Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: When "common sense" isn't

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  • Aidan,

    This is an interesting take on why motorists seem to dislike cyclists to an irrational degree


    It does seem to align with many of the complaints I have seen motorists make about cyclists. If true, then an education campaign and social pressure to increase goodwill and understanding might well yield real dividends.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The "right or privilege" argument doesn't just relate to s 18 (1) of BORA (right of free movement) but goes further back, to s.29 of Magna Carta, which established the rule of law. Because of that, people have a "right" to do *anything*, but that right can be curtailed or regulated by parliament. There is no such thing as a "privilege" in a society ruled by laws.

    To illustrate this, suppose I invented a star-trek type teleport. No laws* regulate such things so I would have an undisputed right to use it at will. Once limbs start being lost and people turning up where they aren't meant to be, then the government would no doubt introduce some form of regulation. That wouldn't make teleporting a "privilege" just a more constrained and regulated "right".

    * Maybe the laws of thermodynamics

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Danielle, in reply to Aidan,

    What percentage of car drivers is actually enraged by cyclists, though? I haven’t ridden a bicycle for about twenty years, but it has pretty much NEVER occurred to me to be enraged by a cyclist. Sum total of my thoughts about cyclists on the road is “oh, there’s a cyclist. Am I giving them enough room here?”, often followed by me trundling past them checking my mirrors nana-driver style. Now, there is obviously a subset of drivers that gets all crazypants about cyclists, but how large a subset is it? I am honestly curious.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Which is exactly how it's been since at least the early 1980s.

    OK, so GDL came in in 1987. There's a mismatch with my memory here, as I turned 15 in 1986 and was highly motivated to get a license, because I had to commute on 2 buses to school each way. Technically I was allowed to apply, but practically, they managed to hold me through until GDL came in. I don't know how deliberate this was, or whether it was a result of massive last minute booking of everyone wanting to get a license the easier way. The main thing people wanted to avoid was the delay of the 2 year restricted license.

    Academic research on the immediate and on-going effect that the introduction of the graduated driver licensing scheme had on crash rates amongst young drivers compared to prior is here.

    You read the report, right? It says:

    Given that unlicensed driving did not appear
    to have increased it was thought that there must have been
    less driving by young drivers, which was possibly the most
    important reason for the reduction in crashes among this


    From the results of these evaluations, it seemed that a
    major impact of GDL was a sharp reduction in the
    amount of driving by young people, thus reducing their
    exposure to crash risk.

    It doesn't conclude that the decline should be attributed to drivers being better trained.

    Indeed, if you cared to read it even more carefully, and look at the graph of crash statistics plotted over time, you'll notice that the 41+ bracket of drivers has had no significant change from 1980 to 2000. These are your "cornflake packet" drivers. Their accident rate has stayed rock solid, and well below that of all the younger groups.

    I will give you that GDL had a very significant impact on making younger drivers less likely to have accidents. No one disputes this here, do they? I went through the early part of it myself and it all just seemed like good sense to me at the time. Don't let kids drive each other around at night, drunk! That's going to reduce accidents, definitely.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Aidan, in reply to Danielle,

    PA might not be a representative sample, but try asking rellies or workmates about cyclists. I reckon you'll be surprised at the level of animosity, I know I was.

    I wear high viz all the time on my commute, mainly because I bought those shirts the tradesmen wear, they are cheap as and basically indestructible. The first time I wore one I was abused by some blokes in a car -- I was on a physically separate bike path about 5m away, not sure why they bothered. Next day I was "buzzed" by a car just down the road from my house. I have never had that happen before or since, and I reckon they thought they'd give the doofus cyclist a bit of a scare.

    A friend of mine who turned left on to a road was run off the road by a car that felt aggrieved she had turned into their path. She remained to the left the whole time, they just decided to get angry, cut her off and get out and abuse her.

    Another friend of mine was cycling (on-road cycle way) when a car driver abused her. When she caught up with the car at the next lights she tapped on the roof and motioned for him to wind down the window -- she wanted to ask what she had done wrong that he had got angry. He wound down the window and punched her, hard enough she fell to the ground. He was a security guard at the University. Nice.

    I don't have alot of interaction with traffic -- luckily I have dedicated cycle/mixed use paths pretty much all the way to and from work, but my experience is there is a lot of anger out there.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report

  • Aidan,

    80% of cycle/car accidents the fault of the car, in Adelaide anyway:


    Take a look a the comment thread to get a feeling of just how much love is lost between cyclists and motorists.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report

  • RaggedJoe,

    I agree, a lot of anger out there. And often related to cyclists "cheating". Running red lights, undertaking on the left, weaving through lanes. Second biggest complaint, bunching up on rural roads. Just people I talk to, all bent of shape about cyclists and the perception that anyone on a bike is going to disturb the harmony of their drive.

