Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Lowering the Stakes

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  • Shaun Lott,

    Getting on to the SH16 cycle path from the Te Atatu Peninsula is much better, but still not great. Of course, the city end of things is where the Russian roulette really starts. Is there any plan to say goodbye to the conceptually awful 'bus/bike' lane? Although it's axiomatic that the roading design needs many improvements, it still always amazes me just how many cyclists do act like the traffic lights are not for them, despite the high cost when something goes wrong.

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 113 posts Report

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I can't even ride a bike, so all this feels like it's from another planet, but it seems to me that cyclists running red lights are totally different from motorists. For motorists, it's people trying to bolt through at speed after the light has just changed red, for cyclists, it's a much slower take-off just before the lights are about to turn green.

    But like others have said, this is surely a sign of dangerous or difficult cycle paths, rather than putting all the blame on the people riding the bikes.

    Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Mt Albert road has a cycle lane marked in green that is simply used as an extra lane by 90% of drivers. With a free left turn onto Sandringham Rd that crosses the cycle lane (and any cyclists that happen to be brave enough to use it) it is a ridiculous piece of design.

    But the real problem is the attitude of drivers. Cyclists rarely cost a driver more than a few seconds, yet those seconds are considered reason enough to attempt to murder the cyclist with their car. I'm sure very few drivers actually think of it like that but that is the potential consequence of cutting off a cyclist to save those seconds.

    Stranger still is the anger (blind rage?) that some people feel because a cyclist is able to travel quicker through traffic, whether it be through illegal queue jumping or through dedicated cycle lanes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic,

    Fixing Auckland's cycleways is probably going to take a while, for as long as yesterday's men remain in charge of road engineering. The NZTA is in dire need of people like Josh Arbury, and not before time. And in Wellington, politics aside, the bike-riding Mayor Celia is frequently dumped upon by the local petrolhead crowd (that unsuccessfully endorsed John Morrison).

    In both cases, cycling advocates appear to be seen as wanting to ban the car, which we all know is complete bollocks. Yet with apologies to Winston Churchill, a lie travels halfway round the world before the truth can punch in its username & password.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,


    Via the Wheeled Pedestrian Twitter account.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Stranger still is the anger (blind rage?) that some people feel because a cyclist is able to travel quicker through traffic, whether it be through illegal queue jumping or through dedicated cycle lanes.

    Queue-jumping isn't illegal per se. That's why stop-boxes are there at intersections -- you're supposed to get yourself up the front to the stop-box. It's safer than staying in the traffic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Queue-jumping isn't illegal per se.

    True when there is a cycle lane leading to the green box, but there are other situations where it is illegal, but hardly either dangerous or any hazard to the drivers. I tend to slide up the left in some queues but there are others where I deliberately take my place in the queue, partly because I think it is safer and partly to show I'll obey the same restrictions as the cars.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Sol K, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I avoid going up the left if I can help it because of car door risks

    Auckland • Since Feb 2010 • 13 posts Report

  • nzlemming,

    Lance Wiggs has a look at the report.

    My wife and I had a difference of opinion on this, this morning. She read the Herald report and seethed about cyclists using the footpath, and not giving way to pedestrians, and she's got a point, in Wellington, at least. I tried to make the safety argument but it's a difficult one to make when you've got some dickheads who do intimidate pedestrians during the cross sequence and on the footpath. I get why some break the rules and ride on the footpath, but that doesn't mean you get you break all the rules. While some behave this way, all cyclists will be tarred with the same brush. And while NZTA maintains its "motor vehicles and motorways" focus, nothing's going to get better.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2937 posts Report

  • Gee,

    An interesting perspective on vision and car versus bike/motorbike accidents here
    Having had a great many near-misses and one stonking use of my helmet, I'd have to say I'm with you all the way, Russell. Footpaths are far safer in many places, and especially in those bus/bike lanes which often get used as a 'spare' driving lane (think Papanui Rd in Chch).

