Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: I'm not a "f***ing cyclist". I'm Ruby's daddy, on a bike

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  • Matthew Poole,

    I'll also, for safety reasons, trying make my way right to the front when there's a queue at lights, and take off as quickly as I'm able, just to get clear of a situation where motorists are taking off without paying attention.

    I'm quite unashamed to admit to going through red lights across the tops of T intersections or around left-hand corners. I feel much, much safer moving than stationary, and you've just identified a likely reason. I don't go right through the middle of intersections against a red because that's just begging for trouble, but where I don't have to move away from the kerb I see no reason to increase the danger to myself when I'm not increasing the danger to anyone else.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie,

    People who ride bikes can be arseholes too, unless the four bikes I've had pinched in the last four years were stolen by motorists. If you happen to be driving and spot a metallic blue Giant Cypress with Vaude panniers, missing since mid-August, feel free to wing the bastard.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Steve Reeves,

    Perhaps people aren't really as "nice" as they seem face-to-face?

    Rather like with email---your behaviour protected and to some extent anonymous inside a car (like your behaviour physically removed during the writing and sending of an email) leads to behaviour that's clearly unacceptable when face-to-face.

    It may be worse than that, of course---perhaps the removal from consequences (to some extent) of being in a car brings out the "real" person that's hidden by cowardice and politeness etc. when physically present and accountable.

    Near Donny Park, Hamilton… • Since Apr 2007 • 94 posts Report

  • David Hood,

    Does anyone have country comparative km cycled per person, or a similar figure. I haven't been able to track it down, and I would find a a useful comparison to the figures of cyclist deaths per population I was able to find in a U.K. gov pdf

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Hayden East,

    Hayden: I agree. In Europe there’s much more of a sense of resources being finite so perhaps more social pressure to tread lightly etc. France is a great place to cycle – just about everyone does it, regardless of age, and there’s a level of respect there towards the whole venture of cycling.
    I heard an interesting program on the radio a while ago – discussing among other things the compulsory wearing of helmets here. Personally I think you’d be mad not to wear one, but it is a shame if it has a discouraging effect on participation rates. I forget the details, but the program made the case that in many other countries it’s no big deal to be a cyclist – you just jump on your bike in your regular clothes and do your errands, like my almost 70 year old auntie in Germany who just bikes everywhere because it’s entirely safe* and convenient. In NZ, the program argued, you have to ‘self-identify as a cyclist’, and don a heap of specialised gear – the helmet, gloves, bright fluorescent jackets that make it look like you’re off to fix the water mains – and cast yourself out onto the mean streets.
    I guess the problem is that in NZ there are precious few places where it’s safe and enjoyable to bike. I had to teach my boy to bike by putting the bikes on the car and driving down to the waterfront where there’s a decent stretch off road, and even that wasn’t ideal as he found it rather nerve wracking to have to avoid all the foot traffic. I’ve had twinges of envy for the Hawkes Bay cycle network stretching from Havelock North to Napier.
    * as an aside, my uncle had his only bike accident ever in his commute through the forest to Bonn, when he collided with a wild boar!

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 830 posts Report

  • Rosie,

    Speaking to the German woman in my office it sounds like Germans have; difficult driving tests, compulsory formal driving lessons (quite expensive) and are taught that cars come last in the pecking order because people in cars are protected (in a metal shell) and therefore must give maximum consideration to the road users who are not protected and therefore come first.
    Totally different way of thinking.

    I would think that bringing in tougher driving licence tests/ education would be easy politically. All the grumpy old scrotes have their licences already and it would just be the new ones that would have to do it. (Admittedly results on the road would not be immediate but you have to start somewhere).

    Perhaps we could even bring in the UK, no ‘undertaking’ on the motorway rule in...

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 20 posts Report

  • Steve Reeves, in reply to Rosie,

    On that last point….I learned to drive in the UK—there on motorways (or any road) there is the “whole of road” approach where you have to take account of all the road around you. My partner learned to drive in NZ—and here it seems on roads with more than one lane you are taught to just concentrate on that one lane and treat other lanes as separate roads (or something like that)!!!!

    Also, the partner loves driving on motorways in the UK, but hates them here---scared of other road users, mainly :-) Or perhaps it's the speed thrill, which seems to be unoffically 70-80-90 in lanes 1-2-3 :-) judging from everyone's behaviour (and the way the police drive....)

