Cycle safe: Bus drivers get mouthful early after switching role

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland bus drivers have been given a taste of road rage from a new perspective yesterday - the handlebars of a fleet of hire bikes.

The nine NZ Bus drivers on a cycling safety course had barely left their depot for an hour-long ride through Mt Roskill and Sandringham when they copped an earful of abuse from an impatient driver.

It had been years since some had been on a bike and they were just getting their bearings while gingerly approaching traffic lights at a shopping centre exit when the car driver cut in through some of them from an internal side road.

As they waited for the lights to change, the driver pulled alongside them to vent his frustrations.

"He opened his passenger window and had a go at us," said Onehunga-based bus driver Bob Channing, who estimated it was his first time on a bike for about 40 years.

"It was almost a case of road dominance - we're the bigger vehicle, we're in charge."

Mr Channing, 57, had earlier told fellow participants in the course - run by contractors to the Cycling Advocates Network and supported by NZ Bus - that it irked him when cyclists zig-zagged in front of his bus, forcing him to brake sharply.

"They act like they own the road - it makes things uncomfortable for our passengers, and we get annoyed with them," he said.

Cycling trainer Rochelle Young said that in yesterday's episode, the pedallers had done nothing wrong, and the car driver had forced his vehicle through the group, splitting it in two.

"I'll take out the naughty words but he was saying: 'Get off the road, you guys just die, don't go and do what that guy did the other day."'

That appeared to be a reference to the death of 37-year-old novice cyclist John Tangiia in collision with a truck in central Auckland last week.

But after their baptism of fire, the bus drivers were treated with courtesy by most other road-users, and finished the 5km ride saying they felt exhilarated and refreshed.

One driver was almost too considerate, flashing her lights to allow some of the cyclists to make a right turn in front of her, not appreciating the danger to them posed by another car passing on the inside lane to turn left.

Yesterday's session was the first of a new series the bus company hopes to host this summer and beyond.

Cycle Action Auckland chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert said she would like the courses extended to truck drivers.

Watch a video of bus drivers and cyclists swapping roles here.

- NZ Herald

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