A journal of new information received at CTC

New Zealand Cycling

South Island, New ZealandI can’t make up my mind about New Zealand. It sounds quite beautiful and I’d rather cycle round the place than drive, but it also sounds like I’m tempting fate doing that. Take for instance this review from the Amazon website of Josie Dew’s tale of her travels there, ‘A Long Cloud Ride’. (Highly recommended reading, by the way.)

I am a New Zealander, and have cycled alot in NZ. New Zealand is a beautiful country, but an extremely dangerous country to be a cyclist in. This is from my own experiences of being purposely cut off, run over, spat at, abused, tormented, and had objects throw at me, all from complete strangers, and also from the statistics of cycling fatalities in NZ. So Josie’s description of bad New Zealand drivers is by far not an exaggeration.

This is an email recently received at CTC:

Good article about New Zealand (referring to the Dec10 / Jan11 magazine).  My wife and I spent 10 weeks (Nov 2010-Feb 2011) in the North and South Islands, cycling on road bikes, but moving from place to place in a campervan.  Beautiful country, awesome scenery and very very friendly people, who take you into their homes.  But …. when it comes to driving, totally different – they do not like cyclists.  We have never felt so threatened anywhere else in the world.  New Zealand people themselves say that drivers have a personality change when driving and would not ride a bike! – they deliberately overtake dangerously close to cyclists, it is totally bizarre.  Even on quiet country roads, you are a target, so anyone thinking about cycling in NZ consider this:  a)  Car insurance is not compulsory  b)  At 15 years of age one can legally drive c)  Speed limit for trucks with trailers out of town is 90k (usually doing more) and d)  You cannot sue in NZ.  Injuries from road traffic accidents are paid for by the NZ government – so drivers have no responsibility to other road users, especially cyclists.  So it was a great holiday on the road spoiled by inconsiderate drivers – they all think it is ‘their’ road giving out verbal abuse and rude signs. 

While we were there, there were big campaigns in both Christchurch and Auckland to improve road safety for cyclists (we heard that four cyclists were killed in the time that we were in NZ).  Police are weak (a New Zealander’s words) and are pro-drivers, which is not helpful.
Perhaps your experts at the CTC could/should check out NZ on behalf of members who are planning a trip to NZ i.e. drivers attitude to cyclists, statistics on cycle accidents would be a good starting point and your findings could be published in Cycle with a report to the NZ government?
We have friends now cycling in New Zealand who are writing a blog; the most important fact coming out of that blog is the bad driving/attitude to cyclists.  Other NZ cyclists we met also warned us (to take care) of the drivers’ bad attitude to cyclists.  Perhaps other cyclists may wish to comment on their experiences in NZ – good and bad.

And come on, Kiwis, get your driving act together!

Editor’s final note: John and Pippa toured NZ on their tandem at the same time as Josie and told me that they didn’t have any problems at all with cars, lorries or drivers in general. Were they lucky? Did they have different expectations? Were they better at coping with other vehicles on the road? Do tandems receive better treatment? So many imponderables!


5 responses

  1. I went cycling in NZ with my son last November. Had no problems with drivers at all. In fact, going over Haast Pass, we had loads of cars hooting encouragement: I must have looked like I needed it. I’d love to go back and cycle more there.
    I guess we didn’t do the busy bits, but really – no issues. Perhaps we were just lucky, though we did specifically avoid cities and larger towns, using buses to travel between the good bits. This was my blog on the subject: http://bikerideblog.blog.com/2011/03/10/new-zealand-cycling/ and we have maps and guide books at the Bike Ride Shop here: http://www.bikerideshop.co.uk/acatalog/AustraliaandNewZealandCycleGuidesandTravelBooks.html.
    Don’t be put off, just choose the areas to go – West Coast, Northland, 42 Traverse, Giant Redwoods Mountain Bike Centre… Really, go for it!
    Mike Carden

    29/09/2011 at 8:04 pm

  2. As a Kiwi and an avid cyclist I feel that I should add my opinion.

    Having just ridden from Christchurch over the Porters Pass to Hokitika, South down to Haast, Wanaka, Queenstown then across to Dunedin, 1200km in 14 days during the Rugby World Cup and a very busy time in NZ.

    This is some of the most beautiful scenery that I’ve ever seen and the Irish group that I was riding with were gob smack, which for anyone knowing any Irish… is saying something. And the West Coast lived up to its reputation of one of the top 5 cycling destination of the world.

    The depth and connection to seeing a country while cycling far surpasses driving.

    There are ways of being safe on the bike:

    1. Wear highly visible clothing- 75% of the West Coast is bush and if you wear dark cycle gear you become camouflaged.
    2. Gain information from the locals like Natural High Bike Hire and Tours http://www.naturalhigh.co.nz/ – They will point you in the right direction.
    3. Ride single file in pinch points and around corners.
    4. Keep to the left as much as possible.

    The feedback from the Irish is that they were impress with the conditions, surface and the drivers. They too have ridden in North & South America, Africa and Europe so I value their opinion.

    Andrew Hunt

    NB: The article above is incorrect, you have to be 16 before you can legally obtain your licence in New Zealand.

    09/10/2011 at 9:39 pm

    • Andy, thanks for taking the trouble to comment. It’s really good to get lots of feedback on this one because it is a big issue. Mark

      10/10/2011 at 10:51 am

  3. To give another perspective, I can tell you about our experience in renting our touring bikes and selling self-guided and guided cycle tours in New Zealand since 1996. We keep a very comprehensive record of all incidents reported to us by our customers (as part of the Cycle Tour Operators of New Zealand guidelines) and the overwhelming majority of people have no issues whatsoever.

    Sure, some New Zealand roads have quirks such as narrow sections, coarse chip surface and a higher percentage of gravel than most developed countries but this is mainly due to our under-population and large amount of wilderness areas (which also make it a great cycle touring destination). If you have any questions about specific areas its best to talk to locals in the area or you can always contact us via our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/naturalhighnz as we’re always happy to give out tips and advice.

    To avoid trouble when touring in our beautiful country just make sure you’re familiar with our road rules (particularly around roundabouts), take it easy on the downhills (the most common accidents result from people getting caught out heading downhill too fast) and give yourself plenty of time (our hills are pretty challenging!!).

    A bunch more free info can be found on our website at http://www.naturalhigh.co.nz/biking/cycle-touring-information/.


    12/10/2011 at 10:20 pm

    • Thanks again, Matt, for your very useful comments and the links.

      13/10/2011 at 9:52 am

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