2300km journey a mind-opener

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Paul Gourlie and Hidenori Koike want New Zealand road users to stop being racist and take a look at what really causes problems on the roads. Photo / John Stone
Paul Gourlie and Hidenori Koike want New Zealand road users to stop being racist and take a look at what really causes problems on the roads. Photo / John Stone

Before you judge a country, ride 2300 kilometres on its roads.

Paul Gourlie and Hidenori Koike are doing just that; cycling from Bluff to Cape Reinga promoting healthy road culture and talking about the intolerance that often enters conversations about road safety.

The pair passed through Whangarei yesterday, on day 36 of their 2300km trip.

Along the way they had spoken to politicians and fellow cyclists.

Mr Gourlie had also taken photos documenting dangerous stretches of road, which he then relayed to local authorities.

"We can either continue to be racist and blame [foreigners] or we can try and change the conditions on our roads," Mr Gourlie said.

Tokyo native Mr Koike said that in his home city people tended to drive much more slowly, noting the speed limit even on motorways was 80km/h and inner-city drivers were much more aware of cyclists and pedestrians.

Mr Gourlie said that "99.9 per cent" of road users in New Zealand were quite good and the pair had had only three near-misses during their long journey, including an incident where a small car towing a boat overtook a truck on a blind corner.

"I can think of another one when going into Dunedin where an old fella was trying to use a cellphone to take a photo," he said.

Mr Gourlie himself being the old fella in question. "Overall we've found drivers are incredibly aware and truck drivers in particular are incredibly professional."

In Northland, Mr Gourlie said getting logging trucks off the road would contribute to safety, as well as some infrastructure improvements, particularly around bridges.

Formerly a Whangarei political activist, Mr Gourlie said his favourite part of the trip had been cycling the road into Whangarei.

"We're very parochial," he said.

"In seriousness though, [the whole country] is all so different."

The pair had been keeping "gentlemen's hours", staying with family and friends, freedom camping and cycling about 30km on a slow day and up to 100km on particularly ambitious days.

- Northern Advocate

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