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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tour Operators defend New Zealand Cycle Touring

If you really want to experience crazy drivers, try cycling
from Samoa's Apia Airport into town.  We did - Once -
and lived. Never again.
Cycle Tour Operators New Zealand (CTONZ) are concerned at recent misleading publicity regarding the safety of New Zealand roads for touring cyclists. CTONZ, representing 19 New Zealand based cycle tour companies, believes that recent comments from Tim Pawson, editor of, that “New Zealand drivers have an arsehole attitude” are incorrect. News reports that the German Embassy are considering issuing a Travel Advisory, warning its nationals of the dangers of cycling on New Zealand roads, also do not represent a true picture of cycle touring in New Zealand. While acknowledging that there is a very small sector of NZ drivers who are inconsiderate, CTONZ members believes that the vast majority of motorists are courteous and respectful towards cycle tourists.

Richard Oddy has been operating cycle tours in New Zealand for 25 years and believes that while New Zealand does not have the same history of cycling as European countries where cycling culture is ingrained, Kiwi drivers are much more considerate towards cyclists than they were 30 years ago. This season his clients have spoken well of Kiwi drivers.

CTONZ members stress cycle safety and sharing the road to their clients, with a strong emphasis on bright clothing and the need to be visible at all times. Clients are instructed to cycle on the hard left, ride in single file on narrow roads and pull over if holding up traffic. A common response from clients at the end of a tour is - “The traffic was nowhere near as bad as you lead us to believe and much better than at home.” Protocols have been set between CTONZ, the Bus and Coach Association and the Road Transport Forum outlining behaviours for sharing the road. The introduction of these protocols has dramatically reduced the number of incidents between buses, trucks and organised cycle tours.

The organization is concerned at the number of cycle tourists who wear black, brown or grey clothing, and ride on busy highways when there are quiet alternative routes. Safe cycle touring in New Zealand is all about adopting sound risk management procedures, including careful route planning and if need be, taking public transport to avoid main roads. CTONZ is also concerned that some travel publications offer misleading information, including one well known publication whose just released edition, suggests cycle tourists travel on some busy sections of State Highway One.

While the increase in population and tourist numbers has led to increased pressures on some roads, there are still plenty of quiet cycle routes available in New Zealand. Popular areas such as Northland, Coromandel and Nelson, that are busy in January, still provide quiet roads outside of peak periods. CTONZ members provide carefully planned itineraries that avoid main highways where possible and are constantly aware of changing traffic volumes, adapting itineraries as conditions change.

CTONZ asks that before the German Embassy issues a Travel Advisory, they consult with industry representatives. The organization strongly believes that with safe cycling practice, good route planning and the adoption of Share the Road policies by drivers and cyclists, New Zealand is still a safe and enjoyable place for cycle tourists.

Tim de Jong
Cycle Tour Operators New Zealand
PH 03 942 1222
Cell 021 753865

Please go here to read my earlier articles on this hot topic.


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