    Near Donny Park, Hamilton… • Since Apr 2007 • 94 posts Report

  • Hayden East, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    Depressingly it seems as if it's just another of NZ's societal/cultural problems, like drinking or domestic abuse, that gets prodded with a bit of legislation here and there but ultimately ends up in the too-hard basket.

    Sorry. Gosh, what a major downer.


    Auckland • Since Nov 2010 • 11 posts Report

  • izogi,

    This is no intended defence for anyone, but as a pedestrian (in Wellington) where I frequently walk everywhere, I've noticed that cyclists can often spring out of nowhere amongst traffic. Especially in rush-hour traffic, it's easy to be keeping an eye on a very obvious line of slow-moving cars without noticing two-dimensional bikes suddenly folding out from behind them as they get closer. I came close to being involved in a collision or two, but I now force myself take a second and third look specifically for cyclists coming down Glenmore Street before I step out into slow moving traffic.

    Cyclists have become much more common on the roads in the past decade or so, and they come out of different places at different speeds to other traffic. I think there must be a lot of drivers out there who simply need re-training about how to actually look for them.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • Rosie,

    Also, I think we need to start challenging people who say that people driving slowly cause accidents because people behind them get frustrated and have to overtake in dangerous places.

    I do think ‘slow drivers’ should pull over and let people pass sometimes because it’s polite but if they haven’t pulled over for some reason and the person behind them overtakes stupidly it isn’t the slow driver’s fault.

    It’s hard to pull people up on those sorts of comments though, especially when it’s your friend’s mum or someone like that saying it. I think people say things like that because they sometimes overtake slow traffic dangerously and need to justify it to themselves as someone elses fault.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 20 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Rosie,

    The slow driver may not be at fault, but they are definitely a cause. They're also likely breaking the law by failing to "allow impeded traffic to pass".

    Expecting perfect judgement from humans is a big ask, so instead we expect people to drive with courtesy. That means not trundling along at 70, hogging the lane, when you have space to pull to the left and allow people to pass safely. If you don't recognise that you hogging the lane may well cause others to do silly things then you're just as unworthy of holding a licence as they.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Petra,

    Back in Hamilton in the mid-90’s, I used to ride my old bike everywhere, ‘cos my old mini was broken most of the time. Zoe was about 18 months old, and loved sitting in her special bike seat on the back. Slowing up to a red light on Claudelands St, some twat got so close he brushed my leg and we almost toppled off on to the grass verge (at the speed we’d slowed to, I was able to drop my leg and keep us unsteadily upright). The driver couldn’t give a flying burrito about me or my wee tot’s safety at all. Didn’t even look back to see if I was swearing loudly at him, let alone see if we were alright.

    Never had those issues cycling in London, Germany or Holland. Even in London(!) people cared about you on the busy city road.

    And gotta agree, Hayden – it’s another nasty side of NZ’s many cultural issues. For some reason, many NZers think they’re just freakin’ awesome compared to non-Kiwis. But they are not. Not by a long shot. grrr, now I’ve made myself all angry…

    We’d better have a song to pick ourselves up from the curb with:

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report

  • Bryan Dods, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Education is needed for motorists and cyclists, and let us not forget motorcyclists, so that all parties can appreciate the difficulties that can be caused to one another.

    Perhaps to moderate the behaviour of some of the fools I have encountered on bicycles they should all have a registration/identity plate.This might encourage cyclists to think of their responsibilities to other road users. Two abreast on main highways for example. Slower vehicles of any type should not impede traffic flow, and some cyclists can be very slow at times.
    And if cyclists want even treatment perhaps we can look at an ACC levy for such a dangerous form of travel.

    As a disclaimer; I like all three forms of transport mentioned and I am not trying to rile cyclists in particular, but I do see some bad examples regarding personal safety. In the end comes down to the rider's responsibility for his own survival. In many accidents the blame can be apportioned to both parties.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 46 posts Report

  • Bryan Dods,

    Whoops. That was supposed to be a general comment. Not really a reply to R.B.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 46 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Bryan Dods,

    Bryan, many cyclists are also motorists. All the recreational/club cyclists I know also own cars. We're all employed, mostly in jobs that pay higher-than-median wages. All of us pay ACC levies, at least twice over. The whole point of the ACC earner's levy is so that we don't have to pay a levy for being cyclists.
    Cycling also has health benefits, both for the rider in terms of exercise and for the wider population in terms of reduced pollution where the riding is done in place of motorised travel. So how about we call it quits on the ACC thing?

