Drivers face fines for stopping in cyclist zones

FINE SPOT: "Stop boxes" for cyclists that have been rolled out over the past year put people on bikes at the front of ...

FINE SPOT: "Stop boxes" for cyclists that have been rolled out over the past year put people on bikes at the front of the queue at Wellington's intersections. Police warn drivers who encroach on the boxes will be fined $60.

Police are warning Wellington drivers they can be fined $60 if they encroach on new "stop boxes" that have been developed around the city's intersections to give cyclists a safer head-start on other traffic.

The green "advanced stop boxes" place cyclists ahead of queues of buses and cars so that they can move off and make turns from intersections safely.

Wellington district road policing team response manager Senior Sergeant Richard Hocken said police began their two-week education campaign today, acknowledging many drivers would be unfamiliar with the stop box rules, and the fine attached to encroaching upon them.

"There will come a time when people are going to get fined. At this stage we want to educate the public about what it is all about," Hocken said.

Wellington City Council Transport and Urban Development Committee chair Andy Foster said the boxes, which have been rolled out throughout the capital over the past year, were not unique to Wellington – he had also seen the cyclist-friendly road design in Europe. 

"It's a practical step, it's about safety and getting cyclists space at the head of the queue where they can be visible at the same time as a car is starting. [A cyclist's] first pedal start is the wobbliest and if there's a car or bus right beside you there's some discomfort there," Foster said.

One feature of the stop boxes – sets of white diamonds imprinted upon the green zones – show cyclists where to stop to trip underground traffic signal sensors sensitive enough to pick up the presence of a bike. This ensures the lightweight road-users prompt green light signals. 

Wellington city does not yet have red light cameras. Therefore rule-breakers will be caught via police pulling up drivers they see stopping in the stop box zones, or responding to cyclist complaints – depending on what evidence they had, Hocken said.

Cycling Advocates Network spokesman Patrick Morgan welcomed the stop boxes, saying they would cater to growing numbers of Wellingtonians using bicycles and help prevent crashes.

"It's not about revenue raising it's about getting people on bikes."

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However he thought the council needed to embark on a better information campaign about the rules: "It's no surprise that drivers are unaware of that," Morgan said. "I think the council could do a lot more as a lot of people won't know what the advanced stop boxes are for. I think some people certainly aren't aware of what they are and might think that it's just a cycle lane."

Motorcyclists also needed to be aware that the green zones were not for them, he added.

 - Dominion Post


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