'Aggressive' drivers deter cycling tourists

New Zealand needs to put its money where its mouth is if it wants to become a true ecotourism destination, says a family of cyclists scared off the roads.

European couple Wouter van Wezemael and Vanessa Mudarra are calling for more cycle lanes after being forced to use public transport on their charity bike ride, traversing the length of New Zealand to raise money for Forest & Bird.

But Transport Minister Steven Joyce says work is being done, and it is a matter of logistics and money.

The family began their journey in Cape Reinga on November 1, but by Taupo they swapped their bikes for buses and trains, after becoming terrified for the safety of their 15-month-old daughter Ella.

Ella travels in a trolley towed behind Mudarra's bike.

The lack of cycle lanes meant cars were passing the family too close and at high speeds, Mudarra, 30, said.

"With a baby we don't want to take those sort of risks."

Van Wezemael, 37, agreed, and said they had feared for their lives on at least six occasions.

He wrote in an online blog that they found the attitude of Kiwi drivers shocking, particularly when everyone was so welcoming off the road.

"So friendly, patient and understanding when not behind the wheel, and so aggressive, impatient and suicidal when given a car."

People behaved as if cyclists had no place on the roads, he said in Wellington yesterday.

"They treat you like possums, they just don't care if you're there or not." The biggest problem was the roads, he said. Bad drivers were everywhere, but the lack of cycle lanes meant there was no safe place for people to ride.

That was shocking for a country with a reputation for ecotourism, he said.

The Government had to step up and commit to more cycle lanes.

"It shocks with the green image that you can't even cycle."

Eight cyclists have been killed on New Zealand roads this year. Last year 10 people were killed and 895 injured.

Joyce said yesterday the Government had committed $50 million to cycle lanes over the next three years, but it was an issue of both cost and logistics.

While cycle lanes were being steadily introduced, there were still thousands of kilometres of highway that were not included in the plans.

"That would be a phenomenal sum of money."

As highways were improved, particularly with the $11 billion package for roads of national significance, more cycle lanes would open, he said.

The family last night travelled by ferry to the South Island, hoped its roads would be more hospitable for cyclists.


Can This Family Cycle The Length Of New Zealand?