Guest Blog: Jena Niquidet Western
Project Manager – Road User Workshops
CAA Committee Member
For the past few years I have had the privilege of overseeing the Road User Workshop Programme for the Cycling Advocates’ Network (CAN).
The programme aims to help HGV drivers and cyclists see the road from the others’ point of view. Check out Campbell Live’s segment on a workshop we recently did with NZ Bus.
The part of the job I love is watching professional drivers and cyclists come together and talk about sharing the road with each other. Defences drop and people start working together, coming up with practical solutions to on road angst. The process encourages a focus on defensive driving/cycling, as well as patience and courtesy.
We all know there are grey areas in the road code, as there are black spots on the road. For example – how far left is safely left? A cyclist and a driver often have very different understandings of left. Additionally, both sides will agree we need infrastructure to give us each the space we need, but until then how do we all get home safely.
The workshops, currently funded by the Road Safety Trust, were developed by the Cycling Advocates’ Network and now delivered in cooperation with Bike NZ. When I first came to New Zealand in 2010, CAA like other CAN groups in Christchurch and Wellington were piloting a workshop with NZ Bus. I was finding the on- road transition from Vancouver’s greenway network to Auckland bus/bike lanes difficult, and volunteered as a cycle buddy.
The workshop really matured me as a cyclist and developed in me a much stronger understanding of my fellow road users and my interactions with them. My bus buddy saw me as a real person, and vice versa.
I still see some of the drivers from that first workshop from time to time – one of them came up to me at the AT Cycle Carnival to tell me all about how he and his grandchildren were out riding. The experience extended my understanding of community to the road; it also triggered me to want to get more involved.
Four years on and the programme continues to grow. Over the past 18 months we’ve had a particular focus on building partnerships with the Transport Industry. This spring and summer we’ll be at events around the country featuring truck displays similar to the London Exchange Places Programme with the help of organizations like the National Road Carriers.
Exciting times are still to come, as the programme’s collaborative approach is increasingly embraced, so there are still many more opportunities to reach more New Zealand road users.
Overseeing RUW has been challenging and rewarding, 2nd only to becoming a mother which is the reason I’ll be stepping down in August with the arrival of our second child. However I will dearly miss the amazing group of people I have met and worked with around the country: cyclist, drivers, council staff, and industry leaders all committed to making New Zealand roads safer (and more pleasant) for everyone.
CAN is looking to contract a new project manager who can work collaboratively, build on the successes, and package the programme to extend its reach and magnitude. The Auckland based, part-time contract runs June 2014 through December 2015. More details can be found on CAN’s website.