She was asking for it

Reaction from Auckland motorists to the Greg Paterson bicycle incident has been largely unsympathetic in today’s Herald, especially the editorial. The implicit argument from drivers that cyclists break rules so are not worthy of protection beggars belief.

It also an argument that gets repeated ad nauseum around the world it seems: The myth of the scofflaw cyclist unpacks how both drivers and cyclists break laws…but this should have little bearing on keeping cyclists safe.

About Kevin Hague 163 Articles

Green Party Member of Parliament

42 Comments Posted

  1. Just got back from a week away bike touring, so interested to see how this discussion went. I actually agree with some of what Shunda says – as vulnerable road users, we need to use the road in ways that maximise our safety, and some cyclists don’t always do this. But the Herald’s argument to which I objected so vehemently was not that cyclists who ride dangerously have less right to safety. Rather the Herald argued that just using the road (however we ride) invites risk, so just riding on the road is contributory negligence.

    I am a pretty cautious rider (I almost never ride other than in single file, for example, except on deserted roads with good visibility). I maintain that I have a right to use the road safely. The Herald disagrees with this. An example from our backyard Shunda: riding along a narrow, winding road (Omoto, Shunda) I am riding around the indefinite, very uneven and rubbish-strewn edge of the road and am passed with a margin of less than a foot by a Westland Dairy milk tanker. Angry and scared I complain to the company. The company apologises and boasts of its outstanding safety record. It explains that the driver had no alternative but to pass me (at speed and dangerously close) because another vehicle was coming the other way, making it impossible for the tanker to move across to the other side of the road.

    I have thought a lot about this explanation. It implies either that the tanker was being driven too fast for the conditions and was unable to slow sufficiently (and suppose there was a mob of sheep around that blind corner?) or that the driver’s desire for the fastest possible journey time exceeded either the driver’s understanding of the risk being posed to me or sense of need to reduce that risk.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  2. “@Shunda “you can’t stop idiots”

    you prove this with your very presence, my friend…”

    Saw 3 cyclists riding abreast in a 100kmhr zone yesterday, can think of safer (smarter?) ways to have a committee meeting.

  3. Roy wrote:

    “Your argument is simply that of the playground bully (”you have to get out of my way because I’m bigger”).”

    I get the impression that some drivers also believe it to be the law. When I was a cyclist, I would sometimes get drivers telling me to read the road code, when it was clear that they were the ones who didn’t know what the road code said.

  4. Making a hi-vis vest compulsory for cyclists would be almost pointless. Many cyclists already wear such clothing. Others disregard laws requiring helmets (on the head, not the handle bars!), lights and reflectors, so there is not much chance that these cyclists would consider wearing hi-vis clothing.

    Sad but true.


  5. Roy says: … but I’ve been a pedestrian in some parts of the United States – it’s a real pleasure compared to here, because in the event of an accident the motorist is likely to be presumed to be at fault and risks lawsuits etc. With enough incentive, motorists can be _very_ attentive.

    Good point. For some reason we here in NZ forget that a moving vehicle is as (potentially) dangerous as a loaded gun.

    It is not a “right” to drive around half a ton of steel without considering the possible effect of hitting and maiming other people.

    It is a privelege that should be taken away from some.

    I know we are nowadays very reliant on cars but I think we need to be much more harsh on those who drive carelessly or without adequate respect for others.

    Bad driving should be punishable by instant loss of freedom (7 days in the police cells??) and temporary loss of vehicle (28 days in the police yard??).

    Combine that with the U.S.A style threat of lawsuits and we might have more considerate drivers.

    Obviously any driver can make a mistake and inadvertently cause an accident but I feel there is a culture in NZ of considering a vehicle to be as much a part of ones attire as a pair of underpants – hop in and go for broke.

    It’s time to be really harsh on drivers (of any age) who exhibit arrogance, inattention, poor judgement, or lack of skill.

    Pedestrians and cyclists need to feel safer.

  6. “Perhaps wearing a high vis vest should be made into law just as wearing a helmet was.”

    What with their Lycra, pointy hats and day-glo-look-at-me vests on….

