My name is Alan Williams. I am a New Zealander living in Canada. I am a retired Professional Engineer and a long-distance cyclist.
My wife and I set out to ride from Cape Reinga to the Bluff. Our plan changed as we rode 1,950 kilometers south to Hokitika in January and February of 2017.
With my background as an engineer and long-distance cyclist, I believe I have the qualifications to comment constructively on the Health and Safety conditions we observed during our cycling adventure in New Zealand.
I completed my career as Construction Director on a $2 billion program in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I gained extensive experience monitoring Health and Safety concerns. I will call on that experience to develop what I hope the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) will find useful.
I have included my professional resume at the end of this report.
My purpose here is to offer constructive criticism to help solve the problems I saw while riding through New Zealand. I note that the NZTA Road Code states that cyclists can expect “ ... to use the roads and to travel safely and enjoyably ... ”
In my opinion cyclists cannot always travel “safely and enjoyably” on New Zealand State roads. There are problems that need the immediate attention of the NZTA and the New Zealand Government.
I would like to offer my services to the NZTA, free of charge, save costs, as follows:
- Work with the NZTA to create a plan to prevent cyclists from using dangerous infrastructure. Cyclists are not allowed to use motorways. Equally they must not be allowed to use inferior infrastructure that is hazardous to life and limb.
- Publish the plan to websites. The least New Zealand can do is to publish known hazards and closures to allow visiting cyclists to plan routes before they visit New Zealand.
- Create a plan describing alternative routing.
The usual response we received when we told people what we were doing was, “You must be crazy, New Zealand drivers are mad!”
We soon became aware of an attitude of ‘gross entitlement’ on the part of New Zealand drivers as they sped by us. We tuned to listening to engine and vehicle speeds as drivers came up behind. If those speeds didn’t lessen, the driver was probably someone familiar with the road, i.e. a New Zealander, whereas tourists drove rental cars and camper-vans more sedately and gave us room.
Air blasts from passing trucks were a special problem. If an overtaking vehicle were a fast-moving truck, we pulled off the shoulder, if one existed. New Zealand truck drivers “own” the roads and were often inconsiderate and dangerous.
New Zealand Police Sergeant
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the problems we saw would be to highlight some communications I had with a retired member of the New Zealand Police Force. He was a sergeant and wishes not to be named. He has given me permission to use his communications with me. His insights were invaluable to me and aligned with observations I made while cycling through New Zealand.
Note: In a web publication the NZTA states:
Why then, are cyclists allowed to use that bridge? This is not the New Zealand I grew up in. Where has the moral fibre gone?
The NZTA must act immediately to prevent cyclists from using that bridge and all infrastructure it knows to be unsafe.
Note: In the workplace New Zealand has an exemplary record regarding Health and Safety. The erection of scaffolding is required around all building structures to protect workers. Traffic control around road works is first rate. The use of safety equipment is mandatory and world class on construction sites. Risks are minimized. Why, then, does the Government allow cyclists onto State Highways that are known to be dangerous?
We did not belong on New Zealand Roads
Despite what the Road Code allows, we did not belong on the road and decided to leave it when we reached Greymouth.
Many of the designated rest areas do not have toilets or rubbish disposal bins.
In one rest area I accidentally stood in someone’s Number Twos and inadvertently transferred same onto my bicycle pedal. At the edge of a nearby bush I found a McDonald’s drinking straw, the ideal tool for poking poo from pedals.
Number Twos replete with little white sails abound just beyond the edge of many rest areas. That’s objectionable and unhealthy. As is the presence of non degradable fast-food containers and drinking straws.
And broken glass is strewn along many highways, a particular hazard to cyclists.
Why are toilets and rubbish bins not in all rest areas?
What about implementing a cash refund system for returning and recycling food and drink containers?
Tourism is now New Zealand’s largest source of income. New Zealand advertising overseas brings in tourists in ever increasing numbers.
In turn, as far as is reasonably possible, New Zealand must save harmless all cyclists from the dangers of using New Zealand roads.
New Zealand can do this immediately as follows:
Foster the critical-mass technique used in many cities in the world. Click here for information.
Reduce the open-road speed limit to 70 kph if cyclists are present. All to often vehicles with closing velocities near 200 kph pass cyclists with forward velocities around 15 kph. A change is needed for cyclists to expect to ride New Zealand roads " ... safely and enjoyably."
Prohibit cyclists from using unsafe infrastructure.
Publish locations where infrastructure is unsafe for cyclists to use.
Create a hand-held device application showing all danger spots, advisory notices and routing alternatives. The NZTA could take the lead in this regard. In fact there is a low-cost business opportunity for anyone to create such an application. Cyclists would soon learn to populate danger spots.
Install cyclist-activated lighting on narrow bridges and road constrictions. An example of this is on the bridge just north of Woodend, in Canterbury. It can be done and is done in every town and city at pedestrian crossings. Why not for cyclists?
Make it mandatory for cyclists to run front and rear lights continuously. They are not expensive and are easy to install.
Make it mandatory for cyclists to wear reflective high visibility vests.
Install and maintain toilets.
Revise the Road Code accordingly.
Safety is the first order of business in any successful organization. Always. No exceptions. And that includes the New Zealand government.
Where did New Zealand's pride go? Click the link.