Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Good news for self-powered travellers

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  • BenWilson,

    The case for K-Road seems pretty strong. I use it all the time, it's such an obvious route for bicycles to hug the ridge. Anyone coming from the inner West would probably prefer that over going down College Hill or Franklin Rd, and then having to get back up over the Hobson St Ridge, or worse, skirting right around the bottom of the ridge and having to deal with the Horror of Fanshawe St during heavy traffic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Also, it would be the path of least ascent into the city for people coming off the Northwestern Cycleway. But that would require something better on Newton Rd than contesting an extremely busy on-ramp. It's not the route I usually take, preferring to climb to upper Queen St via the two ascents and descents, just because the cycleway is still safer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to BenWilson,

    When I was at varsity my cycle commute was Richmond Rd, Ponsonby Rd, K'Rd, Symonds St. The latter section on the way in was the scariest, constantly vying with buses, but on the way home, it was definitely K'Rd, once again because of the buses.

    Separating bikes from buses is so important, because buses are often moving over to the kerb giving nowhere for a cyclist to go. Oh, and buses have very big wheels.

    Actually, that route is probably not viable today because the bottom of Richmond Rd would be treacherous with the cyclist at high speed, and traffic turning into and out of the Countdown and Fruit World carparks on either side of the road, and both side roads at the bottom of the hill having much more traffic as well.

    It'd be nice to have a cycling route from Cox's Bay to Grey Lynn park that didn't involve avoiding pedestrians on narrow walkways, and crossing a couple of busy roads.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Also, it would be the path of least ascent into the city for people coming off the Northwestern Cycleway. But that would require something better on Newton Rd than contesting an extremely busy on-ramp. It’s not the route I usually take, preferring to climb to upper Queen St via the two ascents and descents, just because the cycleway is still safer.

    It certainly is. That Newton Road intersection is a shocker. Shame they haven't done it properly and found a way to run the cycleway under Newton Road.

    But I'll quite often approach K Road along Great North Road -- coming up either at Bond Street (from the path along the Arch Hill side of the motorway) or even just riding up Chinaman's Hill, which somehow seems less irksome than that short, irritating climb to New Road from the main cycleway and then the second climb to Upper Queen Street.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    two words...

    ...less irksome than that short, irritating climb to New Road from the main cycleway and then the second climb to Upper Queen Street

    Funicular railway

    or a big escalator...
    </helpful?>
    :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    I wasn't going to comment on this story, but now I'm all riled up again. So I hope Rusell will indulge me on a matter of safety culture amongst cyclists. Patrick Morgan of Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) is at it again today in the links within a CAN email I still get, despite resigning. Patrick has his own take on helmets and safety and cherry picks the data and experts (the flawed Henry Marsh conclusions most recently) for anything he can find to support his personal view. In the past CAN has told him to pull his head in and apologise for presenting his views as CAN's. (see my blog again). Throws hands into air in despair.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    now I'm all riled up again

    I agree with you that for someone who is a committed cyclist mandating all sorts of things won't stop them, it just adds to the cost and inconvenience. But for other people that can be a deciding factor.

    This "What If" video from Canturbury University makes the point quite well at about 5 minutes in (sorry, youtube link is to 5 minutes but it's not playing from that point when I click it here):

    Link to Roger Geller's "4 types of cyclist" paper

    You and me are in the 1%-10% who will cycle anyway, even if it's difficult and to some extent, even if it's quite dangerous - our starting point is "I will ride". As I get older I suspect I've moved from his 1% who will cycle regardless into the 9% who will cycle wherever possible.

    But the 60% or so potential cyclists are strongly affected by perceived risk. And the more the powers that be emphasise that cycling is inherently dangerous and requires special safety equipment and training to do, the less likely those people are to cycle at all. Whether they cycle regularly after that is also affected, but more by convenience and cost. Epidemiologically speaking that's obvious too, and that's where the public health advocates like Chris Rissel are arguing.

