Over the past week, Television New Zealand seem to have hit their viewing audience hard about cyclists sharing the roads with motor vehicles and whether Hi-Vis gear is actually making a difference to road safety.
Most recently, Breakfast interviewed Dr Glen Koorey from University of Canterbury, who discussed findings from his research over the past several years of fatal cycling accidents in New Zealand. He believes that much of the problem is the lack of “road-user education, cycle training and just general understanding and empathy for each other.” If you ask any experienced urban cyclist, they would probably agree with Dr Koorey.
I have been cycling in Wellington for years either for leisure, training for an event or commuting to and from work and I have also had my fair share of ‘close-calls’ with motorists. Sometimes it was their fault, other times it was mine – either way, those close calls could have been avoided if I had taken the time to be a little more cautious of road-traffic behaviour.
Urban cycling also comes down to being confident while riding and there are a lot of training courses in the Wellington region to assist cyclists at all levels, just visit the Greater Wellington Regional Council website for more information. However, if you don’t wish to do a cycle training course or they aren’t readily available where you live, than let me recommend a superb little book called Everyday Cycling in Aotearoa New Zealand by Alastair Smith (Awa Press, December 2012). This book is ideal for first-time cyclist and also has some worthy tips for the more experienced cyclists.
The content layout and colour images are clear, simple to read and very comprehensible; I personally appreciate Awa Press correctly placing macrons on Māori place names. The book is small enough to easily carry around with you, yet sturdy enough to be shoved in the back pocket of your cycling jersey, carried home in the rain, dropped on the tarmac and shared with numerous friends. Please don’t think that I am a book-abuser by nature, I’m quite the opposite, this particular book just happened to forgo a series of unfortunate incidents.
For such a small book, it covers just about everything you can think of for urban cycling, from selecting a bike and cycling gears through to riding skills, bicycles on public transport, basic bicycle maintenance and recommended routes in major cities throughout the country.
I lent this book to my friend who has been cycling for as long as I have, but unlike me, she doesn’t drive and has no intention of ever learning. What she found most useful about this book was the ‘Skills for everyday cycling’ chapter (page 62). Through the use of diagrams, she finally understood how the traffic flowed through intersections and where she should position herself and her bicycle in regards to stationary and moving cars – obviously my previous attempts to show her these lessons while driving, waving my hands about, making animal noises and pointing at spots, weren’t that helpful.
For another friend I lent the book to, who can drive but is new to cycling, I stuck numerous tags to page 44 – the section about safety gear. Hi Vis reflector gear does matter! Wearing black or dark clothing at night in the rain with only a pithy little front light on your handle bars is dangerous. During peak-hour traffic motorists look for big obvious lights or indicators and as Smith says, “Although looking like a road worker may not be chic, [visibility clothing] is a great way to get yourself noticed.”
Everyday Cycling in Aotearoa New Zealand also has a glossary at the back, very useful for when you go to the bike shop and the mechanic starts telling you about a time when derailleur gears on recumbent got damaged during a dooring. Above all else, this book is a great gift for the person ‘who has everything’ including a bike that’s just sitting in the garage collecting dust. Retailing at $35, this book is worth every cent.
Reviewed by Charlie Holland
Everyday Cycling in Aotearoa New Zealand
by Alastair Smith
Published by Awa Press