reader report

Christchurch needs safe cycleways

23:02, May 20 2014

I'm fairly new to cycling in Christchurch, and for me it's a form of exercise that I can do while getting from A to B. It's not a race and it's not an absolute necessity.

Because we have very few cycle lanes that separate cyclists from cars, I always go overboard on the reflective and safety gear. Even then, I have to keep a sharp lookout for dangerous situations.

Cars suddenly turn left in front of you and drivers always seem to open doors onto you as you cycle past. Both can be deadly.

Safe cycleways are common overseas. In Manhattan, there's a great network of safe cycleways along with Citibikes that can be rented for $10 per 24 hours and dropped off at one of the many Citibike stands. It's all accessible by credit card and smartphone and it works. The bikes only have three gears and are built for comfort, not speed, so a helmet is not necessary.

Likewise in Tokyo, you can safely cycle amongst the pedestrians, and drivers there are very considerate so your life is not at risk. Of course it helps that their sidewalks are about three times as wide as ours...

The roads in Christchurch are horribly congested, and it's getting worse. Along with the general temperament of drivers, the plague of orange cones and roadworks has bought out the worst in people. Everywhere you look there are single-occupant cars with drivers scowling and swerving.

Of course the cyclists are not all well behaved either. We've all seen the red-light runners and the footpath-riders and the idiots with no lights or reflective clothing, but hey, cyclists are more at risk in a car/bike encounter and the vulnerable need to be protected. End of story.

Christchurch could not be more of a perfect setting for an extensive system of safe cycleways. And it could help bring people back into the central city to reach their workplace (when it's built!) and to enjoy all the riverside and retail development (if and when that happens!)

In the meantime, avoid those hefty parking fees, keep fit and keep cycling but watch out for yourself. And drivers, please be considerate. We all have the right to use the road and sharing is caring.