Here at Eye of the Fish, we have written about cars before. We have written about trains before. We have written, in fact, about all sorts of transport before. We have even written about buildings before. But the one mode of transport that we have never really set sail on before, is the humble bicycle.
You see, it’s an emotive subject – I have no idea why, but it seems to be a subject that evokes rage amongst the sane, to a degree that is unfathomably unpleasant. I mean, we are talking about the most efficient means of transport ever invented, involving a single human being carefully balanced on two thin circles of rubber, with just a tiny couple of patches of rubber in contact with the road. They are the lightest vehicle (excepting skateboards, which are just a mobile version of Darwin’s Law waiting for an accident), and they are, really, as safe as houses.
Actually, they’re way safer than a house. You do know, don’t you, that most accidents happen in the home? It was on the news again just the other day – by far the most injuries happen to people “safely” in the comfort of their own residence, and a large percentage of accidents happen with stairs, domestic ladders, and even ovens. But, as far as I know, there is no legal restriction that residents need to wear protective clothing at home. No helmet required for Dad when he is cleaning the gutter. No hip-protectors required for Granny as she climbs the stairs each night. No compulsory oven-mitts for every person in charge of a kitchen.
Cars, on the contrary, are truly the devil’s work indeed. Marvelously giving their occupants a glimmer of a chance at personal freedom to wander where and when they want, at will, in truth we now know that things are sometimes slightly different to that vision. Designed for four happy occupants, nearly all car journeys are made by solo drivers. Used to take tiny children to school, it is a slightly sad and pathetic choice of transport mode, given that the children used to be happy to walk or cycle safely to school, until too many mummy’s and daddies taking their little darlings to school put paid to that. The more that we use cars to save ourselves, the worse the situation gets. The more we build roads to avoid congestion, the worse that congestion gets.
On the other hand, going by bike is a healthy option. Even though the bike is efficient at moving humans, if the cyclists cycle really fast, they can increase body tone, lose fat, add muscle, reduce heart attacks, cut diabetes, and probably even win you a Nobel Prize as well, they’re so fantastic. Alternatively, like me, you can just dawdle along, barely using your legs, and use the Wellington wind to whisk you home in style. Whatever takes your fancy. You can swap from using the streets like a Road Warrior, to politely moseying along on the pavements with the pedestrians, and puddle jump up or down off the kerbs as much as you like. You can cycle happily up One Way streets if the route is clear, or even ride along the Hutt Road like a mad man with a death wish, and pretty much no one will object either way. There has not been, as far as I can find out, a single death ever caused to a pedestrian by a cyclist in New Zealand in the last decade, but every year there are many, many deaths caused by cars and their drivers, both to pedestrians, and to cyclists. Even worse is the death and destruction caused by heavy trucks and buses, to both pedestrian traffic and to cyclists. To lessen the damage from being hit by a 44 tonne truck with 18 huge wheels, we demand that a cyclist wear a small piece of polystyrene plastic on their head, and send them forth to share the same lane as cars, trucks and buses. And then we say that they comply with the law, and that they are “safe”.
This is a lie.
Cyclists are, at all times, at danger of getting hurt, maimed and killed by clashes with motored vehicles, unless they are in completely separated bicycle lanes. You might think therefore, that given the chance, any sane resident in Wellington would leap at the chance of a network of cycle routes being planned through Wellington. The vision of a safe, high quality, carefully thought out and well implemented bike network, enabling the residents to safely ride from the outskirts of the city into the centre, free from any chance of being killed or maimed by vehicular traffic. Instead we have a situation where a group of self-centered people in a small suburb are actively protesting against a bicycle lane for all, because of a falsely perceived loss of parking for those very vehicles of death and destruction themselves. A loss of about 35 car parks along a street where nearly every house already has extensive off-street parking.
What is at the root of this problem? Why is this happening in Wellington, home to the most well-educated, most liberal, most intelligent community of New Zealanders in the country? How is it that in the very city with the best, the most extensive, and the most widely patronized public transport system in the country, a city that has more mountain bikes per person than any other capital city on the planet, a city that embraces the outdoors and the access to the wilderness that so embodies this marvelous tiny capital of ours, that this process appears to be going off its perfectly formed 26 inch rims?
