Why we do what we do on our way

I don’t often get abused by motorists (thanks Auckland!) but it does happen, and I know there are frequently head shakes and tut tuts going on. If we can establish two things as fact: (a) the infrastructure we ride on is mostly not well designed for us, often hostile; and (b) the laws favour motorists and typically treat cyclists as annoyances on the road.

It’s also a fact that in any situation between motor-vehicle and cyclist, the cyclist will likely be badly hurt or worse.

On my commute ride (which I by far prefer to do on my ebike not least because it is safer) I am frequently required to balance my own safety and speed (or momentum) while being forced to decide if I am bicycle, wheeled pedestrian or vehicle. On ebike I often choose the latter often stressing the heck out of motorists as I keep pace with them. I think this stress is fallen pride 🙁

The point (I do have one) is that frequently motorists, pedestrians and lawmakers want me to choose the option that is worst for me, not the one that is optimal. I say “to hell with that” and choose the best.

I’ll give you some examples.

Situation Worst Best
Shared path cycle lane alongside the road Wheeled Pedestrian – ride along the shared path Vehicle. Continue along the road way. Often using the ‘cycle lane’ exposes you to bumpy footpath and cars pulling across driveways without looking. Might be OK if it is a good one and you are going slowly
Pedestrian crossing at an intersection, especially Barnes Dance type Vehicle. Wait. Pedestrian. Slow. Wheeled Pedestrian. Go slowly giving way to actual pedestrians. It would be legit if I got off the bike and walked, but why? It will just slow me down for no good reason.
Pedestrian zebra crossing to get across a busy road Pedestrian (slow) or Vehicle (can’t use) Wheeled Pedestrian. Use with caution ensuring oncoming vehicles are able to stop safely. No sense getting off the bike. It just means you cross slowly inconveniencing both of us.
Riding along a single lane roadway with a constraint ahead (parked car typically) Bicycle – death awaits Vehicle. I need to assert my space (take the lane) so that other vehicles are not tempted into passing me, even though I might be going 40-50 kph
There are two lanes of static traffic ahead of a red traffic light Vehicle width – wait your turn Bicycle down the side if it is safe to do so. I prefer to get to the front of the queue so that I am not in the middle of traffic. I can also benefit from being narrow unlike your Audi Q7. You do have to be very sure that you’ll make it to the front in time and that no-one will turn in the direction that will endanger you.
Traffic circles Bicycle – death awaits Vehicle. Traffic circles and no place for you to try to overtake me, anyway I can go faster than most cars around a circle so won’t get in your way
Riding at night Pedestrian or Bicycle – can’t be seen Vehicle. I will have as much lighting and reflection as I can get to make myself seen
Dangerous road situation Bicycle – death awaits Wheeled Pedestrian. There are times when I just go onto the footpath even though I know it is illegal because I don’t want to die

I hope that gives you an idea of where my thinking is at – you may agree or disagree. I’m sure you’ll have many more examples. The laws are changing slowly – there is a raft of recommendations in play including going straight from a left lane, going straight against a red light on a T (where you are on the top of the T going L-R). The footpath scenario has been debated (and allowing kids to use footpaths).


One comment

  • Yes our current infrastructure is not very forgiving when it comes to sharing with vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. Loving all the new pathways that are popping up around Auckland, it is certainly starting to make a small difference. It is a shame we can not wave a magic wand and fix all the areas that are tight or non sharing, Stay safe and keep making that ‘best choice’ .

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