Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Staying Alive

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  • John Armstrong, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    A careless idiot on a bike and a careless idiot in a car doing the same can burn in the same circle of hell, AFAIC.

    Becker certainly didn’t look like some callous petrol head overjoyed at getting away with “dooring” a dirty hippy to death.

    In the context of this discussion can I suggest that you take a deep breath before posting stuff like this too? Are you really surprised when others respond with a bit of heat?

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 136 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Butler,

    I have to admit, I taught myself to ride a motorcycle, which is ridiculously easy to get away with in this country.

    Yes, I got my license here too, when I came back. I was shocked at how weak the practical test was. Basically, a guy follows you on a motorbike, and then makes a subjective judgment. It was quite amusing, in fact, when he did give his judgment - he passed me immediately, then proceeded to tell me about a few things he'd noticed I did that didn't seem right to him. When I explained that I'd been trained to do those things, and gave him the reasoning behind them, he was actually pretty appreciative, lots of things he'd never even thought about. He did have some good points too, that were particular to NZ - take especial care to cancel your indicators, because our left-turn rule does encourage drivers to turn aggressively across the road sometimes.

    In Oz, they actually measured your ability to do advanced maneuvers. One of the guys in the group I was tested with clearly hadn't been riding enough, he'd just been using a postie-bike, which is on the footpath 95% of the time, and in the testing he was clearly a danger to himself and others on his inability to corner and emergency stop. He failed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Mark Thomas, in reply to Chris Bowden,

    I am sure that if there were separate, safe cycle lanes down the main arterial routes into the city there would be a lot more cyclists, and consequently a lot less cars on the road.

    And on top of that, motorists would have a greater awareness of cyclists, simply because there would be more of them around.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report

  • stever@cs.waikato.ac.nz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I did my motorcycle test in the UK a long time ago. The road part consisted of a guy with a clipboard telling where to go and then watching me while I was in sight, then walking to where I'd appear to watch me again. Lots of going up hills with junctions (safe hill starting with brake and clutch things to do) and round roundabouts etc. while he watched for brake lights, signalling etc.

    On one of these sections, I got the instructions wrong (I think I went left instead of right---a weakness of mine) and so took a long time to get back to him! He showed no emotion whatsoever to my "gee, shucks" attempt to make light of it.

    I passed, though!

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2006 • 73 posts Report

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    Going down Queen St, one of my favorite paths of all, I will go through every single red light. I don’t walk the bike, that’s really unnecessary, I just wait for the first press of pedestrians crossing to begin dispersing from the center, and then roll slowly into the intersection, no more than about 8km/h, maintaining a wide gap from all pedestrians, until I’m clear, then I bomb onwards right in the middle of the road, which is 99% of the time completely clear of all traffic on my side. There is pretty much no danger at all in doing so, and it feels awesome.

    Yeah, nah, you see "it feels awesome" seems like the wrong reason to me.

    If I’m in a car and a cyclist rolls up in front of me, I’d rather they did cross with the pedestrians, because they will certainly slow me down when it is my turn to go, and that does actually pan out to cars further behind not actually making it through the light phase, and that does actually annoy motorists.

    This is more like it.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report

  • Rob S,

    I note that Auckland City Council is running some get reacquainted or beginning with cycling courses. Also cycling safely workshops. P R after getting some heat after the Tamaki drive incident?
    I regularly cycle down the western cycle track and then loop around through West Auckland in the morning rush hour traffic. I've noticed a roughly 10 fold increase in usage on the path so much so that I don't greet oncoming cyclists anymore as we are far more commonplace.
    My red light running days are pretty well over but I do go to the front at the lights and make sure that I can't be ignored on takeoff. Non aggressive but assertive action seems to be the best policy.
    Like it or not inner city cycling is not going away and some concerted education in regard of this should be directed at all parties concerned.

    Since Apr 2010 • 136 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to John Armstrong,

    Ride rage...

    In the context of this discussion can I suggest that you take a deep breath before posting stuff like this too? Are you really surprised when others respond with a bit of heat?


    Something wicket...

