Cycling, driving a two-way street: The Marlborough Express
The Marlborough Express | Monday, 21 July 2008

The Marlborough District Council is moving to put cycle lanes along two arterial routes into the centre of Blenheim, along Redwood St and Maxwell Rd, writes The Marlborough Express in an editorial.

The lanes will see the loss of more than 500 parking spaces.

With one fell swoop the council has both encouraged cycling and discouraged driving.

Cycle lanes are at the tamer end of what a council can do to promote cycling.

If this town had traffic lights, for instance, it could follow the example of radical cycle-loving cities and install a system that allows cyclists to move off first before the other traffic.

But this is Blenheim, not Amsterdam.

There is an argument that Blenheim doesn't have enough cyclists to even put in cycle lanes. But it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation. More cyclists will come to use the roads if they are made safer.

Transit New Zealand figures from 2006 show about 30 percent of the population cycle. That's about 1.3 million people. That figure will include those with mountain bikes, young children and even those who got a bike for Christmas and promised themselves they would get fit as a New Year's resolution but rode it only once.

But a good chunk of that 30 percent is using the roads and the number is growing. And one of the most potent ways of encouraging people to cycle is to make the roads safer.

It is a two-way street cyclists must obey the rules and show a little courtesy on the roads.

The Cycling Advocate Network has come up with a nine-point plan to make cycling safer. It has some very basic and sensible ideas. They include making sure every roading project has a cycling audit to ensure all such work improves the cycling environment, putting a section in the driver licensing system and driver instruction (including bus and truck drivers) so motorists are educated about how to take care around cyclists and the nationwide roll-out of cycle skills training for children and adults.

The Marlborough District Council and others around Marlborough have taken a few steps to make it easier. The cycle route round Renwick is both a positive reinforcement of the cyclist's right to be on the road and informative for locals and tourists alike.

The big signs in spots like Queen Charlotte Drive warning of cyclists and runners and walkers are a reminder on such a tricky road that motorists need to be on the look out.

Cyclists are so vulnerable on the roads.

The death of policeman Steve Fitzgerald in Petone recently and numerous other cycle deaths and severe accidents has highlighted just how vulnerable cyclists are. Any crash with a vehicle is always going to hurt a rider more than the driver or passenger in a vehicle.

Cycle lanes are just part of the safety story.

But the implementation of cycle lanes in Redwood St and Maxwell Rd will be a very good start.