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 78 posts Report

  • Richard Stewart,

    I regularly commute from Pt Chev to Henderson. The only truly scary bit is the section through Te Atatu Sth, and you'd have to be crazy to ride on the road. Far safer to break the law and ride on the footpath - at least i have some control over watching out for cars exiting driveways as opposed to the danger of being mowed down from behind without warning.
    It will be nice not to encounter the tide covering the cycleway when it's remodeled - salt water and bicycle chains don't go together very well!

    Pt Chev • Since Feb 2012 • 73 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    Another Herald story (they've been covering this quite well): the 10,000 cyclists fined annually for not wearing helmets, even though the efficacy of the helmet law is a matter of debate.

    However, the Cycling Advocates' Network of NZ is calling for a review of the helmet law.

    "It was expected to deliver a reduction in the rate of head injuries but it appears not to have done that," said the organisation's spokesman, Patrick Morgan.

    Mandatory helmet-wearing laws could discourage some from cycling by making it seem more dangerous than it really was, whereas cycling had "massive health benefits and anything reducing the number of people cycling is a bad idea", Mr Morgan said.

    "It appears that the more people cycling more often, the risk reduces for everyone, not just people on bikes. The crash rate goes down for pedestrians and cars as well."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Sol K,

    In my many many years of riding in auckland i've struck a varied set of drivers from the nice lady that wound down her window to apologise for not seeing me to the young yob who brown eyed me out the side of a landy. I've been nudged twice, once by someone pulled left without seeing me (dark night, him hurrying and not indicating/looking) and one by someone turning down wakefield when I was going straight (I expect he underestimated my speed as he over took me). Neither stopped.

    I think the primary cause is that NZ drivers are in the main blinkered and inconsiderate to ALL other road users. But when you're on a bike you're much more vulnerable and being "different" are easier to hate on.

    I also want to balance that tho. There is a small element in the cycling community who don't do us any favour and I have had many many many occasions to think "hey thanks for being so considerate" and have had no trouble with buses during a recent year of sharing the symonds street and dominion road bus lanes at peak time.

    I think the key to survival today is making smart and DEFENSIVE decisions; being clear, predictable, and positive in your maneuvers; and avoiding obvious trouble spots.

    I would really like to see more of my hefty rates and income tax going to cycle friendliness (infrastructural, educational, and enforcement) because there are definitely 3 areas to address. Govts are very quick to address car black spots. Are there any good lobby groups? BikeNZ's Ridestrong appears to have disappeared

    I would be very interested to know what the accident rate is per rider. Anyone know?

    Would be cool if #BDONZ put on some bike parking facilities :)

    Auckland • Since Feb 2010 • 13 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sol K,

    I also want to balance that tho. There is a small element in the cycling community who don’t do us any favour and I have had many many many occasions to think “hey thanks for being so considerate” and have had no trouble with buses during a recent year of sharing the symonds street and dominion road bus lanes at peak time.

    The closest I've come to a collision is a bus coming inside my 1.5m going up College Hill, thereby spooking me into clipping the wing mirror on a parked van. Creditably, the driver stopped to make sure I was okay. He'd been squeezed on the other side and there just wasn't quite enough room for all of us.

    I think the key to survival today is making smart and DEFENSIVE decisions; being clear, predictable, and positive in your maneuvers; and avoiding obvious trouble spots.

    Agreed. Defensive riding is important.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • izogi, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    I can’t even ride a bike, so all this feels like it’s from another planet, but it seems to me that cyclists running red lights are totally different from motorists.

    I’m also not a cyclist, but I’m a frequent pedestrian (and I drive when I need to). To me it’s always seemed that the only logical reason we’ve ever had road rules is to create structure and predictibility of highly lethal privately owned and operated juggernauts with substantial momentum, in order to protect everyone else. You can look at old street photos of places like Wellington and Auckland, and people are milling around and socialising and going from place to place all over the road, often betwen trams. eg. Lambton Quay in 1905, Oriental Parade in 1915, and Queen Street of 1919. Nearly all this social transit space has now been lost to highly structured motorised vehicle channels, and for decades now we’ve been designing stuff that’s widely spread ages apart from everything else, merely (and ironically) to accomodate people’s ability to drive between them.