    As far as crash fault goes, NZTA says that 75% of serious/fatal car-v-cyclist crashes are primarily or entirely the fault of the car driver. If cyclists are really as awful as car drivers and their apologists make out the figure should be closer to 50:50. That it's not says that car drivers have a lot to answer for.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    The tragedies of the last few days have highlighted the lot of cyclists in New Zealand. The roads are for cars and trucks and the drivers of those have all the rights, at least that's how they behave.

    When I lived in Davis California we rode everywhere. Apart from the dedicated bike paths completely independent of the road system, the drivers in Davis will move heaven and earth to avoid putting a cyclist at risk or even inconvenience. It can be embarrassing to look forward to a little rest at an intersection only to have the car wave you through.

    But In NZ that isn't the case. In NZ bikes aren't really accepted as legitimate road users. And as I drive I occasionally see cyclists who make me embarrassed to have ever been a cyclist. But even with the odd wanker on a bike it is the cars that have the power. When you drive a car you have the power to kill and we should be aware of that power and behave appropriately.

    But most of the drivers don't. For most folks a car is simply a convenient means of getting around and anything that makes that task less convenient should be ignored. A red light is inconvenient - if you think you can get away with it simply run the light. A no U-turn sign is inconvenient if you missed your turn - just ignore it. A cyclist will slow you down - just nudge them out of the way.

    The only way to improve things is to teach people how to drive properly. With care and consideration and with considerably more skill and attention to the task than is usual. A car is a lethal weapon but anyone and everyone gets a license to use one. I honestly can't accept that everyone who sits the test is skilled enough to be a driver, but they all pass.

    And once you have that license, it's yours for life? Really? Surely at least a 5 year refresher on the rules, if not an actual test to see if you haven't developed bad habits. And it's just about impossible to actually lose your license folks, drunk driving lost your license ... no worries mate there are dozens of lawyers who'll get you on the road again.

    To me the problem is we expect to be allowed to drive our cars whenever and wherever we want to, as if it was part of the bill of rights. Perhaps if it was bit harder to become and stay a driver folks might actually take it more seriously.

    If driving a car was a hard earned privilege maybe we'd kill fewer people with our cars.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Absolutely agree. I got my full licence at 17, having passed the laughably-easy test to get my restricted precisely nine months before (yay for optional defensive driving courses, for which you get a reward!). Had I not gone on to get a class 2 licence (through the Fire Service, taught by an instructor who also teaches fire fighters how to be urgent response drivers and thus taught to a very high standard) I would have been very likely to have never been tested behind the wheel again, unless there’s a law change I desperately want, for the next 61 years! As it is it’ll only be 54 years. That’s ridiculous.

    An example I like to give of how pathetic our licensing system truly is is this: every year there’re driving competitions around the country to test the skills of volunteer fire fighters. It’s all done off-road, in carparks and industrial lots, and tests their ability with controlling fire appliances around awkward obstacles and the like. Part of the testing is the theory tests for getting a class 2, being the theory scratchies (as it was then) for both classes 1 and 2. In one memorable year, about 90% of the contestants would’ve failed the theory for their class 2 licence, and only one person passed the class 1 theory. These are people who are responsible for driving trucks as urgent traffic. Does that scare you? It sure as hell scared me!

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Bryan Dods,

    Asserting that there is or ought to be a level playing field between light bikes and heavy cars is perfectly consistent with neoliberal looniness. Now if someone could just talk a bit about how bikes are holding back our economy by stifling drivers' freedom we may score a trifecta.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Ross Mason,

    But Greg’s root point resonates with me too – we forget who we are. Somehow dressing up in a metal skin transforms us from humans into arseholes

    I like riding bicycles. I like the quiet serene glide of smooth rubber on smooth tarmac. The hum of the chain. The meaningful clunk of the deraillier as it jumps to the next cog. The cool breeze. I remember the 6000km trip across Canada. Prairie dogs being startled by the quiet bike nd being able to SEE them. The Canada Geese honking high above. The eagles soaring. Saying hi to the farmers sitting on their varandah.

