Bike lane invaders pose threat to cyclists

Drivers illegally zipping down city cycle lanes to beat backed up traffic could easily kill, says New Plymouth's Sergeant George White.

The police officer said he had issued dozens of $150 fines to drivers who used the lanes and said crashes between cars and cyclists were common because of the illegal practice. "People who drive down cycle lanes don't do it slowly. They go fast. If you do T-bone someone doing 45kmh you could easily kill somebody. Certainly you will injure someone."

Were cyclists hit their chances of serious injury or death were even greater, he said.

Problem areas where motorists frequently used cycle lanes illegally include the Elliot St and Lemon St intersection, Northgate and the Courtenay St and Carrington St intersection.

"It's illegal. They are bike lanes. It's a special vehicle lane and the offence is unauthorised driving in a special vehicle lane. When you pull people over for it they say ‘oh the law must have changed'. But the law hasn't changed. It's always been there. It has always been illegal to drive in cycle lanes."

If drivers continued to use cycle lanes to save a few seconds of driving time, he said the NZ Transport Agency would resort to building physical barriers at key intersections to separate cars and cyclists.

New Plymouth cyclist Ralph Broad said he had had a few close calls with motorists driving into his lane.

"I have no hesitation in following these up with the driver where I can. You get some motoring meat heads that throw stuff at you like half finished milk shakes. Fortunately that's rare," he said.

"There are wide variances in driver's tolerance and behaviours towards cyclists. I have noticed a definite improvement in motorist courtesy in New Plymouth the last couple of years but it's not universal."

New Plymouth District Council Let's Go Sustainable Transport co-ordinator Nathaniel Benefield said people needed to act responsibly around one another.

Taranaki Daily News