Why are cyclists being picked on?

, posted: 25-Nov-2010 10:09

I attended the funeral for my cousin last week that was one of the cyclists killed in that horrible weekend and week on the roads for cyclists.

That was really hard for me.

I am a commuter cyclist. I say this as I cycle to work everyday on my mountain bike from Petone into Wellington CBD and back. I'm not an enthusiast out on weekends riding in groups (and seem to get so much abuse). I'm just getting to work and back.

After the horror week that was this week seems to me to have been the worst I have experienced, it's just been really crazy on the roads. I have seen the aftermath of 3 cyclists knocked down this week; 1 just after it happened, 1 just as the ambulance arrived, and today one just out of Petone where the ambulance was already there and a cop was talking to another cyclist.

What gets me is how drivers seem to think cyclists don't exist or think that because we're not cars we don't have right of way or bleong on the road. There was a blog on stuff this week that really infuriated me what the mentality of some people have (http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/blogs/drivetalk/4359968/A-metre-could-have-saved-her-life) either this blogger is a complete idiot or is actually a very good troll.

It seems to me people get so impatient that when they see a 'gap' with a cyclist in it they take it, like the cyclist should stop for them. I can be looking directly into the eyes of someone and see them see me as they make that wrong decision. What is 2 seconds for them could be eternity for me.

Just this week i've had to deal with:
- a van run red light just as my crossing sign turned green
- vehicles pulling out from/into drives/intersections/parks directly into my path - were I to swerve instead of brake I could get taken out from behind by a passing motorist (think tamaki drive)
- vehicles cutting left right in front of me, particularly into drives where they go slow entering stop and block what little room I have
- A BUS did a u-turn from the other side of the road right in front of me and totally blocked me and the cyclists behind me - like we don't have rights???

One particularly hairy part of my daily commute is just before I get home I have to negotiate the Petone off ramp and round-a-bout. It infuriates me the amount of people that swerve just in front of me to get around the corner when they could wait just a few seconds as we're not going slow, I have an odometer and I generally travel at 30kph.

It's these drivers that cannot judge speeds, that are too impatient to wait 2 seconds, that misjudge just how fast we can travel, that are making the bad decisions to speed up and cut in front of cyclists and ultimately will probably kill me one day.

WTF, what is wrong with people, cyclists are dying because people have no patience that for 2 seconds you'd risk a cyclists life?

Alter the road advertisements where 'death' spins the wheel to include these scenes with a cyclist in the mix because that wheel of life will have a lot more black segments on it marked death.

Other related posts:
Cut out the middle man?

Comment by Ragnor, on 25-Nov-2010 11:39

In other countries that don't have a no fault system like ACC, drivers have a healthy fear that if they hit a cyclist or pedestrian they will get their pants sued off.

Drivers are noticeably more patient and polite overseas, I personally believe it's 100% to do with fear of consequences.

In NZ we almost have a perverse incentive where drivers don't drive as carefully as they would under other systems. 

Also on the flip side cyclists are more reckless here too imo for basically the same reason (blanket no fault ACC). 

Comment by James, on 25-Nov-2010 11:55

Cyclists also need to take some responsibility. First and foremost in my opinion is responsibility for their visibility. Motorcyclists are required by law to travel with their headlight on, why, because we are told that without our headlight on it is very easy for a motorcyclist to blend in and legitimately not be seen. ACC would also like us to wear flourescent safety vests (actually, ACC would like us to cease and desist from riding motorcycles but that's another matter). Why are cyclists not also alerted to the dangers of "being invisible", they have to be even more invisible than a motorcyclist to a driver in a busy city. Yet there is no requirement or even much of a strong suggestion (to my knowledge) for any visibility-enhancing actions that cyclists have to take.

Comment by dhazen, on 25-Nov-2010 13:10


  Sorry, I can't make out who this post is from or I would have used your name.

  I'm very sorry to hear about your cousin's death - there are very few things in life worse than the loss of a loved one.

  Having said that I hope you can detatch my comment from your personal tragedy.  This would have been more approriate to respond to a cyclist who had not suffered such a loss.

  In my view bicycles, and any vehicle that slows or disrupts the flow of traffic along our busy city streets, should be banned.

  It's hard enough to move around this car-choked city without more things presenting a hazzard and slowing us down. It's just plain inconsiderate, it's dangerous, city streets are not set up for it and peole are going to continue to die until some changes are made.

  We all have to adapt to a changing world - nude sunbathers now have to stay out of the sun - and bicyclists should stay off city streeets. 