I’m puzzled by this impasse. In Europe, several hundred million people live, sometimes even in harmony with each other, in a continent criss-crossed with rail lines and local trams. Nationwide and citywide cycle trails are apparent, as are intercontinental motorways for their extensive system of trucking freight from one country to another. Huge juggernauts of commerce thunder along their designated routes of asphalt, while cyclists remain completely separate on their own cycle path, or in their own segregated cycle lane. Even in heavily cycled parts of Europe, like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, cyclists happily cycle along at a leisurely pace, no helmets necessary, and none ever worn, secure in the knowledge that they will suffer no harm, as they will not come into contact with a car or truck, or bus, ever. Mothers, fathers, children and grandparents can all safely cycle along, sharing road space with just other cyclists, or sometimes with pedestrians, not dressed in stretchy Lycra, not wearing fluorescent or reflective clothing, not wearing pointless pieces of polystyrene balanced atop their heads, because they know that they are in a safe place. A place where they cannot get hit by a car, a truck, or a bus. They wear ordinary work clothes, ride ordinary bicycles, and lead ordinary lives safe in the knowledge that their lives are not in danger from being ended suddenly and savagely by the imposition of several tonnes of speeding metal into their physical beings.
Fuck the people who think that car parking come before bike safety. Construct a network of fully separated cycle paths throughout the city. Build the Island Bay cycle path now.
Is the Island Bay cycleway going to put the bike path on the left of car parking, where car passengers, unaccustomed to looking for bikes, will just swing their doors open? Or does the design include a stupidity gap? I bet it doesn’t.
I don’t understand the depth of the antagonism between cyclists and car drivers here either. It’s much worse than the UK. I went to one of the consultation sessions for the island bay cycleway and I just wanted to punch most of the people there.
Chico: I’m told the main danger posed by a ‘door prize’ on a traffic-side cycleway is not so much from the door impact itself, it’s from the cyclist being flung into and subsequently hit by moving traffic.
To be fair to the helmet nazis, the intention is to prevent head injuries when people fall of their bikes in the absence of being hit by motorised road users (kids do this quite frequently). The cost to the individual (and society) of fairly preventable brain-damage is deemed to outweigh the ‘fashion crime’ of helmet wearing.
Of course, choice be damned! (Because we don’t get to choose whose hospital bills we pay for either).
There is no protection for car versus cyclist except if the cyclist wraps themselves up in a heavy protective contraption made of metals, glass and reinforced plastics, complete with an engine to assist it’s movement, and four wheels for better balance…
A friend of mine was doored (surprisingly for a main road in Wellington there was no passing traffic to fall under). He landed on his head, which luckily for him was wrapped in a helmet.
Thank you Maximus.
It’s gratifying to read the post that says virtually everything I’ve been thinking for years.
I’m afraid that motorists have an unreasonable sense of entitlement when it comes to roads. It always amazes me that so many believe that other road users don’t pay for the roads and that petrol taxes are the only funding source. A misconception that even if true would be worthless as it ignore the fact that many cyclists are also motorists.
On-street parking here in Japan is virtually unheard of. Even so riding on the road can be a hair-raising experience and most people stick to the footpath (when there is one). The law states that children and old people can legally ride on footpaths and many wider paths are designated as shared space for pedestrian and cycle traffic. While Japan is famous for being ‘safe’ that does not mean that everyone follows the law and as such there really are not that many people cycling on the roads. How is this not a problem? Most bicycles are ‘mamachari’ (which when I was growing up we would have called ‘grannies bikes’) and people simply do not ride fast. When they come up behind pedestrians riders will detour onto the road for a few metres to avoid them or politely ring their bell.
“On-street parking here in Japan is virtually unheard of”
That because it is essentially banned under the 1957 parking law,
Additionally from the mid 1960s you cannot register a vechile unless you have first gone and got a certificate from you local council to prove you have an off street space to park your car “shako shomei sho” (although this latter rule does not apply to small villages)
“A cyclist has suffered serious to critical head injuries in an accident on State Highway 2 through Lower Hutt. A Wellington Free Ambulance spokeswoman said the 55-year-old cyclist was taken to Hutt Hospital’s emergency department. He had ”serious to critical” head injuries. The accident happened at midday south of the Petone off ramp, heading north, police said.”
