Cyclists 'Impeding Traffic'?

Cyclist Really 'Impeding Traffic'?

Opinion Piece on Cyclists 'Impeding Traffic' by Don Babe, Chair of Spokes Canterbury



Alex Mann made a legitimate choice when he decided to travel by bicycle the day a police officer fined him for impeding traffic.

He obeyed the road code by keeping left but not so far he was in danger of falling in the drain or becoming unstable in the grit and debris often present on road edges.

He was aware that there was at least one vehicle behind him and believes he rode in a fashion that most of us would recognise as a signal that the vehicle should pass. Unfortunately these signals were not acted upon by the following vehicle either because they were taking photos or they were from a different culture and did not recognise the signals.

Most motorists will have done this at some time in their life, going a bit slow for some reason and moving to the left but the vehicle behind does not pass.

When the vehicle did finally pass the ticketing policeman was on his motor cycle in the queue.

The resulting ticket seems excessive. This situation arises often with tractors, mowers and even those pulling trailers that are limited to 90kmh on the open road often causing traffic to slow down.

The road code is definitely in support of Mr Mann's actions.

Dyers Pass Rd in the proximity of Victoria Park was used by people before motor cars came along. 

It was retro-fitted to allow motor cars to use it but not designed as a modern road with easy curves and good sight lines. Motor cars are able to use it now cautiously.  

Mixed use by any modes of transport results in all traffic being compromised. This does not mean other modes should not use it; just accept it for what it is, a narrow, windy hill road.

Requiring cyclists to move off the road whenever a car comes up behind them would make the road unusable for cyclists.

Cycling is becoming a more popular transport choice throughout New Zealand and this has been shown to have huge benefits for society, motorists and the cyclists. Considerate and courteous behaviour is required whenever two modes of transport share a space and it is good to see that in this case it seemed to prevail.

It is unfortunate that Mr Mann was ticketed for behaving properly and even more unfortunate that the judiciary upheld his conviction. These institutions do not produce perfect outcomes but thankfully we have a society that respects the outcomes and lets us voice our disappointment from time to time.


Photo by David Walker for Stuff/Fairfax.


Steven Muir and I met with two police officers about this case on 7 July 2015. These are the notes we took.

Report on a Meeting with Al Stewart and Scott Richardson from NZ Police regarding Cyclists Place on the Road following the Alex Mann Case.


Steven Muir and Don Babe from Spokes met the 2 police officiers at 10:00am on 7 July 2015.


Al Stewart asked what was to be achieved from the meeting. Don responded that we did not want to re-litigate the case but just wanted an understanding of what could have been done differently to get different outcomes.


Al Stewart's response was that the Police are not persecuting cyclists, in fact most of the officers cycle and want more cycles and less cars on the road. He produced evidence in the form of a summary of infringement notices issued for impeding traffic for the past 5 years. There were 221 offences excluding Alex Mann and only 1 was a cyclist.


Steve Muir asked for clarification of the Road Code in relation to taking the lane. He explained that he often takes the lane through road works for example. Al Stewart agreed this is often an appropriate action because it is for a short distance and cyclists often do the same speed motorist are restricted to anyway. Steve said he would take the lane on blind corners, Al said he would not in those circumstances partly because oncoming traffic may be across the centre lane anyway. This seemed to be accepted as a personal style difference.


When asked more specifics about Alex Mann's case the difference boiled down to the fact that the ticketing officer thought Alex could have made more effort to get off the road at the entrance to Victoria Park. Alex had pointed out there was extensive grit on the side of the road there but the Police assertion is that if Alex really wanted to he could have got off the road there. The court backed the police so that is why the outcome was produced.


Steve questioned some of the evidence given by the ticketing officer during the trial and the Scott said he would follow up where that evidence had come from.


There was a discussion about the media attention surrounding the case and the media's objective to have confrontation at every point. Scott was interviewed for the radio. He said the interview lasted 10-15 minutes but only a 30-45 second snippet was broadcast and it was not in context. Apparently the Press website closed their comments on the story when the number got to 1,040 because moderating the comments was taking too much staff time. All present thought the Press editorial a couple of days after Mr Mann was on the front page was very good.


Steve suggested it would be worthwhile adding yellow lines to the corners on the top section of Dyers Pass Road. The police thought this was a good idea and encouraged us to present the idea to the Community Board meeting at Lyttelton on 15 July.


As the meeting was concluding Don asked if there were any other matters affecting cylists. The response was just the normal ones, lack of or insufficient lighting in winter and cyclist ignoring red lights. There was a recent case in the city where a cyclist was well lit but his forward facing light was on his helmet. When he turned his head to follow a car that had cut him off at an intersection his light was no longer facing forward. Another car hit him and whilst it was the motorist's fault maybe the accident could have been avoided if the light was mounted on the bike.



We parted company amicably feeling we had gained an ally but with a different interpretation of Mr Mann's guilt. The police officers pointed out very strongly that this case does not create a precedent and is not the beginning of a campaign against cyclists.