Guest Post: We Share the Road?

Here’s a guest post from reader Dan Hanson:

We Share the Road: A road safety campaign from CCC and NZTA

I found myself doing a double take at the Springs Road/Main South Road intersection last week, at this perplexing billboard:

WeShareTheRoad

The image caught me off guard, as I couldn’t imagine why a cyclist so close to a moving vehicle would be smiling and waving. I found myself trying to judge the actual distance between car and cyclist, and couldn’t come up with anything more than 70cm. Then the lights changed and the billboard was gone.

Over the following days the incongruity between image and message kept coming back to me. Was I imagining things? Was the image so distorted or warped as to misrepresent the situation completely? How did 70cm clearance demonstrate “sharing the road”, exactly?

I eventually reached the conclusion that, distorted or not, the image did not fit my idea of safe road behaviour. The council’s response suggested that the campaign was not intended to reinforce the idea of giving cyclists room when passing (1.5 metres ideally, as suggested by the NZ Road Code), but to promote courteous behaviour by all road users. It was also suggested that 1.5m was often not realistic for Christchurch road conditions.

I agree with promoting courteous behaviour by road users. However, I cannot see how this billboard will achieve that goal. The only road user in the image is the cyclist, who, while he certainly seems to be acting courteously, doesn’t have too many options, between the kerb and the car. Are we to take the message that cyclists should be careful and courteous road users? This is an important aspect of road safety, but it is only part of the picture.

There is no driver visible in the car – for all we know, the car is parked there, driverless. Faces are important in advertising to carry emotion and demand empathy from the audience. This advertisement seems at odds with other recent road safety campaigns, such as NZTA’s “drive social”, or “see the person, share the road”, where people and faces are emphasised. It would be hard for drivers to identify with the courteous road use message, given that there is no driver in the image.

Most importantly though: no matter what angle I hold this picture on or which eye I close, there is nowhere near enough clearance between this car and this cyclist. While I understand that this is not the intended focus of the campaign, anything claiming to promote road safety should at least be consistent with the guidelines in the NZ Road Code. Billboards bearing this image are prominently placed and highly visible. What message should a driver take away from this? That <70cm clearance for a cyclist counts as “sharing the road”?

I have put this post together for two reasons: a reality check for myself, and to fulfil an offer I made to CCC to gather some wider views on this campaign. Both rely on your feedback, so please make a comment below!!

What do you think of this campaign?

14 comments

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14 Comments

  • Conor Boyd
    6 May 2014, 10:46 pm

    Couldn’t agree more.
    The only positive thing I can take out of it is at least it’s trying to say that not all cyclists are red-light jumping hooligans.

    REPLY
  • Colin Stokes
    7 May 2014, 4:53 am

    Dan, the message tells me that CCC doesn’t understand the needs of cyclists, and that cyclists should be happy with the small amount of space they get.

    I’ve spent over 4 years, tens of thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours alerting CCC about the dangers of roads in a new Yaldhurst subdivision that they were erroneously permitting to be built well below required road safety standards. CCC not only endorsed the developers proposal to eliminate the cycle lanes, the right turn medians and the safety recessed parking designs on the main collector roads, but they spent hundreds of thousands of ratepayers dollars fighting against the affected public to oppress them and to retrospectively consent the narrow non-complying roads.

    The developers and CCC’s argument was that sharing a narrow 11,000 vehicle per day busy road that didn’t cater for the different modes of transport would create a friendly shared environment whereby …
    … “vehicles would yield to cyclists rather than squeeze them”.

    This picture is the exact result CCC fought for, except replace the kerb with parked cars and the car with a bus, as per the busy Yaldhurst roads transport requirements. Good luck with getting CCC to listen.

    REPLY
  • Cyclomaniac
    7 May 2014, 8:09 am

    Agree, you would think the concept of sharing the road is about giving each other enough space.This is certainly not courteous driving behavior and not many cyclists would be this ecstatic if they are overtaken with only this much space.The campaign might be well intended but sends the wrong message and seems a bit naive.

    REPLY
    • Colin Stokes@Cyclomaniac
      7 May 2014, 8:20 am

      CCC’s core role is to ensure that there is adequate space on new roads to accommodate the modal requirements and traffic volumes of them. There are accepted NZ safety standards for this, and CCC has its own Infrastructure Design Standards (IDS).

      However, Christchurch Councillors recently voted to disregard these safety standards and let staff negotiate narrow road widths with developers.

      REPLY
  • CP
    7 May 2014, 8:34 am

    The driver is faceless. Therefore not part of the sharing ? Also blameless if sharing doesn’t occur ?

    I feel it’s important that all road users give each other space and time. There’s too much rushing from queue to queue at moment.

    REPLY
  • Stephen J
    7 May 2014, 12:52 pm

    If that were reality, the cyclist would be grimacing in horror and the raised hand would be about to slap the car to get driver attention.

    The video at http://www.ccc.govt.nz/cityleisure/gettingaround/roadsafety/cyclesafety.aspx talks about narrow roads and the need for drivers to watch for cyclists coming up on the left. The picture makes more sense in that context. Without that context, it seems like a terrible model.

    REPLY

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