Today, August 27, 2014.
Wearing a helmet will not stop this accident. A separate cycleway will.
“Police are seeking witnesses to a fatal crash between a cyclist and a courier van this morning. The female rider was killed in the collision on outskirts of Hamilton.” July 2014
“A woman cyclist in her 50s is dead after a collision with a truck on Summerhill Drive in Palmerston North this morning. The driver of a semi-trailer truck involved in the crash was shaken, but not injured. The cyclist and truck were both travelling up Summerhill Drive just after 7am when the crash happened.” April 2014
“Police have released the name of a cyclist killed in a crash on Lincoln Rd this morning. Sharla Phyllis Haerewa, 22, was in her second year of a nursing degree at CPIT. Police said it seemed she was cycling to work at Christchurch Hospital when the crash occurred at 6.40am. Police crash investigators said it appeared a heavy truck turned left from Lincoln Rd into an unnamed road opposite Domain Tce, but turned directly into the path of Haerewa on her bike. The front of the truck apparently hit the bike side-on. The truck continued around the corner, knocking Haerewa from her bike and dragging the bike nearly 40 metres before coming to a halt.” April 2014
“A woman cyclist killed after being hit by a car in Aranui this morning was Joanne Marjorie Drummond, 54, of Christchurch, police said. She was the second cyclist has been killed in Christchurch in three days. The accident comes just three days after cyclist Carl Taylor, 31, was killed after being hit by a car in the same suburb.” March 2013
“The cyclist killed in a collision with a truck in central Auckland has been named as John Tangiia. Tangiia, a 37-year-old Auckland man, collided with a truck pulling a container through the Parnell Rise and Stanley St intersection, near the CBD yesterday. His daughter Keysha Tangiia said her father would “remain in my heart for enternity”, in a posting on her Facebook page. “I guess god needed another angel … RestInParadise Dad,” she wrote. Tangiia’s death has caused outrage over continued inaction on cycle routes. The truck driver, who police say had a green light, was unaware he had hit the cyclist who was dragged under the truck and died at the scene.” January 2014
m-d – My point is, as I hope I have made clear by the few linked articles above, is that for people to think that if they wear a helmet, they will be safer, is completely wrong. A helmet will only save young tussle-headed muppets craniums, if they fall off a bike of their own accord. If you fall off in the path of, or get run over by, a truck, then it really doesn’t matter how many tonnes of polystyrene you have balanced on top of your noggin, you’re toast anyway.
There is only ONE way for cyclists to be safe, and that is for them not to be sharing the same piece of asphalt as the cars, buses, and trucks on the road. Helmets are nothing to do with it.
You will notice, i hope, from my pix above, that absolutely nobody in those cycle-friendly countries is wearing a helmet – because they don’t need to. Nothing to do with spoling their hair. It just simply isn’t needed. Do you make your spouse wear a helmet round the house? No.
Separated Cycle-Ways. Do it now. Don’t make me have to say it again…
and I’ve seen another survey that cyclists not wearing all the lycra and flouro gear get given a slightly wider berth on average by passing traffic.
I’m another one who chucked by bike out when the helmet law came in and I used to ride a lot
edit- chucked my bike out
Council has just voted 7-8 against councillors Eagle and Young’s motion to delay development of Island Bay cycleway. Great news!
‘Essentially’ being the key word. It does exist, sometimes, when there is the space. I think that’s the key though because the Japanese love their cars but because of the lack of space (and the parking laws) they’ve managed to avoid all those cars along the roads.
The parking certificate (shako shomei sho) is required at the time of purchase – and some people fake it (or move to a residence without parking) but then they’ve got literally nowhere to park so that can tricky.
New Zealand’s municipalities could learn thing or two from this system.
Lack of ANY off-street parking leads to safety issues though. People are funny about it too. In the ‘rural’ area where I live they’ll often double park in the road even when there is off road space that they could stop for a short time. My guess is that because it’s someone else’s space they prefer leave their car out in the middle of the lane. Then all the cars swerve around it – which scares the proverbial out of me.
