Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: When "common sense" isn't

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  • Zach Bagnall,

    My 2c as former NZ driver and now daily cyclist in central London who wants to one day return to NZ and continue cycling..

    Driver behavior will improve as number of cyclists continue to increase. Strict Liability - as notably implemented in EU - would certainly help there, in addition to substantial cycle lanes.

    Didn't Auckland boost roll out of optic fibre by requiring it to be laid whenever the road was dug up, for any reason? Perhaps cycle lanes could be built out in a similar manner. At least NZ city roads still have enough room to do it.. get started early rather than later.

    And specifically on this coroner's recommendations, yes the call for compulsory specialist clothing is unjustified and unhelpful. But the anecdata and kneejerk comments claiming such safety measures are ineffective (along with helmets and by extension lights, professional training, etc) are just silly. You wouldn't drive a car at night without lights or without a wearing a seatbelt and it has nothing to do with the law.

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale, in reply to JackElder,

    One thing that page mentions is that movement draws the eye more than a static garment – so in terms of visibility, we might be better to concentrate on encouraging people to wear retro-reflective ankle bands or wrist bands.

    Is there a usability reason behind the apparent lack of high-surface-area ankle/wrist bands on the market? The biggest ones I have seen for sale seem to be only a couple of centimetres wide, meaning that the advantage of movement might be offset by relatively low visibility distance. (Supporting anecdata: I have been nearly run down at night in wristbands and headlamp, but not in the Epic Christmastree Vest of Doom. On foot, though, if that makes a difference.)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Maz, in reply to HORansome,

    As is often the case, what seems reasonable and "common sense" for the individual, is not, once looking at the bigger picture.
    Cycling is safer the more cyclists there are; Compulsory helmet use halved the number of cyclists in New Zealand, and hi-vis could significantly affect the growth - however modest - we're currently witnessing.
    Helmets and hi-vis kit also reinforce the "them/us" issue, i.e. cyclists are seen as something apart, readily identifiable as different, rather than as normal people making their way from here to there. And it puts the onus on cyclists, letting motorists off the hook.
    The fact is, that cycling IS safe, but poor (indeed mean-spirited) driving and stone-age infrastructure make it less safe. In countries such as The Netherlands and Denmark, where helmets are very rare and hi-vis unheard of, cycling accounts for 30-50+% of commuting, and serious accidents are very rare.
    So if you feel safer wearing a helmet and hi-vis, fine, go ahead, but in the bigger scheme of things it is actually bad for cycling.

    BTW, most cycling helmets will do nothing for you in case of impact at realistic cycling speeds.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Maz,

    So if you feel safer wearing a helmet and hi-vis, fine, go ahead, but in the bigger scheme of things it is actually bad for cycling.

    Is that really what you mean to say? Hi-viz clothing per se is "bad for cycling"?

    BTW, most cycling helmets will do nothing for you in case of impact at realistic cycling speeds.

    They offer less protection that people think, sure, but there are cyclists in this thread quite firmly of the view that their helmets prevented serious injury.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Maz, in reply to Zach Bagnall,

    Did you know that driving is more dangerous (in terms of serious head injury) pr km than cycling? That helmets for motorists would make a bigger difference than for cyclists (again, pr kilometre driven/cycled)?
    Does that mean that motorists should wear helmets? No.
    The "knee-jerk" comments you refer to may actually be informed opinions of those who know more about the issue.
    To quote David Lynch, "The owls are not what they seem"

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Maz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That was what I meant, yes, for the reasons stated:
    -will negatively affect participation
    -will underscore the Them vs Us view
    -says “Look, I’m a cyclist, I shouldn’t really be here, but wearing this kit sort of makes it ok for me to use your road, so could you maybe/possibly/please notice me and not run me over?”

    But, for the individual, if it makes you feel safe, if it gets you out on your bike, great! (edit: And RB, I too know people who would say that. But personal anecdotes are just that, and in the big picture only make sense in terms of getting people on their bikes. How many have had accidents because helmets provide a false sense of security; because motorists take less care around a helmet-wearing cyclist etc, these are things anecdotal evidence can't account for, but the research is out there).

    I can live with the helmet, but I'd rather not, and I'm just trying to see the whole of the problem, not just the "obvious common sense".

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Moz,

    I ride more like a cycle courier than most commuters do, and it works. Maybe people who spend 40 hours plus a week riding know a bit about staying safe?

    Same, bro. I was only a cycle courier for a few weeks in London, but I hung out with couriers a lot longer than that. You develop some useful skills.

    As I have noted here before, my courier friends inevitably sustained most of their injuries not on the job, but after five well-earned pints on a Friday night. They couldn't quite accept that they shouldn't attempt to ride like they did during work hours.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A real bugbear for me is people riding/commuting in traffic wearing earbuds. My hearing is an absolutely key part of my road awareness. I might not be able to see things behind me, but I can hear them. Disabling that ability just seems mad to me.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Maz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Again, sorry to be a pain in the neck devils advocate, but how well do you hear in your car with the radio on?
    I too, would not cycle with headphones on - I like taking in everything, and feel like in a cocoon wearing them - but it is the same for motorists.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Zach Bagnall, in reply to Maz,

    In countries such as The Netherlands and Denmark, where helmets are very rare and hi-vis unheard of, cycling accounts for 30-50+% of commuting, and serious accidents are very rare.

