Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Staying Alive

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  • Rob Coup,

    Tamaki Drive’s shared-use cycleway can be an inappropriate and even dangerous place to ride at commuting speeds. It’s a footpath with a white line, used by walkers, runners, bladers, dogwalkers and slow riders.

    It also has power poles and signposts mid-path sprinkled along its length. I don't see Councils erecting signposts in the middle of road lanes, why has it ever been acceptable to do it in the middle of cycle lanes?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Bowden,

    Just a tragic accident, I am a cyclist (or was, in the UK), but agree with this decision.

    I agree that Auckland roads have more than enough space for the creation of cycle lanes, preferably seperated from the road by a small kerb where possible rather than just a painted strip. There seems to be some appreciation of this with tracks established along new motorways, and the cycle lane along Ian McKinnon Drive, but more needs to be done. It should have a snowball effect: more cycle lanes equals more cyclists, equals more pressure for cycle lanes.

    I cycled a lot in London but not so much here - a combination of the ease of driving a car instead (cycling was usually quicker than driving in London), the hills (yep, I am soft) and the general lack of awareness of most motorists to cyclists.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    there are death spots all over our countries roads, highlighted by clusters of crosses

    is poor maintenance, planning, implementation of plans generally grounds for a defence in a case like this?

    My non legal mind doesn’t understand why the charges were dropped (not angling to see the driver punished) as we’re told to drive to the conditions not the planning that hasn’t been enacted

    I’m not suggesting this isn’t a tragedy and feel for all those effected and strongly support anything that allows for safe riding and walking in our towns and cities

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 325 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black,

    I'll never disagree with the proposition that New Zealand needs better cycle infrastructure, but... Is it that unreasonable to consider getting out of the passenger side?

    Is it actually so ludicrous to consider that people might, having parked in a place that's unsafe to exit, make a little extra effort?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 61 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Lisa Black,

    When I was a kid, if it wasn't safe to get out on the passenger side Dad would make me get out on the driver's side. I know it's a bit more of a squeeze for an adult to get over to the other side of the car, but if that's the safe decision why would you not?

    Is it actually so ludicrous to consider that people might, having parked in a place that's unsafe to exit, make a little extra effort?

    And yet with respect to the motor traffic, he could see it and he could safely get out. Indeed he had got out when he was hit by the bike. He didn't see a cyclist coming down the narrow space between the stationary and moving cars, at 20km/h.

    The judge said that "overtaking on the left", as Jane Bishop did, was actually a breach of the road rules. Did the driver have a responsibility to anticipate that, when cycles were also passing on his left? And yet, it's something we all do as cyclists; it's the only practical way to ride on a crowded road.

    We need to stop operating roads whose users are expected to make such fine judgments with such terrible consequences when they get it wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18709 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Having been "doored" I guess I'm less charitable. I don't for a second doubt there is no legal case to answer and that the judge made the only decision he could. But I don't feel able to say the same about the driver, drivers simply don't think about what is behind them when they open their car door and while it is always possible this is the one driver in a hundred who really did look, I'd don't find myself believing that.

    But convicting one driver isn't the solution. the way I see it there are a couple of options open to us.

    We could ban cycles from the roads - simply put, too many of them are dying and being grievously injured on our roads. It's a public health issue where the responsibility to protect cyclists argues quite strongly they should not be on the roads. But even with the risk to their health they are a public health benefit because the fitness they gain from cycling reduces the load they place on our health system - but that's a horrifying equation to calculate.

    We could build a network of separate cycleways at huge expense, because we have so much spare cash and everyone is happy with a rates rise. This would encourage more cyclists to ride, improving the fitness of the nation and reducing the health care load, it would only cost money. Oh and probably require land to be bought and houses to be demolished to make way for cycle lanes ...

    We could force our drivers to take care of the cyclists. In California if a driver hits a pedestrian it is assumed the driver is at fault. How about similar laws here. How about police ticketing drivers who put cyclists at risk - instant 50 demerit points. How about legally defended cycleways on the roads where any car (or bus!) entering them gets instant fines. A legally enforced change in driver attitude - because our police don't have much else to do and would love to spend their time writing traffic tickets.