    That can only now exist in rare places by design (like pedestrian malls or cycle trails), because the imposed structure makes simply going direct from A to B very inefficient for anyone who’s not driving. Especially when stopping and starting on a bike takes so much effort, as does (for pedestrians) walking significant lengths to designed safe crossings, only to have to wait for ages for nothing to happen, then walk all the way back.

    So I’m all for chasing and dealing with cyclists and pedestrians when they carelessly interfere with other traffic that has a right-of-way. But if they’re actually being careful, and ensuring there are reasonable gaps and stuff before intervening in a road-space, then it seems silly to me to prosecute a cyclist for running a red light that primarily exists to enforce structure on motorised traffic, and when they’re inhibiting nobody, or to prosecute a pedestrian who doesn't bother to wait for an electronic sign to say it's safe to cross. Really, though, the more separate we can keep motorised vehicles from our living and working spaces, the better.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Richard Stewart,

    Far safer to break the law and ride on the footpath

    Which I do as well in certain places.

    BUT when I'm on the footpath, I'm the danger.

    So I slow right down to near walking speed and give any pedestrians the right to what is, after all, their space that I'm borrowing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Tristan,


    If you switch the view of the Stanley St intersection around you can see a concrete truck make its way up Stanley…fuck being a cyclist on that road!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 221 posts Report

  • Dan Salmon,

    Where to start ? Auckland Transports intransigence? Having spent 6 years trying to sort safe pedestrian access for our poor little school (that just got torched) with AT reps who seemed to think pedestrians only travelled in walking buses.
    Road laws- my father, a bike activist way back, who used to insist we ride by rode code "we have the same right etc" recently decided he was wrong and we all need to ride to survive. It's no longer a principle now his grandchildren are cycling.
    City cycling: Having been near hit several times obeying the law at the Ponsonby rd K rd intersection - I now bunny hop onto the footpath ride through cars waiting at the lights. K rd itself fine, if you time it right you get all the ped crossings and no traffic.
    Laws are great if they protect everyone, but road laws currently function to protect the rights of motorists- until that changes I will ride to survive. And will continue to ride. -15 mins grey Lynn to princes st rush hour and priceless look on hotel concierges face when I asked him to park my 15 yr old mtn bike while I had a meeting.
    Cars and aggression: It seems to me it's the same part of the brain as prejudice. Cyclists are different and they seem to be getting something for nothing, I'd faster where roads are for cars... And and and... That short term part of the brain that sees 5 seconds waiting to get past a bike as infinitely worse than 5 minutes stuck behind a line of brother cars.
    Footpath riding? A hilariously nonsense argument when inner city footpaths are blocked by parked SUVs - Coming back to another issue AT seem unable to deal with.
    Cars and bikes seem to work together in some cities, why not here?
    Perhaps the poor man in Parnell, didn't see the truck, perhaps he just made a bad call. Trucks and buses are nightmare. Weight, inertia and slipstream sucking anything smaller in underneath.
    I do wonder whether a law change that shifts emphasis from drivers license as human right to Licence as privilege is long overdue.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 40 posts Report

  • Tristan,


    I was also dismayed to see the Transport Agencies limp dick response to cycling deaths by seeing these two articles placed together..yeah screw dedicated cycling lanes lets just put an ad on the telly

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 221 posts Report

  • Stephen R,

    After I moved from Christchurch to Wellington 12 years ago, I stopped riding my bike. I started again just before Christmas, and (allowing for weather and days when I need the car for other reasons) I'm cycling in a couple of days a week.

    So far, the closest calls have come from taxis. (and one day I drove, I had to slow for the ambulance/policecar/ taxi around some poor bowled cyclist.)

    Along the route I ride, most people in cars have been pretty good. The road isn't too bad, with cycle lanes for a fair bit of it, but there's this bit around the bays where the road narrows, and the cycle-lane just disappears. One minute, I'm cycling in my designated lane (in a perfect space to get doored) and the next I'm playing in the same lane as the rest of the traffic with few options about where to go.

    The first time, it was a little distressing, but there are enough cyclists on this route that the cars are pretty used to it.