    I think that is more down to infrastructure and strict liability than the availability of helmets and reflectors. This is a really good read:
    http://lcc.org.uk/pages/holland-in-the-1970s

    Colorado • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart,

    I figure that most of the problem is compulsion to wear hi-viz. Sure, it should be recommended, but humans, being the cussed bastards that we are, don't like compulsion.

    As a long-time motorcyclist, when helmets became compulsory it felt awful not having the wind in my hair any more, so I understand why cyclists might be reluctant to embrace helmets. But trying to compel people to wear hi-viz if they have the temerity to risk life & limb on a sweat-wheel just seems several steps over the line.

    I fully endorse previously-mentioned licencing requirement where people have to cycle for a period, then I would have them motorcycle for a period before being allowed to take charge of a car. That way they would learn about courtesy and defensive driving before getting a car licence.

    As a rural dweller, the organised groups of cyclists that bunch up around rural roads can be a real pain in the arse, particularly where they are significantly slower than motorised vehicles travelling at (or about) the speed limit. Not sure there's much can be done other than rural drivers having to take more care and just slow down, but there's a real issue there that isn't relevant for urban/commuting riding.

    Te Ika A Maui - Whakatane… • Since Oct 2008 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Maz,

    Again, sorry to be a pain in the neck devils advocate, but how well do you hear in your car with the radio on?
    I too, would not cycle with headphones on – I like taking in everything, and feel like in a cocoon wearing them – but it is the same for motorists.

    Really not the same thing. In the car I have multiple mirrors and I’m unlikely to be mowed down from behind. On a bike, I need to be very aware of what’s going on behind and around me and the best way of doing that is to have my ears open.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Gracewood,

    Same time, same intersection, different wanker:

    For the record, I was wearing my fluro-yellow riding shirt both times. For some reason the hi-vis forcefield generator isn't working properly.

    Orkland • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Maz,

    Does that mean that motorists should wear helmets? No.

    Well, it means that if cyclists should, there's a strong argument that motorists also should. The question of whether either should is not so clear, but they are related if the justification is harm-prevention overriding all other concerns.

    And that is the nub, both at the collective AND the individual level. Harm-prevention is not the whole story, nor should it ever be, otherwise bikes and car would be things we couldn't use at all. It's a trade-off between harms and goods. The miniscule chance of death on the road does not dissuade me from the amazing utility of being able to use the road. Indeed, I don't even think it's irrational to put concerns about comfort and fashion above concerns about safety. The question is not "does safety always override fashion and comfort?", it's "to what extent does it override fashion and comfort?". And the example of the motorvehicle shows that actually it's pretty normal for comfort and fashion to override the small chance of bashing one's head in a car.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ben Gracewood,

    Same time, same intersection, different wanker:

    Un-fucking-believable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ben Gracewood,

    Handlebars now eh? :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Does that mean that motorists should wear helmets? No.

    Well, it means that if cyclists should, there’s a strong argument that motorists also should. The question of whether either should is not so clear, but they are related if the justification is harm-prevention overriding all other concerns.

    I'm old enough to remember when seatbelts became compulsory in cars. For years, people would go out of their way not to buckle them up. Now, who does that?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Gracewood, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yup. Cyclists are so terrible right? Always breaking road rules. Like that Yellow Pages employee (and the red car behind them) illegally using the carpool turning lane too.

    Bloody drivers. They deserve every injury they get in a car crash. And they should paint their cars hi-vis.

    Orkland • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Maz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Not quite the same, RB, that's true, but still a question of using all your available means of awareness.
    However, while it is sound to scrutinize your own behaviour and habits, I think we as cyclists have a tendency to become too apologetic.
    Be courteous, friendly, give a wave, a smile and a thank you, but stand your ground in a debate.

    To Stewart: Your comment that "sure, it should be recommended", and that not wearing hi-vis is due to stubbornness, seems to indicate that you've not noticed or read any of the arguments against such recommendations?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Ben Gracewood,

    different wanker

    Did you send the video to www.coffey.com for comment?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Moz,

    people freqently drive into fire engines and ambulances, despite the reflective surfaces and flashing lights.

    I think you mean "because of" rather than "despite". Moths to a flame. The drivers get so fixated on the blinky- flashy-stripy that they drive towards it. Same principle as why you should follow the edge markers not the centre markers if your headlights fail: you'll steer where you're looking.

    It's Fire Service policy that appliances parked (as in literally parked, rather than stationary across a road) at an incident are to turn their beacons off, because it reduces the light confusion for approaching road users.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Gracewood, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Yup. I've emailed them.

    Orkland • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I think the difference is in the study they went up to 1.25 metres from the curb, you guys are talking about riding fully in the middle of the lane.

    The situations I'm envisaging, 1.25m from the kerb pretty much is the middle of the lane.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ben Gracewood,

    illegally using the carpool turning lane

    So that's a T2 or T3? Does it ever get enforced that you've noticed on your travels?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Gracewood, in reply to Sacha,

    It's a T2. You're not allowed to make that turn unless you have 2+ people in the car.

    It get's enforced occasionally. Maybe once every couple of months, and the cops are always pulling up people when they do.

    Orkland • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

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