I’m now officially a New Zealand cycling statistic. For the wrong reasons.

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I continued my cycle south to Levin, after a quick stop in Palmerston North to buy food and a better sleeping bag. Thinking I should avoid the busy highway 1, I took highway 57. I have no idea what highway 1 was like, but 57 was a NIGHTMARE. I got run off the road into a ditch by a large truck (didn’t fall off or hurt myself, for those that worry), then a Subaru passed me at what must have been 120km/h with about 50cm between us – and there was me thinking Subaru drivers were nice poeple… Finally I was hit, yes you read correctly, HIT by a mini-van (also didn’t fall off, or get hurt for those that are still, probably slightly more worried). I should really have just taken a photo of the police report I filled out this morning to save me writing it again, but basically…

I was cruising along at about 20km/h in the lane with the traffic (there is often a hard shoulder which lets me reduce the danger). There was oncoming traffic, which, if you are a cyclist you will understand this bit – made me look behind for traffic approaching getting ready to cut me up. I saw a mini-van slow down to my speed behind me, then barge through, clipping the edge of my pannier. Much fist shaking and shouting followed on my part, as the driver sped off into the distance. A passenger in the van looked somewhat alarmed, so he must have known his mate had done something wrong. Little did I know, a driver behind the mini-van saw the whole thing unfold and set off in hot pursuit to get his number plate details – apparently he had to do 130km/h to catch him (speed limit being 100). He very kindly parked up and patiently waited for me to slowly roll down the road and pass the details onto me. This morning, I spent 20 minutes at the local police station filling out a ‘driver complaint form’, which though I don’t expect to get a conviction out of (I didn’t tick that box, I only selected the ‘call the offender up and give him/her a slap on the wrist’ box), will hopefully make the driver engage his/her brain the next time they pass a cyclist.

I think I mentioned this before, I can honestly say that cycling on a main highway in New Zealand is much more dangerous than any of the roads in Asia I cycled on. As a result, I have decided to stop and come home. Only kidding, I’ve decided to catch a train to Wellington. I’ve been told the roads are much quieter on the south island and the drivers better too, so fingers crossed.

On the plus side, as the next train isn’t until 6.53 am tomorrow (and the only one tomorrow), I am taking a lazy day at the very clean and tidy Leven camp site. Easily the cleanest campsite I’ve ever stayed at. There are lots of mountain bikers turning up at the site with downhill bikes, as there is a national series downhill race here this weekend – it makes me want to swap my touring bike for my mountain bike!! Everyone seems to be mad for bikes at this place too, like Ashhurst. This morning, I had a middle aged English gentleman come bounding over all excited to look at my bike. It was 7am. I mean really – I was still half asleep and a guy wants to get his geek on about bikes!! It’s strange, I can’t seem to get excited about touring bikes in a way I can about mountain bikes for some reason.

So, tomorrow, I’ll get the commuter train to Wellington to see Asela and his family, which will be the first people I’ve seen the whole trip that I’ve known beforehand (almost, the exception being Amy, a cruise ship friend from a few years ago). I’m looking forward to it.

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11 responses »

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your experiences.

    We do have a problem in NZ with small minded drivers, and a general cultural attitude towards driving that prioritises the driver over everything else on the road. This attitude is not helped by governments, such as the current one, tacitly giving support to this attitude, and Police openly ignoring reports of bad driver behaviour towards cyclists.

  2. Gidday Scott,

    Mate, i’m sorry to hear about the abrupt and unpleasant end to your pedalling expedition in the north island here. You’re right that it’s dangerous and local car drivers are absurdly rude and aggressive. As a Wellingtonian and long term urban cyclist, despite the large increase in numbers of cyclists over the last 15 years even within the city my friends tell me recently things have not improved much. I really hope things are better: safer and more pleasant in the south island.
    Question: Are you aware of the national cycle paths for bike touring? I don’t know if a mountain bike is necessary for them; i presume not.
    Please let me know if you’d like company for getting around by bike or otherwise, or sharing a brew and a chat in Wellington.

    Cheers,
    Julian W.

  3. http://www.kennett.co.nz/index.php/Books/ClassicNewZealandCycleTrails This book covers the NZ Cycle Traisl AND a whole lot of excellent road touring options. SH1 is not much fun, but is often safer that the next level down of state highway (as it has a wider shoulder). But the best touring is on the quiet backcountry roads (which the North Island actually has plenty of). Same deal goes with the South Island – there are great roads and bad roads for cycling. Good luck!

  4. You will love the south island. It was my favourite part. Very like home but on a bigger scale. And depending where you go, you could go days without seeing a soul let alone a motor vehicle. I got a shock when I hit the north and all its crowding! Enjoy:)

  5. South Island is very scenic, but roads can be very narrow in areas, so take care. One thing I noticed people using while touring these days, is a flag sitting out sideways from their bikes. Appears to make drivers take more notice and give a wider berth.

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