    LOL. Give it up 🙂

  7. Owen.

    Have long been a proponent of fereeing up the steel road, to all users, not just KiwiRail and its tax payer supported subsidies. Mainfreight, Strait Shipping, Owens Group, NZPost etc. should be able to buy trainsets and run the steel road.

    However we still have the local logistical and financial problem of local delivery.

    What we could do is a grander version of the A-Bahn bus system in Adelaide.

    10 or so 30 tonne “wagons” are hauled behind a prime mover along the concrete A-Bahn roadway. Because the wagons are rubber tyred and road worthy they can easily be loaded at the consignee, towed to the central station, hooked up to a “train” and dispatched.

    Reverse situation happens at the other end.

    No goods need to be transfered at the rail head. A true door to door “railway” system.

    Heck we could even have electric prime movers on the concrete road.

  8. Yes, the motor vehicle is bigger (and faster, hence way more energy to dissipate in an accident). I never suggested that motorists were all acting like bullies simply because they had a bigger vehicle – it’s the attitude many have of shrugging their shoulders and thinking that it’s up to the cyclists to watch out because they are the ones that get hurt that is reprehensible (I’ve also seen many careful motorists).

    As for watching out for cyclists (and hopefully other things too!) – good! One down, about three million to go!

    I can’t speak as a cyclist in other countries, but I’ve been a pedestrian in some parts of the United States – it’s a real pleasure compared to here, because in the event of an accident the motorist is likely to be presumed to be at fault and risks lawsuits etc. With enough incentive, motorists can be _very_ attentive.

  9. My goodness Roy, the motor vehicle is bigger.
    Your logic is that all “big kids” are bullies.
    I will endeavour to watch out for cyclists more vigilantly, they clearly need it.

  10. No, we’d be dead if we expected motorists to follow the rules all the time (well, I mightn’t be – I stopped cycling because it was too dangerous). That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try and encourage motorists (and cyclists too) to use the road safely.

    Your argument is simply that of the playground bully (“you have to get out of my way because I’m bigger”). Sadly the fact that a lot of people propelling 1-2 tonnes of metal at high speed don’t think rules are that important is what makes our roads a very dangerous place for anyone else.

    P.S. my quote above was direct from the New Zealand Road code, which presumably you read and understood before you got your license in the first place:

  11. I am not the one you have to worry about, so far I have managed to stop before hitting these holier than thou people.
    But by all means make your protest by riding two abreast, in the middle of the lanes. I am sure the boy racers will understand, and the others that speed or corner too fast.
    You can’t just change the majority of road use, and you can’t stop idiots, cyclists must understand the risks involved.
    The only guy I almost hit was on a dark coloured bike and wearing dark clothing, I was in the wrong but the guy was almost invisible. Perhaps wearing a high vis vest should be made into law just as wearing a helmet was.

  12. What?
    My argument is that cyclists would be stupid to expect motorists to obey the rules all the time, and being the more vulnerable vehicle they must take more responsibility for their safety.

  13. Gerrit has got it right.
    Except the rail beds could be used for truck and bus use.
    Separate the tourists from the heavy vehicles and we won’t kill as many.
    And we can electronically convoy the trucks and get rid of about 80% of the drivers who will no longer stay away overnight but return to their families.
    Sadly, wherever this is promoted the greens object because they seem to have a greater love of trains than of families and human life in general. What is it about trains?

  14. As a continuation of greengeek thought process.

    Why dont we rip up the commuter rail network and convert to cycle lanes. That way we have safe cycle lanes, a healthier population, no confrontation, and perhaps biggest of all, no need to subsidise public transport. Think of all those tax dollars that would be better spent on cycle ways.

    Rip up the main trunk line and convert to a concrete roadway for truck only use. Think of the savings on road maintenance! All the trucks RUC can be spent on maintaining their strip of concrete, while the petrol tax can be exclusively spent on road maintenance.


  15. In general, modern cyclists cannot co-exist with either cars or pedestrians safely anymore.

    Given the current environmental sensitivities it is time to make a huge effort to provide bike-safe corridors. Shunda’s responses provide a clear example of why this is necessary.

    Use prison and community service labour to build miles and miles of cycleways throughout our suburbs and the length and breadth of the country.

    If they won’t do the work, chuck ’em back in prison. (or strap them onto a 10 speed and force them to ride along Tamaki drive twice a day)

  16. Um, nuts because we observe the legal rules of the road?

    I thought your argument against cyclists is that they deserve to die because they don’t follow the rules?

