Gridlock

All things cycling have become the subject of ire for many in Tauranga who question why ratepayer dollars should be paying to accommodate people choosing to travel by bike.

This was clear in feedback the Bay of Plenty Times received after Tauranga City Council closed Welcome Bay Lane because of the dangers for cyclists using the Welcome Bay Rd cycle lane.

But in a city where traffic congestion is at its all-time worst, reporter Kiri Gillespie questions whether this upset and anger is perhaps misplaced? In this opinion piece, she braves the haters and confesses her role as a cyclist, and a driver.

COMMENT:

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As a cyclist, you know you're always going to come off second-best in a crash.

It's a risk many people are willing to take – whether it be misplaced confidence, or just taking a punt the odds are in your favour. My justification for risking my safety by cycling on Tauranga roads fits mostly into the latter.

But it doesn't mean I'm bulletproof. Far from it.

When I'm cycling to work each morning (but maybe not on the cold, rainy days), I'm acutely aware of absolutely everything and everyone around me. I have to be. Dogs have rushed me; large trucks have cut me off, cars failing to indicate have driven at me and scooter riders zooming along the cycle lane rattle me. I like to think all of these examples are innocent enough. But each of them has required a swift reaction on my part.

Journalist Kiri Gillespie says the regular bike to work is worth the risks. Photo / supplied
Journalist Kiri Gillespie says the regular bike to work is worth the risks. Photo / supplied

If I hadn't been aware and alert, I'd hate to think what the results could have been.

Perhaps this consideration of my surroundings while travelling could be shared by drivers. Don't get me wrong – I'm a driver too. But the old line of "I just didn't see you" is something heard far too often.

My one, and only, collision with a car came while cycling on a straight shared pathway on Turret Rd.

An electronic sign reminds motorists to be aware of cyclists on the road. Photo / File
An electronic sign reminds motorists to be aware of cyclists on the road. Photo / File

A car was on a driveway many metres ahead of me as I rode into town. There the driver waited, looking in my direction at oncoming traffic. As I got closer, I dipped on to the road's cycle lane to pass her, just as she chose that moment to pull out.

I immediately jerked away – further into the road – before turning back to the kerb. The car clipped my back tyre, I hit the kerb at an awkward angle and flew over my handlebars.

"Oh, I just didn't see you," the driver said.

Right. I was wearing a high-vis vest on a shared pathway with 100m of visibility on a fine morning. And she was looking in my direction.

Such incidents have not put me off from biking but rather, strengthened my opinion there needs to be greater awareness, and acceptance, of cyclists on our roads.

Cyclists aren't the enemy. If anything, in a city where it's taking an hour to travel 7km in a car, they're part of the future.