Safe cycling - sometimes - in Auckland
Cyclists, do you feel safe?
Auckland has overthree-quarters of a really good cycle path network - all that is needed is for the gaps to be filled in and it would be safe to cycle everywhere. I ride into the Auckland CBD from Half Moon Bay most days, and I used to ride in from Henderson. From out west it was great as I could use the Northwestern cycleway, making the ride in safe all the way into the city bar one short section in Te Atatu which wasnt too bad.
The ride in from out east is safe for the most part, however there are a few hair-raising sections, namely the Panmure-Pakuranga bridge and the Panmure roundabout. This has actually be made worse since the new station has been built, and clearly the designers never even thought that cyclists might want to use that station. Its a pity as from Pakuranga on there is an absolutely awesome cycle path all the way home around the waterfront that is not only safe but a really pleasant ride too.
The Panmure-Pakurange bridge is typical of the gaps that need urgent attention and "filling in" by the council - there doesnt need to be cycle paths everywhere or right now, the top priorities should be where the roads are narrow and heavily trafficed and particularly where it is the only route to a major group of suburbs, and the Panmure-Pakuranga bridge qualifies on all counts. It would require additional cycle lanes to be attached to the existing bridge each side, but as the loadings are only a few hundred kgs rather than a few thousand the structures should be lighter and cheaper.
There are a few other secions where cyclist safety could be improved more quickly and cheaply with paint and labour - running cycle lanes through the Remuera and Newmarket shopping areas and removing the parking would not only improve cylist safety but impriove traffic flow for cars as well. Putting cycle lanes in front of and 500 metres either side of schools as proposed by the Greens also has a lot of merit (and I am not a Greens voter). Much of the work of completing the cycle lane network simply requires strength of political will on the part of the council rather than huge expense.
Cyclists themselves need to take some responsibilty too, and ensure they are visible and do not endanger themselves by carelessly running lights etc. I wear a LOT of flouro and have over a dozen lights, mainly because a small minority of drivers appear to be functionally blind (I have airhorns as well, assuming of course that they are not deaf as well, but then again Helen Keller could probably get a licence here). Then again, I have seen people cycling at night in dark clothes with no lights and no helmet - that is beyond stupid. Have also seen one lunatic on a bike (I hesitate to call him a cyclist) actually go right through a red light and through a stream of traffic going through the green. That doesn't help!
The one other major danger to cyclists (and other drivers etc) is drivers texting. Solving this again requires strength of political will rather than expense - perhaps instead of the police pulling over and ticketing drivers they see texting, and the long complex process of imposing a penalty or fine, simply empower officers to destroy the phone on the spot. People will be more effectively taught a lesson by the loss of all the contact and info on their phone and the resulting inconvenience then a fine a couple of months later.
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