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Thread: Cycling.......do you feel safe???

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    Christchurch
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    Default Cycling.......do you feel safe???

    Just wondering how you guys experience cycling in NZ? Do you use your bike, where do you use it for (recreation/commuting/work) and do you feel safe? We arrived in NZ six years ago and we really missed our separated cycle paths that we we grew up with in Holland. Most of the time we felt safe cycling in Christchurch although we never can get used to the fact that quite often you have to cycle past parked cars which doors can be opened at any time. The vast majority of drivers in Christchurch seems to be OK with cyclists and swerve when they pass you. It appears that on average only 8 to 9 cyclists die annually in NZ: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/ro...oll.html#fatal (although this needs to be zero). There are many people in NZ who do not use their bike because they think it is to dangerous.

    Does this statistic agree with your perception and what is your city/region doing to make cycling safer?
    Last edited by frank; 22nd December 2012 at 09:59 PM.

  2. #2
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    Sep 2008
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    Christchurch from Scotland
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    I would not cycle on the roads...only tend to take my bike on offload tracks. Too much bad behavior from other drivers and from cyclists themselves. I would live to see dedicated cycle ways completely separate from cars....it would encourage me on to my bike.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Essex, UK
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    I commute to work by bike. I do think it is more dangerous than in my native Germany, for example, but cycle paths are only one aspect of it. More, or just as, important is the attitude here of drivers. The behaviour of cyclists is not relevant when discussing attitude of car and truck drivers, and if I hear "but they ride three abreast" or "they go through red lights" one more time, I might have to up my medication to keep myself from screaming...

    Apart from that, I think it is possible to cycle here, but it requires a thick skin, short reaction time and large array of swearwords.

    Daniela

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Nelson, NZ - from Boulder USA
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    My whole family bikes regularly - I just did 180km with some friends yesterday, on one of my road bikes, (http://www.mfla.org.nz/longest-day-ride/) around a good chunk of the Nelson/Tasman region, and we had one isolated aggressive driver over the course of the day. Meanwhile my wife and daughter did a mountain bike ride with about 15 other adults and kids in a mountainbike park riding distance from the Nelson CBD, a weekly event.

    The Nelson/Tasman area is pretty good for riding, either on or off-road (mountain bike tracks and cycleways) and there are lots of people who bike to work/school etc. all through the year. The cycling infrastructure is expanding at a decent pace and the councils have a clear picture of the importance of encouraging people out of cars and on to bikes. Our buses have added bike racks this year and you see bikes on the racks on almost every bus it seems. A significant amount of new off-road cycleway is opening this week to tie several of the key recreation areas and nearby towns together so people can ride without needing to be on the State Highway. Nelson has a target of 25% of all commutes to be by foot or bike by 2025, an ambitious but possible goal.

    I came to NZ from one of the top cycling towns in the US, Boulder Colorado, and can say that the Nelson infrastructure is not at the same level yet, but I will also say that I have had far fewer issues riding here than I did in the US - I had car doors kicked open in front of me, beer bottles thrown at me, was driven into and run off the road (all when riding solo and out of the way of the vehicles). Colorado averages around 10 cycling fatalities per year with most of the deaths in the built-up Front Range area.

    Nothing approaching those have happened to me or my family in 4 years in Nelson, even with the many hours per week we spend on bikes - my wife commutes 6km each way 9 days of 10 on bike, my 11 y/o daughter bikes 8km each way to school regularly, does road-bike racing weekly and I bike 200km+/week for exercises or while racing plus more off-road riding on my mountain bike.

    You will hear from others on this forum that cycling in New Zealand is dangerous compared to other places. I would agree that many of the urban areas need better infrastructure and that the State Highways on both islands aren't good for bikes, but the same for both environs holds in other countries - you take your life in your hands biking on-road in the city centres of most US metropolitan areas and you are banned from riding on the Interstate network in almost all states. The saving grace in most countries is the set of minor roads with lower traffic counts and fewer trucks, something that can be harder to find here, unless you know where to look.

