Cyclists and their relationships with motorists are very much in the news this week. As with motorists, I always find pedallers are better behaved when the police are on hand to see them.
Even when they're available, cycle lanes are often ignored and while cars cannot stray from their allotted lanes, cyclists do so with impunity, often with disastrous results.
A two-metre rule for drivers clearing cyclists is sensible and it would be better if the same could be applied to pedallers passing parked or slow-moving cars.
New laws that might help:
- Car drivers and cycle riders should ALWAYS indicate.
- Car drivers and cycle riders should ALWAYS keep two metres apart.
- Car drivers and cycle riders should ALWAYS, when they're available, use the lanes allocated to them.
- Car drivers and cycle riders should ALWAYS correctly use the safety equipment they're legally required to.
- Car drivers and cycle riders should NEVER use cellphones or earbuds from entertainment systems while on the road. This goes for pedestrians too.
- Car drivers and cycle riders should NEVER go straight ahead through a left-hand-turning-only lane.
- Car drivers and cycle riders should ALWAYS acknowledge that most of them engage in driving AND cycling, and should try to behave in a non-aggressive manner while engaged in either activity.
- Car drivers and cycle riders should NEVER travel two or several abreast in public roads.
It was easy for the (mainly electronic) media to jump on the figures released yesterday by the NZ Transport Agency about SUVs being the market's largest vehicle segment, and assume that the public was leaving big cars and opting for gas guzzlers instead.
In 2011 18,684 SUV units were sold against 16,326 units in 2010, which made the segment grow to 29 per cent of the total.
The fact is, it is more than possible to drop your current large car and opt for an SUV that not only has similar space, but also has a better fuel consumption level and a smaller, not larger, footprint.
Take our traditional large car segment leaders. The six-cylinder Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore offer fuel economy levels of at least 9.9L/100km and 8.9L/100km respectively (larger-engined versions of these cars use more fuel correspondingly).
This week, a motorcyclist caught riding his motocrosser and popping wheelies around his neighbourhood with his three-year-old son on the petrol tank has been given five years and four months in jail for the offence, which was made worse by the fact that neither wore a helmet and the plonker at the handlebars didn't have a licence.
Good decision, I reckon, and certainly better than reading about the death of the child.
This, of course, was not in New Zealand, where not having a licence is regarded as meaning you have nothing to lose, and riding motorcross bikes on neighbours' grassy suburban berms is seen merely as "horsing around".
No, it was in Britain, where the offences were seen from a police helicopter, and justice was meted out quickly and neatly.
The reason I use the words "horsing around" is because that was the phrase used to describe the actions of a 14-year-old from down our street who terrorised the neighbourhood two years ago at Christmas time, rapping his CR450 Honda motocrosser up and down the street, on the pavement and on the grass verge for several hours, and narrowly missing reversing motorists trying to exit their own driveways.
While hybrid and electric cars enjoy all kinds of attention from environmentalists, politicians and the non-specialist media, it appears that sales of clean diesels are slowly but surely starting to overtake their electric competitors in that previously very un-diesel car nation, the US.
This is confirmed by Lars Ulrich, the head of diesel marketing for Bosch in North America, who says that diesel sales will hit a critical mass sometime in the middle of the decade, making up about 10 per cent of the US market, which means they'll be outselling hybrids by five to one.
What a pity that regulations in New Zealand prevent such a trend from occurring here. We force owners of diesel vehicles weighing as little as 1000kg to pay exactly the same road user charges as one weighing up to 3400kg.
Thus smaller, cleaner cars are being actively discouraged by the authorities who at the same time say they are trying to get us to use less fuel.
Toyota's new Yaris III comes to a market this week that is decidedly different from the one that the first model found for itself in 1999.
That first car was known as the Echo when it first arrived, and at the time, it had very little competition. There was no Nissan in the B-segment to compete, Honda had only the old Logo in that slot, Ford could offer only the Festive, and Mazda's square-rigged Demio was a bit of an also-ran at the time.
Holden did have the Barina, but that was very much a second-class citizen compared with the wildly styled Echo, with its centre-clocked dash, soft-wedge profile and clever fore and aft sliding rear seat.
It sold like hot cakes.
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