Off your bike, love.

It’s been almost a year since I bought the object of my affection– as discussed earlier, that would be my bike– and I have been cycling to work every day since (weather permitting). I still love it and have even begun to enjoy the physical exertion!!!

But for everything I love about biking, there are many that I don’t.

Whenever someone finds out that I bike I always get the same reaction “You really shouldn’t, it’s so dangerous!” or “I hope you’re being careful” or even “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!!!!” -yes, someone has said that to me.

Recently a man in central Auckland did in fact die while cycling in the late afternoon. Now I’m not going to throw blame on the cyclist for what he may or may not have done, nor criticize the truck driver’s abilities, plenty of mud has been thrown on both sides. But I will say that the reaction this incident has caused has really highlighted the vehemence that drivers feel towards cyclists. Namely– cyclists should not be on the road.

Well where else are we supposed to go? There are occasional bike tracks around the city but they do not connect with each other, and often cyclists have to navigate dangerous intersections on motorways just to get to the entrance of them (i.e Newton Road along the Western Motorway). I have been told that I should bike on the pavement but for one, that’s illegal, and for another, on the times I have taken this route I’ve had cars almost crash into me as they rush to evacuate their driveways.

Most of my commute to work has a bus lane dotted with signs saying that cyclist are also entitled to use it. But I do so at my own peril. I’ve often been chased down by buses blaring their horns as I cycle as fast as I can to get out of their way. I’ve had buses pass me (so they know I’m there!), pull in to a stop, and as I’m speeding past suddenly pull out onto the road, horn screeching so that everyone can notice my mistake. I’ve been forced off the road more than once, having to make an emergency crossing to the footpath on the opposite side to avoid being hit. I now either stop and wait in the exhaust behind a bus until it moves on, or skirt it on the foot path.

Damn, I'm wearing my cloak of invisibility again!
Damn, I’m wearing my cloak of invisibility again!

Not to mention the countless times cars have recklessly pulled out of side streets expecting me to suddenly stop and give way to them (even though I am biking straight! down a hill! at top speed!).

And the government isn’t much better, pouring millions of dollars into improving the roads for cars and ignoring the needs of cyclists saying that we don’t have a high enough cycling population to justify the spending. Maybe more people would bike if it wasn’t so dangerous! In fact this has been proven in many European and American cities. If you improve cycle lanes, the cyclists will come. Surely the ease in congestion should be incentive enough?? Check out the astonishing comparison of NZ cycle spending here: http://transportblog.co.nz/2014/01/20/auckland-cycling-spend-comparison/

The way I see it, more cycle ways etc would be great but that is not the problem. The problem isn’t even individual drivers, or cyclists who often take the law into their own hands to avoid vehicles that pack a lot of punch. The problem is our car culture. If we can stop seeing cars as the masters and rightful owners of the roads and instead foster a broader road community of cars, buses, cyclists, pedestrians and the like, then there will be less rage and fewer fatalities. Our roads should be a shared space, where no one form of transport takes priority. If we are all aware and considerate of each other, without the current sense of entitlement, we can all get about our business in a safer and more productive environment.

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2 thoughts on “Off your bike, love.”

  1. Great post, and good to hear about someone that just wants to get around.
    Would like to point out that the tried and true way to make car drivers more aware of cyclists, and hence make the roads safer, is to get more people cycling.
    By investing in major infrastructure along key routes, this will get more people cycling, and make car drivers more aware of cyclists on roads where the facilities are lacking.
    Last year Christchurch decided just that, and thus will have a great network within a few years, would love for Auckland to do the same.

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