'Real people' campaign for safety

00:34, Feb 05 2014

If you knew the student on the bike ahead of you was Jane Bloggs who goes to college with your daughter, chances are you would slow down and give her plenty of room as you drive past.

That's because the cyclist isn't some anonymous person, it's someone you know.

A new road safety campaign, "See The Person", aims to get drivers thinking about cyclists as real people - mums and dads, sisters and brothers. They could be your friends, relatives, neighbours or colleagues, and they all have a right to travel safely on the road.

It's a message endorsed by Marlborough Grey Power president John Craighead who is an ageing but keen cyclist as well as a car driver.

"There is a mindset among drivers that cars should not be inconvenienced by other forms of transport. I've had a couple of close calls on my bike - I was in High St the other day and a young woman passenger called out the window: ‘Get off the road - you're in our way'. That's to do with drivers' perceptions of drivers' rights. It's not a shared road mentality," he says.

John has been cycling regularly "since the turn of the century".


"I bought an electric bike, but I've since discovered that Blenheim is flat so I've sold that and now I ride a traditional push bike."

He was a Marlborough District councillor from 2001-2007 and cycled as much as he could to make a statement about sustainable transport. "I was a member of the Bike Walk Marlborough committee until recently, trying to get cycle lanes and a better environment for commuting cyclists," John says.

Several things about cycling appeal to John: "Riding a bike combines exercise and being able to observe the neighbourhood you go through. Also you engage with traffic around you and can chat to cyclists and pedestrians in a way that you can't when you're isolated in a vehicle.

"And cycling is faster - we live only a kilometre from the centre of Blenheim so it's quicker to bike than it is to take the car out and find a parking space."

John encourages drivers to use their imagination about what it would be like to be cycling - to put themselves in the riding seat - and give the cyclist at least 1.5m of space when passing.

"As a driver, I am much more aware of the space a cyclist needs and I allow for that. I find the young cyclists, the pre-teens, a bit unpredictable but otherwise most cyclists are quite sensible," John says.

He acknowledges that it's a situation of give and take between drivers and cyclists.

"Something I don't do well as a cyclist is signal my intentions by putting my hand out - I need to improve on that. I know where I'm going but I haven't actually signalled that to a wider audience.

"And roundabouts are messy - I try to avoid them as much as I can. For instance, if I want to get from swimming at the stadium to the Grey Power office in Alfred St, it's quicker and safer for me to cross over and go through The Warehouse car park and BP.

"Then I've only got one significant roundabout/intersection before riding through the Farmers car park and leaving my bike outside the Grey Power office. Parking is not a problem."

As for improving relations between cyclists and drivers, John says it helps to be friendly - wave to people you know and make being on the road a communal activity. Rather than being a nuisance on the road, it might just remind drivers that cyclists are every-day people, just like them.


February is Bike Wise Month, with two events planned for Marlborough.

Go by Bike Day, Wednesday February 12, 7.30am-9am Liz Davidson Park, Blenheim.

Leave the car at home and try biking to work or school.

Free breakfast and be in to win an Avanti bike and helmet.

Family Fun Day at Condors Bend Mountain Bike Park, Sunday, March 2, 11am-3pm, by the Wairau River at Renwick. www.bikewise.co.nz 

The Marlborough Express