Fear of being bashed by rage-fuelled drivers is the main reason New
Zealanders steer clear of bikes, according to a new report.
Otago University lecturers and passionate pedallers Dr Ben Wooliscroft and Alexandra Ganglmair-Wooliscroft sent out 3000 surveys to randomly selected Kiwis for their Mean Streets study focusing on attitudes to
They received almost 600 replies which revealed an overwhelming amount of respondents stayed off two wheels because of driver behaviour. The threat of attacks far outweighed factors that could entice people to part with their car, including petrol costs, cycle lanes and easier
commutes to work.
"It's hard of me to think of a cyclist I know who hasn't been confronted by a driver in one way or another," says Wooliscroft, 42.
"We've been chased. We've had to cycle up one-way streets to get away
from people. We get verbal abuse. The latest one I heard was, 'Don't be so cheap, buy a car'."
The Dunedin couple found an anecdotal link between the big increase in
petrol prices and a rise in driver aggression.
Wooliscroft says: "When petrol prices went from $1.20 up to $2.40 in quite a short time it seemed that a lot of people were being very impatient.
"They thought, 'I'm paying so much a litre.
"I have to get there as quickly as possible - don't slow me down'.
"And yet the councils and Government are focusing on the two [factors]
that are less important - cycle lanes and kilometres from work," said
Competitive cyclist Brett Burton, 43, suffered serious head and spinal injuries after a pile-up in one of New Zealand's toughest races, the Coromandel Peninsula K2, last month.
The Aucklander was left crumpled on the road, apparently after riders were squeezed between a ute and a milk tanker.
"We came across the ambulance that was taking away the poor chap who
had crashed," said Wooliscroft.
"I wasn't surprised because the drivers were so poor there. They were very aggressive.
"We've got a little piece of polystyrene on our head, a little bit of leather on our hands and we are out there sharing the streets with
one-and-a-half-tonnes of steel."
Auckland Cycle Action co-chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert agreed that driver
attitudes were an obstacle to cyclists.
"I'd say a good 50 per cent ... are afraid of what drivers will do.
"It's just a simple physical issue that the cars are big and threatening and in any battle the cyclists will always come off worse."
The report concludes by calling on the Government to improve driver
behaviour around cyclists and to enforce the road laws
designed to protect them.
RAGE ON THE ROAD
Darren Strachan has seen plenty of road rage since he started biking Auckland roads in 1985.
He says some of the worst offenders are mothers dropping off children at school in their 4WD vehicles.
And he's had his fair share of drivers cutting him off, mostly with
the excuse they didn't see him.
"They don't really treat you as though you have the right of passage. I guess on the road 'might is right'."
He advises cyclists to "ride assertively and defensively", without
His partner in Auckland business Bike Works, Paul Sumich, was a cycle courier for 10 years. He said more people are taking up cycling
despite fears of angry motorists.