What’s the story?

If you’ve been on the waterfront recently you’ve probably noticed these signs near the bridges.


Image credit: Patrick Morgan

BIKERS BEWARE! (picture of sports cyclist)

Um, excuse me?

I’m not too impressed with this. What possible reason could there be for using such aggressive, scare-tactic, OMG the danger! language?

The rest of the wording is “Pedestrian Priority” and I don’t have any issues with this. If Wellington Waterfront Limited has deemed pedestrians to have right of way over the waterfront area, that’s perfectly understandable. But I’m hugely disappointed with their communication style towards bike riders – otherwise known as ‘legitimate users of the waterfront’ in that awful bureaucratic-speak we all seem to have become accustomed to.

So what are the alternatives? How about ‘Bikers Be Aware’, or ‘Hey Bikers :)’, or any of the neutral or friendly, attention-grabbing phrases you’ve probably thought of in the last 10 seconds. You know, something that doesn’t attack people for doing what they’re allowed – and encouraged – to do. EDIT: Even better, bike riders could have been involved in finding the solution. We’re the ones whose buy-in is required, so how about calling on, say, Cycle Aware Wellington to get involved. They’ve got a ton of smart, engaged bike riders who think about this kind of stuff all day.

Here’s another thing: what kind of bike riders do Wellington Waterfront Ltd think are riding on the waterfront? Judging from the sign (or sticker, really) they reckon sports cyclists are the main group. A few minutes at peak hour – or at any other time – will make it obvious that it’s commuters, not sports cyclists, who are riding along there. Since that’s the case, this would be a better graphic – and it’s free to use.

Patrick thought that the signs were about people riding too fast along the waterfront. I thought it was about shared space on the bridges, but I do see the occasional hoon on a bike along there. If it’s that much of an issue then I’d like to see Wellington Waterfront Ltd lobbying Wellington City Council to improve bike infrastructure on key commuter routes instead of having a go at people. You can do 50 km/h through most of the city, so if you’re wanting to go fast the roads will be better suited when the infrastructure goes in. The waterfront – not so much.


18 thoughts on “What’s the story?

  1. Janine

    I agree it is not a very good sign. The first time I saw it I wasn’t sure if it meant that the cyclist should be aware, or if people had to be aware of the scary cyclists…
    And why is it encouraging us to swerve madly all over the place?


  2. Simon Kennett

    Unfortunately there are quite a few walkers who have been scared by bikers on the waterfront and for them the alarmist language probably seems appropriate. This is a classic example of an asymetric conflict relationship.

    Perhaps the sports cyclist icon is speaking to the people who are most likely to be causing the conflict? Your classic upright rider is less likely to be riding in a threatening manner.


    1. atom

      this is what bells are for! a polite ring of the bell before getting too close just means “heads up – here comes a bike.” i think what people some people get scared about is when a bike “comes out of nowhere” or just moves to fast among pedestrians.

      of course bells don’t help when people are walking around in a daze, TXTing, with their i-pods turned up to eleven. half of the harmony that we all want requires cyclists being considerate to pedestrians – the other half is pedestrians being aware of their surroundings. as cyclists, we have to take responsibility for our half of the bargain.

      FWIW, my first guess at the signage was “slippery when wet”. if they want cyclists to watch where they’re going… why are the signs on the ground???

      @Nigel – “pedestrian priority” makes sense on any shared path. bicycles have more ability to cause damage, thus a greater responsibility to yield to more vulnerable users of the path. for the same reasons, it would make sense if NZ had strict liability (as most of europe has) in bike/car crashes. i’d be happy to have strict liability that favored bicycles against motor vehicles, and in exchange i’d be happy accept strict liability that favored pedestrians against bicycles.

      the fact is, there ARE sometimes out-of-control 2 year olds darting all over the place along the waterfront. it’s not reasonable to keep them all on leashes or ban them, so we have to walk and cycle in a way that’s responsible. that means slow down to a walking speed, or hit the road.


      1. Lisa

        Oh snap!

        Yeah, getting a bell has made a HUGE difference to how easy it is for me to ride around the waterfront. I find giving people a genuine smile when they look around for the source of the ringing makes the whole interaction much smoother.


      2. atom

        +1 smile 🙂

        this also works well when people give me extra room in mt vic tunnel. i return the favor with a smile and usually get a smile in return 🙂


    2. Lisa

      Yeah I know… I agree that there’s either a real problem or the perception of one, which is much the same in terms of how people react.

      I just think that the response to it could have been MUCH better and would ideally have involved bike riders in coming up with a solution.


  3. Nigel

    Why pedestrian priority. Why should a minority dictate the rules. How come cyclists are pushed off the roads, and pushed off the shared pathways too.? I think “quite a few walkers” have got to toughen up and look around before they step out all over the place. Bet they feel different about it in their cars. It’s outright scary cycling along that waterfront route when there are out-of-control 2 year olds darting all over the place. And as for confronting a first time parent wielding a stroller – I am headed for the water every time! You see I have sympathy for the walkers, but this looks like the start of the Botanic Gardens, Otari Reserve, Treliissick Park etc. where we are all so “special”.


    1. Lisa

      Dude, it’s a shared pathway. So share. I do agree that people need to learn to look around, but that’s the result of NZ not having many cyclists so there hasn’t been any need to check behind etc. I don’t see any need for people to toughen up – that just sets up that boring us-and-them false dichotomy. The answer is for more people to ride so that everyone is used to bikes being around. Win-win.

      When they ‘feel different about it in their cars’, how do you feel about it? I seriously dislike being monstered by arrogant drivers and I bet you do too. So how come the comment sounds like that same aggressive driving attitude on a bike? I mean, you’re on a bike, right, so you’re already luckier than everyone else – why stress about a few people walking? We, the minority on the roads, protest when we don’t get rules and infrastructure that make us feel safe so I hardly think we’re in a position to complain about other minorities (aka ‘people’) requesting things that make them feel safe. It’s a reasonable request to ask for safety while walking on a footpath.

      As far as the two year olds go, yep, they’re there and they do unexpected stuff. Deal with it. Slow down around them. That’s called riding to the conditions. Ever swerved unexpectedly to avoid something on the road? I have, all the time. I don’t reckon it’s much fun for people in cars when I do that, but sometimes it happens and when it does I expect them to drive to the conditions, i.e. a cyclist nearby.

      There’s a video of Mikael Colville-Anderson talking about driver liability in cycle accidents in Denmark. He said something like “If the driver says ‘But the cyclist did something unexpected!’ the judge will say “But you know that there are bikes on the roads and you know that cyclists do unexpected things, so why didn’t you drive to those conditions?” The same applies to an adult on a bike vs a kid on a scooter on the waterfront. We’re the adults, it’s our job to look out for them and ride safely around them. There’s just no excuse for not doing that.


    1. That’s awesome feedback, I’ll make sure they know. I haven’t been down there yet, but I met with WCC & WWL when they were planning the campaign and gave them my thoughts. Will be interesting to see the finished product.


  4. Nigel

    I can’t seem to leave this alone, sorry everyone 😉 but…
    There is a survey form about these signs (oops, maybe I wasn’t supposed to reveal that) on the CAN Wellington page.


  5. David

    Don’t have an issue at all with people riding bikes along the waterfront but I drive regularly for my job and the amount of times I see cyclists breaking or ignoring road rules and on occassion they are tooted or challenged over what they did giving rude gestures to motorists. More than happy to share the road / waterfront but only if they obey the rules. The last thing I want is to hit someone as I’ll probably be the one getting even though the cyclist was undertaking a stationary car or something…..


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