Jim Eagles on two-wheeled assassins.
We were enjoying a peaceful early morning stroll along New Plymouth's magnificent Coastal Walkway when I happened to spy an interesting piece of driftwood someone had discarded beside the path. Weird, maybe, but we quite like collecting bits of driftwood or stones from places we visit to take back and put into our pebble garden.
Anyway, I stepped sideways to pick up the wood and came within centimetres of being wiped out by a beefy guy on a bike, who had zoomed up behind us. The guy made a snarling noise, presumably in rage at the fact that I'd almost stepped in front of him, and hurtled on.
Once I'd got over the shock, we carried on walking but that encounter — and several similar moments over the next few days — rather took the joy out of using the walkway.
It's fantastic, stretching 10km along Taranaki's wild coast, running through farmland and across the Waiwhakaiho River estuary on the superb Te Rewa Rewa bridge, past a couple of surf clubs and the amazing Len Lye Wind Wand, with views of Mt Taranaki on one side and the ocean on the other.
But although the name "walkway" gives the impression it is there for people to walk on, it is also a cycle path and gets plenty of use from cyclists and skateboarders as well as parents with prams, grandparents with toddlers, power walkers and dawdling pedestrians.
That's not always a good mix. Pedestrians don't come with rear-vision mirrors and most cycles don't have bells and travel silently and often at high speed. If you're meandering along enjoying the view you're at constant risk of being bowled.
The council has put up signs asking cyclists to show courtesy. Some do, ringing bells, slowing down near pedestrians and riding carefully. But most blithely race at high speed through family groups, refusing to slow and giving no warning.
The presence of inconsiderate cyclists means walkers have to spend more time looking behind for two-wheeled assassins than savouring the scenery.
But the Coastal Walkway is a particularly delightful place so having the experience ruined is particularly irritating — and the near-collision caused me to forget my driftwood.
Jim Eagles is a former editor of 'Herald Travel'.