Radio NZ National does cycling

Fear Factor of cycling

The "fear factor" is keeping would-be cyclists off the roads in New Zealand. Dr Ben Wooliscroft says driver aggression is the main factor given by people for NOT cycling and he's calling on transport agencies to both improve driver education - and to enforce road rules designed to protect cyclists.

Dr Ben Wooliscroft, Otago cycling researcher; Barbara Cuthbert, Co-Chair of Cycle Action Auckland; Mike Noon, AA General Manager of Motoring; and Andy Knackstedt, NZ Transport Agency.

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Kia ora !
Alan Preston here in Christchurch.

Having lived and cycled every day in Japan for 10 years, where all demographic groups are well represented among that country's 86 million cyclists who ride bikes ( of styles that we can't even get in New Zealand ) ,unhelmeted and whereever possible, on the footpaths , it is glaringly obvious that it is primarily the restrictive laws and punitive approach to cyclists that are the root cause limiting the uptake of what is arguably the most efficient way for us to minimise our carbon emissions ( not to mention the host of other benifits that cycling brings ) .

The arguments surrounding cycling in New Zealand are all based in either side aggressively asserting their rights " to 'share the road"and the responsibilities of others 'drivers should be more considerate ' cyclists shouldn't ride two abreast etc , while the reality is that for the vast majority of us it is plain to see that fundamentally, forcing cyclists to ride ON THE ROAD with motor vehicles is potentially extremely dangerous.

The fear that is keeping 'ordinary' kiwis off their bikes is based in reality but it is NOT the aggressive driving style that is the real constant menace: It is the configuration that puts cyclists between parked and moving vehicles and the fear is always of the aberrant.

Continuing to assert that 'we can change driver attitudes' may assuage those with authoritarian tendencies but it is never going to assuage the fears of the vast numbers of would-be cyclists who should never have to surrender control of their destiny to unknown drivers.

Because all cyclists are prohibited at all times from using the existing network of segregated pathways ( i.e. 'footpaths'), what we call 'vulnerable user groups ( i.e. the elderly , women in general,children and the non-athletic ) refuse to relinquish control of their destiny to untrustworthy drivers of motor vehicles and therefore to cycle here AT ALL.

Because there are virtually no 'slow' cyclists in New Zealand, there is a very low awareness and correspondingly no demand, for the urban-appropriate 'slow/comfort/utility cycling styles and technologies that make cycling practical, practicable, comfortabe, convenient, reliable and safe for the vast majority of cyclists in Europe and Japan. ( where you'll see very few of the mechanorexic mountain bikes and road racers that kiwis are limited to )
" 1.2 million Kiwis own a bike", -unfortunately they are not of styles that incorporate the technologies that make cycling so practicable for the Europeans and Japanese.

Because the 'vulnerable user groups' refuse to ride bicycles at all , there is no political imperative to make provision for what is currently a non-existant group .

Neither is there any political mileage in supporting the small number of brave,athletic,compliant and assertive ('competent, confident and experienced' 'officer class' ) VEHICULAR cyclists ( the extremely low percentage of us who currently use a bicycle for transport every day)

New Zealanders (rightly) think of (and see) 'cyclists' as predominantly male, 25-45 years old, riding mountain bikes and road racers as fast as possible between parked and moving cars, in traffic , wearing helmets, sunglasses, lycra, backpacks, athletic, assertive, cabable, confident etc...

The picture in the western European 'cycletopias' and Japan is very different.
You could not generalise as to what a cyclist is in those places in the same way that you could not describe what a typical 'driver of a motor car' is in New Zealand. Nor could you generalise about their opinions on how cyclists 'should' behave.

Cycle Advocates ,Local Governments and the Land Transport Agency need to completely change their approach to one that encourages the 'vulnerable user groups to cycle.
If we can provide for these groups first , we can get the numbers we need to get cycling facilities for everyone.

Instead of wasting energy in painting in more (fatally flawed) on-road cycle lanes, look to the Japanese model to see that pedestrians + slow utility cyclists can and do easily co-exist , even in areas of high pedestrian traffiic. ( Remember 86 of Japan's 124 million people cycle for transport )

The Government of New Zealand can open up cycling to the vulnerable user groups by simply changing the law which prohibits cycling on footpaths,- and by allowing 'slow'cyclists to ride with segregation from motor-vehicles, - under these conditions it will not be so politically inexpedient to rescind the law which currently imposes the wearing of helmets on all cyclists at all times.

Instead of wasting energy trying to 'negotiate' ( with no real power) with democratically elected representatives to remove the right of their constituents to curbside parking and trying to get the speed limit down to 30 kms in urban areas , look to the Danish model to see that cycle lanes work better (i.e appeal to a much wider demographic ) on the inside of parked cars.

At the moment provision is only being made for expansion of the existing cycling culture, not for the needs of the vast majority of us who don't and won't cycle given present conditions.

Segregation, not assertion , is the way forward for the vast majority.

If we won't change, we'll end up where we're going !

Alan Preston in Christchurch

Promoting urban appropriate utility bicycles and utility cycling in New Zealand

I agree with Alan. I`ve done some cycling in Germany where all age groups enjoy the safety of sharing lanes with pedestrians, away from motor traffic. Cheap options are not the answer and if money can be found for tarsealing of country roads, then money can also be found for construction of separate cycle/pedestrian lanes. Tarsealing also has drawbacks in that it encourages faster motor traffic. Many of these roads are winding and not suitable for speeds of 100ks per hour. Isn´t there a case for slowing down, pausing and looking around? So leave these metal roads alone and look after the needs of cyclists in urban areas and highways.