OPINION: Oh dear, shock horror, Auckland cyclists are back in the gun again for being the worst offenders at jumping red lights, and the vitriol floating back and forth from the driving ignorami on talkback has to be heard to be believed.
This recent statistical revelation was hardly surprising to those of us who have studied such matters close-up - like, say, from the seat of a bike. There is a simple explanation for the high prevalence of light-jumping by cyclists in Auckland and elsewhere around the country. It is called survival. You jump red lights because it's safer than waiting to be run over by the most ill-mannered bunch of incompetent nutters behind the wheel in worldwide Anglo-Saxonia.
Being a cyclist myself, I can assure readers that having to contend with foul-tempered, near-murderous drivers is a daily fact of cycling life. One little trick I've acquired is to pop on the footpath and activate the pedestrian light - effectively giving you a "legal" head start, rather than having to jump the red light.
I ride a pushbike around town more for convenience, rather than such lofty aims as trying the save the planet.
New Plymouth is reasonably flat and could almost have been designed for bikes. It would be wonderful around here were it not for the antics of some of this country's worst drivers - only Christchurch and Palmerston North are worse.
In fairness to the crew on the New Plymouth District Council's "Let's Go" scheme, the city is now more bike- friendly than it used to be, but until it is realised that a significant block of Kiwi drivers are beyond hope in their infantile behind-the-wheel attitude, the only solution is to separate cyclists from other drivers by dedicated cycleways.
Unfortunately this will cost heaps and require a major road planning mind- shift.
Another matter featuring in the news over recent months has been the question of poverty and whether many lower- decile families live in it or not. After the arguments whether poverty is for real or merely a political wind-up, one suspects that there are genuine pockets in this country - even if most cases are self-inflicted rather than endemic - for example, by having nine kids and no job.
The other depressing aspect of the poverty debate has been hand-wringing by authorities, and the constant media message that there is no silver bullet solution to entrenched poverty and starving kids.
Well, in fact there is a simple solution. Even if it's a bronze bullet rather than silver, there is a single stroke of the pen change that would lift a large tranche of families out of the self-inflicted poverty trap. That is to dramatically drop the tax on fags - rather than keep raising it 10 per cent each year. Addiction is not cured by legislation, and you can put a lot of food on the table for the tax content on a $30 packet of fags. The whole anti- smoking campaign, with its target of 90 per cent smokefree by 2025, is an ill- conceived farce. Guess what comes first for those at the bottom of the heap - fags or the kids' breakfast?
It is true that at least 75 per cent of my friends who were long-term, heavy smokers are now dead, but at least most made it to 65 - which is a better run for your money than the currently obese sugar-suckers are going to achieve.
These are the guys immune to the message to eat up their greens and get back on the bike. The difference between them and smokers is that the latter paid up front for their inevitable medical costs - while the sugar babies who are going to overwhelm the health system are making no contribution for the looming tidal wave of cost of their addiction.
The best thing obese sugar addicts could do for their health is to take up e-cigarettes as a safe method of quelling appetite and losing weight.
Nicotine may be highly addictive, but it is not carcinogenic. What causes lung cancer is not nicotine but some of the hundreds of other chemicals in tobacco smoke.
By metering only small shots of nicotine, e-cigarettes would seem to be the ultimate win-win product. Smokers get their fix, fatties lose weight, the hospitals lose patients, and the taxman gets heaps from all concerned.
It is a simple tax-neutral change to drop the tax on fags and recover it on fizzy sugar drinks.
A final point on the myth that passive smoking is a hazard was made by Joe Bennett in his splendid "Power of Words" oration during the last arts festival. If you want proof that passive smoke does not kill, all you need do is visit any rest home where lines of dribblers sit in wheelchairs awaiting death - after losing their spouses to lung cancer years ago. Passive smoke never killed one of them - even if many now wished it had.
- Taranaki Daily News
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