Posted by: Gregory | May 22, 2015

Should cyclists be forced onto cycle lanes?

The question arises from a comment received on a cycling framework post.

For the purpose of safety and to clarify on NZTA’s advertising concept ‘See the person, Share the Road’ an e-petition channelling the overseas experience was made live today.

The petition proposes a bylaw change to restrict cyclists to cycle lanes when they are available.

The overseas experience shows cyclist are required to use cycle lanes where provided and is embedded in their Road Code.

In discussions with interest groups regarding separated cycle lanes in Island Bay it was suggested the commuter cyclist would not use them based on a theory the speed of cyclists on the purpose built lanes would slow them down.

As much as I like having rules and enforcement, my preference is to use design to encourage behaviour instead of legislation, but I think there’s a reasonable discussion that could happen. Reading through comments on various social media, the issue of cycleways not being used by all cyclists comes up regularly.

How would a bylaw like this fare in terms of consistency?

  • Buses are not required to use bus lanes. Drivers of Route 32 often stay out of the bus lane along Kent Terrace because the cost of merging at the Basin Reserve is higher than the benefit of bypassing traffic in the other lanes.
  • Cars are not required to stay on arterial routes and avoid local roads.
  • Pedestrians are meant to stay on footpaths when available, but legality of crossing is only specified within 20m of a signal or pedestrian crossing.

If the bylaw were in place, how likely would it be adhered to and how likely would it be enforced? There’s no point in creating an ineffective law. We already struggle with all sorts of traffic problems, such as parking on footpaths or running red lights, where personal convenience is driving the bad behaviour and enforcement is either difficult or institutionally ignored.

The bylaw would have to presume that a given cycleway is fit for purpose. A cyclists shouldn’t be forced into an unsafe path. Would the bylaw then be limited to separated cycleways or would green-stripes through the door zone be included? Given the level of vulnerability to injury, cyclists are often having to choose between paths, balancing risks. For the bylaw to be effective, all cycleways would need to be designed to accommodate the needs of all cyclists. Which brings me back to my statement of preference above: if we can design a cycleway to be universally attractive, it would be more effective that a bylaw.

My opinion is certainly not the only one out there. Use the comment section below and let me know what you think about this. Would there be benefits of a bylaw beyond those of building good cycleways?



  1. Most cyclists will take the safer and least disruptive route, taking into consideration other road and path users, as do most vehicle users… Dangerous driving/cycling should catch those that don’t!

  2. xx

  3. It is an interesting and possibly important discussion. I regularly travel along Old Hutt Road which (south of Ngauranga Gorge) also has Wellington’s first cycleway (which is also a pedetrian footpath).
    This cycleway is generally between 1.5 and 3m wide, especially north of Ngaio Gorge but there are still some cyclists who insist on riding on the road. Cyclists riding on this section of the road is especially problematic because:
    * There is a decent (for Wellington) cycleway with few pedestrians beside ths road
    * The road with two narrow lanes each way carries a heavy amount of traffic as well as most buses heading to Northern suburbs
    * The road speed limit is 60kmph, north of Onslow Road, the speed limit increases to 80kmph so road cyclists usually either hold up traffic or force traffic to pass them by moving from the left into the right lane.
    * Buses, which are very wide, are especially impacted which is a real issue both because of the inherent danger of buses passing cyclists and also because they carry perhaps 1,000 passengers per hour … one cyclist can hold up literally dozens of commuters.
    * In the evening wintertime, all the above is done in semi or complete darkness

    For me, the key question is: is a cyclist committing a dangerous driving offense by insisting on cycling on a heavy traffic road with a high speed limit when there is an alternative cycleway available beside the road ?

    Isn’t this similar to a slow truck insisting on travelling up the right hand (i.e. passing) lane of a multi-lane road when the left lane does not have traffic ?

    • Some very good points in there and I’m hoping some cyclists who use the road might provide some insight into why they make that choice. If there’s a practical issue that could be solved, then it should be highlighted and fixed.

      • WRT the old Hutt Road, the shared path has a poor safety record. I use it about half the time when riding north – it’s not a good place to ride if you are in a hurry. There’s too much chance of colliding with a vehicle exiting a carpark (since the driver is focused on looking to their right). Simply getting across the road to the shared path has an element of risk – if heading for Ngaio, that might not be worth it. And it can be stressful for pedestrians to be overtaken at a squeeze-point if I’m moving at 35 kph, so I generally only use shared paths if I have enough time to cruise at less than 20 kph.

        I look forward to the day when we have cycling infrastructure that is safe and attractive for the majority of people contemplating cycling. Even then, sometimes we’ll just need to take a deep breath and be patient – whether that be when cycling on a shared path or driving with slower traffic around us.