  17. If you think that driving at 100km into somewhere you can’t see is safe then you have a rather funny definition of safe. If it is a blind corner it is not safe to take it at a hundred k.
    Safe would be being able to bring the car to a complete stop within the visible stretch of clear road. Anything else presents the possibility of your hitting an unexpected stationary object.
    Your government does not guarantee there will not be a cow that has escaped in the middle of the road or some other unexpected thing.

    I’m not anti-car I just get annoyed by drivers who think the speed limit is a minimum not a maximum. There are a lot more unsafe drivers around than cyclists that’s for sure.

  18. Shunda barunda
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 4:34 PM

    > kahikatea, two questions:
    > 1. on a blind corner that can be safely taken at 100kmhr what speed should it be taken at?

    you’ve defined it as a corner that can be safely taken at 100 km/h, so obviously there’s no reason to argue for going slower.

    > 2. should motorists be prosecuted every time they hit ANYTHING on the road regardless of circumstances?

    of course not – that would be silly.

  19. kahikatea, two questions:
    1. on a blind corner that can be safely taken at 100kmhr what speed should it be taken at?
    2. should motorists be prosecuted every time they hit ANYTHING on the road regardless of circumstances?

    me thinks we have some anti car bigots among us 🙂

  20. From the road code:

    You can drive at any speed under or equal to the limit, provided:

    (stuff snipped)

    * you can stop in half the length of clear road you can see in front of you on a road with no centre line or lanes (for example, a narrow country road where vehicles may meet head-on)
    * you can stop in the length of clear lane you can see in front of you on a road with a centre line or lanes.

    If you aren’t prepared to drive safely, stay off the road.

  21. Because swarms describes them perfectly.
    My main forms of transport are by foot and by bike, I dont even have a drivers licence, and as a communter bicycler the lycra covered swarms of cocky bastards are incredibly annoying. If your in lycra on a road bike with your tear shaped helmets you should at least be going fast enough that a fat f*ck on a touring bike doesint have to cut to a fraction of the speed they were going. And I am not talking about the centre of town, im talking 100 metres from farms on busy road with next to no side streets.
    And thats my crazy rant for the day 😛 .

  22. Shunda barunda
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 10:04 AM

    > Yes Trevor, the problem is Blip seems to think I should drive well below the speed limit just in case an “obstruction” (cyclist) is in the way.

    I think it is usually sensible to go around blind corners well below the speed limit. Even if you can see around the corner it’s often sensible to slow down. A legal speed limit should not be taken as a recommended speed for corners.

  23. Stuey,
    You miss my point but it was a brief post.
    The cyclists on Tamaki Drive in the weekend are recreational cyclists who should be on recreational tracks dedicated to them. In the new towns around Houston there are major cycle networks along the levees and connecting parks to schools, and parks to parks and recreational cyclists (and kids going to school) can ride on these without encounterting regular traffic and high density intersections.
    Most of the drivers on Tamaki Drive are the same drivers who have been commuting all week and regard the route as a major traffic arterial and treat it as such.
    There is a massive and growing demand for recreational and fitness cycling (it’s the new golf) but our planners focus on cycling as a means of getting commuters out of their cars. They are a separate market with different needs.
    As for “swarm” – it is not a derogative term any more than swarm of bees is derogative. These recreational groups behave like swarms rather than individuals. They are communicating with each other all the time.
    The study of swarms is a branch of mathematics and swarm has a specific technical meaning. It is the swarm like behaviour of large groups of cyclists which generates most of the tension (and danger) between such groups and motor traffic.

  24. Yes Trevor, the problem is Blip seems to think I should drive well below the speed limit just in case an “obstruction” (cyclist) is in the way.
    I would suggest that all “obstructions” that are capable of “thinking” should engage said ability and GET OUT OF THE BLOODY WAY!!!
    For goodness sake, an 80 kg cyclist is not going to fair too well against an 1800kg vehicle travelling at 100km hr, this is not a good situation to make a moral protest! perhaps some personal responsibility is required.
    Perhaps cyclists should be required to do a defensive cycling coarse in order to educate them of the dangers they face on the open road, perhaps this would realistically lower the accident rate.

