Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Space for Ol Dat I See

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  • Richard Matthews,

    My partner and I bought bikes at Christmas as we couldn't stand the idea of going to the gym.
    Good to hear you are riding too Russell - and nice to start the year with a post about cycling rather than some political issue!
    I have been rather scared by some of the traffic around the city and think I am still thinking of a car instead of a cyclist and am also surprised at the power of today's bike (I haven't ridden since a crappy school bike!).
    I love seeing a different side of Auckland and familiar streets where I discover new things.
    We have also decided to take our car off the road as much as possible this year and use public transport and support it.
    Over Christmas we discovered the blog http://www.aucklandtrains.co.nz/ which has some great stuff about cycling developments and public transport issues. The writer seemed to have no holiday over Christmas and blogged extensively on the rail development taking place, which has really inspired us to try the trains.

    Auckand • Since Jan 2010 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    If I could offer some advice to the novice Auckland cycle commuter, and apologies for those who know this already or have their own strategies:
    - Plan your route before you leave.
    - Try it on a quiet day, like a Sunday afternoon, to familiarise yourself.
    - Do it at least once at rush hour in a car, to establish whether it's viable.
    - Where possible, get off the road and cut through parks.

    Eg, I always avoided going up Khyber Pass from Broadway to get into town. Instead, I would nip through the park on the far side of the intersection, go up Carlton Gore Road, cut through the Domain, and end up going over Grafton Bridge, holding the lane if necessary.

    If that's not possible, look for parallel side streets to main drags and use them.

    - Make eye contact with drivers at intersections.
    - Realise that drivers aren't ignoring you deliberately, but there just aren't enough cyclists around these days* for them to look for anything smaller than another car. "Oh shit I didn't see you!" is genuinely heartfelt and all too common. So act as though you are invisible. You might as well be.
    - Especially, be prepared for people to come out of side intersections and cut you off. They didn't see you.
    - Car drivers always underestimate how fast you are going. When they do see you, they think you're crawling and that they have plenty of time to overtake/get into traffic flow/whatever, so...
    - ... be prepared for them to pass you and turn left into intersections ahead of you and cut you off.

    * I read a few weeks ago that cyclist numbers in New Zealand are about a quarter of what they were in the 80s. On the other hand, numerous studies show that the more cyclists there are around, the more aware of them car drivers are, and the lower the per-cyclist accident rate. Conclusion: we are in a vicious spiral of cyclist safety in NZ, where perception that cycling is unsafe actually makes it so. I had a lovely email conversation with a Graeme Lindsay at Auckland University discussing his research into this very topic just recently. Article.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • EliotBlennerhassett,

    Re the cycle map thing - if you have a GPS and are willing to upload your tracks, or map them from personal knowledge, take a look at OpenStreetMap
    http://www.openstreetmap.org/?lat=-36.8811&lon=174.8433&zoom=14&layers=00B0FTF

    Mapping "unofficial" paths is particularly valuable, as they probably won't get into the map another way (e.g. mass import of LINZ road data)

    Christhcurch • Since Jan 2010 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Steve Barnes - 23rd Jan - what on earth on you on? About?
    That is just a weird & unfunny comment.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    ...though it might help explain why so many cyclepaths are riddled with potholes.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    Can I just second Stephen Judd's excellent post above? Especially the strategies for being seen, and for preempting the unexpected - eye contact, assuming everyone will pull out, and so on.

    Along with judicious use of hi-viz clothing these and other strategies have made my daily ride into town (to Albert Street via New North Road/K Road/Vincent Street) a lot less scary.

    Also, this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1609 posts Report Reply

  • Alan P,

    Sure, it's a ute, and uterus has the word ute in it and all, but beyond that, whats funny? Kind of falls under the same category as most personalised plates for me, ie: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should...
    Although I have to admit I am somewhat prone to announcing loudly that "I've got ovaries", when queried as to which balls are mine during a game of pool.

    I was mildly perplexed by this number plate out here in westie-land recently: OLDCOK.
    Definitely made me laugh at the time, but once again - why would you bother?

    Auckland • Since Jun 2009 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Sure, it's a ute, and uterus has the word ute in it and all, but beyond that, whats funny?

    I presumed it was a business specialising in utes,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Alan P,

    Whereas, I was inclined to think it's just someone who thinks it's funny to put the word uterus on the back of a ute.

    otoh, I do have a talent for getting these things wrong...

    Auckland • Since Jun 2009 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Parker,

    We cyclists don't stand a chance if this guy's attitude is anything to go by.
    Don't know about anyone else but one of my main bugbears when riding is the amount of broken glass around the streets of Napier. It's like everyone just tosses bottles out the window of their car without giving a shit.

    Napier • Since Nov 2008 • 232 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    We cyclists don't stand a chance if this guy's attitude is anything to go by.