    Travelling by car I don't hear a wild thing. I don't see the frightened Prairie Dog, the Geese, the Eagle. Nor do I have even a a nanosecond to say hi - to anyone.

    Today, I am deafened by honking cars, trucks and vans. I am edged by mirrors. Cut off at the LH turns from turkeys driving cars unable to estimate the speed of a bike approaching the same corner but going straight thru. You know the ones. They could not possibly slow down to let the bike go across first. Hell no. It's MY road.


    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report

  • Bryan Dods, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    So how about we call it quits on the ACC thing?

    So how does the fairly recent leap in motorcycle ACC levy fit? Health benefits, exercise, and lower polution can all be applied to that form of transport. I think that most multi-vehicle crashes involving them are the car drivers fault too, from my observation.

    I was certainly not trying to excuse car drivers. At least two wheelers require both hands on the controls most of the time. I have seen drivers without either hand on the wheel all too often. (what are those dicks steering with?)
    Modern cars are so isolated from the environment that the sense of risk is reduced. Hence the slightly reckless driving styles.

    The general level of training in NZ is not high.
    I was fortunate to have some training in the Roadcraft system as taught to UK police drivers. The instructor roasted me for my youthful ways and brought me down to earth with quite a thump.
    It has saved me from danger more than I could possibly count.
    If only we had that level of education available for new drivers in NZ.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 46 posts Report

  • giovanni tiso,

    I have seen drivers without either hand on the wheel all too often. (what are those dicks steering with?)

    Asked, and answered.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report

  • Bryan Dods,

    Asserting that there is or ought to be a level playing field between light bikes and heavy cars is perfectly consistent with neoliberal looniness.

    Sorry? The general theme here seemed to be cyclists being entitled to equal rights as road-users. I was just pointing out some of the inequalities such as ACC, and throw road tax in there too, if you like.

    I was not suggesting that there ought to be a level playing field. I was questioning why so many cyclists think there should be.
    The roading network has developed for faster and heavier transport. It is also funded by the users of faster and heavier transport. It just happens to have enabled cyclists to travel faster and easier than before. Not necessarily safer, but the cycle is an unstable design anyhow.
    Incumbent/recline/feet forward design anyone?

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 46 posts Report

  • Jackie Clark,

    I feel so sorry for this poor woman's family. And I feel so sorry for all of us that, for some reason or another, we just don't get it. We don't get that when you're in your car, it's not just you and the road. We don't understand that we have to look out for each other. All the time. Even when we're parked at the side of the road, or tootling along at 50kph. Just like we have to look out for each other, and we don't, when we're not in our cars. And we don't get that other people are affected by our actions. Everything we do has a flow on effect. I don't think it's just NZers. I understand that in the UK, they have a fairly high rate of cyclist deaths. The difference may be that they are being seen to be doing something about it. I just don't know what the solution is. I hope we find one soon, though. What with kids getting killed by people running over them on driveways, and cyclists dying because people are so unthinking, and drivers carking it all over the place, and women dying in domestic abuse incidents, to name a few ways that we are all killing ourselves, surely there won't be anyone left?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Bryan Dods,

    Exercise from riding a motorcycle? Really? I'd like to see you argue the cardio benefits of being a motorcyclist with a doctor sometime!

    Motorcyclists are at fault in multi-vehicle collisions far more frequently than cyclists. They also kill themselves all on their own, which cyclists don't (in the period I saw stats for there wasn't a single fatality where a bicycle was the only vehicle). Adding up the multi-vehicle and single-vehicle stats for motorcyclists resulted in, from memory, about 46% of dead motorcyclists wearing a majority or all of the liability for their death.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Bryan Dods,

    Road tax is meant to capture damage to the road. Bicycles don't cause any.

    For ACC, I say, again, the vast majority of cyclists also own cars. So they pay ACC levies on registration. They mostly also have jobs, and a study of members of cycling clubs will show that most members are of higher socio-economic status. So they're paying ACC earner's levies too. And you still want more ACC levies because car drivers are incapable of sharing the road? Do you want kids to pay ACC levies for cycling to school, too?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

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