Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Lowering the Stakes

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  • George Darroch,

    I've been big on cyclist visibility for a while. You can't sell a car without working lights, but you can sell a bike in that condition. In New Zealand's changeable weather and shorter winter days, it can get rather dark rather quickly. I personally never ride without rather powerful flashing lights front and rear and a reasonable amount of reflectivity, because I'm convinced that few people who see me will purposefully drive into me.

    It may sound a little drastic, and again puts the onus on cyclists/retailers, but I'd like for bikes to all be fitted with lights as mandatory. After reading that article by the RAF pilot, there many be cause to increase the visibility requirements in the day as well.

    None of this takes away the need for dedicated cycling lanes and safety through design. The new Google Maps has a nifty cycling feature - that reveals just how little there is in the way of dedicated infrastructure in Auckland. https://www.google.com/maps/preview#!data=!1m4!1m3!1d21365!2d174.8309225!3d-36.9187633!2m1!1e3!4m2!13m1!1e4&fid=7 (Plenty of designated "trails" though.)

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    For example, in winter many cyclists (for understandable reasons) festoon themselves with so much flashing, pulsing and static lights in orange, red and white that they look like a Hindu festival on acid. Much of that light is probably illegal.

    Is it legal for trucks? Sometimes on the highways at night I've wondered if a few of the giant christmas trees driving towards me might be more likely to distract or (worse) attract oncoming drivers than alert them.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/cyclist-code/

    "...Compulsory equipment
    A red or yellow rear reflector that is visible from a distance of 100 metres when light shines on it.
    Good brakes on the front and back wheels (or, if the cycle was made before 1 January 1988, a good brake on the back wheel).

    When cycling at night or when visibility is poor, cycles must have the following:

    One or more steady or flashing rear-facing red lights that can be seen at night from a distance of 100 metres.
    One or two white or yellow headlights that can be seen at night from a distance of 100 metres. Only one of these headlights may flash.

    Pedal retroreflectors on the forward and rearward facing surfaces of each pedal. If the cycle does not have these, you must wear reflective material..."

    Note (for that guy on the Northwestern cycleway) you can't have a lighthouse stuck on your helmet throwing out ten million un-dimmed candle power in a continuous beam AND two bright flashing lights that look like you are lauching a salvo of photon torpedoes from all tubes.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • AdamPope, in reply to Sol K,

    I got doored by a taxi passenger exiting on the right beside Trafalgar Square. Broke my leg and suffered head injury. The passenger was an American tourist and the taxi disappeared. Agree with the principle, just not always safe to ride on the outside...

    London • Since Jul 2013 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Are you sure, Tom? I'm under the impression that it's not legal to have lights which are so bright they affect the sight of others, and lights must be the appropriate colour. But having a lot of flashing light doesn't seem to contravene any code.
    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/factsheets/01/cycles-rules-equipment.html

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to izogi,

    Don't know about trucks.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    One or two white or yellow headlights that can be seen at night from a distance of 100 metres. Only one of these headlights may flash.

    Oh well, I guess I'm just going to break that law. I'd rather people saw my mobile disco.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to George Darroch,

    Facing forward, you can only have one visible flashing light.

    I’d rather people saw my mobile disco.

    I am not sure about much safer you are.

    If you have ever navigated a boat at night, you would realise how confusing lights can be when you have no spatial clues.

    At night (especially in bad weather) the additional flashing light can dangerously affect the ability of a driver to work out how far away you are. Motorists have to see you, but they also have to work out what you are and what direction you are going in. By being a mobile disco, all they can see is a pile of flashing lights that give no spatial information.

    But my point isn't about this particular piece of detail, my point is I am sure hardly a single cyclist actually has a clue if their lights are legal or not per the road code, and that ignorance is general across the entire driving population as well.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    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.

    Exactly. We seem to have this idea that people should behave perfectly on the roads, or that people are in some sense perfectible. They / We are not. We need to design roads and road rules for people as they are, or perhaps just nudging them in the direction of better behaviour. We need to stop having this bizarre idea that we should design roads that only work if people behave perfectly.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Patrick Reynolds,

    I just find it incredibly irresponsible of Auckland Transport to be fanning the flames of cyclist hatred with their shoddy survey as a response to the death of a person on a bike. This just looks like an attempt to distract from their appalling record of continuing to maintain incomplete streets that are unsafe for all users.

    Why do i call it shoddy? because it uses one descriptor for not heeding a traffic signal and this is, like our rules and road design, the correct expression to describe a vehicle driver; 'Running a Red' describes the dangerous actions of a driver speeding up to get through an intersection against the traffic signal. It doesn't describe the many ways [nor motivation[ that people on bikes also choose to disobey this rule.