    I cycle for exercise, a few Round Taupo's to my name. I cannot bring myeslf to commute, 30km each way (fine, good training). Would require Pakuranga Highway and probably Remuera road or Great South Road at rush hour. Risk is simply too high. Have a shower at work, have enough time in my day, breaks my heart, but there is simply not enough room on these roads for me and cars at that time of the day. So I drive. grrrrrrr

    I agree drivers may change as more cyclists flood the streets, but in the meantime cyclists can do two things.

    One. Obey the road rules. It doesnt take much longer and it takes away on the the key aggravating factors for drivers.

    Two. Make room for cars to pass when cycling in a group. Wave thanks when you cant avoid holding people up. I always do and it is often acknowledged by the driver.

    Oh and ignore the wankers, giving people the finger who have just obviously tried to scare you just validates their actions in their own werid mixed up worlds. No reaction is not satsifying to them.

    City of Sales • Since Sep 2008 • 72 posts Report

  • Islander, in reply to Aidan,

    PA might not be a representative sample, but try asking rellies or workmates about cyclists.

    I dont have workmates (writers are solitary insects) but discussions about cyclists
    have come up between self & family, neighbours & friends. Some locals dislike the tour-gangs, the groups of cyclists that are offloaded from a van & trailer at the turnoff, and head out to the beach in a pack of 15-20 riders. We had an arrangment with 2 companies that they would put up notices at the turnoff & beach ends – but they stopped doing that last year. 2 of my family dont like the behaviour of large trucks on the Waimate-Kurow route because they tend fill a narrow road, not leaving much room for their kids to ride their bikes back from the bus drop-off points. However, that problem has ceased as one kid has graduated to a car and the other is now picked up from their front gate (rural area.)
    All of us who live in rural areas have had problems with cyclists who have no understanding how of heavily-trafficked the roads are but that doesnt make us *hate* cyclists. A lot of us relied on bikes for a substantial part of our lives: I biked from North Beach to Aranui HS for 5 years; for 2 years while working in woollen mills, and then for 3&1/2 years in both central CHCH & on the Coast as a postie… I was knocked off my bike twice in ChCh (leaving me with continuing neck & back problems – no ACC then) but only in the 2nd instance did the car driver get aggro at me (and was quickly quietened by his formidably large passenger who told me he would happily swear I wasnt doing anything wrong.)

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

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Aidan,

    I think that article could be changed to "why cyclists hate drivers" with just a couple of edits:

    Then along come drivers, innocently following what they see as the rules of the road, but doing things that cyclists can't: staying warm and dry, not getting sweaty, listening to the radio, drinking a coffee


    drivers reading this might think “But we're the majority. Try doing a 200 mile journey on a bike, especially with 38 tonnes of groceries. "
    ... Maybe the solution is to educate cyclists that most people driving are perfectly nice people and making an essential journey to earn a living or get someplace they need to be.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Danielle,

    What percentage of car drivers is actually enraged by cyclists, though?

    I bet it's roughly the same percentage as the number who are enraged by practically everything they don't like on the road. Just from observation over my life of the comments of angry drivers, it's a mindset, something that comes over them when they get in the box. This has been posted before but hey, why not:

    Which is not all people, naturally. But they're highly noticeable. Having been driving with some of these people since I was a teenager, I'd also say that it's an attitude that in most cases seems to slowly decline. People mostly seem to mellow. Mostly. Not all. Some hold-outs are still enraged by everything they see around them, but some combination of:
    1. Having a few crashes
    2. Having a real road rage incident
    3. Peer pressure of other mellowing people saying "Don't be a dick, man. What are you, 18?"
    4. Getting busted

    seems to slowly knock sense into people. Also, having kids in the car massively multiplies the sense of having something vulnerable at stake.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Maz, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    In my experience, it IS the worst, i.e. I have never felt more unsafe anywhere else.
    That doens't make NZ the worst in the world, as I have not been to China, Bulgaria, Timbuktu and many other places.
    Nowhere else have a been deliberately swerved at, cursed at, told to f off, had bottles thrown at me, been threatened with violence etc. So yes, in my view NZ has a bloody long way to go.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 30 posts Report

  • RaggedJoe,

    On visibility, my cycling jerseys are chosen purely on being seen at a distance, dayglo yellow in preference, fashion and brand has no value. I also drive my car with the lights on 24/7. Who doesn't want to be seen easily? Cycling in black? Just plain stupid sorry.