    The Campbell Live story about that guy.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    In my experience, guys like that are all mouth, no trousers. They like to talk big and boast online, but in reality they wouldn't actually knock you into the gutter - that would ruin the paintwork on your big tossmobile. Hostile drivers in general don't worry me - I do get buzzed occasionally, but I've never actually been hit. And a driver who's swearing the air blue about how you're taking up the road is, at least, a driver who's seen you. Don't get me wrong - I've been swerved at quite deliberately, and it's fucking terrifying. But, at the end of the day, most people aren't actually going to deliberately run into you.

    What really worries me is the drivers who haven't seen me. The only times I've had accidents involving cars have been where drivers either didn't see me or underestimated my speed. As a cyclist, the safety factor that I'm most concerned about is being visible and getting noticed by drivers. Riding out from the kerb, making eye contact, and the like all help.

    Agree on the broken glass. What's with that?

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    I forgot to say, thanks for the dub[step] stylings; a pleasant ditty, but the remixes have some nice morphings.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Regarding driver attitudes, I don't know if it's Australia in general, but Canberra is definitely shocking. My second bike ride here, I was cycling in a green-painted bike lane and whole carload of bogan fuckheads drove past shouting abuse. To this day, I don't know why. I've had a few more incidents, and not one Canberrean I know who cycles hasn't had one.

    Bizarre, since Canberra is actually a more bike-friendly town due to large areas of flatness and quite a comprehensive cycle path network.

    Central London is a horrible place to cycle - I tried it from New Cross to Bloomsbury a few times, but once you get north of Old Kent Rd or Elephant and Castle (all those old narrow streets and BUSES), it's really not worth it. Of course, doing it in rush hour probably wasn't the best idea. It's a shame, because it's a pretty flat route, although 45mins was a teeny bit long (for me) for a cycle commute. Cycling around the City on the weekends is a doddle, it must be said.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    a business specialising in utes

    for women

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Central London is a horrible place to cycle - I tried it from New Cross to Bloomsbury a few times, but once you get north of Old Kent Rd or Elephant and Castle (all those old narrow streets and BUSES), it's really not worth it.

    I rode all the time in London, and tended to regard the heavy traffic as an advantage in some ways -- it meant everyone was going slow and reduced opportunities for random driver behaviour.

    But I did approach it as courier riding/mountain biking -- a lot of clattering over gutters to get places. You needed a sense of enterprise to get through that giant roundabout at Elephant & Castle, that's for sure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I reckon Wellington is a surprisingly good place for cycling compared to Auckland, because the narrow twisty streets mean that drivers are generally slower and more alert. You can see this reflected in the prevalence of jaywalking in the Welly CBD -- I nearly got killed several times in Auckland after relocating because cars that would have slowed in Wellington blithely continued. Someone told me recently (probably the urbane Mr Beard) that despite the hills, there are more cycle commuting trips in Wellington that Auckland.

    I'm very intrigued by reports of Auckland CBD development of Woonerf style shared space. That'll be something to see.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Shared space details for Auckland cbd including useful video clip. Don't get too excited, though Stephen - it's a rather compromised version.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Alien Lizard (anag),

    "fings ain't what they utes ta B-boy...

    I presumed it was a business specialising in utes

    et tu, russ?

    ...but I'm not one to take Ides...
    especially in a Forum !
    :-)

    The Arrrgh Complex • Since Jan 2010 • 158 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Don't get me wrong - I've been swerved at quite deliberately, and it's fucking terrifying. But, at the end of the day, most people aren't actually going to deliberately run into you.

    I had a woman on customs street try to crush me against the side of a bus once. She took exception to me cutting up the inside of her even though the traffic was stationary (there was just enough room between her and the car in front for here to move forward and to the left).

    But that was a fairly isolated incident. Most of the adrinaline spikes from road riding in Auckland seem to occur because most people don't realise how completely bloody terrifying it can be to have a couple of tons of steel pass you at speed at a distance of not more than several inches.

    Apropos of nothing at all to do with my story above, some cyclists may be interested to know that car windscreens aren't actually as strong as they look, and when struck sharply several times with the underside of a clenched fist, have been known to crack, and in extreme cases, end up in the drivers lap.

    You needed a sense of enterprise to get through that giant roundabout at Elephant & Castle, that's for sure.

    The surprising thing about London is that there are actually a lot of ways to avoid travelling on the major arterials. I used to do a daily trip from home (south london - dulwich) to college (central london - kensington) which was around 10 miles each way. If you're prepared to get a bit creative where required (a couple of hundred yards the wrong way down one way streets, cutting through the ends of cu-de-sacs that have pedestrian access at the closed end, that sort of thing), you can stay off the main roads more or less entirely.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

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