      • Thanks for the feedback comment Simon but is it really fair (or safer) to have a cyclist that can “only” travel at 35kmph on a road with a 60 or 80kmph speed limit ? Are cyclists really asking for two cycleway lanes on common routes … one for slower cyclists and one for faster cyclists.

      • A wide cycleway allows for easy overtaking, but that won’t solve the driveway problem. I’ve seen some near misses around Spotlight that could have just as easily been fatal.

      • Of course Simon Kennett in his capacity as the Road Safety Coordinator for Greater Wellington Regional Council knows what he is talking about.

      • Wellington Commuter asked “is it really fair (or safer) to have a cyclist that can “only” travel at 35kmph on a road with a 60 or 80kmph speed limit?” I think the answer is ‘Yes, it is fair’ if the alternative is actually a shared path (such as on old Hutt Rd). It might be fairer still (and certainly safer) for the speed limit to be reduced, or for the shared path to become a foot path and safe cycle lanes be constructed. With extra lanes being constructed on the adjacent motorway, reallocation of road space on old Hutt Rd may be a reasonable option.
        Ideally, all high-volume, high-speed roads would have a generous shoulder (for motor vehicle safety and fast cyclists) and a separate path suitable for slow-speed cyclists. The Kapiti Expressway springs to mind as a good design. In the Hutt Valley, parts of SH2 & the Hutt River Trail provide a range of options. Between Pukerua Bay and Tawa, we also have options for fast and slow cyclists.
        Where there is ample demand, it can be helpful to divide people who cycle into two distinct types ‘Wheeled pedestrians’ and ‘Human-powered vehicles’.

  4. Some cycle lanes are quite narrow and (especially when adjacent to parked cars) may not be as safe to use as riding just outside the cycle lane. They may also not be practical for groups of cyclists to use (when and where it is legal to ride two-abreast).

    Also, some cycle paths are shared with significant numbers pedestrians (and contain obstacles such as poles and bus shelters, or other hazards such as driveways) and are best ridden only at slow speeds. It is often preferable to have relatively fast riders stay on the road, where they pose less of a danger to pedestrians and are more clearly seen by drivers exiting driveways.

    NZTA clarified the law in this regard (to allow cyclist to not use the cycle lane) in 2004. They were in part motivated by a desire to have consistent rules nationwide (as opposed to a confusing variety of local bylaws).

    • It would be seriously confusing for a commuting cyclist from Lower Hutt or Porirua having to deal with two sets of rules every day.

    • Thank you Simon very interesting. NZTA however is authorized to make clarifications about State Highways, local roads come under a different authority being the Wellington City Council. NZTA’s current message “See the person; Share the road” is cause for confusion amongst the general public while another authority insist on separating cyclist from general traffic with cycle lanes.

  5. I find it hard to take any petition by the extremist Maria van der Meel seriously. The referenced info is also incredibly vague: ‘overseas experience’ — where, when? ‘Discussions with interest groups’ — which ones? Were cycling advocates present? What problem is this proposed law trying to solve?

    • I am enjoying the healthy debate Tom; a petition is what it it is and even less important the petitioner; however the overseas experience referenced comes from countries like the Netherlands and Germany.

      Driver training in The Netherlands and Germany includes significant preparation for avoiding collisions with pedestrians and cyclists, in addition to many hours of practice, testing and higher age requirements. Drivers are taught to anticipate the moves, both safe and unsafe or illegal, that all road users make. Drivers are trained to behave in a way that minimizes the risk of injury for pedestrians and cyclists, even if they are jaywalking, riding in the wrong direction, or ignoring signals.

      Additionally cyclist have to be insured and must use compulsory cycle paths sign posted by the local authorities which in Wellington’s case would be achieved through traffic resolutions which Councillors get to vote on according to the proposed Cycling Framework.No need to sign the petition in that case.

      Here is a link to the Dutch law that states in Artikel 5.1 and 2 that cyclist use the cycle lanes where provided; when missing they are allowed to use the road. Sorry it’s in Dutch.

