As the Green Party’s spokesperson on Cycling I have had the opportunity to carry forward my background in advocacy for cycling into new areas. For example, our work as a co-sponsor with John Key (he brings the dollars, we bring the cycling expertise) has seen Nga Haerenga (the NZ Cycle Trail Network) develop from a pretty limited idea (concrete ribbon the length of the country) into a long term plan to develop a network of cycle tracks that will work for tourists, and link to bike tracks in urban areas too, for commuters and school kids. From my vantage point I can see a lot of track-building going on but, more importantly, a sea change in the attitudes of many local authorities towards cycling facilities, resulting in a major increase in urban cycling facilities in many centres around the country.
One of the other areas I have been working in is to have convened a cross-Party cycling group. Facilitating this kind of collaborative approach is one of the things that the Green Party, with our commitment to appropriate decision-making, seems well positioned to do. The group meets irregularly, as time allows, and is open to all MPs, regardless of whether or not they are currently active cyclists. The group has a solid core of regular attenders plus those who come occasionally but want to be kept informed. A recent initiative of the group was to use social media to ask for people’s top tips for improving the safety of people riding bikes. The initiative was supported by a number of MPs from the National, Labour and Green parties (didn’t receive feedback from any of the others), and then the feedback was combined into a template media release that any MP was welcome to use with local media. I thought you might like to know about the initiative. Here’s the release:
“As the Summer holiday season is upon us, our roads need to cope with large volumes of traffic, with the associated increased risk of conflict between road users.
Getting out and riding a bike is a great thing to encourage people to be doing this Summer, but people riding bikes are especially vulnerable in the event of a crash. I have been pleased to support an initiative from the cross-Party cycling group, made up from MPs right across Parliament, to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to get tips on improving safety for people riding bikes.
The top tips for cyclists were:
1. Maximise visibility, with lights, fluoro clothing, flags etc, but ride as if you are invisible
2. Make your intentions clear with good signalling and maintaining a consistent line
3. Be assertive, but not aggressive, riding sufficiently out into the lane to be clear of obstacles like debris on the shoulder or opening doors on parked cars
4. Be courteous to other road users and follow the road rules
We also asked people about tips for improving safety for kids. In addition to those listed above, people stressed the importance of putting kids through cycle skills courses, getting their skills to a good level before riding on the road, and riding with your kids to begin with. Many people suggested that kids should be allowed to ride on footpaths, and this is something we will need to take a look at, as it is currently illegal.
The top tips for motorists to improve safety for people riding bikes were:
1. Look out for bikes at all times, and don’t assume that they will be travelling slowly
2. Please be patient – it may hold you up a little to wait before you find a safe place to pass a cyclist, but yeally seconds or minutes are neither here nor there
3. Remember that the Road Code specifies a 1.5m separation when passing a cyclist. They need space.
I want to encourage everyone using our roads this Summer to follow these tips. If we all recognise that the road is a shared space, and that well have to look out for ans show consideration towards each other, then ultimately everyone will benefit.”