    I figure it only has to save my life once.

    City of Sales • Since Sep 2008 • 72 posts Report

  • RaggedJoe, in reply to Maz,

    We all have our own experiences. I drive in Europe and USA often once a year. Driving, can be good or bad. I generally find NZ pretty good in comparison, not great, but then neither is Naples.

    City of Sales • Since Sep 2008 • 72 posts Report

  • Aidan, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Which sort of makes his point. People identifying with a group and seeing "the others" getting away with something something grumble mumble.

    The point of that article was that this might well be normal human behaviour, and by acknowledging it maybe we can do something about it.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report

  • Ross Mason,

    I remember the "group therapy" that occured when Carlos Daze and 80km/h was introduced. The early morning "rush" quickly quietened the speedy racers who tended to lane jump (still a biggie) or raced to get behind the queue up the road. What happened was that someone in the "group" would move out to the outside lane, sit on 80k and cruise to the next set of lights. Talk about mass education!!!

    Here is Wikis list of driving license rules for US states.

    Note lots of hours needing to be logged as opposed to just a time period for Learning.

    Could we do better than this?? Driver Ed in US.

    But alas, all may not be well. As this review of the benefits or otherwise of driver education programmes concludes:

    Results: The international literature provides little support for the hypothesis that formal driver instruction is an effective safety measure. It is argued that such an outcome is not entirely unexpected given that traditional programs fail to address adequately the age and experience related factors that render young drivers at increased risk of collision.

    Conclusions: Education/training programs might prove to be effective in reducing collisions if they are more empirically based, addressing critical age and experience related factors. At the same time, more research into the behaviors and crash experiences of novice drivers is needed to refine our understanding of the problem.

    Here are some insights the authors think could be useful in considering how things might be improved:

    Driver education/training fails to teach the knowledge and skills critical for safe driving

    Driver education does teach safety skills but students are not motivated to use them

    Driver education fosters overconfidence

    Driver education fails to adequately address lifestyle issues

    Driver education fails to tailor content to student needs

    Now. Back to those pesky cyclists. It is probably the I I I, the ME ME ME and the THEY THEY THEY.

    "I" want to drive on "MY" road so "THEY" should get off the bloody thing.

    Game theory suggests - see Aidan linked paper above - that we are doomed to have these free loaders and freeloader haters in our midst.

    There are not enough empathetic bastards out there. Like me for instance. ;-)

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report

  • Stephen Judd,

    I ride for transport not pleasure most days. Probably drive the car 2-3 times a week, mostly longer trips on weekends.

    In the 10 or so years I've been doing it, I reckon I've had definitely malicious behaviour -- dodgy driving, shouting, thrown things, what have you -- about once a year on average. I've never had any driving road rage incidents in that time. So I'd say that full-on aggression to cyclists is rare in my experience, but it's more common than inter-motorist aggro.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole,

    Supporting the suggestion discussed here already, optometrists are calling for cyclists to use ankle and knee reflective bands because it’s more obviously a person than a static vest.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Islander, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    As a visually disabled person (I am so totally qualified to drive!)* I can quantify that reflective – and, especially ‘flashing reflectable aids’ are what non-car-users need.

    One of my mates is a heavy horse afficinionado: he not only has large vehichles before & aft of his wonderful horses – they are all equipped with ’flashing reflectable aids” on their low collar points, arse-ends. and following vehicle-

    *I am tested every six months.

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

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Maz,

    In my experience, it IS the worst, i.e. I have never felt more unsafe anywhere else.

    Alright, fair enough. But I don't find that particularly useful for figuring out what's wrong and how to fix it. Hard evidence strikes me as being a lot more useful than anecdata.

    Given Mali is in a state of civil war, and the front line is not too far from Timbuktu, and the rebels seem to be switching to terrorist tactics like suicide bombs and IEDs, I imagine driving in Timbuktu would be rather exciting.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Ross Mason,

    What happened was that someone in the “group” would move out to the outside lane, sit on 80k and cruise to the next set of lights. Talk about mass education!!!

