Liz Springford brings us this post:
From questions of safe public transport, what about safe cycling? Just how far to the left should cyclists safely ride? NZTA already has the answer. Cyclists should keep a safety gap of at least one metre from parked cars. In other words, stay out of that door zone of death! If there are no parked cars, then keep to the left, but not in the gutter nor on the footpath – a cyclist has a right to be on the road but no right to ride on the footpath.
From a drivers’ perspective, the NZ Road Code recommends drivers passing cyclists with at least 1.5 metres to spare. To quote Good magazine: ‘It is not simply rude to pass within inches of a cyclist while driving at 60kph, it’s as reckless as threatening them with a loaded gun.’ (The RideStrong community is campaigning to make 1.5 metres legally enforceable – add your support at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ridestrong)
Okay, so that’s safe cycling sorted… or is it? Casual observation of Wellington traffic reveals cyclists on narrow streets risking their safety daily by cycling in the door zone, and drivers in turn risking cyclists’ safety by passing too close. There’s clearly an educational need amongst all road users, including picking the quietest route to cycle, but are there infrastructure issues too?
National guidelines suggest traffic lane widths of 3.2-3.5 metres. That’s 11 metres from kerb to kerb for a two lane road with parking on both sides. Not a common feature of Wellington’s suburbs, where lanes can be closer to 2.5 metres, even on key routes. Safe cycling then putsa cyclist clearly in the middle of the lane – regardless of speed.
But many of us can’t achieve ‘normal traffic’ speeds, even in 40kph zones or downhill. Cyclists aren’t all lycra-clad muscle-men, and Wellington streets seem to have a lot of uphill where speeds may be closer to 5kph than 50. Wellington streets place cyclists, particularly those going uphill and unable to maintain a high speed, in a difficult position. Do we get off and walk up the footpath, or hold up the traffic?
Or is it time to talk about where private cars can be stored in Wellington? Does it make sense to use 2 metres on each side of the street to store vehicles, when drivers and increasing numbers of cyclists at varying speeds are forced to share the road? In some streets, even car travel becomes turn-taking on a single lane as parked cars clog both sides of the street.
The pressure to share the road is set to grow as more Wellingtonians of all ages choose cycling as transport, not sport. And there are so many good reasons to cycle some individual gains and many community gains. From saving money to saving emissions, from reducing fossil-fuel dependence to increasing independence, and as NZTA’s own research recognises, significant health gains from cycling which helps us all.
Cycling Advocate Network’s Patrick Morgan said ‘The only thing worse than cycling is not cycling’, in response to the latest Regional Land Transport Strategy annual monitoring report revealing that Wellingtonians on cycles are twelve times more likely to be injured in a road crash than when in a vehicle. Despite this dramatically unleveled travelling field, the health and environmental benefits of cycling outweigh the risks.
So as another year draws to a close and we turn to customary New Year resolutions to save money and get fitter, please do share your ideas on safe cycling infrastructure in our Wellington streets. City Hop in the suburbs may be the key to unlocking household travel budgets from so much individual private car ownership – but that’s another blog…
We would like your opinion. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
- How ready do you think Wellingtonians are to share the road on cycles and in cars?
- With February as BikeWise month, what are your ideas on how to share safe practice as we drive and cycle into 2011?
- What’s more important to you and why – car storage or car travel speed?
- Which Wellington streets could be priority for swapping car storage for cycle lanes?