Wellington Scoop

103 complaints: cyclists concerned about near misses with buses

RNZ photo from Island Bay Healthy Streets

Report from RNZ
Cyclists in the capital say bus drivers are leaving them scared for their safety. Wellington’s regional transport operator Metlink has received 103 complaints of buses getting too close to cyclists in the last 12 months, two of which resulted in injury.

Robert Fiddes cycles 40km to work everyday, from Wainuiomata to Wellington, along the Hutt Valley cycleway. Two weeks ago, he was almost hit by a bus as he was cycling home.

“One of those Transit buses came straight through and didn’t even look to see if I was coming along the cycleway and I had about 2m before I could have hit him – he just kept on going, I thought it was the end of it really.”

Patrick Morgan, from the Cycling Action Network, said that most drivers “try and do the right thing” but a new bus network, with new drivers, could be to blame.

“I think that’s really adding up to a perfect storm where perhaps some less experienced drivers are not taking the care they’re required to and I think the heat is really going on Metlink and the bus operators to show how they can mitigate the risk, so we can all get home safely.”

Metlink has been working with Cycle Action Network (CAN) to teach bus drivers to be more aware of cyclists on the road, with 44 drivers completing the workshop in the last year.

Richard Barter is the manager for Share the Road, CAN’s cycling safety programme for commercial drivers, which involves getting drivers out of the bus and into the cyclist’s seat.

“They understand the hazards that cyclists face – car doors opening, potholes, glass – and this is the reason why cyclists ride further out into the lane than they might expect. We also take them through exercises where they understand what safe following feels like and also, what being passed safely feels like.

“So they actually stand on the side of the road and they get passed by a bus and they will measure the distance and be asked, ‘just how did that feel? Was that enough?’.”

An avid cyclist, Mr Barter said that accidents can be avoided if cyclists communicate more with drivers.

“My approach is quite straightforward – when I hear a bus approaching I will always turn and wave to the driver and then, things start to go well – I engage with that driver as a person and then they will respond as a person and we work together on that passing manoeuvre.”

“Treat drivers as people, just as we as cyclists expect to be treated as people.”

But Mr Morgan doesn’t think driver training is enough to stop accidents and wants the official rode code guidance of 1m – 1.5m of passing space to be made into law.

“Because there is no safe passing law at the moment it means that police are really reluctant to take prosecutions – even when you’ve got a video showing how close a pass is, police typically don’t do much in response to that. We feel that has to change.”


  1. Alan, 6. February 2019, 14:35

    Don’t the majority of our city (and suburban) buses have a bike rack? The Regional Council has insisted these be fitted to (eventually) all buses. I was once told by a GWRC representative at the launch of the Newlands bus trial that each rack cost $2500. Multiply that by the fleet and there’s some big cost (ratepayers or foisted on the bus companies?) But, how often do you ever see a bike being carried. Perhaps if cyclists used the racks more often these “near misses” would be fewer. Then again, why do people have a bike – to ride it of course!

  2. Manny, 6. February 2019, 14:59

    Bet there would be 103 complaints about cyclists being inconsiderate to cars too. Personally have seen a number of cyclists riding two across blocking roads, and diving in front of cars without indicating. The lack of awareness goes both ways.

  3. Jonny Utzone, 6. February 2019, 15:04

    It would be a good option for cyclists to put their bikes in the bike rack at the front of the bus, get on and just enjoy the ride home. It would mean fewer obstacles for bus and car drivers to avoid on peak period roads.

  4. Frances Meha, 7. February 2019, 13:25

    I am sure there are hundreds of complaints we could make about cyclists not obeying the road rules and doing dangerous manoeuvers… except they have no licence plates or ways for us to identify them. I think us motorists hope somebody else is going to do something about this, somehow.

  5. Traveller, 7. February 2019, 16:53

    Driving up Crawford Road today, I saw two cars parked inside the new separated cycle lane – blocking it completely. More than inconsiderate.