    So no, it's not "does X make a cyclist safer", it's "do fewer people in NZ die if we do X". Hopefully you'll agree that those are different questions and can have different answers.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Thanks Moz, hope the bike collection is booming. Joanna and I just sold our recumbent greenspeed tandem trike. Yeah I'm very familiar with the arguments and your X question at the end, but I still disagree strongly for a heap of methodological, cultural and public health reasons. Methodololgy first. The 'perceived risk' argument is real and true but it would be madness to say we can overcome it by saying it's OK not to wear a helmet. We could better say that the safety culture has to change so that wearing saftey gear is not a marker of degree of danger, but a marker that there is an acknowledged and real risk. Safety is habit, as I tell my charges on the Spirit of NZ. Make it a habit to wear your life-jacket, put on your seatbelt, wear your helmet. The saftey culture of drivers has to change too - so that the dickhead drivers who come within 1.5 metres of cyclists stop it (this is where the Henry Marsh argument based on flawed analsis of the UK 'car distance from cyclist' survey, breaks down - some drivers will invade your space knowing full well and having seen you full well). Though I've noticed in Auckland in the past few years that drivers are a lot more understanding. The culture of cyclists has to change too so that they learn NOT to ride in the door zone. Unfortunately this is harder to change in my experience because the greater fear, unfounded I think, of being hit from behind as you occupy your lane. And public health, cost to the budget? Yes I know the arguments that if x number of people cycle there will be y reduction in fat and heart attacks. My answer, as someone a little versed in statistics? Crap. There are so many alternative hypothesis and confounding factors in any such statistical tweaking that to argue for a reduction in helmet wearing as SERIOUS policy response borders on religiosity. As a responsible person, when I take younger people riding I insist they were helmets (as it appears does the lecturer in your vid), so why shouldn't we do the same as a society? Speaking more of effects on the health budget?. Two words - brain injury. I could go on and on but this is not the forum and I have other fish to fry.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    Yes I know the arguments that if x number of people cycle there will be y reduction in fat and heart attacks.

    I think the more salient argument is that if x number more people cycle, then there will be y reduction in the sum total of road accident injuries. I've never seen any other proposed explanation for the greater safety of cycling in countries where cycling is common.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    Also:

    As a responsible person, when I take younger people riding I insist they were helmets (as it appears does the lecturer in your vid), so why shouldn’t we do the same as a society?

    Because adults are not children.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    borders on religiosity

    I think I detect something religious about helmets and door zones right there.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Ethan Tucker,

    Good time to be a cyclist, it looks like - substantially increased funding was also proposed in Wellington in December. Now all I need to do is... actually get a bike.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2008 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    I could go on and on but this is not the forum and I have other fish to fry.

    True, but, your arguments are based on entirely reasonable theory. What I and others are saying is that for reasons that are not clear, the observation is that the helmet law is counterproductive with respect to cycle/car accidents. You can spend all day and all night arguing why, but the why is irrelevant, maybe fun but irrelevant.

    What is relevant is the evidence from other countries shows that having no helmet law (while still strongly recommending helmets) results in a lower rate of accidents.

    Do what works.
    Don’t do what should work but doesn’t work.
    Later you can figure out why it works and optimise that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    As an occasional cyclist, I can't help but say that my impression of the whole cycle helmet debate is that it's pretty much a red herring. Totally agree with what Kevin is saying.

    Fulminating against helmets makes you sound like one of those lycra-encased twunts who blow red lights and scare the shit out of people on shared walkways by blasting by blasting past at 40 km/h (yes, I know it's only a few like this - I'm glossing on comments made by friends & family members).

    The concern is about perceived safety, indeed. I've always worn a helmet, and used to happily commute into the city and quite often trundle round the Bays the weekend. I wouldn't do either in Auck now, especially negotiating K Rd or Symonds St at rush hour. Or Ponsonby Rd, even.

    Buying a helmet is a small part of the cost of buying a bike. It is not a deterrent, nor, really, the "messy hair" factor. The general impression I get is that helmets seen as not enough to achieve any meaningful safety in busy unseparated traffic. But arguing that an adolescent trundling to school on quiet suburban streets shouldn't have to wear one makes you sound like an idiot.

    So yes, emphasise the road safety problem and make reasonable suggestions. Frothing on about helmets undermines that argument by making you sound like an extremist tool. I don't disagree that there will be less of a need for helmets when the cycle infrastructure is made safer, but one step at a time.

