Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Staying Alive

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  • Lisa Black, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    It's not crazy talk, Craig. And you'll notice that I agreed with the call for better infrastructure.

    My point is that the driver chose to park somewhere he couldn't exit the car safely from the driver's side. If your partner can't get out any other side I'd expect him to choose his park accordingly. That one obviously wouldn't have been a good one for him.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 71 posts Report Reply

  • Roger,

    This is not just our debate as an article from yesterday's Guardian illustrates. It is clear that both our, and the UK's, transport engineers and the rules that they work under have someting in common:

    The key change that we need in London is to reinstate the road user hierarchy, which Johnson scrapped in his revised London Plan. This hierarchy made the disabled, pedestrians and cyclists the priority when roads were being redesigned. Without reinstating this hierarchy, the engineers at Transport for London will consistently build roads that favour cars and lorries.

    Hamilton • Since Jun 2007 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Oh so it was her fault? […] Don’t pretend it’s Ok for drivers to open doors on bikes.

    REDACTED TO READ: OK, Bart, it’s obvious you’ve got incredibly strong feelings on the subject and I’ll leave it there.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black, in reply to Grant McDougall,

    Grant - the other cities tend not to be in New Zealand, although some like Nelson, Hastings, and New Plymouth are making good advances.

    For some reason New Zealand has gone down its own path with regard to road safety in general and bike infrastructure in particular. You will notice that other countries are not rushing to copy our methods. Best practice is coming from overseas, particularly Europe as Lilith noted above.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 71 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    This death was an "accident" in the same way Pike River was an "accident" or the Rena grounding was an "accident". In our obsession with "excessive" red tape and our constant search for magical solutions in deregulation we've forgotten that accidents are seldom that. An accident is an event that is unexpected and unpredictable - being hit lightning on a clear day is an accident. Jane Bishop's death is not by any ordinary use of the word an accident. The danger was identified four years previously. By all accounts, any number of regular users of that road regarded it as a notoriously life threatening spot. Yet nothing was done, until a life was lost. Only then the council acted, removing two car parks within days of her death - betraying that their corporate knowledge was aware all along where the danger was. Why isn't the council in the dock? Why hadn't they acted earlier? Was it just they were to incompetent or complacent or lazy or stupid (or all of them) to do their fucking job properly? These questions won't get to be asked in a public forum now. The fact of the matter is this woman is dead, the poor bugger who was the immediate cause is considerably out of pocket for legal expenses and no one in charge of traffic design and management is going to be held accountable. If there was ever a poster child for restoring the right for people to sue under certain circumstances, this is it. Even worse in my mind, no systematic public investigation into the reasons for and causes leading up to her death has been conducted. No lessons have really been learnt, beyond a pathetic "try harder next time".

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I’ve been doored. A van driver opened the door of his van and sent me sprawling across George St in Dunedin. He just didn’t look. It made me very aware of the need to keep an eye on parked cars.

    I’m reasonably impressed with the cycling infrastructure here in Palmerston North, ’though it could be better. Marked cycle lanes on all major roads, and a separate track on the busiest route of all out to the university. I think that what makes a real difference however, is the sheer volume of cyclists. Masses of secondary school kids bike to and from school, and plenty of people bike to and from the university. Car drivers seem to be much more aware of bike riders just because there are plenty of them. Even so, I’m worried about sending my 13 year old out there on her bike. I think it’s because the window between “Able to ride a bike” and “Able to ride a bike safely” might be quite large: 10 hours to learn to balance, pedal, steer, brake etc, but maybe 500 hours to develop an awareness of traffic and surroundings so that you don’t take risks. It’s things like knowing what reversing lights on a car look like, or noticing that someone is sitting in a car and may open a door. Of course, prima facie someone who is reversing or who opens a car door on a cyclist is at fault, but that’s no consolation for being seriously injured or dead.

    As for the very sad case in Auckland, it really does look as though the big problem is road design.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    And it's slightly off topic, but Clive of the Dog & Lemon Guide has previously published some still-relevant sanity on road safety with a hypothetical example (my emphasis).

    Bad driving style is undoubtedly a cause of accidents, but the finger of blame tends often to point towards groups that are only partly responsible. For example, 18-24 year old males, speeders and drink-drivers are especially likely to end up in accident statistics.

    However, there are many factors that combine to cause accident deaths. For example, here’s a typical open road fatal accident: An old lady is overtaken by a young male in a faster car. He collides with a woman driving in the opposite direction and kills her. He is seriously injured but survives. The news media has a field day as he’s dragged into court and convicted for dangerous driving or manslaughter. The victim’s family tearfully calls for the young man’s blood. As far as many people are concerned, the young hoon caused the accident, and therefore should be locked up, preferably forever.