    We could do nothing. Which is what we will do. We will in fact wring our hands and say how sad and then just ignore the problem. And when someone we love and care about has their hip shattered we will visit them in hospital and cry and then drive home.

    Sorry, I'm sad and cynical today.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3262 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    The history of Dutch cycle paths is instructive:

    The cycling infrastructure was only built after a huge number of deaths of cyclists, particularly children, caused wide public protest. It’d be nice if lots more people didn’t have to die for our cycling facilities to be improved.

    Edit: and it would be great if Chch led the way in the rebuild, as David Haywood and others have said.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3419 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to bob daktari,

    My non legal mind doesn’t understand why the charges were dropped (not angling to see the driver punished) as we’re told to drive to the conditions not the planning that hasn’t been enacted

    Well, Bob, because as I understand it the prosecution didn't prove beyond reasonable doubt that Becker actually committed the offense he was charged with.

    Is it actually so ludicrous to consider that people might, having parked in a place that's unsafe to exit, make a little extra effort?

    Well, Lisa, it is actually unreasonable - as well as incredibly painful - for my partner to climb over the center column to exit the car. He's in pretty good nick for 66 1/4 but his hips aren't what they used to be. I also think it's not unreasonable to assume that local authorities will be more aware that most motorists of dangerous choke point and NOT PUT FRAKING PARKING BAYS THERE. Or is that crazy talk?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11865 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    First rule of driving is that you must drive to the conditions, if it is foggy, wet, what ever you must be able to stop before you crash
    If you do crash you have to have a very good explantion to not be charged with a careless driving charge or worse
    So riding a bike, passing on the left, wet conditions and not watching for car doors opening suddenly is not a good position to be in, tragic for all concerned
    Trouble is you are so more vulnerable on a bike and the only real way to fix this is dedicated bike lanes that are safe

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    "What we need in Auckland is quite separate cycle lanes."

    The evidence from other cities is that this is both possible and practical. So let's start doing it, now.

    As a non-Aucklander, I'd like some more info on this, please. Of the main popular cycling routes, how many have separate cycle lanes - or are there none at all ? If there are none or very few, this is just extraordinary. You'd think the Supercity Council (or its predecessors) would've been more proactive about creating them.

    It's just baffling that they haven't. Also, I admire anyone who cycles in such crazy conditions, they're braver than I am.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 582 posts Report Reply

  • Roger,

    One of the problems with our on-road cycle lanes (apart from potholes from poorly reinstated utility trenches, temporary speed road works signs, illegally parked car, curb extensions around pedestrian crossings etc) is broken glass. After a months riding in Europe I still had pristine tires. After one ride back in Auckland I was back to the task of picking pieces of broken glass out of tire cuts. What is it with the modern NZ love affair with hurling bottles from car windows? The result is that riding on parts of the road not regularly swept by car tires means that you wont get very far!

    Auckland • Since Jun 2007 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • knightpfhor,

    Being aware of cyclists on the road requires concious effort. I commute by bicycle and I must admit I get a good feeling inside when I can get along a road faster than those that are sitting in theirs cars. But, not that long ago I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car stopped at some lights and decided to get out. I didn't check my mirror and I nearly took out a cyclist. Fortunately the only thing that happened was I was on the receiving end of some choice words from the cyclist (that I feel I richly deserved). I'm now much more vigilant at checking before I open any door in a car.

    If that's what it takes for me as a cyclist to become more aware, what would it take for your average Joe driver to do the same?

    Ak • Since Dec 2009 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Rowan Crawford,

    At the time it happened I recall reading that European drivers are taught to open their door with the opposite hand, so their bodies are turned a bit to better see behind them: http://bikenewportbeach.org/look-before-opening-your-car-door/

    Is that being done here? If not, let's get it done.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2008 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    Trouble is you are so more vulnerable on a bike and the only real way to fix this is dedicated bike lanes that are safe

    Or we could install disintegrator rays to the handlebars of our bikes and zap anything that gets in our way - I always used this when I rode

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3262 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black,

    Sorry - are you saying he didn't need to operate safely with respect to bike riders?