    For example, I often, when there is no other traffic, lead out from a standing start in anticipation of a green signal, which allows me to get up to speed and through the intersection just before the traffic, mostly because this is safer for me, but also because I can then be not delaying the motorists behind me. This is in no way comparable to 'Running a Red.' There are plenty of other examples, like drifting slowly though on the ped phase, again this gets me away from the traffic and generally up to the next set of lights and out of the motorists way.

    Auckland Transport need to get more sophisticaed with their metric, but also not engage in shameful media campaigns which will inflame tempers on the very [badly designed] roads where they have responsibility for safety.

    One last note: The road rules, like the road design, are made entirely for vehicle users, with a few small concessions to other users, principally pedestrians. These rules, again like the form of the roads, take almost no account of the peculiar halfway house of vulnerability yet increased speed of people using bikes. Every person choosing to ride on our unsafe streets is completely crazy if they don't take responsibility for their own safety over slavishly following the rules designed for vehicle drivers.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2010 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • Patrick Reynolds,

    Auckland • Since Jan 2010 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • winston moreton,

    Great Post. You will be correct about the truckdriver.
    Putting bikes on the footpath is a no brainer. But it means safe cycling. The law could be strict liability "If a bike hits a pedestrian then it was not safe."

    Footpaths will not suit the serious riders! In Melbourne despite magnificent dedicated cycle ways the big boys and girls use the main thorough fares because the risk of hitting pedestrians at their speed is so high.

    Turanga • Since Jan 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to winston moreton,

    Putting bikes on the footpath is a no brainer. But it means safe cycling. The law could be strict liability "If a bike hits a pedestrian then it was not safe."

    Effectively that's the case now, since the cyclist is in the wrong by virtue of not being allowed to ride there in the first place.

    Some European countries do this, but always extend it to other road users to become "the bigger vehicle is liable". In countries where this is the case they also build the rest of the system around this idea. I'm not sure which comes first, though. But only doing this to cyclists, rather than also for cyclists, would just become another disincentive for riding like helmet laws. Which costs lives rather than saving them.

    I long ago gave up riding defensively and ride assertively instead. Standard rule for any kind of power imbalance relationship is that if you cringe they will hit you.

    Assertively means, for example, that since I cross a barely-wide-enough bridge every day, not taking the lane means more dangerous overtaking by motorists. If I ride a metre from the kerb most of them follow me rather than cross the double lines to overtake.

    My joy at the moment is working near one end of one of Sydney's longer continuous bike routes and living half way down it. So I ride 15km of off road shared path then 5km of back streets. It is so good,especially compared to my last job where I rode into and then through the CBD. For a while I rode to work in Wellington (Newtown to CBD) and that was one reason I left, that ride was just atrocious (and getting banned from ringing the "broken traffic light" line because I rang too often about lights that were working as designed (ie, not triggering for bicycles) was the icing on the cake).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    …One last note: The road rules, like the road design, are made entirely for vehicle users, with a few small concessions to other users, principally pedestrians. These rules, again like the form of the roads, take almost no account of the peculiar halfway house of vulnerability yet increased speed of people using bikes. Every person choosing to ride on our unsafe streets is completely crazy if they don’t take responsibility for their own safety over slavishly following the rules designed for vehicle drivers….

    Amen to that. Going through a roundabout using the method proscribed by the ministry in the current road code –

    When you are on the roundabout, try to continue indicating right if you are able, or indicate occasionally while you ride around the roundabout – this will let drivers waiting to enter the roundabout know your intentions. Ride in the middle of the lane, not around the inner or outer edge.

    Will give you a life expectancy similar to that enjoyed by the last group of recklessly dashing young adventurers who took the relevant ministries word for it - WW1 fighter pilots.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2214 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Deborah,

    We need to stop having this bizarre idea that we should design roads that only work if people behave perfectly.

    Yes. Our transport authorities spend considerably more money reworking roads to be more forgiving of driver error than doing the same for cyclists.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19706 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to winston moreton,

    Footpaths will not suit the serious riders!

    Cycle path designers have to work quite hard on this one. The speed range is greater than most roads have to deal with, from recreational cyclists with kids doing 5-10kph through to serious cyclists* doing 60-70kph.

    Commuting cyclists really feel any breaks in the bike route, especially where the break is because things got difficult for the engineers. The unpleasant reality is that the bike path is often only present where it's not really needed, and disappears where it's essential.

