New Zealand Cycling
I 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!