    ...off to watch the cricket.

    which is a really excellent metaphor for the whole discussion, aka Keeping one's eye on the ball and the lay of the field! - whenever one is part of a two dimensional traffic matrix all thought and attention should be paid to what you are doing, and what everyone else is doing, or might possibly be about to do... unfortunately, I feel that the womblike comfort of the insulated, airconditioned and sound enabled modern car can lull drivers into a disconnect with their surroundings and responsibilities, the advertising for them mirrors this entitled, invincibility as well...
    All I can say is - thank <insert preferred diety> we never got the flying cars we were promised!

    vitreous vitriol...
    As to glass, I have heard of teenagers crossing the street to pick up a bottle and hurl it into the air to let it break on the road, and seen them (bottles) thrown from passing cars, I'd like to follow one of them (hurlers) home and drop a dump truck load of glass on their drive! Grrr... nowadays I pick up stray bottles when I see them on the side of the road, to stop them being later broken by passing young geniuses... thus taking them (bottles) out of the equations that drive our shared realities... I also spend a little time, betwixt A and B, kicking glass off pavements into gutters and from cycleways when safe to do so - y'know that idea of leaving a place better than ya found it and in a state that's fit for use, if everyone who had a spare moment did a little...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to James Butler,

    Does this include jumping red’s when you consider it safe to do so? So many intersections in Auckland are terrifying. Three lanes at the lights on a two lane road. A bus in the left most lane. I sometimes feel safer taking the decision into my own hands and crossing an intersection against a red light, rather than relying on the decisions made by drivers.

    Can’t speak for Russel, but I definitely consider obeying the law secondary to saving my own skin, and will occasionally run a red light if I think it will help.

    +1. I will generally obey traffic signals, but if it's going to keep me safer in a specific situation, I'll run a red, divert to the footpath, whatever.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Beyond some pretty obvious stuff, like not running red lights ffs, it's stupid and lethal.

    Yes, depending what you mean, this can be true. Running a red light in a car usually means being the last one through, trying to enter the intersection before the light goes red, and failing. Considering that other cars will jump the gun, or hit the change to green running, or simply sauce off hard at the change, this is bad enough in a car. On a bike, which is going slower and will be in the middle of the intersection longer, and has no protection, it's suicidal.

    But after the cars have all gone, and you're sitting at the lights waiting with no-one around, or watching pedestrians crossing in front, then slipping through is technically "running a red light" but poses no danger to anyone. In fact, it gets you away from the main danger, which is the cars behind you that will most likely impatiently out-accelerate you at the change. Sometimes, on a light that is only tripped by a heavy weight on a sensor, it's the only way you can turn at all.

    So it's a bit more contextual than it is with cars, whose road rules are strictly enforced because of different assumptions about their abilities and the dangers they pose. For instance, the rule that you may not pass on the left is never obeyed. On a motorbike, it is obeyed a lot of the time, because a motorbike has sufficient horsepower to keep up with traffic, so there is no time lost to sitting in traffic that the cars aren't also losing. For them, passing on the left is a lot like "cheating", and does righteously inspire some antipathy in motorists, and can pull a ticket from a cop. On a pushbike, you're actually a PITA to motorists, if you sit in the middle of the lane 40 cars back from the lights and then accelerate using the 150 watts of power your legs can maybe generate, to a top speed of say 30kmh over perhaps 30 seconds. A car can get to that speed in seconds because it could have 100 __kilo_watts of power to draw upon, despite only being perhaps 20 times the weight of the bike+rider. It costs the motorists nothing if you pass them on the left, they will surely pass you again once the lights change, but it costs you, the cyclist, a lot of time.

    That you risk your life a little bit is a calculated risk to add onto the already calculated risk of getting onto a pushbike in the first place minus the calculated risk of not overtaking on the left, which isn't insignificant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    In practice, we can’t avoid some interaction. Cyclists can’t spend all their time on cycleways any more than motorists can travel everywhere on motorways. That doesn’t mean they’re not sometimes useful, they’re just not a panacea.

    Well said, Isaac. Cycleways really are like bicycle motorways. I would like more of them, but I have to accept that I’m not going to have them door to door everywhere I want to go on my bike. Which means it’s also on me to learn to cohabit with cars, trucks, buses, and pedestrians.

