COMMENT:

One Friday afternoon late last year Annette Dance was riding her bicycle on Canada St, heading for Te Ara I Whiti, the pink shared "lightpath" for cyclists and walkers that connects the Upper Queen St area with the top of Nelson St.

She was on her way to the Waiheke ferry: it was her birthday the next day and she and her boyfriend were going to spend the weekend there.

Te Ara is narrower at its Canada St intersection than everywhere else: it's designed as a pinch point to slow riders down and it has a bollard in the middle that not only keeps cars out, it bluntly reinforces the message to cyclists to go slow.

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The trouble is, that bluntness also presents an inherent danger to cyclists: it's a solid post in the middle of the cycleway that leaves no room for error.

When Annette got to the pathway there was a group of pedestrians in her way. She rode slowly round them.

She did not see the cyclist speeding down the winding path towards her. The other cyclist did not see her. He rode right into her.

Annette was in intensive care for five days, her neck broken in four places. She also broke six ribs, had a collapsed lung, and broke and dislocated her ankle.

She has had several operations and is now on a long, slow path to some kind of recovery, hoping to restore some movement to her left arm.

She isn't working and will be lucky if she can return to her job. There's bitter irony in it: she is an experienced charge nurse in Auckland Hospital's emergency department.

Unintended consequences. According to the data from Auckland Transport's 26 cycle counters around the city, the 12 months to February 2019 saw a 6.2 per cent increase in "cycle movements". The month of February itself saw a 20 per cent increase on the previous February.

Both those statistics fit the longer-term pattern: cycle use is growing, and the growth curve is getting steeper. Cyclists themselves know it: the cycleways this summer have been noticeably busier.

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I bought an e-bike at the start of the year. I'd borrowed one before Christmas, from the very helpful folk at Electric Bike Shop, and it convinced me easily. Safety issues aside, no part of my commute, or riding around this hilly city, is now a problem.

I didn't end up buying from them, though (sorry guys): there are a big range of styles and price points out there and they didn't have quite what I wanted. It's worth having a good look around. There's lots to compare online and all the shops will let you do test rides.

When you ride every day, patterns of behaviour become apparent. Many of them are so rewarding. The orange vest guys who keep pedestrians and bikes apart on the roadworks on Quay St are always friendly and generous, and unlike when you're in a car, you get time on a bike to say thanks.

Most drivers take care to let you know they are not going to run you down. You get waved through, waited for, driven past with care and a decent gap, smiled at.

In my experience there is, for the most part when you ride a bike in Auckland, a communal sense of yes, we're looking after each other. And all types of road users subscribe to it.

But not every individual. Some car drivers seem to think as long as they don't literally hit you, they've done enough: that's so scary. You can't ride 10 minutes on the road without encountering one – which means, for many people, pretty much every trip.

Pedestrians on their phones. When you actually are a pedestrian, you're not so aware of it. But when you're in a shared space and you ride past everyone walking, it's obvious.

Pedestrians on their phones behave 3-year-olds: they turn suddenly, they step out in front of you, they might as well have their eyes closed.

There are also pedestrians who like to walk in dedicated cycle lanes, like Nelson St and Ian McKinnon Drive. It's not that I mind so much, but they're not shared pathways and it is dangerous. Sometimes they're on their phones.

And, as Annette Dance discovered, other cyclists. Mostly, the respect is great: cyclists take care of each other and it's lovely to be part of. There's a lot of bell action. But some riders go too fast.

On the major bike lanes, there is too much traffic for cyclists to treat them as speedways, but not enough that the density forces us to slow down. Most of those bike lanes carry two-way traffic on quite narrow strips.

"I want cyclists to be safe," Annette says. "That's why I was on a cycle lane. I wanted to be safe."

It's not that one class of road user is bad and another good. There are good and bad drivers, good and bad cyclists, good and bad pedestrians. And our streets and pathways are getting busier. Everyone needs to take care. Everyone needs to slow down.

Annette believes the rider who crashed into her was going too fast: he was entering an intersection and he could not have seen all the danger points. But it seems he wasn't treating it like an intersection: he was riding like he was doing a slalom.

Annette doesn't want to say he was the only one in the wrong. Maybe she should have seen him coming, but as she says, she is "not a tall person". Maybe the pedestrians should have been more aware they were blocking the way.

Certainly Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency, both keen to make the roads safer, should be thinking harder about how to make bike lanes and shared spaces safer.

Bikes are wonderful things. Riding one connects you to your world, helps you with fitness, gives you so many pleasures. And bikes will save the planet. Well, they'll definitely help.

Thinking about buying one? Now's a good time. Most days the autumn ride to work is fresh and glorious. It's dark at the end of the day, sure, but it won't be properly wet and cold for a few months yet. Many of the shops have end-of-season sales, on right now.

And hey, Auckland Transport and NZTA, it's time to step up. You have a shared responsibility for Te Ara I Whiti but please do not let that be an excuse for passing the buck.

Annette told me she has learned the intersection where her life was almost destroyed had "already been highlighted as a hot spot".

An AT spokesperson told me yesterday, "We are currently working with NZTA to add markings and signage."

Good to hear. The bollard needs to come out and notices need to go in, telling cyclists coming down the winding stretch to slow down. You could paint it on the pink.