Eric Thompson: Cyclists and cars are a fatal mix

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Photo / The Aucklander
Photo / The Aucklander

I read a small piece in the motoring section of the New Zealand Herald in late October that resonated with me, and is even more poignant now with the unfortunate deaths and injuries of a number of cyclists recently.

The small report mentioned that Mercedes-Benz vice-president of safety engineering, Ulrich Mellinghoff, told a road safety conference in Melbourne recently that mixing bicycles with motorised traffic was an "unsafe practice" that needed changing.

Couldn't agree more. A public road with cars thundering along is no place for a cyclist, no matter how much they bleat about having every right to be in the same place as a car. I'm unsure if it's either arrogance or stupidity that lead various cycle organisations to insist on saying cyclists have equal rights with cars.

That's like me going head-to-head with a supertanker in a small sailboat in a crowded shipping lane expecting a ship the size of a small country to get out of my way. No matter what the rule of the sea says about power giving way to sail (yeah, yeah, I know there are variations but I'm talking about the principle here) it just ain't going to happen.

It's the same on the roads - a cyclist will always come off second best in an accident with a motor vehicle. No matter whose fault it is, in a car versus pushbike altercation it's not going to take a rocket scientist to work out who's going to end up in the back of an ambulance.

No matter what anyone says, riding a pushbike is not going to save the planet - it's already doomed and we all should just accept the fact we have been the architects of our demise.

Next up we have the argument that cycling is good for your health. Can't get my head around that one. Why would any sane person want to try and get fit peddling a pushbike on New Zealand roads, where the odds of being scared into a heart attack, or ending up in a hospital, are extraordinary high due to crap driving standards?

Also, riding a bike in traffic can't be that good for your lungs, anyway. Last time I checked, breathing all the pollutants motor vehicles pump out is bound to cause respiratory problems at some stage. As for the go-fast-in-pink-lycra-and-pretend-we're-in-a-race-brigrade is concerned - go play at a velodrome, that's what they're built for, not State Highway One.

Somehow I don't think my easy-fix solution of banning pushbikes from public roads is going to receive too much support from the cycling community. In a roundabout sort of way, I actually have their good health at heart because driving standards are not going to change in the near future. But at a fundamental level, the two should never share the same space.

In that case, I would like to suggest a couple of other solutions:

* All pushbikes must be fitted with rear-vision mirrors - as all other vehicles on the road are required by law;

* All pushbikes must be fitted with indicators, or a similar device - as all other vehicles on the road are required by law;

* They can only ride single-file on a single-lane road unless overtaking - as all other vehicles on the road are required by law;

* Be fitted with headlights that must be on at all times - as other two-wheeled vehicles on the road are required by law;

* All bike riders must pass a road-licence test - as are all other people who venture on to public roads;

* All pushbikes must be registered and pay a road tax - as all other vehicles on the road are required by law (don't whinge, motorcyclists have to pay for their car and their motorbike).

Finally, here's one to contemplate: Why are cyclists not allowed on the motorways of New Zealand? As far as I'm concerned, they're the safest place for them. When was the last time anyone came across a blind corner, or a sign that said 35km/h, on a motorway? Also, in most cases, motorways have a hard shoulder that is not dirt and bang-slap up against a rock wall.

I can understand why cyclists wouldn't want to be on a German autobahn with cars going more than 250km/h but here the speed limit on country roads is the same as on a motorway.

If I were crazy enough to ride a pushbike on our roads, I'd rather do it on the hard shoulder of a motorway where I have room to move, than up the Rimutakas on a state highway.

- NZ Herald

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