    Agreed. But I think there's particular call for separate lanes in places like Tamaki Drive, just because there's so much contention for the roadway. It one sense, it's a lovely, level, route route with everything to recommend it to cycle commuters. In another, it's quite frightening and I dislike riding there for that reason. I'd be reluctant to ride between traffic and parked cars on that road.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • izogi, in reply to Roger,

    I was looking for a decent photograph but yes, trams do have indicators and yes, they do turn left (and right as well).

    In Melbourne at least, the trams use indicators all the time, and it’s useful as a driver, not only because views of the tracks are often obscured by other vehicles. They also flash as hazard lights whenever the tram’s stopped for passengers, and it’s illegal to overtake a tram when it’s stopped unless there’s a clear divider between the tram and vehicle traffic. The network’s complex enough (including points that aren’t used much) that they can often route trams around problems or road-works without much difficulty, except perhaps out on the very edges.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • George Darroch,

    Two quick notes. Cycle lanes are not expensive. Not anywhere near as expensive as other transport projects, and typically have very high BCRs. Particularly in comparison to the ideologically driven nightmare that is current transport spending. This single graph says everything. As a useful thought experiment, it's worth thinking about what could be built if even a single year's roadbuilding budget was sent towards walking and cycling. We'd finish every possible major project, and then some. So, it isn't a matter of inevitability, it's a matter of priorities, and we need to get out of thinking that because things are a particular way they need to stay that way.

    As an aside, I was in Sydney recently and although that city is a nightmare for cyclists, with 60km/h limits everywhere, it has started turning the corner with excellent separated lanes. They really do help, and cyclists seem to love them. So, it's not all Amsterdam, and we're in a position to keep up with our neighbours, or fall behind again.

    Secondly (and again an infrastructure thing) having phased lights which give cyclists a few more seconds to jump out in front of cars, much like we do for buses at certain intersections, would be cheap and solve a huge amount of driver angst. Simple things can have a huge effect.

    Thirdly, I'd again recommend Copenhagenize. It's a breath of fresh air.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report

  • izogi, in reply to knightpfhor,

    Being aware of cyclists on the road requires concious effort.

    I found it interesting as a pedestrian that I've had to re- train myself for crossing streets over the past decade as cycling's become more popular. Just to get used to how cyclists often slip in and out of smaller spaces at varying speeds to the rest of the traffic. A couple of times early on, I was nearly hit because I was concentrating too much on watching slow-moving cars, looking straight through the almost silent and fast moving cyclists that'd suddenly fold out from a single dimension between them. Really just a matter of getting used to what to look for and not trusting my ears so much, I guess. These days, every time I walk through slow-moving traffic (on a crossing or not), I try to make very sure I look down narrow gaps between the vehicles before stepping out in front of any gap.

    Shifting to Melbourne a year ago was also eye-opening, if only because I had to force myself to consciously watch for the trams. And they're giant whirring monsters compared with a car or cyclist, but they follow different lines, and early on I was finding I'd be watching the cars and cyclists and could be completely looking through where the trams might be in the middle of the road.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • Chris Bowden, in reply to George Darroch,

    +1 for the phased lights. That would solve the "jumping a red" problem.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 27 posts Report

  • Islander, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    ll thought and attention should be paid to what you are doing, and what everyone else is doing, or might possibly be about to do…

    A very long time ago, a couple of years after I got my licence- and that was in 1962- I went to a safe driving course. It was held over a fortnight, 3 hour-long classes a week. What it essentially taught was - keep your eyes on the road & relevant surroundings, and your mind on driving. Be prepared for surprises & be ready for a quick and appropriate response.
    Because it was held in ChChCh, considerable emphasis was put on the behaviours of non-motorists (there was even some time spent on the pyschology of group bicycle riding*) and what you were expected to do. To this day, I practise the things I was taught then - be aware & ready for the errant cyclist, be watchful, and -above all - dont be distracted. I never have music playing in my van (because I lose myself in music). I dont have a mobile on, and passengers are welcome to converse, but are made aware I wont look at them when I answer.

    *I was knocked off my bike when I was 17: I was in a pack of 6 AranuiHS students, and we were ducking and diving in and out of the group, all intent on what we were shouting & who was winning the race to head the pack. A driver behind us got sick of the antics & -instead of sounding the horn- roared past and clipped my front wheel. I have had neck problems ever since from damage caused that long ago. We were all at fault...but I know somewhat of how you feel, Craig R.

