Not a new type of organised crime gang, but instead, a “triad” of three different ways of how a cyclist can cross a road. You could call them legally, illegally and the gray area in between…
Actually, I am going to use an Auckland example to show the ups and downs of crossing a road:
- On a zebra crossing:
- Advantages: You get priority over other bikes on the road (well, in Auckland of course you mostly you get priority over cars, really…)
- Disadvantages: Unless you get off your bike first, you are actually crossing illegally, and probably spooking pedestrians not expecting you.
- On a traffic light crossing:
- Advantages: Safest, if you can stand the waiting.
- Disadvantages: The waiting. Oh, the waiting. The endless waiting.
- Plus, unless you got those cycling traffic signal lights (“cycle aspects” in traffic nerd speak), you are STILL crossing illegally – unless you get off your bike, you urban terrorist!
- On an uncontrolled crossing:
- Advantages: You get to chose when to go, and unless the crossed traffic is very fast or very heavy, it can be quite quick and painless. Plus, it’s legal to RIDE across. Finally!
- Disadvantages: If traffic IS fast or very heavy, you are balancing your risk of serious injury with your impatience (oh, the waiting, the endless waiting!).
In an interesting case, we have at least one location in Auckland where all three examples given above are present in less than 20m distance: The crossing of the Northwestern Cycleway over St Lukes Road / Interchange (see photos). At least we DO have a specific traffic signal for cyclists on the middle crossing there – but technically speaking, the eastern zebra is still illegal to ride across, even though everyone does so…
We wish there were laws that would allow transport planners to exempt specific crossings from the “cyclists must dismount” rule – maybe as simply as affixing a sign or road marking some additional symbols on the crossing. It would also help overcome the fact that often when groups like CAA ask for cycle signals, we are told that the extra couple thousands of dollars aren’t in the budget. Look, we CAN read the red and green lights used for the pedestrians. No need for additional infrastructure! That’s why a sign would work as well, really.
Update: Additional Options
Of course there’s also a few more options of crossing a road on a bike:
- Through an underpass / over a bridge:
- Advantages: No waiting for traffic, very safe (unless some hoodlums are malingering in the underpass). But – no waiting. Seriously, that’s worth something.
- Disadvantages: Often some extra distance / detour to get to it, and it’s like adding an extra hill to the route, especially on a bridge, where you generally have to climb at least 2-3m more vertical difference than when using an underpass! And of course bike underpasses or bridges are rather expensive and crazily difficult to get funded, even on our busiest cycleways.
- Merging and unmerging onto the road (a.k.a. “The Carrington Road Shuffle”)
- Advantages: Act like you are a car, because bikes are legally vehicles. Vehicles get priority almost everywhere in Auckland. So turn onto the road, “drive” across, and then turn off the road again. Bonus points if you remember to indicate.
- Disadvantages: Often not that safe. And come on! You aren’t in a car, for sanity’s sake. You are riding a BIKE.