    That’s all very understandable, but it’s not necessarily a true analysis of what actually occurred in our hypothetical accident. Let’s take a second look.

    The road was built in the 1950s and has been lightly modified over the years, but still can’t cope with modern traffic. It has few passing lanes. The old lady was a nervous driver, crawling along at 60km/h on the open road. She was not aware that a young, inexperienced and aggressive younger driver was directly behind her trying to get past. Eventually he swept past her in a rush of adrenaline, and the rest is history.

    In terms of bad driving style, the old lady was at least as much at fault as the young driver. She was not at fault for driving slowly, she was at fault for driving slowly in a way that would inevitably force other drivers to overtake unnecessarily. Had she simply pulled over every few kilometres the accident might never have happened, yet the statistics record only one driver as having been at fault.

    Another major factor in our hypothetical accident was the road. If the road had had frequent passing lanes the young driver might easily have passed safely.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Lisa Black, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    Glenn - vehicles yes, but drivers no. Or at least arguably not.

    Bike riders are called cyclists in other clauses of the Rule, which means they are something other than drivers.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 71 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    All very well to blame the council for having the parking bay there but the driver made a choice as well, he had other options as do drivers every day in Auckland they simply choose to put cyclists at risk for their own convenience.

    Bart, can I direct you to what Barb Cuthbert of Cycle Action Auckland -- who has devoted her life to safe and happy cycling in our city, and whose group conducted the survey of that spotand warned it was an accident waiting to happen four years ago -- says?

    Because it's not what you're saying. At all. She says in this morning's paper that Becker "was the fall guy for the infrastructure - [Jane Bishop] was the victim". And she's more familiar with what happened than any of us are.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Lisa Black,

    My point is that the driver chose to park somewhere he couldn’t exit the car safely from the driver’s side.

    He was parked in a marked car park. If the council is going to designate an area for parking, then they carry much of the responsibility for the safety of parking in that area.

    I cycle to work nearly every day; it's a 33km round trip, much of it on 60km/h four-lane roads. Some cycle lanes I use; some I ignore; for one 100m stretch I always ride on the footpath; and every one of those choices is made because I assess it to carry the least risk. Until we have proper infrastructure, that kind of thinking is the only way to stay alive cycling in Auckland.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Because it’s not what you’re saying. At all. She says in this morning’s paper that Becker “was the fall guy for the infrastructure – [Jane Bishop] was the victim”. And she’s more familiar with what happened than any of us are.

    Thank you, Russell. Barb Cuthbert also said on the television last night that there were no winners in that courtroom. Becker certainly didn’t look like some callous petrol head overjoyed at getting away with “dooring” a dirty hippy to death.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to James Butler,

    He was parked in a marked car park. If the council is going to designate an area for parking, then they carry much of the responsibility for the safety of parking in that area.

    Quite.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • elsketcho, in reply to bob daktari,

    Roads are designed for vehicles and vehicles are designed for roads. There is simply no way that vehicles can be removed from inner city roads, nor should they be, not without investing tens of billions in transport alternatives. I doubt many people would stand for goods and services being delayed or restricted due to supply and delivery problems. Perhaps if cyclists were to contribute some form of license fee, and this revenue were to be channeled directly towards the creation of dedicated cycleways, the problems could be alleviated.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to Lisa Black,

    Lisa, from the act you helpfully linked to

    driver means a person driving a vehicle; and includes the rider of an all terrain vehicle, a motorcycle, a moped, a cycle, a mobility device, or a wheeled recreational device

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 504 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Because it’s not what you’re saying.

    There is no doubt that having a parking space there was stupid. But it was stupid because it is predictable that drivers will not check before opening their car door.

    IF every driver thought about the possibility of a cyclist being there before opening their door and checked thoroughly then that parking space would have been safer.

    But we know most drivers never think about cyclists when opening a door (or even when driving). Hence it was predictable that an injury or death would occur at that spot. And CAA did predict it.

    Their point is that having predicted it - it becomes the council's fault for not acting on that prediction.

    Both things are true
    It is true that it is the council's fault because they could have and should have removed that parking space
    And
    It is true that if the driver had taken more care exiting his car the death would not have occurred.

    Are you arguing that asking a driver to take that level of care to protect another human is unreasonable?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to elsketcho,

    Perhaps if cyclists were to contribute some form of license fee, and this revenue were to be channeled directly towards the creation of dedicated cycleways, the problems could be alleviated.

    Cyclists save public money by being healthier. They pay rates and taxes. They use far less space and cause far less wear than car and truck drivers. And the fact that they're not in a car makes more room on the road for everyone. A registration fee would be a powerful disincentive to cycling and a whacking great net deficit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Are you arguing that asking a driver to take that level of care to protect another human is unreasonable?