    The largest differences are the population (both total and density) and topography - there aren't very many people or companies to bear the cost of building a denser network of roads and in many areas there just isn't decent terrain to support alternate routes. Only Auckland is a city by US or European standards and New Zealand as a whole has far fewer people than most European cities!

    That said, I believe the situation is improving nationwide, albeit not as fast as most of us would like, and planners are including more cycle-friendly features, like those being proposed for the Christchurch rebuild. If you want to see better cycling infrastructure, let the council (and NZTA) know; if we don't tell them that it is important to us as ratepayers and voters then they are less likely to build it. In my case, I joined the board for the local trust responsible for two of the NZ Cycle Trail Great Rides and thus have gained the opportunity to talk directly with MPs, Mayors and senior council staff about how to improve the cycling environment, something that would not have happened in the US.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
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    Lincoln, UK to Rotorua, NZ
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    OH cycles to and from work every day (shift work so all hours). He reckons he feels loads safer here than he did in UK as drivers are much more aware of bikes and much more courteous.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Ashburton, New Zealand
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    75

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    Quote Originally Posted by MetalSoul View Post
    He reckons he feels loads safer here than he did in UK as drivers are much more aware of bikes and much more courteous.
    I biked to school from age 7 in Christchurch right through to University and Teachers College (although some driving also crept in by then on lazy or rainy days!) Never a problem. Was seriously more scared in London as the streets were so much narrower and there was much more traffic. Ashburton is a pleasure to bike in and am looking forward to biking to work when the job starts.

    I do think that there are probably many drivers here who also cycle and therefore are more aware of the dangers for cyclists. I know I'm quite careful to watch out for people on bikes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Christchurch
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    Thanks very much for your replies. It is really interesting to hear about others peoples cycling experiences. Just realised that I have asked a lot of questions but have not mentioned a lot about my own cycling. I grew up in Holland so cycling has always been a important of my life. In Holland many people use their bike as primary transportation: commuting, recreation, grocery shopping etc etc. You do not have to wear a helmet in Holland and most people cycle without wearing any special cycle gear, just your every day clothes. Many cycle paths in Holland are separated but even if they are not you would feel safe on your bike at any time. Because so many people cycle in Holland, drivers are very used to cyclists (many of them being cyclists). I can not remember any serious accidents that involved cyclists. When we moved to Christchurch we used our bikes a lot but I have always hesitated to commute by bike which involved a ride to the other side of town. I feel a lot more confident now and although we now live 42 K out of town, in summer I occasionally use my bike to commute into town. It is not a bad ride at all and I do not feel particularly unsafe. We also use our bikes to walk our dog and visit local shops, pubs and restaurants. On holidays we frequently take our bikes. We have cycled in Vietnam and Sri Lanka and have done a few cycle trails in NZ too. So we are still passionate about the good old humble bicycle!

    Cycling is very topical in Christchurch. Christchurch has always been a cycle nutter city but in the last few years cycling has become less popular because the city was designed to accommodate cars and while often ignoring cyclists and pedestrians. Cycling has regained some of its popularity in Christchurch, and many people express that they are very keen to hop on the bike again but they want to feel safe when cycling. After the earthquakes a huge amount of people indicated that they wanted better infrastructure for cyclists. The Christchurch rebuild plan aims to make Christchurch a cycle friendly city. There is some scepticism around this because cyclists have been promised better infrastructure for years and years but this has never really eventuated but many people are hopeful that this will be a game changer and make sure that young and old will feel safe on their bikes again. There is an excellent website which covers all the latest Christchurch cycling developments if you are interested http://www.cyclingchristchurch.co.nz and where the sister websites for Auckland and Wellington can be found as well.

    New Zealand can be an awesome cycling country and many people realise the potential but councils, NZTA and government sometimes struggle to grasp this so I agree with Dbonnet that is important to let them know if you want cycle facilities in your region to be improved.
    Last edited by frank; 23rd December 2012 at 10:16 PM.

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