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

  • Moz, in reply to TracyMac,

    As an occasional cyclist, I can't help but say that my impression of the whole cycle helmet debate is that it's pretty much a red herring. Totally agree with what Kevin is saying.... So yes, emphasise the road safety problem and make reasonable suggestions.

    Fortunately there is a huge amount that can be done to make cycling safer without touching the helmet debate, and it's good to see Auckland doing some of that. Where I live we have a lot of stuff going on too, and it's having a real impact on the related areas of cyclist numbers and safety. More people are riding now that we have big, obvious, segregated cycling facilities... at least in the adjacent council area where they have a proper "Manager of Cycling Strategy at City of Sydney" (real job title!).

    One problem, however, is that many "reasonable suggestions" turn out not to work in practice. Naive people advocate for good ideas, and when evidence is produced showing that they don't work, some of those people ignore the evidence because the idea just seems so good.

    My local council loves on-road bike lanes because they make cycling safer. It just stands to reason, doesn't it? Unfortunately they find it difficult to deal with intersections and bike lanes, so they tend very strongly to stop the bike lanes before intersections and resume them afterwards. There's good evidence that this makes cycling more dangerous than if the lanes were not present, but the council is resilient in the face of inconvenient facts so the random little snippets of bike lane keep going in.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to TracyMac,

    I don't think calling people on the other side of this debate extremist tools is a helpful.

    Fulminating against helmets makes you sound like one of those lycra-encased twunts who blow red lights and scare the shit out of people on shared walkways by blasting by blasting past at 40 km/h (yes, I know it’s only a few like this – I’m glossing on comments made by friends & family members).

    Eh? Those guys always wear helmets.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It certainly is. That Newton Road intersection is a shocker. Shame they haven’t done it properly and found a way to run the cycleway under Newton Road.

    Yes, it's not exactly rocket science. The only thing between where it rises up to Newton Rd, and then comes back down again to Ian McKinnon Drive is a small park, which would actually benefit from having a pedestrian access way. Then the cycleway could go up Ian McKinnon on the left side. This would cut out a massive ascent followed immediately by the same descent, and a pedestrian crossing over Newton Rd.

    I thought that was going to be done as part of the Grafton Gully project, that we'd be getting an underpass to the motorway, which would cut out having to ascend the K-Rd ridge at all.

    But I’ll quite often approach K Road along Great North Road – coming up either at Bond Street (from the path along the Arch Hill side of the motorway) or even just riding up Chinaman’s Hill, which somehow seems less irksome than that short, irritating climb to New Road from the main cycleway and then the second climb to Upper Queen Street.

    Yes, you get a more gentle climb with less total ascent that way. But it's all in traffic. I do love to come home that way, though, the downhill starting at Bond St and ending as I coast up to the lights by MOTAT is great, especially the part on Chinaman's Hill. I think the worst part about the cycleway climb is just how little value you get for that horrible climb to Newton Rd when you're sacrificing the whole thing immediately on the other side.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    As for the pohutukawas on St Lukes Rd. Gah! Enough pohutukawas already. This country is chock full of the buggers everywhere, killing practically every view of interest. From the top of Mt Albert you can no longer see north AT ALL. So you go all the way up there to look at, yes, you guessed it, another stand of pohutukawas. Because we really haven't got enough of them. The view from the top of Pt Chev Beach could be bloody spectacular, especially at sunset. But no, you can't even see the beach, let alone the view.

    These trees grow wild everywhere in massive numbers and equally massive proportions. I think they're safe from destruction.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder, in reply to TracyMac,

    Fulminating against helmets makes you sound like one of those lycra-encased twunts who blow red lights and scare the shit out of people on shared walkways by blasting by blasting past at 40 km/h

    Serious roadies more or less always wear helmets, except for the few who make a point of wearing cycling caps. But most of the extremely vocal advocates for bare-headed cycling I know are the 'everyday cyclist' types who are more likely to be riding something with panniers than a carbon fibre race beast.

    Buying a helmet is a small part of the cost of buying a bike. It is not a deterrent, nor, really, the "messy hair" factor.

    Actually, I think the main deterrant is the inconvenience factor: it's another thing to look after/lock up. Lugging a helmet around when you're off the bike is a pain; but they're hard to lock up securely and leave with the bike. Like lights, they're something that you need but are annoyingly vulnerable to theft.

