Cycling: Safe is a strong word

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I commute by bike the 30kms from Whitby to Wellington city every day. On the way home I usually catch the train to Porirua which still means roughly 10kms of cycling to get home.


I have two headlamps in the front, two in the back, another “Monkeylight” on my front wheel, and I wear a hi-vis vest.


In areas where there’s a decent shoulder I usually don’t encounter problems, other than the roads not being swept often enough, and the shoulder sometimes being full of debris, especially after a large storm.


Having to dodge branches, rocks, mud on the shoulder does not particularly make me feel safe.


In other areas, such as State Highway 58 where there’s virtually no shoulder, there’s definitely some adrenaline to be had.


Many times I will ride defensively through certain parts – for example taking the center of the lane – but there’s no way I could do that through the entire 3km portion of the ride.


Even as it is, I will sometimes get cars honking their horns and yelling as they drive past, even though I’m going a good 25kmh.


The Ngauranga gorge is another spot of concern. The tiny sidewalk on a downhill road that is flanked by fast cars on one end and a steel gate on the other isn’t conducive to safety.


I’ve had pedestrians, even ones with headphones that couldn’t hear me coming and going on this stretch, and it was very difficult to stop for them. I have fallen on this stretch trying to come to a full stop once.


If they’d move the gate to the other side to protect cyclists/pedestrians from traffic and widen it a bit, it would solve the problem.


By far the worst area though is Tawa and Old Hutt Road, where there are cars pulling out and often gunning it just to pass you, then pulling in front of you to turn left. I still cannot understand how someone can risk someone else’s life for a three second wait.


In terms of types of drivers that make me feel unsafe, I’d list most tradesmen with vans, and some bus drivers.


Buses are the worst because they’re quiet as they pull up, so you have little warning before you get passed. And because they’re constantly stopping, I often find myself being passed multiple times by the same bus.


So do I feel safe? Well, “safe” is a strong word. Where the road is well designed, with an ample shoulder and little cross-traffic, I’d say I do, in other places no.


Hopefully the extra money provided by the Wellington City Council will help improve things.


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