                 - Deck

Author's note by pando, on 25-Nov-2010 13:45

If you look at the majority of commuters in the Wellington mornings you'll see that nearly everyone has the fluro green torpedo7 bag covers, they're very visible and I personally have one in addition to a fluro green shirt.
I would agree that the sport cyclists are less visible but as a highly visible commuter more often than not it's purely drivers being inattentive or making very poor decision.
I totally disagree with you in that bicycles slow or disrupt the traffic.
No where in my entire 25km round trip cycle do I slow traffic and why would I? Our commute isn't in the middle of the road, we're off on the side, we only 'disrupt' when drivers want to turn and what's 2 seconds? Is it that important?
You are a prime example of someone who has that arrogant selfish impatient attitude. You really need to have a think about what you're saying here.

Comment by Minaithnir2005, on 25-Nov-2010 13:52

I agree with the OP. I cycle from Ilam every day to Hornby and back, i work rotating shifts, so im on the roads during 6-7am, 2-3pm and 11-midnight. I wear all my high vis clothing as i bike (saves changing) have new reflectors and have high power LED lights for dark times.

Still people ignore my presence. I have learned it's best not to take chances and am very careful when travelling. Im from the UK, Scotland in particular and i felt safer there on the roads than here.

I think that drivers who hit cyclists with the right high vis gear on and bike lights etc should be able to be tried for manslaughter or attempted murder (if you can see me but still do that dangerous maneuver it's your fault and it was a conscious decision). A few cases like that and the general public will lift their level of safety considerably.

Also there needs to be stricter controls for levels of visibility on cyclists. If your not wearing high vis gear or have lights running how is a driver meant to see you? 

Comment by Regs, on 25-Nov-2010 14:07

i'd just like to point out that i have had some of the same problems as you, and i am in a car.  every day i see cars, trucks *and even cyclists* running red lights. I think drivers, overall, have a pretty poor record and its not directed at cyclists specifically.

as for vehicles 'cutting left' in front of you, if the car is ahead of you then it has right of way.  if it is turning left, you should not be trying to pass on the inside.  sure the vehicle should be signalling for at least 3 seconds first, but cyclists that are in a cars blind spot, also cannot see indicators.

Author's note by pando, on 25-Nov-2010 14:50

(they need threaded comments so I can comment on a comment!!!)

as for vehicles 'cutting left' in front of you, if the car is ahead of you then it has right of way. if it is turning left, you should not be trying to pass on the inside. sure the vehicle should be signalling for at least 3 seconds first, but cyclists that are in a cars blind spot, also cannot see indicators.

I should clarify what I mean here; I am talking about when a driver deliberately speeds up to cut in front knowing full well what they're doing is jeopardising the cyclist's safety

Comment by Tom GT, on 25-Nov-2010 15:06

As someone who drives a lot and cycles to go to the local shops, my experience is that a lot of people will go around you and then slam on the brakes turning left, if the driver had any sense they'd just slow to ~30, and turn left behind the cyclist. If the cyclist is in the car's blindspot when it is turning, the car obviously shouldn't have overtaken the cyclist. If you overtook another car and then slammed on your brakes to turn left, commonsense would dictate you are at fault if an accident occurred, likewise with a bike. When I'm driving, I have been honked at for not wanting to pass a cyclist until there is sufficient space, or for staying behind them as I am going to turn left. Cyclists have every right to be on the roads (except official motorways), and if you are such a hurry you get mad at anyone that's not going as fast as you want, you should have left earlier.

Comment by lucky015, on 25-Nov-2010 16:55

This is a society where if we see a gap we go for it, Especially with driving, The only difference between a cyclist and a motorist when it comes to being cut off is that it is easier to cut off a cyclist, There is nothing special about it, If you where in a car and someone thought they could get past even rather closely then a lot of people would do it.

If you chose to cycle then you do so with the understanding of how people drive on our roads and the understanding that you will have no protection against people driving as they normally do.

At the end of the day you can hope people will be looking for cyclists on the road but in the end driving is about cars and people are much more concerned with the large chunks of steel heading towards them.

Comment by Cal, on 25-Nov-2010 18:23

Personally, I think the attitudes and actions of those weekend cyclists (riding in groups, 2 - 3 abreast etc) is a massive contributor to the general attitude of drivers towards cyclists. A classic case of the few spoiling it for the many. I will happily admit to the total frustration and anger I have experienced when driving in areas such as Tamaki Drive and Oriental Bay due to the sheer inconsiderate behaviour of these cyclists. That said, I am always very conscious and careful when single commuter cyclists are on the road, and can clearly observe the stark difference in attitude between the two types of cyclist. Knowing how much frustration these lycra-clad idiots cause, and their seemingly 'up yours' attitude to drivers and their own personal safety, it doesn't surprise me that most drivers now have a 'hate' attitude to all cyclists. It's a shame, and I can't see these issues being resolved until the laws are changed to limit the behaviour of the lycra-clad bunch, backed up with reinforcement and fines. If they continue to ride and treat the road as they do now, the attitudes of drivers towards all cyclists will continue to worsen.