    I'd like to say that a side-effect has been that I'm more considerate of cyclists when I'm driving, but I think that started 6-12 months ago when there was a thread here including video from a Wellington cyclist's helmet-cam which made me wince.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report

  • Ray Gilbert,

    I spent well over a decade communting by cycle in Auckland every day rain or shine. Started with Herne Bay to Penrose, then Balmoral-Penrose, Mt Roskill-Grafton and finally Blockhouse Bay-Grafton. The first couple of years in Balmoral before the cycle lanes went on to Dominion Rd. I eventually stopped about 3 years ago because I got tired of the stress caused by inconsiderate and dangerous drivers with near misses and rude abuse on a regular basis - at least once a week.

    I was as defensive a rider as you can get - you don't fool around and play loose when you are sharing Mt Smart Rd with peak hour commuters and large trucks! Despite all of this I lost count of the number of times cars refused to give way to me when it was my right of way turning across a road - this used to happpen at least once a week when I took my daily right hand turn across Dominiion Rd at the end of my street (no trafffic lights). It wasn't that people didn't notice me as I always made eye contact and signalled the drivers who would often turn into my pathway regardless.

    In my years commuting I had people drive staight up the flush median I was travelling down to come into my lane, forcing me into oncoming traffic. I was deliberately forced off the road by cars, trucks and a bus. Also endured abuse, had someone threaten to kill me and on another ocassion was threatened by someone swinging a hammer.

    All up I ended up getting excercise but not relaxation. Now I either travel by footpath and scooter in along New North Road, or take the train and actaully arrive at work relaxed rather than wound up.

    Since Nov 2006 • 104 posts Report

  • Kyle MacDonald,

    Great post Russell. I too have spent a bit of time riding in Urban Auckland, and found that it's best to just do what works, including all the supposedly "illegal" things cyclists do. I for one haven't ridden on the roads since becoming a parent, it just got to scary and too dangerous, and I miss it. Decent cycle lanes and I might consider it, but a lot of Auckland drivers just seem to transform into psychopaths once behind the wheel...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 82 posts Report

  • Graham Dunster,

    Having grown up and learned to drive (and cycle) in London I am still amazed at the almost complete lack of interest from most road users to other road users in Godzone. The inability, for instance, to understand that racing up to a red light is pointless, use that time to help others turn etc. I'd hazard that at least half the time any vehicle comes to a STOP sign here in Auckland they just bowl straight through. Staggering. I refuse to ride a bike any distance on public roads here as I'm just too scared of the downside. This means that I haven't encouraged my kids either so they miss out on many things as a result, but at least they're still alive. When NZers learn to accept that there are many things that the 'man alone' has to do in a collaborative fashion then things will change. This is true in many areas, but really obvious on the road.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report

  • izogi,

    People will make mistakes and poor choices. The idea is to get to a point where the penalty for making a mistake isn’t death, and where the “correct” route isn’t too risky to countenance.

    It doesn’t directly involve cycling, but I found it telling browsing the YouTube comment thread under the LTSA’s latest “Mistakes” TV ad (which went viral globally).

    Many people who comment, particularly among those who think it’s a stupid or pointless ad, seem to be very strongly of an opinion that it’s all the fault of either driver X or driver Y, and that all of road safety’s problems would be solved if either Driver X/Y hadn’t been such an idiot, or allowed to have a licence to begin with.

    It’s really no wonder that the vehicle/cyclist thing riles up so many strong vocal and inflexible opinions.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • Tom Semmens,

    The thing here is that usually it is the ignorant abusing the ill-informed. Most people on the road (cyclists and motorists) would not be able to pass a test about cycling based on on the road code. I took the trouble of downloading and reading it, there was stuff in there I didn’t even know was the law pertaining to cyclists. For example, in winter many cyclists (for understandable reasons) don all sorts of high vis reflector gear and then festoon themselves with so many flashing, pulsing and static lights in orange, red and white that they look like a Hindu festival on acid. Much of that light show is probably illegal if you read the road code.

    When you’ve got two groups of people on the road who are both starting from an understanding of the road code that they’ve largely made up in their own imaginations, it is no wonder there is so much ill-tempered bluster.

    Maybe bicycles operated on the road need to be regularly checked and have to comply with the road code and a set of basic safety requirements. Call it a bike WoF.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report

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