    Now that I like. And I do precisely that (adjusted for appropriate speed limit), or, on those beautiful expressways with clearly signposted maximum and minimum speed limits, sit at whatever speed within those limits I consider most appropriate for the circumstances. I don't care how much they flash their lights or honk their horn, the impatient gits stuck behind me are just going to wait until they get a chance to pass - and then slam their brakes on when they come across a speed camera.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Also highly visible would be a high wattage flashing moving light on the helmet. Even more visible, would be to wrap the entire bike in reflective tape, and put lights on every spoke. Front torches could be mandated to a certain minimum wattage (I suggest around 50 watts, visually similar to a motorbike). Brake lights could also make more visible that a bike is stopping, and indicators would make it clearer that it is turning without the unbalancing hand extended. Horns could be mandated to be audible at 100m.

    Further safety could include mandatory vehicle safety checks, brakes, tyres, rust, and the above lighting permanently fitted, and tested. Helmets could be tested to a much higher standard.

    Where does safety end, really? Licenses? Kevlar elbow, ankle and kneepads? Reinforced jackets? The safest bike would be those ones in people's living rooms. Then you get the exercise without all the risk.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to BenWilson,


    Where does safety end, really? Licenses? Kevlar elbow, ankle and kneepads? Reinforced jackets?

    I have friends who simply will not put a helmet on their toddler who is learning to walk. I should report them to the authorities.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report

  • JackElder, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    In the 10 or so years I’ve been doing it, I reckon I’ve had definitely malicious behaviour – dodgy driving, shouting, thrown things, what have you – about once a year on average.

    This dovetails with my experience, both cycling here and the UK.

    Also highly visible would be a high wattage flashing moving light on the helmet.

    Not the helmet, but in winter I ride with one of these running on my front wheel: http://store.monkeylectric.com/ - it's as disco as hell, but it's pretty visible.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 709 posts Report

  • Caleb D'Anvers, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I don't think that's quite correct. What you're talking about there are "liberties," much weaker things than rights. Rights, on the other hand, are given to you by specific pieces of legislation (or under case law), that someone else has a duty to uphold.

    The problem is that our whole discourse surrounding rights, liberties, and privileges is so confused it's difficult to tell them apart in everyday usage.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report

  • DexterX,

    Is it cars or man which is man's curse upon himself - I can't tell for sure.

    The Monkey light is the answer - last night as I pulled out of the drive - about 9.30 PM a cycle whizzed past - he had front and tail lights, reflectors and a high viz vest on - but still wasn't that visible. It is a matter of size. Dynamo powered lights aren't that great.

    On helmets it is madness not to wear them - I was driving the Link bus and parked outside the Grafton halls of residence loading passengers when a cyclist went over the front handle bars, and was pile driven head first into the pavement – the impact was sickening, the helmet cracked like and egg shell, and his body was flung down the road.

    Leaving my seat I helped the guy to the grass verge and I was doing this I had passers-by vocally berating me for the accident (as I rendered assistance) – the guy dropped to his knees and threw up and then I lay him on his side – he started to shake and fit a little – and some passers-by came from across the road and stared to abuse me some more – the cyclist told this geezer to “Phuck off, he didn’t do it” and then dry wretched some more – his colour was that ashen grey you see in death situations – I hope things turned out OK for him in the long run – but without a helmet he would have been a lot nearer death than he was then.

    Once the guy and his bike where safely on the grass verge, after phoning an ambulance from the driver’s seat, I went back to loading passengers and leaving the cyclist with a nurse who was walking past. I drove off before the ambulance arrived.

    What had caused the accident was a car stopping in the middle the road, having driven to fast around the corner and then stopped to avoid hitting the grid locked traffic in front - the cyclist probably travelling somewhere between 20 to 30 kmh had no option but to break suddenly to avoid the car. The car effectivley pulled in fronot of the cyclist abd braked.

    What really pissed me off about this was that some of the people on the bus complained their arses off that I had rendered assistance to the cyclist and also the car driver who knew what had happened drove off.

    I get on a bike occasionally and have in the past biked to and from work – I would always wear a helmet and in winter a big yellow rain coat – people need to be aware of what is around them and considerate to other road users.

    If Sky City wanted better cycle lanes they would get them funded – all they would need to do is “Just Ask John”, as for the rest of us, well, we need to solve the problem ourselves.

    The root of the problem is a lack of consideration, people in cars pulling out without looking and the like – it doesn’t matter how visible you are on a bike if some one doesn’t look in your general direction they won’t see you. I feel a large portion of drivers of cars seem to think that they are sitting on the couch in front of a wide screen TV.

    The solution is driver training - the behaviour that is needed is drivers of car need to constantly scan 360’ using their mirrors and looking over their shoulders.

    Behind the wheel of a car your lack of consideration can kill someone - don't be an incosndierate bastard; trouble yourslef to look out for others.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report

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