Comment by muppet, on 25-Nov-2010 22:36

@MrPink:  You say "It's these drivers that cannot judge speeds, that are too impatient to wait 2 seconds, that misjudge just how fast we can travel, that are making the bad decisions to speed up and cut in front of cyclists and ultimately will probably kill me one day."

Firstly, I hope that doesn't happen to you!  And secondly, you've pointed out just a subset of drivers by saying "these drivers".

The counterpoint to that, in my eyes, is Cal's comment.  A specific subset of cyclists, "those" that do flout the law, ride 3 abreast etc.

I think not only should cyclists be accountable for their actions, so should car drivers.  Neither group does a sterling, good job on the road.  I make mistakes as a driver. I've nearly knocked a cyclist off opening my door without looking.  It was only his quick thinking that saved him.

Cars crash into each other every day.  People in cars die on the road on a regular basis.  Your four points above could also apply to a small car, couldn't they?

For every: You won't BELIEVE what I had to put up with from a driver today post I see, there's as many You won't BELIEVE what I had to put up with from crazy person a bike posts.

Both groups are at fault.  If you're trying to say "only the other group's the problem" then, in my opinion, you're part of the problem as well.

Comment by Talkiet, on 26-Nov-2010 10:07

@muppet - well said

I see MANY more cyclists blatantly breaking the road rules every day here in Chch than drivers. Many (I won't quite say most) cyclists seem to believe that red lights and requirements to indicate simply don't apply to them.

Similarly I don't think I'd be able to get away with driving my car up onto a footpath, through the square, across pedestrian crossings and down one way streets the wrong way.

I fully accept that the consequences for cyclists are almost always worse than consequences for drivers when incidents occur, but so many cyclists have no interest in riding safely or in compliance with the law it's just astounding.

Now, before you respond, don't you DARE suggest that I'm making out drivers to be without fault - there are many inconsiderate, inattentive, or simply bad drivers as well - but just asking motorists to take responsibility for the accidents is a head in the sand approach and won't work.

I've met adult cyclists that genuinely weren't aware they needed to stop at red lights and cyclists that refuse to wear helmets because they're not cool and would mess up their hair.

We all need to take an inclusive look at the issues, and a lot of it comes down to respecting all other road users.

For motorists, that means being aware of cyclists and the fact they are slower, harder to see etc.

For cyclists, that means respecting the rules and doing what you can to be seen.

Cheers - N

Comment by allan, on 26-Nov-2010 10:13

I drive to work every day through the Karori tunnel, which for non-Wellingtonians is approx 70m long and has fairly sharp turns at each end of it. It is also reasonably narrow and if a bus and a truck approach each other, one often needs to stop to ensure they can get past safely. Whilst there is a single narrow pedestrian path, it is barely wide enough for two pedestrians to pass each other and is not an option for cyclists to use, thus meaning they must use the narrow roadway.

I am constantly amazed however, at motorists following cyclists into the tunnel, who don't have the patience to sit behind then for 70m and attempt to overtake them inside the tunnel (it has double yellow lines) when there is no way in the world they can see what might be approaching from the other end. I'm just waiting for the day when there is a headon.

Comment by Pedestrian, on 27-Nov-2010 09:14

@Ragnor, I agree 100% that overseas (at least in Europe), drivers have much more respect for cyclist AND pedestrians. We always talk about cyclist but there is a problem with pedestrians too. But I'm not sure it is a due to a fear of consequences. For me, it's a matter of training and civism. A car (vehicle) should always take care when there are pedestrians or cyclist around, no matter whether they have the right of way or not. The rule of thumb in NZ seems to be: if I have the right of way, I DON'T CARE (about the others). Maybe putting more emphasis with ads and in the NZ road code about pedestrians and cyclist could change something. if you hit someone, there is no way back...

Comment by chrisw, on 27-Nov-2010 17:36

Some very good comments here. Personally, I think that both groups are at fault, with the cyclists being more of the problem.

I think its great that people want to commute to work and back on their bikes - I used to do it. But what gets me is a) you want to be treated like road users but never obey they law (or registration fees!), b) doing 20km/h 2 a breast almost in the middle of the road in peak hour is going to make people angry. GLUE yourself to the kerb and ride single file (once again, when I rode my bike frequently there was hardly a time I wasnt at risk of kerbing my wheels!) and c) use the cycle lanes? If the girl on Tamaki Drive in Auckland had been off the road on the cycle lane, this wouldnt have happened. I think its hugely sad that she lost her life, but you cant just blame one party. There were preventative measures she could have taken too.

