This is a piece received via email from Gloria Williams (@caniwiwilliams) that she has given me permission to post.
I read your thoughtful column on cycling safety this morning and I thought I’d send along this photo which shows just how simple it can be to create protected bike lanes. This is Vancouver, a city similar in size to Auckland and this photo is on a main street within the CBD.
Yesterday I walked to St Heliers on the footpath and made these observations about the so called cycle path ( the one on the footpath, not the road)
- There are signposts cemented into the middle of the bike path in places ( bus stop signs, crossing signs etc etc)
- When parked cars open their passenger doors it blocks the entire bike oath ( witnessed a near accident because of this) Car passengers don’t look of course.
- Of course we know how bumpy and uneven it is (tree roots etc)
- It’s very narrow, not wide enough for bike travelling both directions.
- It’s poorly marked. The little painted bicycle sign is not used near enough and they are quite faded anyway.
- People and their leashed dogs, strollers, scooters, skateboards, joggers etc all stray into the lane, or use it intentionally.
So no wonder cyclists take their chances on the road, where the haphazard attempt at bike lanes are just as bad, too narrow, used by cars, intermittent, car door hazards, etc etc.
What all this shows me is that bike lanes are just an afterthought, we are trying to fit them in around very other usage without dedicating any real space to it.
You’re reported as saying this death was entirely preventable. I agree, the cyclist should have stopped at the red light.
And the truck driver should have seen the out of control cyclist approaching, and the truck (all trucks) should have protection from getting between the wheels and a sign should have directed cyclists wanting to turn left onto Stanley Street to instead go through Carlyle Park Road and a proper bike path would have allowed the cyclist to safely maintain speed and so on and on. The trick with safety incidents, and it’s really hard to grasp, is that there are always plenty of ways to prevent an accident occurring, and that asking humans to do things in a certain way is a lousy answer. A great example pointed out elsewhere were that the horrific fatalities on Auckland Harbour Bridge didn’t stop until they were designed out through concrete barricades.
And ask yourself – have you ever broken traffic laws?
There was a recent TFL study done in London, looking at why female riders make up 50% of cycling deaths even though they only make up 30% of cyclists. It gets worse in heavy vehicle collisions where female cyclists are killed at twice the rate of male cyclists.
The reason for the discrepancy? Male cyclists ride aggressively and break laws. Jumping red lights, and claiming your lane at intersections are less risky that obeying the strict letter of the law. Getting to the front of traffic at an intersection, claiming your lane to prevent overtaking, and getting up to speed and across the intersection before the traffic behind you gets up to speed is safer. Riding in the left hand ‘kerb lane’ and waiting your turn at the lights means you are more likely to be injured or killed.
Jumping red lights is an emergent behaviour caused by a total lack of cycling specific infrastructure combined with the appalling habits of drivers at intersections. Cyclists are not delighting in ‘getting something for nothing’ by sneaking off before the lights change. They are not breaking the law because they get a thrill in doing so. This particular accident was an unfortunate and ‘avoidable’, but in all probability the cyclist was behaving in a way that made him feel *safer* on the road.
We need a totally frank and honest look at driver habits, the road code and road infrastructure.
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