Dan Sloan: Toughen up road rules for Tour De Wannabes

113 comments
As a city, Auckland must decide who to accommodate on its roads. Photo / Richard Robinson
As a city, Auckland must decide who to accommodate on its roads. Photo / Richard Robinson

I have had the pleasure of living in Auckland's central-eastern suburbs my entire life. It is a wonderful place, with parks, open spaces and beaches.

For the last six years, I have commuted to university and run along Tamaki Drive, a picturesque stretch of waterfront that would almost justify our city claiming to be the Monaco of the South Pacific.

The reality is that Tamaki Drive is nothing short of a battleground, as was tragically highlighted this week by the death of tourist Jane Bishop. A battleground that pits cyclists, pedestrians and motorists against one another, with the odd bus thrown in for good measure.

As a city, we desperately need to consider who we want to accommodate on our roads. The old Auckland City Council used to insist that cyclists were "one less car". This betrays the important distinction between commuter and recreational cyclists.

Commuter cyclists are the ones who reduce congestion by riding bikes instead of driving cars. Cyclists who ride for fitness do not. It's ridiculous to allow the recreational fitness goals of one group of road users to take precedent over others.

We've all seen irresponsible groups of cyclists riding in pelotons, three or four abreast with little care or sympathy for the other road users they endanger through their recklessness. And Tamaki Drive is rife with them.

A large number of these people also make up what are known as cycling pressure groups, who always have something to say when there is an incident involving cyclists on our roads, regardless of who is actually at fault.

Their contribution to the debate following the tragic accident in which a driver ran a stop sign was to suggest that Tamaki Drive be closed to cars on Saturday mornings so that they may ride in peace.

Now there are calls for the speed limit on Tamaki Drive to be lowered to 40km/h, a suggestion that seems to forget that Tamaki Drive is a main road for the thousands of people who live in the suburbs nearby. They also want to see motorists made responsible for any and all collisions involving cars and cyclists.

With any luck, the council will ignore these groups, regardless of how much attention the media gives them. They do not speak for commuter cyclists. Their journeys are for personal fitness, and by riding their bikes they do not remove any other vehicles from the road.

They ride to keep fit and to socialise, something that many other New Zealanders manage to do by joining gyms, jogging or taking up other sports that do not require the use of publicly funded transport infrastructure.

To take the argument to its most facetious level, letting people who ride purely for fitness have their own super-wide lanes on Tamaki Drive makes about as much sense as having a lane for rowing machines, weightlifters or, most stupidly, stationary spin cycles.

Given that all would be elective uses of our roads for the sole reason of personal fitness, these users have as much legitimacy in the debate surrounding cycling on our roads as the Tour De Wannabes.

What's important is that we separate these selfish groups from the legitimate commuter cyclists, and those responsible recreational cyclists who don't see the roads as their own personal training ground.

Cyclists who wish to defy the road rules and ride in large groups should do what motor-racing enthusiasts do everywhere around the country and race on a track.

The racing car analogy can be extended even further. A racing car has a huge amount of safety equipment built into it to protect the driver to the extent that such cars are far safer than any other vehicle on our roads.

Yet they must be given a special exemption from the LTSA in order to even turn a wheel on public streets. Bikes, with their complete lack of any safety features to protect the riders, have no such requirements, nor do they have any frontal-impact import laws for the safety of pedestrians.

Changing Tamaki Drive for single-file cycling is easy. Just demolish the split cycle paths on Tamaki Drive and move parked vehicles out by 1m from the new kerb line, so there is space and a barrier between cyclists and traffic.

And maybe, just maybe, cyclists should be required to purchase numbered high-visibility cycling jerseys so that they can be identified for both their safety and a sense of accountability.

If it gives cyclists and motorists alike an additional incentive to follow the road code, then no option should be spared from discussion, and tough luck to those who want to dress up in cycling jerseys adorned with sponsor logos for companies that don't even have a commercial presence in New Zealand.

Our roads are too narrow and archaic for recreational use, and safe commuting must take precedent over pack cycling.

Luckily for them, I can recommend tracks in Hampton Downs and Pukekohe that have been designed for people who have the urge to use vehicles in a way that flouts the road code and for their own personal enjoyment.

* Dan Sloan is a former Craccum editor and has lived in Glendowie for 24 years.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 23 May 2017 21:54:49 Processing Time: 615ms