My 2c

Comment by Regs, on 27-Nov-2010 19:36

yesterday i came across one of my pet hates.  this was a scooter rider who passed all the cars on the left (and almost took out a cyclist in the process) when they were slowing for lights, then pulled in front of everyone at the lights.  when the ligts went green he/she drove at his maximum speed of less than 45kph in the middle of the lane with cars stuck queuing up behind him/her.

my other pet hate is people who drive on main highways at 80kph, then speed up to 110kph and pass everyone when they hit the passing lanes..

Comment by Starplay, on 28-Nov-2010 01:23

I agree with people cycling etc... Good on ya... I wish I could do it but just wouldnt have the time... and living in the country I wouldnt be that keen to bike up hills to get too and from work.

.. The only one thing that annoys me about cyclists is the ones that cannot seem to move over. When you come around a corner or catch up to a cyclist its fine to go around them as long as there is no oncoming traffic... But often when I meet a cyclist on the road and there is oncoming traffic they nearly always fail to move over in order to give me enough room to pass... It is only a slight movement over that would give me room, but they usually choose to make me slam on the brakes and nearly cause another accident! And this is what I beleive creates the whole negative cyclists thing in the first place. I beleive they have a right to use the road, but sometimes need to realise other people also have this right.

I have actually knocked one off their bike before when I was towing a horse float and had an oncoming cattle truck on the other side of the road... It was either a) crash head on into the truck. b) drive off the road and down the hill or c) slow down as much as I could and keep on driving... As it was the best option I chose c... And knocked they guy of his bike.... If he had of moved over 0.5m he would have been fine... But I guess thats how it goes

We have recently had a whole lot of extra cycle paths/lanes added here in Hawke's Bay... So hopefully that helps the problem.

Comment by darkness, on 28-Nov-2010 10:18

I've been a commuter cyclist before, so I know how crazy it can be. Was never knocked over, but came close a few times. 

Both sides are at fault in my opinion. There are so many bad car drivers it's quite scary. In saying that I have had a few incidents with dumb cyclists as well. They zip up the left side of my car when I've got a green light to turn left, and a couple last week cut me off badly enough i had to jump on the brakes. And some of them seem crazy enough to ride around without helmets.  

Comment by joker97, on 30-Nov-2010 22:32

Amazed at dhazen ... Howabout cars should be banned where one can cycle? There are idiot drivers and suicidal cyclists put it this way. Unfortunately idiot drivers kill innocent cyclists whereas suicidal cyclists generally get noticed by careful drivers - otherwise they'd be dead

Comment by rmcd, on 1-Dec-2010 21:56

Disgusted at Mike Hosking's comments in the paper that the duty of care lies solely with cyclists because they're more vulnerable. It's the more dangerous - in other words, drivers - who should take particular care. If two people run down the street, one carrying a hollow kid's plastic cricket bat and the other carrying a machete, who should be extra careful? And who should end up in jail if there's a collision?

Comment by YodAboY, on 3-Dec-2010 06:40

@chrisw - I ride a bike frequently, and used to have a similar attitude to you (glued to the curb). However, the more I ride nowadays, the more I can see that cyclists need to reserve their space in the road.I'm often cycling along the curb and then come across a parked car which I need to avoid. If there's traffic around, 9 times out of 10 will see a car driver being completely oblivious to my need to avoid the parked car.I've been knocked off by someone opening a car door too, so I'm not at all keen on staying too close to parked cars.I have gripes about other cyclists too... I have a beef with cyclists who ride in anything but single file on busy roads (or don't adopt single file when cars appear). If you want to have a conversation with someone, go to a cafe... Also, cyclists who don't look behind them when changing lanes! Simply signalling is no guarantee you've got a clear path to move. I can think of at least 2 times that a cyclist has darted in front of me whilst driving. I've had my eye on them, and they've not so much as flicked me a glance.

Add a comment

Please note: comments that are inappropriate or promotional in nature will be deleted. E-mail addresses are not displayed, but you must enter a valid e-mail address to confirm your comments.

Are you a registered Geekzone user? Login to have the fields below automatically filled in for you and to enable links in comments. If you have (or qualify to have) a Geekzone Blog then your comment will be automatically confirmed and shown in this blog post.

Your name:

Your e-mail:

Your webpage:

pando's profile

Carl Shuker
New Zealand