New Zealand – first impressions

For a supposedly quiet and civilised and clean country, a large number of people here drive their cars astonishingly dangerously and this appears to be tolerated. I was shocked witless a few days ago when a speeding black car almost knocked me and my girlfriend down (we were crossing the street on foot) at well over double the safe speed for a town centre. Something similar happens about every three days – this was just the scariest.

This town, Palmerston North, has swathes of car parking everywhere. Around half of all urban space appears to have been given to parking spaces. Car dealerships, petrol [gas] stations and motor lodges outnumber make up a large proportion of local businesses.

On the positive side, there are also a surprising number of bicyclists! Sadly, almost 100% of them speed around on style-free mountain bikes, slouched over the handlebars as if positioning their flimsy polystyrene helmets for a direct hit. Sad. Sports shorts and “Look at me, I’m weird” hi-viz jackets are pretty much ubiquitous. I’ve seen very few non-sports bike users at all. (With the fabulous exception of one beautifully stylish lady in Wellington who definitely got the whole looking good on two wheels thing.)

Helmets:

There are quite a few teenagers without helmets, often safely on the pavements [sidewalks] away from the crazy high number of aggressive drivers who rev loudly along the streets. Drivers have clearly been dangerously oversold on how protective helmets are, and who largely don’t slow down around people on bicycles, nor give them a safe amount of room when overtaking.

(Much slower speed limits are needed in town please.)

As for the people wearing helmets, I’d hazard that 50% or more are being worn incorrectly: loose chin straps, lopsided, too far back, or (sensibly, as it’s winter now) with warm hats underneath. I would dare conjecture this is due not to a lack of care for their safety, more to realising helmets are pretty ineffective in all but the most minor falls – but they have to be seen to be complying with that absurd and patronising law.

Also to avoid the hassle of that law, which for some reason only applies to (2-wheeled) bicycles (clearly discriminatory, sorry), a significant minority of people have turned to skateboards, flimsy 2-wheeled kick-scooters and, delightfully, unicycles.

image from unicycle.co.nz

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2 thoughts on “New Zealand – first impressions

  1. Wow, I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand, but not so sure now. It sounds exactly like the U.S., (specifically Atlanta, where I live), with cars dominating the landscape. There are almost no streets where parking is not allowed and speed limits below 25-30mph which I think is ridiculous. Even worse, is that even in residential areas where the speed limit is lowest, people routinely drive at least 10-20mph over the limit and it’s rarely enforced.

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