    BikeSaint in Sydney now works for the council as a bicycle planner, and her main point is that the very obvious separated paths work to attract cyclists and get them riding regularly. Once they do, they often stop using the segregated paths because even the best paths have major issues if you want to stay at 25kph or more. But defending the presence of those paths is essential in order to keep recruiting cyclists. Wouldn't it be nice if Auckland could get to the point where the argument is "most cyclists just use the road not the path, therefore we can remove the path"?

    * "serious" meaning they're doing it for fun :)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    When you are on the roundabout, try to continue indicating right if you are able, or indicate occasionally while you ride around the roundabout – this will let drivers

    ... know exactly where you will fall off your bike.

    I've tried this, but the combination of braking, turning and looking in all directions simultaneously is not compatible having one hand off the handlebars. Made worse because roundabouts are also prime locations for potholes. I indicate coming into the roundabout, but very rarely once I'm in it and never when I'm turning.

    I can't recall the NZ situation, but in Australia multi-lane roundabouts are effectively off limits to cyclists since the rules say we must use the outside lane even if road markings suggest otherwise and give way to all traffic, especially traffic that would otherwise have to give way to us if we were motorised. So legally I am required to stop and give way to a motorist entering the roundabout, even (or especially?) if I'm being followed by a motorist who expects to have the right of way. Multi-lane roundabouts are confusing enough when everyone behaves in obvious ways, unexpectedly stopping is a recipe to get killed. The worst example I've seen is in Melbourne where there's a green-painted bike lane that goes half-way through then at the point where there's a complex merge it crosses two lanes of traffic. I can't imagine being able to use that path safely if there was any other traffic (and I never saw a cyclist use it despite 6-odd months of passing it twice a day). Haymarket Roundabout, the exit is where two of three lanes turn off to the left of frame and the middle lane can go left or straight, and the left lane is crossing tram tracks and a painted cycle lane. Motorists are *busy* doing that, not looking out for cyclists. FWIW most cyclists use the rightmost lane there if going north/up. Lane not visible in the shot, hopefully it's been removed.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Jon Briggs,

    No idea whether it is anything to do with the recent death, but all the trucks that accerate up to motorway speeds on Stanely St have left a ridge in the road about where a bike would normally be. As a result you have to ride slightly further left than on a flat road. If you do go up onto the ridge you will quickly come down off it without control over what side you go. This could easily throw you under a truck.

    This section is indeed one of the more white knuckle sections of Auckland's roads to cycle.

    I continue to cycle to work almost every day. As has been said above, with experience you can ride defensively and be (I believe) safe. I haven't come off my bike since the 90's (touch wood) and those falls were mostly my own fault. Inexperienced cyclists probably are in some danger though.

    Since Dec 2008 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Moz,

    BikeSaint in Sydney now works for the council as a bicycle planner

    Moz, thanks for this reference. I've just started biking to work and am impressed by the progress made developing separated Sydney cycle routes but hadn't heard of Bike Saint (publicaddress now serving as a source of information about where I live as well as where I'm from, whodvethunkit).

    The development of a cycling culture could be the Lord Mayor's enduring legacy (actually that possibly does her work with GLBTI community a little disservice)

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to George Darroch,

    You can’t sell a car without working lights, but you can sell a bike in that condition.

    You also shouldn't be able to sell a bike without a helmet.

    Not that you shouldn't be allowed to ride without a helmet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Patrick Reynolds,

    Why do i call it shoddy?

    Also only two intersections. The Mt Albert/Dominion Rd intersection would give quite different data as would intersections in light industrial areas.

    However, they chose two intersections where there are a lot more cyclists ... almost like they were trying to prove some pre-determined hypothesis.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Su Yin Khoo, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Problematic. What if it's a second bike purchase / upgrade / replacement and you already own all of those things? Does this apply to second-hand sales on TradeMe?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2011 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Sol K, in reply to Moz,

    I mix defensive and assertive ;) keep out of blindspots, watch for movement in windows, regularly check behind, occasionally (e.g. going up newtown gully to K’Rd) hitting the footpath so I don’t block fast flowing traffic but also holding my place in the lane when doing anything else would be dangerous. Being assertive and in the lane makes you much more visible – both to following traffic and leading at least some people check their rear view.

    Edit: removed general lobbying comment

    Auckland • Since Feb 2010 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Jon Briggs,

    have left a ridge in the road about where a bike would normally be.

    Sounds highly relevant - trucks wreck roads unless maintenance frequencies are shortened. This government's directing of expenditure away from local road maintenance into building more highways has left major roads with sub-standard surfaces. Mr Tangiia was also an inexperienced cyclist who may not have looked for hazards like that.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19706 posts Report Reply

  • Sol K,

    Checking again… who are the key cycling advocates when it comes to city planning? who can we as a community/voting public lean on?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2010 • 13 posts Report Reply

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