    Regardless, I agree that the helmet debate is mostly a red herring. Provision of decent cycling infrastructure - in the sense of physically separated bike paths that actually go sensible places and form a usable network - is the key step.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 708 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    Eh? Those guys always wear helmets.

    Usually very expensive helmets that have no additional protection but do cost a lot more and have prettier paint jobs.

    I did quite like the helmet with the mohawk built in :)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to JackElder,

    t most of the extremely vocal advocates for bare-headed cycling I know are the 'everyday cyclist' types

    I have a couple of friends in that category. One has copped two fines in about 10 years and just considers it part of the cost of being ruled by idiots. What I'm doing more at the moment is taking my helmet off on the bike path because 10 kms of no-helmet makes for a noticeably nicer ride. Although it has to be said that much of the extra risk comes from other cyclists. I nearly got collected by someone coming round a not-actually-blind corner on the wrong side of the path on my way home today. Luckily one of us was paying attention to our surroundings....

    Which brings me to my usual hobbyhorse: the benefits of low-quality shared paths. I'm told they do work as an incremental approach, because a cheap, crappy facility does two things: a few more people cycle, and it shifts existing cyclists to a more visible place which makes it easier to justify spending more money. Having done some detailed counts (read: expensive) in Sydney I can say confidently that cyclists will use any possible access, so only counting the obvious places will miss anything from 20% to 80% of the total. So building a few local attractors makes counting cheaper... if they work.

    In one small area I counted I got almost 80% of cyclists avoiding the clearly marked (but inconvenient and obviously dangerous) bike facility in favour of illegally using a narrow laneway a hundred metres away. The council paying me was surprised, to put it mildly, that their count was out by a factor of 5. I was surprised that so many cyclists used what I considered to be a death trap. Most of the users seemed to be novice cyclists who didn't have enough experience to know better. I suspect a few had nasty scares that could easily put them off cycling.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I did quite like the helmet with the mohawk built in :)

    Decorated helmets are great. I want a dinosaur head one. Or a dragon, which I could mount my LED lights in. That would be cool. Hmm.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to JackElder,

    but they’re hard to lock up securely and leave with the bike.

    You think so? I just pass lock chain through the V in the straps, takes a few seconds. Someone could cut it off, but the helmet would be worthless afterwards. Who would bother unless you have a really expensive one?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10631 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to JackElder,

    Sorry about a little bit of the language, guys. I was having a shitty day, and the helmet discussion IS a red herring.

    I was relaying some of the general gist of what people say to me about "cycling extremists"- definitely not attempting to characterise anyone here as one of those rude cyclists that gets everyone's backs up. There is a difference between those and all the other considerate and safe cyclists who happen to get around fast and also wear practical lycra.

    As for the fact that rude guys who blast around thru red lights (I jump lights myself sometimes - slowly and carefully) and at close proximity to pedestrians wear helmets, of course they do. But they are firmly associated in an lot of the public's mind with the "we don't need no rules or helmets" brigade.

    Again, apologies for not making that all much clearer. Definitely not going out on the attack.

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

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I just pass lock chain through the V in the straps, takes a few seconds.

    Or in a crowded park you come back and your helmet is crushed up against someone else's bike, or someone has vomited on it (I've seen the latter and experienced the former). But I have come back to find my helmet soaked in pee. Probably (hopefully?) dog pee, but I didn't investigate further.

    I know people who have had helmets stolen off their bikes, but I haven't dug into the details of whether/how the helmet was locked. It's just another level of nuisance. I have pitlocks so locking my bike is significantly easier than for most people, which makes threading my helmet onto the lock a more significant part of the total locking experience than it is for other people. Viz, it more than doubles the time taken.

    Who would bother unless you have a really expensive one?

    Someone who wants a helmet and doesn't live in Melbourne (where $5 helmets are widely available). Remember that there's a whole section of the cycling population who are driven primarily by cost. They can't afford a car, and often can't afford public transport, so they ride a bike. For someone in that position stealing a $20 helmet from an expensive bike (ie, more than $200) makes perfect sense. Anyone with that much to spend on a bike can probably afford a new helmet. We have a government and main opposition party committed to making sure there are more people in poverty every year, so that problem isn't going away any time soon.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1193 posts Report Reply

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