    I'd be pretty surprised if the judge is correct in that reading of the passing on the left rule. For one thing it only applies to drivers.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 61 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    http://transportblog.co.nz/2011/04/18/better-cycle-lanes-through-floating-parking/
    Was a bike shop in Ponsonby, owner said very possible bike lane along P Rd.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to Russell Brown,

    +1 Russell. What exactly are the rules around passing on the left ? As you say it's common practice but strictly against the road rules ?

    Further, my reading of the reports are that he was already up and out of the car and standing up as Bishop clipped him before crashing. I got the impression he didn't just open the door the instant she was passing.

    If the police wanted to make a example of someone causing injury by opening a car door on a cyclist this was not the case to do it on, too many mitigating factors (cycle lane on footpath, pinchpoint in road, council moves carpark soon after, cyclist dis-obeying road rules ).

    And then the investigating police officer admits in court that he couldn't be sure the accident could have been avoided even if Becker had constantly looked behind him while exiting the car anyway.... it was never going to fly was it really ?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to merc,

    I may be wrong, but I think for the purposes of the road rules, cycles are considered vehicles and it follows that a rider would be driver of said vehicle ?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 345 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Having been “doored” I guess I’m less charitable. I don’t for a second doubt there is no legal case to answer and that the judge made the only decision he could. But I don’t feel able to say the same about the driver, drivers simply don’t think about what is behind them when they open their car door and while it is always possible this is the one driver in a hundred who really did look, I’d don’t find myself believing that.

    @Bart: And after being knocked into the path of a car by a cyclist who confused the busy footpath with a slalom course, I’m not expressing the milk of human kindness either. “Don’t be a dick” is a sound rule of thumb no matter what your mode of transportation. "two wheels good, four wheels always bad" not so much.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11865 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Well, Bob, because as I understand it the prosecution didn't prove beyond reasonable doubt that Becker actually committed the offense he was charged with.

    As the prosecution effectively conceded in court, thus rendering its own charge invalid.

    I also think it's not unreasonable to assume that local authorities will be more aware that most motorists of dangerous choke point and NOT PUT FRAKING PARKING BAYS THERE. Or is that crazy talk?

    This. And they were warned.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18709 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    Further, my reading of the reports are that he was already up and out of the car and standing up as Bishop clipped him before crashing. I got the impression he didn't just open the door the instant she was passing.

    That was my reading of the reported evidence, yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18709 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    tired of the idea that cyclists are always the blameless victims of evil drivers

    Oh so it was her fault?

    Cyclists aren't legally allowed to ride on the footpath. Some do, I've done so as well. I can understand the cyclist riding on the footpath because the roads are a bit dangerous and for your one instance of being put at risk by a cyclist do you want to guess how many cyclists were put at risk by drivers. But your point is simply a distraction isn't it.

    Don't pretend it's Ok for drivers to open doors on bikes. If you can't get out the passenger side and you can't get out the driver side without putting another human at risk then how about you park somewhere else and walk a bit further to your destination.

    All very well to blame the council for having the parking bay there but the driver made a choice as well, he had other options as do drivers every day in Auckland they simply choose to put cyclists at risk for their own convenience.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3262 posts Report Reply

  • knightpfhor, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    It's because of incidents like this that cyclists aren't welcome on the road or off it. We're too fast to be in close proximity to pedestrians and too slow for motorists. What's a well meaning cyclist to do?

    Ak • Since Dec 2009 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    I'd support a call to get cars & trucks off the inner city roads fullstop - they're the problem

    would make for a much healthier and happier population I reckon - possibly reduce that crazy number of people dying thanks to the air quality in Auckland and in other car related accidents

    http://www.arc.govt.nz/albany/fms/main/Documents/Environment/Pollution/airfacts5.pdf

    replace with public transport, service lanes for freight

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 325 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Agree that the real fault lies with those who designed Tamaki Dr in the first place, and, of course, those who are too tunnel-visioned or Socially Darwinistic to think outside the white-lined parking square.

    If this happened in America, well, someone would likely be out of pocket to the tune of millions.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4157 posts Report Reply

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