Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Cycle safe: Trading places - Day one

This week, health reporter and commuter cyclist Martin Johnston will be driving to work each day to experience a motorist's view. Five of his Herald colleagues who usually drive, walk or take public transport will try cycling.

New Zealand Herald reporter Martin Johnston normally bikes to work. Photo / Richard Robinson
New Zealand Herald reporter Martin Johnston normally bikes to work. Photo / Richard Robinson

Diary of a driver - Martin Johnston

I spotted my first cyclist as I pulled out of my Mt Albert driveway and followed him in case he was my only subject on two wheels.

He sped off downhill at up to 50km/h, like I do when I'm riding. Then the weirdness started.

He veered over to the right side of the suburban street for no obvious reason - illegal although not dangerous I suppose, but it got worse. Another swerve to the right was followed by a right turn into the right-hand side of another street. Three more swings to the right occurred within the 1km we were in sight of each other, including a right turn made to the right of an intersection traffic island.

It was certainly odd behaviour, but it didn't affect me and I felt no need to honk or shout abuse at him, nor at any of the other 21 cyclists I observed in my drive to work.

I saw only five riders between home and the CBD, so I took a detour over to Tamaki Drive/Quay St, on which I saw nine more cyclists - and seven on the way there.

I observed two more law breakers - both riding on the footpath and both without a helmet. One was pedalling a fairly flash-looking Scott road bike.

Many wore high-visibility vests and some also had a high-vis cover on their backpack. Two had their lights on, quickly drawing my attention to them.

The scariest manouevre I saw was a chap pedalling east on Tamaki Drive at Mechanics Bay, cars and big trucks passing him on one side then the other - quite legal and the sort of move where you ride quickly and straight and hope the drivers all do the right thing.

New Zealand Herald reporter Nicholas Jones normally catches the bus to work. Photo / Richard Robinson
New Zealand Herald reporter Nicholas Jones normally catches the bus to work. Photo / Richard Robinson

Diary of a cyclist - Nicholas Jones

Having heard too many horror stories from friends and colleagues (and also in deference to Auckland's hills), I haven't been on a bicycle for a good 14 years, and never to get around town.

Apprehension meant I cheated slightly and started out on the short ride from Ponsonby to the Herald's downtown offices at 7.30am to beat the worst of the traffic.

"I am a vehicle, I should be here, I am a vehicle," I mentally repeated to myself as cars banked up behind me on the narrow lanes of Ponsonby Rd and Hopetoun St, which are barely wide enough for a car.

The deserted footpaths spoke of security and safety like a set of trainer-wheels.

Most drivers waited amiably for a chance to pass, but one came much too close, no doubt cursing my new tribe under his breath, as I've been guilty of in the past.

On the downhill slope of Vincent St the bus lanes - mercifully free of buses - were sweet relief, and on that section I felt how good biking to work could be.

But that sentiment faded at the intersection beside the central police station, as a long queue of cars formed behind me, all impatient to get through the next traffic light phase.

I fought the urge to start slightly ahead of the green, even though it seemed a better option given my comparative speed off the mark.

Overall, it wasn't a bad commute and the distance meant I wasn't likely to hit any major problems on my first day, but I won't be swapping my day-dreaming time on the bus for the hyper-alertness needed as a cyclist anytime soon.

- NZ Herald

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