  6. Curtis Antony Nixon, 7. February 2019, 16:54

    To all the ‘cyclists don’t obey the road rules’ commenters here:
    The average bus weighs 12 tonnes and up to 18 tonnes for a double decker. So if a cyclist rides into one (or motorists’ cars) then who will be worse off?

    That’s right, us cyclists are taking our lives in our hands and freeing up road space for other transport users. Considering that bike riders go thru a few red lights or whatever is trivial.

  7. Steve Doole, 7. February 2019, 23:25

    While cycling, respect for traffic signals can be a good approach. Some people cycling (and posting) seem to look for respect from drivers without giving much. When all road users lookout for everyone else, safe journeys occur.

  8. Russell Tregonning, 7. February 2019, 23:42

    Here’s my respectful message to you motorist folk negative about cyclists ( I’m both a motorist and a cyclist). It’s all about size, speed,and power. Ever heard of a cyclist killing or injuring a motorist?
    Cycling involves healthy exercise, reduces road congestion & harmful air pollution, and protects our deteriorating climate.
    Please respect vulnerable cyclists who are doing everybody a favour– ie slow down around cyclists, give them the minimum 1.5 metre passing distance required in the road code and treat them as you would like to be if you were in their position.

  9. Casey, 8. February 2019, 10:16

    If the roads in Wellington were deemed to be a workplace, then either cyclists or motorists would be banned from using them at the same time. Until we get back to a man carrying a red warning flag in front of every vehicle, cyclists will continue to be maimed and killed. I consider riding a bicycle on most Wellington streets akin to having a death wish, so don’t.

  10. TrevorH, 8. February 2019, 13:27

    @ Russell Tregonning: cycleways that take up road space increase congestion. Few cyclists use them and many continue to use the narrow remnants of the road instead to the frustration of other users. As Ron Beernink, Chair of Cycle Aware Wellington, said on 10 March 2018: “There’s good reason why most lycra cyclists are more correctly known as road cyclists…they go too fast to be on cycleways that are designed for slower, more concerned cyclists (eg older people, familes with kids)…Better than parp the horn, take it a bit easier and share and care…)” Cycling is a major contributor to congestion and accidents.

  11. Russell Tregonning, 8. February 2019, 18:11

    Re congestion and cycling — where cyclists are catered for properly, car congestion is less eg in many European cities . Many Wellingtonians too would cycle if the infrastructure was made more inviting. Our existing cycle lanes are mostly contiguous with the car space — that scares many. Also those satisfactory lanes that exist are not joined up across the city. Overseas, where these deficiencies are corrected, people leave their cars at home. Cycles take up far less road space than private cars which are the most space-inefficient means of transport — far more so than pedestrian, cycling and public transport. Cycling is a major solution to congestion and safe where the lanes are physically separate and joined up.

  12. Rumpole, 8. February 2019, 20:16

    Cyclists are very brave to use city roadways. I’ve got the Bentley back on the road in defiance of those overloaded buses and ridiculous hubs. Hilda usually sits in the backseat and often giggles when she sees buses inscribed “We’re on our way”. Metlink should add “Don’t know where, don’t know when”. Telling the truth is very important and especially in court.

  13. Russell Tregonning, 9. February 2019, 12:01

    Cyclists should not have to be brave as lions to ride on city streets which belong to us all. If motorists obey the road code, then cycling safety will be greatly improved. Many don’t know, or if they do they certainly don’t obey the road code which specifies that the minimum gap motorists must give cyclists when passing them is 1.5 metres–this is approximately the width of a small car, or the length of an average male’s outstretched arms finger-tip to finger-tip.
    The power difference between the average car of about one tonne of metal & plastic travelling at much greater speed than a cycle of 15-20 kg is huge. Cyclists need to be looked after on the road — it is their right. Cyclists don’t hurt motorists — cars kill & maim cyclists. Please motorists, slow down & be patient around cyclists, and give them space.