Shame, fear over driver's road rage attack on cyclists

By Mathew Dearnaley

American cyclist Laura Crawford with her partner Russ Roca, who was assaulted by an irate motorist in Wellington this week.
Photo / Supplied
American cyclist Laura Crawford with her partner Russ Roca, who was assaulted by an irate motorist in Wellington this week. Photo / Supplied

Cyclists are upset and embarrassed over a road-rage attack on an American blogger and journalist visiting to tell the world about the pleasures of pedalling around New Zealand.

Russ Roca and his partner Laura Crawford have spent weeks extolling the country's scenery from over their handle-bars to the 40,000 people around the world who read their blog - at www.pathlesspedaled.com - each month.

They are also preparing articles for United States cycling magazines, after being inspired to travel here by the Government's $50 million investment in a national cycle trail network.

Soon after arriving, they joined 5000 cyclists, including Auckland Mayor Len Brown, in the first mass authorised ride across the city's harbour bridge, and have pedalled from Taumarunui to New Plymouth on the Forgotten World Highway.

But they are struggling to remain upbeat after Mr Roca, 32, was tackled off his bike and - after picking himself up - punched by a motorist in Wellington on Tuesday afternoon.

They were riding single file in the inner of two southbound lanes along Riddiford St towards Newtown about 4.30pm when they say the driver cut them off, and then got out of his car.

"Words were exchanged, he stopped his car in front of us, Laura managed to swerve in front of him and he just came and knocked me off my bike," Mr Roca said yesterday.

"He barged into me and knocked me over. I got up and he came towards me and punched me in the face and I went down again."

He said other motorists stopped to help as the man sped off through a red light, and they provided licence-plate details for a complaint laid with the police yesterday.

He said he was lucky to be left with only a cut lip and sore shoulder and back from the attack, which would not deter him and Ms Crawford from exploring cycle trails in the South Island next week.

"The guy was just so angry that I think it was just his personal problems," he said.

"It seems like such an isolated experience - it is not going to put us off touring or riding the trails of New Zealand."

Ms Crawford, 32, said it was lucky the attacker was unable to throw "a very good punch" to cause more serious harm.

"I don't want to diminish it, because it was absolutely awful, but it was a fluke thing - I don't think anyone should take it as a reason not to cycle."

But the attack has left members of cycling groups worried about its effect on New Zealand's tourist reputation.

"It's the last thing we need," said Cycle Action Auckland chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert.

"The moment I heard about it, I just hung my head in shame and put my head in my hands and thought no, it couldn't be."

Cycling Advocates Network project manager Patrick Morgan, who is hosting the couple at his home, said his organisation would follow the progress of police inquiries.

"Unfortunately, this kind of aggression is not rare in New Zealand," he said.

- NZ Herald

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