Matt Greenop and Alistair Woodward: Cyclists and drivers - what's wrong?

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A cyclist shares the road with drivers on Auckland's Tamaki Drive. Photo / Dean Purcell
A cyclist shares the road with drivers on Auckland's Tamaki Drive. Photo / Dean Purcell

Recent events have fuelled debate between cyclists and drivers over road rules and acceptable behaviour. We talked to a cyclist and a driver and got their opinions on the matter.

A cyclist's view

Alistair Woodward, Head of School of Population Health, Auckland University

Auckland is a wonderful city for cycling. I ride to work most days, and I also ride socially with friends at the weekend. The harbours and the hills are stunning and the weather is kind.

There are risks. In nine years, I have been knocked off my bike by cars twice. But it is easy to get this out of proportion. The number of people drowned in New Zealand each year is 10 times that killed on bikes, but no-one ever says to me "you must be brave, going swimming in Auckland, it is just so dangerous".

There are still frustrations - bike lanes that end abruptly, traffic lights that don't register cyclists, roads that narrow suddenly and pitch you into the stream of traffic. But things are improving. I ride along Tamaki Drive frequently and it is much more attractive and secure than it once was. A big difference is the amount of space on the road that is now dedicated to bikes.

How to make it better? I'm in favour of extending the network of bike paths. The path along the Northwest Motorway for example is fantastic, and heavily used. However, the biggest improvements in safety could come from changing the physical spaces that cyclists and motorists share. This means more bike lanes, smarter design of intersections, better car parking, lower traffic speeds in residential areas. It's no mystery - there are lots of cycle-friendly cities overseas we can learn from.


A driver's view

Matt Greenop, Editor, Weekend Herald, Driven magazine

Cyclists aren't evil, they're not a scourge and they shouldn't be considered two-wheeled targets on the road. Generally. But there's a a dark side to this colourful Lycra world.

Maybe their helmets are too tight, or they just develop a Bono-sized ego when the shades go on. Either way, they're ruining it for people who follow the rules.

Riding in large groups while ignoring the line of cars building up behind them is annoying. They know that. So why the irritating behaviour? Judging by the Mamils (middle-aged men in lycra) who seem to feel most hard done-by for having to share the road with other people, they suffer from a persecution complex that most cyclists don't.

Their other faves are firing down the middle of lanes of traffic, making it near impossible for motorists to cross their paths without fear of an accident, or tearing through traffic lights on red while pedestrians are forced to leap out of the way.

Road pigs are going to irritate whether on bikes or cars. And when they get bowled as a result of their own arrogant behaviour they blame others. A two-fingered salute or a bit of abuse is likely to leave a foot-sized dent in the door as the cyclist disappears into traffic.

We have to share the road and work from the same rule book. Do this and it should be fine.

- NZ Herald

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