  25. The only way that the government can guarantee obstruction free roads is to ban you (and everyone else) from using them! Otherwise there is always the possibility of a vehicle breaking down or running out of fuel around a blind corner. And don’t say that it is up to the driver of that vehicle to push it out the way – because they would be too scared of a Shunda Barunda hurtling around the blind corner and sandwiching them between their vehicle and Shunda’s!


  26. Really? wow. I would have thought that would be the governments problem to create roads guaranteed obstruction free, I mean, don’t I have a right to safety on government roads?

  27. If you are unable to stop for an unexpected obstruction in the middle of the road you are going too fast which means you are putting your family at risk by even being on the road. What’s the rush?

  28. I think some of you guys are approaching this as if it is a moral issue rather than simple laws of physics. Someone in a car is not going to feel as vulnerable on the road as a cyclist, the cyclist needs to feel more vulnerable BECAUSE THEY ARE!!
    I have come around a blind corner to find a cyclist in the middle of the lane, what sort of idiot rides a bike like that?. If the only option is to swerve into on coming traffic I am afraid the cyclist is going to be in trouble. If I have my family in the vehicle I have a responsibility to keep them safe. I have been astonished at the stupidity of some cyclists on the open road and I can’t see why motorists should bare the brunt of responsibility for the foolish behaviour of others.
    Unfortunately cyclists are slower vehicles and in the minority, perhaps a dose of reality is in order?

  29. If empathy is not taught to the young how can you expect any humane thought in adults.
    It is all me & my, I want, to hell with them.
    All it takes is a little fellow feeling & basic human courtesy. Not going to happen; we left it too late.

  30. The behaviour of commuter cyclists is quite different to these recreational weekend cyclists.
    Unfortunately we do not provide for these swarms and so they use bikeways meant for commuters.

  31. y’know..that three/four abreast thing..

    is a bit of a

    y’know..during the week they are mild-mannered..

    then on weekends..they gather in groups..

    in the few cafes that will tolerate their (strange) lycra ways/affectations..

    and get all fired up on coffe and sugar….

    and head out to the road.. warrior mode…

    ..three to four abreast..’s a recipe for ‘bad medicine’…


  32. For my own safety I will continue to bend the rules while riding my bike. I’ll ride on the footpath and crossings if it means I can avoid a set of traffic lights and keep rolling. As long as car drivers consider I don’t have an equal right to be there I will do whatever is required to avoid them. The irony is, me doing my best to stay out of their way only seems to get them more wound up.

    One of the many things I admired about my time in Japan was that, for a country about the same size as NZ but with a population 30 times the size, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists all happily share the same space. Yet in NZ we’re kicked off the footpath and forced off the road.

    The comment in the Herald today about NZ cyclists being in transit purgatory was spot on.

  33. Agreed. Typical Herald approach: Ask Mr. King from St Heliers for his two-cent, anecdotal evidence that cyclists sometimes don’t ride in single file and deduce from this that cyclists have it coming to them when they are seriously injured on our roads. Result: diverts attention from the real debate.

  34. When road rules endanger me, I break them.

    If the rules catered for all users, I wouldn’t have to.

    Speaking in my cycling hat. I never break the rules in a car, because I might hurt a cyclist.

  35. The idiocy of the New Zealand Fox News Herald never ceases to amaze me.

    One thing can be observed at the outset. Unless the young woman driver deliberately went through the stop, which seems unlikely, this is not a very good case for the cycling cause.

    How could the driver have not gone through the intersection deliberately? Did she fall asleep at the wheel, did an alien spacecraft beam her into the middle of the cyclists? Crazy nonsense. The driver may well have failed to pay adequate attention but she did deliberately drive through the intersection and, as a result, hit the cyclists. It may not have been her intention, but it was the result. Also, of course this instance is a perfectly good case for the cycling cause. Perhaps if a single cyclist had been going past there might be a claim for “oh, I just didn’t see him” – but a whole group? C’mon!

    Such spurious commentary indicates an irrational antipathy for cyclists and ignores the equally irrational inherent “need for speed” most motorists exhibit. What is it about society that we are in such a rush we are prepared to excuse the killing and maiming of our own people?

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