Bus drivers swap roles with cyclists
Crashes between cyclists and bus drivers have reduced dramatically in the Wellington region thanks to a unique initiative that gets them to swap roles.
Share the Road workshops put cyclists behind the wheel of a commuter bus in a controlled environment for a few hours while bus drivers head out on a bike to negotiate traffic.
Greater Wellington Regional Council introduced the programme after a horror year in 2008 when there were 10 crashes between buses and cyclists.
In the four years since, there were only six crashes - none were fatal and only one caused serious injury.
Statistics for 2013 were not yet available.
The council received enough funding assistance from the NZ Transport Agency to put on four workshops across the region each year. Between 30 and 40 people normally gave it a go.
Cyclist Patrick Corrieri, who took part last year, said one of his biggest safety concerns in Wellington was buses pulling out into the path of cyclists.
He initially thought the drivers were being pushy, until he jumped behind the wheel of a bus and saw how big its blind spots were.
He was now more cautious and courteous when cycling past bus stops, he said.
Go Wellington bus driver Bruce McCall said he assumed Wellington's tight and windy streets were not ideal for cycling but he would do a workshop this year to find out first-hand just how dangerous it was.
"Anything that helps us get a better idea of what it's like for cyclists out there is a really great thing."
Simon Kennett, the council's active transport and road safety coordinator, said the high number of crashes in 2008 highlighted the need to drastically improve safety, especially with the number of cyclists in the region steadily growing.
"We came to the conclusion that we needed to do something pretty significant, because a lot of bus drivers have not cycled for about 10 or 20 years," he said.
"We were very happy to see the crash stats go down. We can't pin it all on the workshops, obviously, but they are certainly playing a part."
Tensions between cyclists and bus drivers, which normally exist on social media and internet cycle forums, also appeared to have reduced thanks to the workshops, he said.
David Laing, who runs the Share the Road workshops, said cyclists and bus drivers tended to point the finger at each other for causing crashes but the statistics showed they were almost equally to blame.
"Walking a mile in another man's shoes is a bit of a cliche, but it does seem to provide that shared perspective."
The Dominion Post