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

  • Grant McDougall,

    So which are the actual safe / safe-ish roads regularly used by cyclists in Auckland ? There must be some, surely they're not all as hazardous as Tamaki Drive ?

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I agree, it's a horribly bad bit of transport engineering along an absolutely perfectly cycling route, one of the very best ones the city has to offer in terms of being flat and scenic for almost 10km. The footpath cycling lane has been a joke for as long as I can remember, badly in need of a rethink.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • George Darroch,

    Is it time for a mass cycling protest along Tamaki Drive? I think so. 500 or so cyclists, all wearing black: the impact would be undeniable.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report

  • Alice Ronald, in reply to Chris Bowden,

    It is a case of "if you build it they will come" in terms of safer cycling infrastructure

    This. I've just moved to a new part of town with oodles of cycle lanes & the place is just teeming with people riding. I don't have any problems with car drivers getting annoyed with me, as there are so many cyclists around, the car drivers "get it".

    Phased lights are great - there's a set at the intersection of Colombo & Moorhouse here & often I'll take a route through there, even though it means using the overbridge rather than staying on the flat, simply because of the ease of getting through a major intersection.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 63 posts Report

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    Sometimes, on a light that is only tripped by a heavy weight on a sensor, it’s the only way you can turn at all.

    I'm pretty sure the sensors are inductive loops tripped by large masses of metal, but yeah, this too.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report

  • Jon Briggs, in reply to BenWilson,

    +1. Said so much more better than I would have said it.

    Since Dec 2008 • 27 posts Report

  • Chris Waugh,

    I've been wanting to say this for a while now: Could you Aucklanders have a wee whip round and buy Steven Joyce a plane ticket to Beijing? Cos then I could show him:
    1: What happens when you focus your urban planning and economic growth on car-based sprawl.
    2: What investing in a modern transport system looks like - i.e. massive investment in a subway system and light rail to the outer suburbs and improving the bus network (which was pretty damn good to begin with, but is constantly getting better).
    3: Bicycles actually are really good for commuting, and no, New Zealand's climate is not so stinkingly hot that Kiwi cyclists need a shower at their destination.

    I was actually really impressed last time I was in NZ by all the new cycling infrastructure, because I remember there being basically none, and a bike is very high on my list of necessary purchases when we move back.

    I agree that drivers' expectations and attitudes need to change. Despite the utterly insane traffic here, I always felt safe cycling in China, and I think that's precisely because of the understanding that cyclists have just as much right to the road as everybody else, that cyclists are numerous, and that cyclists are likely to pop out at you from anywhere. I seem to have a lot more memories of being put in danger in 4 1/2 years in Dunedin than in 1 year each in Changsha, Taiyuan and Tianjin and 9+ years in Beijing.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Butler,

    Yeah, nah, you see "it feels awesome" seems like the wrong reason to me.

    I'm always at loggerheads with some people over the right to weigh in how awesome something feels as a very good reason to do it, despite some risks. Tell me that "it feels awesome" isn't at least some of the reason you ride a pushbike at all. Tell me that your enjoyment of a downhill isn't merely a calculus of reduced effort counterbalanced by the horror of the increased risk, but also some kind of thrill at the way a pushbike handles better the faster it goes, and how you can reach into it with your ki, instead of beating it down with your muscles, and it responds under you more like a horse than like your own legs, a powerful feeling of freedom and potential. Your perception is forced to reach outwards, your eyes move further ahead into the middle distance, instead of staring at the road in front of you. The bike becomes an extension of you, and you feel the road rushing beneath you without having to watch it.

    I feel that, anyway, it's something I look forward to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    buy Steven Joyce a plane ticket

    one way

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m always at loggerheads with some people over the right to weigh in how awesome something feels as a very good reason to do it, despite some risks. Tell me that “it feels awesome” isn’t at least some of the reason you ride a pushbike at all.

    Yeah it is*; I guess we just have different calculi of awesome. I wouldn’t break the road code for extra awesome, but I would for extra safety. It’s not so much a risk assessment as a good citizen assessment.

    *A bit. Most of my commute isn’t all that much fun at all, and I pretty much never ride for recreation.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report

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