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The Press-News column Oct 7

Cycle Safety: Ban two Abreasting

Greetings from Washington DC. Want to know the best way of seeing the American capital? Hire a bike and hit the dedicated cycle lanes, that have sprouted like alfalfa sprouts across the city. Topping the lot, the epic, courageous cycle lane that carves right down the middle of majestic Pennyslavnia Ave, the grand processional route connecting the Capitol with the White House. Back home, as Christchurch mourns another cyclist fatality, the New Zealand Transport Agency’s Cycling Safety Panel is urging the government to legislate for motorists to be compelled to give cyclists 1 to 1.5 metres breathing space, when overtaking them. Predictably, this has triggered a torrent of bleating from the foam-flecking  anti-cycling narcissists, who consider the proposal a territorial declaration of war. Frankly, I’m not too bothered by the notion of a mandated buffer, particularly if we follow the Queensland model, whereby  its now legal to cross the centre line to overtake a cyclist. But it’s disappointing that the NZTA’s expert panel, in which the deck was clearly stacked in favour of two wheels, hasn’t taken a broader, more balanced approach to cycle safety. Alongside mandating the 1 to 1.5 metre buffer zone for cyclists, the NZTA panel should also be actively urging the government  to abolish our two-breast rule. This rule is already a strings attached mishmash, given the road code states that cyclists can ride two-abreast, but not if they’re impeding traffic from behind, or passing parked cars. But, how many two, three, four and five abreasters bother with the fineprint? Two-abreasting is a quaint 1950s anachronism, long past its expiry date on our cluttered roads. Another huge miss from the cycling safety panel is their failure to call for the mandatory use of cycle lanes. What is the point in councils rolling out dedicated lanes, if the user chooses to bike on the general roadway instead? The failure to use a dedicated cycle lane should be a fineable offence.  But what has struck me about the United States, where cycle-friendly urban projects are all the rage, is the focus on segregating cycle lanes from the general traffic flow. The Christchurch City Council is courageously embarking on its $68 million cycleway network, which will comprise 13 cross-city routes, off-road.  Not only will it reassert the Garden City’s credentials as New Zealand’s cycling capital, but it will immeasurably benefit motorists by shifting so many cyclists off the road. In the interim, most commuter cyclists I know, deliberately avoid our major arterials, opting for safer, secondary roads for their daily commute. That should be encouraged.

Mike’s weekly current affairs column, as published in The Press. Oct 7.

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