      • Seeing as I’m currently in The Netherlands, I think I can provide a bit more context. Firstly there are plenty of cycle lanes/paths/tracks here where it is not mandatory to use them (BTW, your use of the term “cycle lane” is a bit confusing; only a painted on-road cycle facility is a “cycle lane”). Where there is a mandatory cycle lane/track/whatever (indicated by a different sign) it is a good facility in terms of design/width/etc and therefore likely to be used anyway. For example, I saw one the other day that provided grade-separated cycle routes under a busy roundabout; there was no reason to bike on the roundabout because you could get everywhere you wanted to go conveniently and safely via the pathways (separate from pedestrian paths too I might add).
        Unfortunately in NZ we have plenty of cycle facilities that do not meet this criteria; Old Hutt Road would certainly be one of those where it is probably safer to stay on the road instead of dealing with parked/turning cars, pedestrians, etc on the “shared path”. And there are many where it would be difficult to get where you’re going, e.g. turning right by staying in the cycle lane on the lefthand side. It is for reasons like this that the previous traffic rule requiring cyclists to use an “adequate” cycle track if present was rescinded; we had situations where the Police refused to investigate a crash because they reasoned that the cyclist was not on the nearby cycle track, even when it was completely impractical. If you want to exclude bikes from certain roads (e.g. motorways/expressways with good alternative cycle facilities) you can already do that under existing legislation via signage; no need for a separate bylaw.

      • The control of cyclists on any given road is by the authority for that road. It will often be the council for a local road or NZTA for state highways. According to the advice i was given by WCC the decision is made based on traffic flow and safety on the road. I’m still waiting to hear back from NZTA on justification for keeping cyclists out of the Arras Tunnel and the Mt Vic Tunnel. For the latter, it’s certainly not the case of a suitable alternative.

      • Thank you Lennyboy; I can see where your coming from and the definition of a ‘cycle lane’ would apply in this case. Council officers are very apt at using the ‘overseas best practice’ term in their planning documents and reports; the e-petition is formulated along that vein and designed to create dialogue.

        Its part of councils democratic process which I often use to systematically formalize matters when asked to think in this case about the draft cycling framework. However once a plan or part thereof has been approved it’s the traffic resolutions in fact that are the most important and where I would submit my views and ask for compulsory use of a separated ‘cycle lane’ by cyclists through sign posting by the local authority; so waving the need for a by-law.

  6. If cycleways are of a decent standard then they will be used. If they are unsafe or not fit for purpose because of lack of maintenance for example, then they will not. Simple really. Nothing is going to such every type of rider but a decent network will take into account who’s going to be most likely to use each part e.g. kids on suburban lanes, commuters into town, roadies around the bays and design accordingly.

    As for the Old Hutt Road- not so bad out by Onslow and Ngauranga, but it’s a complete deathtrap closer to Kaiwharawhara road, and definitely safer to cycle on the road there.

  7. In Paeroa, we DONT HAVE Dedicated Safe Cycle Lanes for our MAIN STREET. Therefore one has to travel with MV tail gating at 50 km/hr.
    My travel speed, 18-20 km/ hr.
    Now we do have wide footpaths in part sections of Normanby and Belmont road. I ride the path when I need to in fear of being run over, knocked off bike, a horn in your ear or a dangerously close call from overtaking cars and trucks. Obviously two types of riders….speedsters, and the classical rider like me. If one needs to go past the slower, do so. But I regard separate safe cycle lands to of immense importance to this country. I say use them When you can otherwise use the road.

  8. Guys, Decent Wide Bicycle Lanes, good for passing are now desired.

  9. According to the Official New Zealand Road Code for Cyclists / cyclist responsabilities they are required to; – use cycle lanes and cycle paths if they are available.

  10. A petition opposing the one mentioned above is now live on the WCC site:

  11. Great article Gregory, and awesome that Maria has started a conversation on this with her e-petition. I don’t think that the IB community will be in the mood to lose kerb carparking for a cyclelane that cyclist can ride alongside, also if the cyclist don’t feel that they are safe within the cyclelane, why do they lobby for them, why not spend the money elsewhere in the community where it is needed and appreciated.

    • I think you’re trying to group all cyclists together whereas they will have specific needs. My desire for segregated cycleways is for my child. If it’s not safe for my son, it’s not safe enough, but experienced cyclists will have different needs. If the cycle lane can’t be built to suit those needs, should the cyclist in question be forced to use it? On the other hand, should we have no safe cycling network on the basis that it would be difficult to build something that suits every need?

      There are long-term benefits of developing a new generation with high cycling mode-share, including lower transportation costs, better health outcomes, more connected communities and safer streets.

    • Cyclists it seems have a lot of flexibility in traffic as opposed to the motor car. A lack of compliance to the Official New Zealand Road Code for Cyclists was confirmed recently by Councillor David Lee.

      He said; “We are not a nation of rule followers.We treat rules and regulations, at best, as guidelines”. It sounds to me like an attitude that needs changing.

      Education according to the “overseas best practice” starts at primary school where children sit an exam before they are allowed on the road with a road worthy bike.

      Safe societies obey rules however enforcement is key.

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