PS Sorry about the last post Maximus. My browser wigged out and I couldn’t proof before posting.
Thanks all for your comments. There’s a great post just up today at Transport Blog, showing some prime examples of how NOT to do a cycle way, which our city needs to make damn sure to take heed of.
Laura, are you reading this? You should be….
Hear hear, Max.
OMG is that illustration in the middle really meant to be what it will look like? How absolutely depressing. Sadly I have high confidence that the result will be a crappy short sighted compromise that in many spots is barely better than the status quo. (Still haven’t heard any explaination how Adelaide Road will support a busway, bikeway, and two lanes of traffic.)
Erentz – yes, the middle image is a very early image of the Island Bay cycle way that I just happened to have at hand yesterday – there are many other, much better developed images around but I didn’t have access to them at the time.
Re the other parts of the cycle way, that’s still in progress, but my understanding is that Adelaide Road (on the steep hilly bit) is not the preferred or chosen route. But I am completely lost as to where the chosen route is, or the alternatives are. It’s all got rather political, so I’ll hold back from saying anything until I’m sure of it.
One thing I don’t quite understand, however, is that the Council asked people from the Newtown Residents Association to come up with a full cycle way study, through Newtown, and a huge amount of work was produced of that, with incredibly well detailed and highly thought through outcomes. Every intersection considered, CAD drawn, signage sorted, lanes resolved to the nearest millimetre, etc. impeccable community based work by Red Design. Now the Council itself is involved, more fully in the whole CBD to Island Bay cycle route, which obviously has to go through Newtown, and it seems that they have ignored or dismissed all the work that has been done, and are starting again, with a local residents panel. What is going on?
Oh – I wasn’t making a case that cycle helmets would protect you from car accidents – far from it… just simply pointing out what the use of cycle helmets is meant to protect. I thought I made that clear in the comment, without passing judgement either way.
I don’t even think helmets should be compulsory, but I do think if you suffer a head injury from a bike accident, and you’re not wearing a helmet, then ACC should not foot the bill for your hospital care and ongoing care for you as a person with an intellectual impairment (or whatever the current pc term is for it). That makes the choice real and meaningful. If it is about less nanny state and more individual responsibility, then that concept should be taken all the way.
PS – I think there would be very few head injuries around the home anyway, and not likely ones that cause permanent brain damage?? More likely to be limbs and spines wouldn’t it?
In none of my comments am I belittling the case for separate cycle lanes either – I’m all for it.
Hi Max – great article.
You are so right that articles on cycling certainly on some sites with less thoughtful contributors get tragically vitriolic – don’t understand that unpleasant psyche.
It was a relief that the Notice of Motion was defeated last night. It was hard to see it as anything other than being opposed to the cycleway.
You and Erentz ask about Adelaide Road and the Citizen’s panel.
The Citizen’s Panel recommended 3 routes (2 principal ones) for the section from Wakefield Park to John St. One they propoed would use Luxford/Rintoul/
Waripori/Russell to get into Newtown; the other would use Adelaide alongside MacAlister Park to Hansen St, so the narrowest and most difficult section of Adelaide Road from Stoke St to John St was avoided. (the third proposed route was behind Wakefield Park and using Stanley St)
The design concepts you mention from Newtown Residents Association were provided by Red Design (same principal people) on behalf of Council, and were presented to the Citizen’s Panel. Those Red Design concepts are possible ways of delivering on those routes.
If you are talking about Adelaide Road north of John St, then yes there will be challenges with space allocation there too (as everywhere). The urban design plan we consulted extensively with the community on to create a tree lined boulevard and PT priority does make space a challenge. Two other parallel options are King St and Tasman St, so we will work through all those options.
We clearly need to ensure that we integrate planning for all modes – particularly as we look at bus priority and cycleway development. It makes sense to have one conversation with communities about these issues rather than more than one conversation.
hope that helps
Good article in todays DomPost from our Deputy Mayor on a similar tone.
everyday – indeed, he did write a good article. It ca be viewed here:
and a snippet:
“This council’s commitment to improving the inner city experience for all Wellingtonians remains resolute. If Wellington aspires to be mentioned alongside Copenhagen, Berlin, San Francisco or Melbourne then it needs to happen by design, not by accident.”
