

    Perhaps the pressure drivers feel to get places at maximum speed may even have something to do with the ridiculously long hours we work as a nation to make up for our low productivity including poor management performance and weak investment and savings.

    But Greg’s root point resonates with me too – we forget who we are. Somehow dressing up in a metal skin transforms us from humans into arseholes.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    “Never ride in the ‘door zone’ (the space where car doors open) when cycling past parked cars. Allow at least one metre between you and a parked car.”

    I think the "hazard" law trumps that, but it's good advice. Just not always safe or practical.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Somehow dressing up in a metal skin transforms us from humans into arseholes.

    So can spandex, though not nearly so much.
    The footpath is the safest place to ride. I do it every day, where I can get away with it. I did at least a couple of Ks on the footpath today, and only got one dirty look.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3555 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    A motorist opening a door into the path of another vehicle without looking is the same as a motorist pulling out into the path of another vehicle without looking – it’s quite clear who is responsible in that situation, and it ain’t the cyclist.

    Particularly as many cycle lanes (the one ways here in Dunedin are an example) are made by just painting lines between a line of parked cars and a car lane. If you got a metre away from the parked cars on these roads you'd be sitting in the passenger seat of a car doing 55 ks.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Hayden East,

    Putting the law to one side...

    Seriously, what the fuck is up with the blindly aggressive attitude towards cyclists (or people on bikes) from motorists in this country? I mean, where the hell did it even come from?

    What stumps me is that in a country like, say, Germany - where a whole country of 'motorists' can drive as fast as they like on some parts of the autobahn - you can ride your bike on the busiest, narrowest inner city street in Berlin or Munich or Frankfurt and actually feel quite safe (you hardly see a helmet). Maybe something to do with respect? (Not only for your rights as a road user, but also that you're maybe helping in the grand scheme of things?)

    (Right, first post over with. Can chill out now.)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2010 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I try and avoid situations where I'm at risk of being "doored", and I'm extremely watchful where I can't avoid them.

    I'll also, for safety reasons, trying make my way right to the front when there's a queue at lights, and take off as quickly as I'm able, just to get clear of a situation where motorists are taking off without paying attention. I suspect this seems to some drivers like cheating.

    But one reason I like riding a hybrid is that it leaves me free to go off the roads. I have some choice routes via cycleways, parks and quiet streets.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hayden East,

    Maybe something to do with respect? (Not only for your rights as a road user, but also that you’re maybe helping in the grand scheme of things?)

    I reckon there's something like that going on. And ta for posting.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    (Right, first post over with. Can chill out now.)

    Nice to see you here. But tragically, your post count still says zero! Quelle horreur.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18964 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    (I’ve logged that on the 'new site' thread)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16756 posts Report Reply

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