Martine Rolls: Focus on safe cycling

I'm not sure what depresses me the most at the moment. It's a toss-up between the on-going bad weather, the new threats to our coastline now that Rena has split and half sunk, or the fact that I haven't had a decent break over Christmas... Oh, and let's not forget the fact that a cyclist got hit and killed by a car on the weekend, too.

Being from the Netherlands, I used to go everywhere on my bicycle. There, it is people's first choice of transportation. In Tauranga, I have only been out cycling a couple of times. The first reason why I don't get on my bike much is that I don't feel safe doing it. Less important, but also a reason, is that I hate wearing a helmet.

There were a few comments on the story about the killed cyclist when we posted it online. Some people blame the drivers, others blame cyclists, but I think it's the roads that need to be blamed. Most roads are not suitable for cycling at all and these include roads that are popular with cyclists like Welcome Bay Rd and the section of State Highway 36 where the accident happened. Bicycle lanes in Tauranga, if they exist at all, are a complete joke. No two ways about it.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Sylvia Dovaston commented on Facebook: "Since this involved two cyclists, I wonder if they were riding two abreast? One killed, the other injured in hospital? I know that buses and trucks and even cars don't always give cyclists the space they need but I have been around a lot of inconsiderate cyclists where I live, a rural road in a 100km/h speed zone. Coming around the bend or corner and having to encounter three or, at times, four cyclists taking up the whole lane isn't much fun when you have a milk truck coming towards you."

I agree with Sylvia when she says: "New Zealand needs to do something to make the roads safe for both cyclists and other vehicles. I grew up in Holland, where there are miles of cycle paths which cyclists actually use instead of riding on the road right next to it. As soon as children bike to school, they have to pass a basic test to ensure they are safe and aware of what goes on around them," she says.

Donna McLeod said on Facebook: "As for kids biking, my son uses the footpath; with the drivers these days it's not worth the risk to try the roads."

I also use the footpath when I am on my bike because it makes me feel safer but that idea just went out the window when I read JosephBloggs' comment on our website.

"It is more dangerous to ride on the sidewalk because a) cars backing out of driveways don't look for cyclists; b) cars pulling out of alley-ways don't look for cyclists; c) as a cyclist on the sidewalk you must yield to all pedestrians; d) the sidewalks are often broken, out of repair, bumpy, filled with broken glass and other debris, etc. Need I go on?"

Anyway, after I had finished updating on Sunday I was very tempted to go straight to Google and search for some sweet deals on flights that would take me out of here. A 10-day getaway to Aitutaki or Fiji would suit me just fine right now.

Unfortunately, I won't be going anywhere soon because I am flat broke. No matter the good intentions I had to have a cheap and cheerful Christmas, I'm guilty as charged of ridiculous overspending.

Yes, I have spoiled my friends and family quite a bit but I have also bought myself an iPad2 and I've splashed out on some nice perfume that I really didn't need.

Maybe when the rain finally stops, I'll set my tent up in the backyard. With my new wireless connection and the iPad, I can update the paper's website and social media pages from there. I'll just pretend to be on holiday.

With this fictitious holiday feeling, I'd even consider taking my bike to the reserve across the street for a leisurely ride. At least there's no risk of getting hit by a car there. Then again, as a good friend discovered recently, there are little dogs there running free and they are eager to lash out and put punctures in cyclists' ankles.

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