With a recent coroner’s report into the 2008 death of a cyclist at the Petone roundabout there have been his and others’ calls for cyclists to wear hi-viz clothing. It’s a very strange call considering he could have advised to invest in safe separated cycle infrastructure instead, and especially strange when considering the victim, Stephen Fitzgerald, was already wearing hi-viz clothing when he was struck and killed by the truck.
The coroner has also called on motorists to give cyclists a metre of space when they pass. Someone should tell the coroner we ask for at least 1.5 metres, so he is calling on motorists to come closer and scare us even more.
Now the NZ Association of Optometrists has chimed in with their advice for cyclists to put biomotion reflector markings on their knees and elbows, presuamably so we can look more like crash test dummies, so it helps the ambulance officers to find us in the dark or something.
My first reaction to all this is to think that like the mandatory helmet laws this is really a reflection of the relative political power of motorists versus cyclists. Motorists hate cyclists because we’re not caught in traffic as much as them, and we glide past on the inside, and sometimes they even have to slow down and give way to cyclists. If it really was all about road safety then speed limits for cars would be cut, and motorists would have to wear helmets too. But why address the real problem of too many cars going too fast with poorly trained and inattentive drivers on poorly designed roads, when you can just score an easy political point against cyclists and mandate another condition pretending it is for their own good? Mandatory hi-viz clothing in the middle of a sunny day on a cycle path, the Waterfront, or even the Hutt Rd shamozzle does absolutely nothing to increase the real safety of cyclists. It just tells the general public that cycling is more dangerous than it really is, and participation rates are going to fall, as cycling becomes even more denormalised in New Zealand. The rest of the world is going the other way and is promoting cycling and building safe infrastructure. New Zealand is once again cack-handed and backwards, behind the times and a bit of a laughing stock.
So if hi-viz, helmets and biomotion reflector markings are a sop to motorist’s guilty conscience or more a way to try to put us in our place, then what other suggestions could we make for them to drive us further into a fringe activity?
How about some colourful clown clothes and a big red nose:
Or perhaps we should all wear hot pink sequined hotpants (I believe they sell them and neck ties to match in Men’s sizes at Munns on Willis Street:
Feather boas could also be worn, but be warned; they’re scratchy.
Maybe what is really needed is some kiwi ingenuity and Wellington cyclists should team up with the Wearable Arts people and they can all make us great costumes that will make us standout so that we don’t get run over by trucks anymore:
Really I think we need to dress the streets up, rather than ourselves. Something like this on Hornby St, Vancouver will do:
Here are three suggestions:
- when making cycling policy ask cyclists what they want.
- when planning for transportation infrastructure ask cyclists what they need.
- really, really, really don’t go the hotpants.