Found some stats relevant to this discussion (trying to rise above the power of the anecdote and the sensationalism of individually reported cases)…
Over a four year period (2008-12), there were 1500 cyclist hospitalisations and 45 deaths from due to crashes with motor vehicles. That’s an average of 300 hospitalisations and 9 deaths per year.
I could only find 2012 figures for cycling accidents not involving motor vehicles, of which there were 893 in that year. The stats didn’t mention deaths here, so I guess there weren’t any. These are the accidents for which helmets are designed to protect – not the motor vehicle ones. Source: http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Research/Documents/cycling-crashfacts-2013.pdf
It is impossible to tell from this how many heads, out of these hundreds of accidents per year, have been saved by helmets though. Thankfully, there is another source here http://www.statschat.org.nz/2012/02/12/cycling-deaths/ (paras 4-5), which indicate, after a review of the data, that cycling deaths have remained relatively constant from before the introduction of compulsory helmets through to 2009.
This article, http://www.cycle-helmets.com/AAP2001DLRNZHI.pdf makes an even clearer case by looking at head injuries rather than deaths. The rate of such injuries is lower than before the helmet law, but the rate was trending down anyway. Here’s the important graph http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Adult_cyclist_head_injuries_versus_helmet_use_in_New_Zealand.jpg
All in all however – for the 2008-12 period – it is the motorcyclists who fare the worst (and should fear the worst), given they have about 225 deaths per million hours spent travelling, compared with about 25 for cyclists. Perhaps we should be advocating a separate lane for them as well!
m-d : thanks for the excellently researched data, and for rising above my anecdotes and sensationalism. Good work. Hmmm though – cycling accidents not involving motor vehicles? I guess that includes simple rider error – in fact (spoiler alert – anecdote ahead) I witnessed a cycle incident today – 2 cyclists rode slowly past me today, as I was seated at a roadside cafe, and I heard a crash – one of the cyclists had, it seems, simply fallen off his bike completely on his own – no cars or anybody else involved – I didn’t see it happen, but it appears that his brain just suddenly stopped working and he fell off his bike. Hmmmmmmmm…. No harm done, except a severely damaged pride perhaps…
Motocycles, as you say, are a special case indeed. I don’t know if the ACC records break things down further into sub-categories, but my guess is that there are possibly peaks of accidents at opposite ends of the spectrum. At one end is the obvious idiot high speed, high danger, bikers, who overtake around blind corners, put their life in their hands, and who are involved in highs speed accidents. Like owners of Honda Fireblades – renown for having people die, because they could just go tooooo fast.
At the other end, I suspect there is a lot of danger involved in riding a small scooter ie Vespa sized thing. Unable to go as fast as the open road speed limit, and stuck doing 80 in a 100k zone, it’s a death trap.
On a completely unconnected side note, Judith Collins has resigned today. Ha! Ha ha ha ha ah ha !!!
Council has started the formal “Consultation” part of the process over stage 1 of the Island Bay Cycle routes:
Submissions welcome till 6 October 2014.
You can send your comments:
by email to: email@example.com
by post to:
Attention: Paul Barker, Safe and Sustainable Transport Manager
Wellington City Council
PO Box 2199
First glance at the docs and it looks like they haven’t got the guts to actually make one continuous cycle lane. It finishes at Medway St, skips the Island Bay shops, then starts again at Avon St. Angle parking for shoppers is retained, while pesky cyclists are presumably expected to cycle in the middle of the street with traffic.
That is not a cycle lane. That’s two cycle lanes that don’t join up.
What hope do we have of getting a cycle lane down say Riddiford St if this is going to be the standard?
For comparative purposes: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/worldleading-cycle-route-unveiled-in-london-18mile-route-protect-cyclists-barking-acton-9708384.html
Do it once, do it right.
I see that Auckland is progressing well with its bike paths. Faster than Wellington, it seems. http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=70644