    I always check my mirrors, because I'm also a cyclist. But I cannot honestly guarantee that I would have done better in that particular situation than that driver did.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    Lisa, from the act you helpfully linked to

    driver means a person driving a vehicle; and includes the rider of an all terrain vehicle, a motorcycle, a moped, a cycle, a mobility device, or a wheeled recreational device

    I didn't think the judge would be wrong in law. And yet, we all do it, because it's the only practical thing -- and sometimes the safest thing -- to do.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But I cannot honestly guarantee that I would have done better in that particular situation than that driver did.

    That's what I'm saying as well. Both things are true. It was a bad parking space because it is unlikely every driver will take the care needed.

    Don't design bad parking spaces.

    Don't open your door without checking for other humans.

    You design roads with the knowledge people make mistakes but you also ask people to not make mistakes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman,

    When I was living in Auckland I was fascinated by the cavalier attitude drivers had to opening car doors into traffic. Given how narrow many of the major roads are (compared with Christchurch) I'd have thought people would be more careful regardless of cyclists, lest their doors be swiped by passing cars. My theory is that people learn to subconsciously listen for approaching cars, and time their door-opening more carefully than they realise. Which doesn't work for relatively quiet bicycles.

    On the other hand, Auckland drivers were – in my anecdotal experience –remarkably relaxed about sharing the lane when I demonstrated an intention to occupy it. This usually causes Christchurch drivers to tootle their horns with vigour. I figure Auckland drivers are trained to let people in by motorway driving. Christchurch drivers seem to be generally hazy about what a motorway even is.

    Over the years I've got increasingly relaxed about occupying the lane while cycling whenever I judge that there's no room for anybody to safely pass me. I used Tamaki Drive only a couple of times during my time in Auckland, but at that bottleneck I'd make sure I was far enough out to be clear that passing me wasn't an option.

    Which is not to blame the cyclist. Getting in the way of cars runs against our normal instincts for safety and politeness, and I understand perfectly why most people are reluctant to do it. But I've had many more unpleasant incidents on the road when I was too timid than when I was too bold.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Mike Graham,

    Despite many words being written by Auckland Council officers, there is really only lip service being paid to building new cycle lanes. Take Ngahue Drive (borders Stonefields) as an example - this road was recently realigned to be 2 (narrow) lanes each way.

    As a result there is nowhere for cyclists to ride safely - not even a footpath if travelling north-east. Surely it would not have been a big expense to have created a cycle-lane at the same time as the realignment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 206 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Roger,

    This hierarchy made the disabled, pedestrians and cyclists the priority when roads were being redesigned. Without reinstating this hierarchy, the engineers at Transport for London will consistently build roads that favour cars and lorries.

    That is a core problem of attitude, yes. New Zealand's national policy and funding system is also hopelessly biased in favour of cars and trucks. The Government in the last few years has switched funding and official policy priorities that bind local transport managers quite deliberately out of public transport infrastructure and local road maintenance into silly new highways to buy provincial votes and keep the trucking and construction lobbies in a generous frame of mind.

    There's a limit to how much Councils can put rates up to make up the shortfall, and we can expect fewer cycle lanes and more potholes in local roads all over the country. You'll recall the previous Minister Steven Joyce decreeing that Auckland Transport is to kowtow to national policy settings (roads, roads, roads) and changing the composition of its board to have even more govt appointees to ensure that.

    None of which lets the previous Auckland City Council off the hook for failing to listen and act on the well-offered advice of expert cycling advocates. That arrogance is a risk wherever it occurs. There are pockets that have survived the transition into the region-wide Auckland Council, and it lets down all the other people doing good work and understanding the value of engaging well.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Isaac Freeman,

    Christchurch drivers seem to be generally hazy about what a motorway even is.

    the government's working on that.
    progress!

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    They use far less space and cause far less wear than car and truck drivers.

    I can't remember the relativity for cyclists, but one truck causes as much damage to a road as 8,000 cars. It's pretty clear who the current system is subsidising.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Are you arguing that asking a driver to take that level of care to protect another human is unreasonable?

    FFS, Bart, in this specific case Glenn Becker was charged with a criminal offense for which he could have ended up in prison. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I’m sure both Becker & Bishop would have done things very differently. (Take a really deep breath before you go nuclear again, Bart – please.) It is unreasonable to remember we’re also discussing a human being here, and you’re making a lot of assumptions about his conduct that the prosecution couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt?.

    Also, it’s really not helping a rational discussion when you get so damn hostile and defensive at the merest suggestion that it’s not always a case of “two wheels good, four wheels bad”. 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.

    (You really don't want to start this heavy public transport user on the fuck-wittery of cyclists and drivers who seem to think it's OK to cut in on a fully loaded bus, because they can brake on a dime. Whole other rant...)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

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