Sighs of relief as cyclists get the support they want

By Mathew Dearnaley

Five cyclists died in three crashes in four days last month. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Five cyclists died in three crashes in four days last month. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Pippa Cooms is relieved that only a minority want her and other cyclists banished from the roads, as revealed by a Herald summer poll.

But the Cycle Action Auckland membership secretary says she is not surprised that only 16 per cent of 750 people interviewed in the nationwide poll thought cyclists should get off the roads.

They were outnumbered more than five to one by 82.2 per cent who disagreed with the proposition.

"I am not surprised because I always thought that was the fringe attitude, the people commenting on the Herald website in response to the fatalities and blaming cyclists," Ms Cooms said after pulling off busy Ponsonby Rd on her stylish Danish-made Velorbis Victoria Classic bike to discuss the poll.

"I think overall people recognise that we want a city where we can get around on all modes of transport."

The poll, conducted between December 3 and December 19, followed the deaths of five cyclists hit by cars in three crashes in four days last month.

Of those interviewed, 10.2 per cent said they cycled regularly, 25.8 per cent were occasional pedallers, and 63.7 per cent never rode a bike.

Only 26 per cent of women ever rode bikes, compared with 48.6 per cent of men.

Most of those who cycled - 62 per cent - did so mainly recreationally compared with 19.1 per cent who used bikes for everyday commuting and getting around, and 14.1 per cent for sports training.

But even though cycling remains a minority activity, 91.7 per cent believed drivers should show more patience and care towards cyclists, compared with just 6.1 per cent who disagreed.

Ms Cooms and her Cycle Action colleagues are particularly encouraged by a finding that 47.6 per cent believed roads and transport strategies should be focused on getting more people out of four-wheeled vehicles and on to two wheels.

That compared with 42.1 per cent who disagreed, 2.3 per cent who didn't care either way, and 8.1 per cent who didn't know or refused to say.

And an overwhelming 85.2 per cent agreed with a proposition that ourcities should be cycle-friendly, like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Melbourne or Sydney.

Ms Cooms, who is also a member of the new Waitemata Local Board, believed a reason some people still wanted cyclists off the roads was because Auckland and other cities were designed for cars.

"I have sympathy for car drivers who see cyclists on roads that they just think are not designed to have bikes there," she said.

"Even though we have the right to be there, I think it makes drivers feel uncomfortable, knowing that we're sharing an environment that hasn't been well designed."

She believes she is doing her part to change attitudes, riding a bike which allows her to wear comfortable and fashionable street clothes rather than donning the lycra uniforms of more earnest and competitive cyclists.

"I never get dressed for my bike ride - I get dressed for my destination.

"I think it's better for drivers to see me as a real person. When they see me wearing nice clothes I never get cars coming too close to me, but if I'm wearing my cycling clothes on my mountain bike I feel much more threatened."

Cycle Action deputy chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert said she was particularly pleased that so many people believed more resources should be put into cycling, and suggested the Government should take notice.

"The minister [of transport] should now have the confidence to move more investment into public transport, walking and cycling."

- NZ Herald

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