Do we see each other? Check again

When I investigated cycling fatalities in NZ a while back, a striking feature I noted was that more than half of the collisions involved a driver who did not even see the cyclist beforehand (or in a few cases, saw them too late). It’s a classic story that many of us have heard: “Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You” – aka SMIDSY. And for those who think that we should all be decked out in hi-vis to improve the odds – in my analysis it made no difference to the likelihood of being seen beforehand (which makes me think that the real issue is “Sorry mate, I didn’t Look For You”…).

With that in mind, the Christchurch City Council has started a new “Do we see each other?” campaign, targeting looking for other road users. The scientific name is inattentional blindness, probably made most famous in the cycling world by this road safety advert.

The new road safety campaign

The City Council have personalised it by highlighting the stories of two road users, a cyclist and a truckie, involved in real incidents in Christchurch. Using bus displays, radio adverts, and the Trpt for Chch website, their stories are told, with the urging for road users (esp. motorists) to “check again” before making your manoeuvre.

I think this is a great approach, and I applaud the truck driver in particular for coming forward to lend his side of the story. As always, the challenge is how many people will heed the message and take a second look. At least in Christchurch we already have a reasonable number of people out there cycling, so I think our drivers are probably better (in the main) at expecting to see people on their bikes around town.

And while those of us who cycle will appreciate it if our fellow road users do check more carefully before crossing our paths, it’s probably a timely reminder that when riding you should also take a second look before you make a manoeuvre like changing lanes or crossing a road.

What do you think of the new cycle safety campaign?

9 thoughts on “Do we see each other? Check again”

  1. One of the most dangerous locations for cyclists, and one of the most common areas where motorists forget to look for cyclists, appears to be intersections … so why do cycle lanes which remind motorists about cyclists end at an intersection and then start again after it?

    If that bright new grass green cycle lane painting continued right through intersections that would surely remind everyone at the intersection to look out for cyclists. Surely that’s a no brainer? Can you please inquire if council have a good reason for not painting the cycle lanes through intersections; cheers.

    1. Fair question. If it’s just a side-road along a main road then cycle lanes should be extended right across the side-road entrance, usually with a coloured treatment. But I can think of a few around where that hasn’t happened (perhaps a contractor or designer not realising what is standard practice?).

      Through major intersections (e.g. signalised) is another story. Generally the only markings of any kind that have been continued through intersections are lane lines to help guide curved or turning movements correctly through. But I guess, in the same way that pedestrians crosswalks are marked across the front of intersections, we could look at also marking the bikeway crossing paths.

      1. That’s exactly the problem. Major intersections guide vehicles to turn across the (eliminated) paths of cyclists.

        That’s what happened recently at the Waterloo / Carmen Road intersection … the truck driver simply forgot about cyclists on the road and turned across the cyclist’s eliminated cycle path. Had bright green cycle lanes continued across the intersection it would have reminded him to lookout for cyclists. Painting the white cycles on the green lanes would be a further reminder.

        Can you please use your influence to encourage the council to consider this no-brainer safety addition. Cheers and keep up the good work.

      2. I don’t know if there’s been any findings into cause of Waterloo / Carmen Road intersection death so probably shouldn’t comment however its quite possible that the truck driver had no way to see the cyclist, whether remind or not. Regardless I think the idea of having more paint through intersections is a really great one. Low cost and potentially very high rewards.

  2. Good initiative. Lets hope once ‘we’, that is cyclists, cars, trucks, pedestrians, etc have been seen by each other that we all act respectfully towards each other

  3. Glen I wonder if you could comment about the factors that improve the visibility of cyclist. On another forum I am part of I have read that contrast is the key factor to being seen. Your thoughts or understanding?

    1. I agree with Keith Glen, and add that the contrast should extend to the shared roads as well to the contrast of the cyclist’s themselves.

      Contrasting bright grass-green cycle lanes right through busy intersections and on busy roads remind motorists of the presence of cyclists and make the roads appear narrower (and more attractive), thus encouraging lower speeds and motorists distancing themselves from the green cycle lanes.

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