Growing numbers of Kiwis (New Zealanders) are choosing to take to their bikes and fight for road space with trucks, buses and cars. But as the country goes cycle crazy, commuters and hobbyists are making a concerted plea for safety to improve.
Riding into Wellington on one of the capital's busiest entry roads, cyclists must dodge 15 lamp-posts and a bus stop. The route from Kaiwharawhara is described as "embarrassing" by the Cycling Advocates Network, yet it is a road that more and more commuters are opting to pedal along.
Others cycling into the city from different directions face varying conditions. On Oriental Pde there is the option to share the footpath; along Adelaide Rd there is the option to share the bus lane. Along other routes, there is a narrow space, not quite a lane, marked out by a broken yellow line and interrupted by drains or parked cars before coming to a complete stop.
Local authorities nationwide are grappling with ways to accommodate cyclists on streets where they have traditionally been squeezed to one side. With more people choosing to ride their bikes, the pressure is on to prevent more people getting knocked off their saddles. Around the world, schemes to make cities, suburbs and cross-country routes safer are being introduced to improve what is on offer for existing cyclists, and to attract more to what is a healthy, affordable, environmentally friendly form of transport. Yet in New Zealand, councils are complaining about budgets for such initiatives being squeezed.
Cycling Advocates Network project manager Patrick Morgan says that although New Zealand's thinking on transport is about 30 years behind the rest of the world, Wellington in particular is falling behind other centres. City council figures show that on an average day in March 2000, 746 people cycled into the city between 7am and 9am.
By March this year, a decade later, that figure more than doubled to 1644. While Mr Morgan acknowledges that in that period there have been some marked improvements, he says the council is still balking at making tough decisions such as removing car parking spaces to introduce cycle lanes. More from my bicycle friends in New Zealand at: http://can.org.nz/article/dompost-safety-the-trickiest-link-in-cycle-chain
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