Cycling and the growing rage

The vitriol about Dunedin’s cyclists and towards them is extraordinary.

An us-and-them mentality has reared in Dunedin in the wake of the disruptions caused by the building of cycleways, the loss of car parking and the cost - whether borne via the NZ Transport Agency or ratepayers.

Social media promotes and amplifies the outrage. Toxic comments on some sites abound.  In an age when outrage and self-righteousness is close to the surface,  cyclists are copping it.

A letter writer in the Otago Daily Times this week raised the question about whether there had ever been a time when the relationship between cyclists and motorists was so negative and hostile. He in effect answered the question in the affirmative by writing that "sadly, it seems only a matter of time before someone gets hurt".

Road rage is a dangerous emotion, and worked-up motorists and/or cyclists could easily cause nasty outcomes.

This week, too, a startling video emerged with a teenage passenger urging his truck-driving colleague to run down a cyclist.

Even though, no doubt, the comments were partly in jest,  the undertone is serious.  As it was, the cyclist appeared to be behaving  responsibly, wearing a high-visibility jacket and keeping well to the left.

Then, yesterday, came news of the alleged abuse of a cyclist after a truck blocked a cycleway in Fryatt St.

The disgruntlement,  on all sides, has not been helped by the new southbound one-way separated cycleway on State Highway 1 through Dunedin.

It seems  the planners — and given reports from other major New Zealand cities the problems are widespread —  cannot get it right.

The wider painted cycle lanes were a big improvement, lessening the chances of cyclists being bowled by car doors.  Separated cycleways would appear to be the next big step forward.

But, at least so far, the cycleway has heightened frustrations on all sides.

Turning motorists at several intersections can feel disgruntled with a red arrow giving cyclists the right of way when often there is nobody on a bike.

Meanwhile, the design leaves cyclists who fully obey the law spending more time waiting at lights than actually riding.

If anything, the view that it now takes twice as long to cycle the street is understated because cyclists are likely to endure long waits at just about every intersection.

The short cycle phase is, inconveniently, over in the time it takes to ride a block to the next set of lights.    

Previously, especially with a tail wind,  a few intersections could be cleared in one straight run.  

A key point of cycling should be its speed, certainly relative to walking.  In part, it is as if there are so many cycleway compromises, like for example endeavouring to retain parking, that no-one is happy.

As for road training cyclists,  the cycleways just will not work.

With a good tailwind, cyclists can be travelling just about as fast as cars.  It should not be surprising to see them on the roads.

What is occurring nonetheless, albeit off a very low base,  is an increase in cycling numbers, far more noticeable in the north than the south of the city.

Cycling, with a boost  from e-bikes, is rising in popularity, which is good to see. Some of the surge in mountain biking is transferring to commuting.

Many cyclists will indulge in dangerous antics, and rightfully attract criticism from other road users.

Others will exhibit arrogance, showing a sense of entitlement and behaving in ways inconsiderate to drivers.  But it is grossly unfair to abuse and stereotype all cyclists on the basis of the behaviour of some.

It should be remembered, too, that most cyclists are also car owners and drivers.

The antagonism and bitterness has gone too far.

It is time for everyone to take a deep breath and be more patient. 

Hopefully, improvements can be made and everybody can adapt to changed roads and cycleways.

Comments

In time trends change. Over a century ago most traffic would have been pedestrians, cyclists and horse-drawn vehicles. With oil prices it may return to traffic similair to the 1800's.

 

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