Teen cyclist has been run off the road three times by angry motorists

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 6 Dec 2020, 9:45AM
Elliott Henk was knocked off his bike by an angry motorist on Friday evening on Auckland's North Shore, the third time in the past few years. Photo / Supplied
Elliott Henk was knocked off his bike by an angry motorist on Friday evening on Auckland's North Shore, the third time in the past few years. Photo / Supplied

Teen cyclist has been run off the road three times by angry motorists

Author
Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 6 Dec 2020, 9:45AM

A teenage cyclist was again knocked off his bike on Friday night on Auckland's North Shore – the third time he has been run off the road in two years.

Elliott Henk, 18, was cycling from a friend's place in Takapuna to his home in Forrest Hill along Lake Pupuke Drive around midnight when a white car raced up behind him.

The occupants were yelling at him and the car honking its horn, before it swerved towards Henk, knocking his handlebars and flipping him on to the tarmac. The car then sped off.

Fortunately Henk only received cuts and bruises, although his bike was quite damaged.

However, it had left him emotionally shaken.

"It was quite scary, but to be honest it is not entirely unusual," Henk told the Herald on Sunday.

Henk is a keen cyclist and rides around the North Shore streets several times a day as his main method of transport and, as always, when he rides at night wears reflective gear and rides with lights.

But almost every time he gets on the road he experiences some form of aggression.

Usually it is a few honks from drivers, or yelling out the window, but he has twice been driven off the road by angry motorists - once ending up down a gully.

His parents, Mandy and Chris, also regularly cycle around the North Shore and experience similar problems on the roads.

"Normally it is just getting cut off, and normally when traffic is busy and you can tell drivers are getting a bit annoyed," Chris said.

"But the difference is when you're on a bike you are just so vulnerable."

Chris said the problems were a combination of a small group of angry motorists and poor cycling infrastructure.

There was also a general lack of awareness when it came to things like parking and driving in cycle lanes.

"Auckland Transport want more people on bikes, and in lockdown there were so many people out cycling you can see when it is safe, people will do it."

AT has a target of building 10km of cycleways a year. However it has failed to meet that goal the past four years.

In 2019/2020 just 6km were built, with some projects delayed because of Covid-19.

For the current financial year, with Covid-19-induced financial constraints, the target has been lowered to 4km.

Meanwhile the number of people cycling has continued to steadily grow.

Bike Auckland chair and spokeswoman Barbara Cuthbert said that showed how keen people were to get out on bikes.

"Even though there has been this deficit in infrastructure, the number of people cycling has been increasing 16 per cent in the past three years. Not much has changed but people are brave and determined enough and see the value of being on bikes.

"If we invest in safe infrastructure in a broad scale across the city we will continue to see huge uptake."

As the numbers of cyclists increased Cuthbert said driver behaviour had improved greatly.

However, like with Henk, she regularly heard of instances of severe aggression.

"It is really a constant and hasn't gone away, despite everything else. There are no hard rules but it seems to be a male on male thing.

"And sometimes it can come from the cyclist side too, but the reality is those on bikes are so much more vulnerable."

AT spokesman Mark Hannan said motorists being aggressive to cyclists was more a police matter because they dealt with on-road behaviour.

"We would encourage all road users to look out for each other and be considerate of others on the road.

"If a cyclist has an issue with a driver they should report the matter to the police."

A number of projects being done on the North Shore include cycling elements, the major one being the Northcote safe cycle route that stretched from the Taharoto Rd/Northcote Rd intersection near Smales Farm, past Onewa Domain, Northcote shops, and to Northcote Pt.

This would create a safe, 5.2km route for pedestrians and people on bikes. Construction began in late 2019 and will be finished by early next year, Hannan said.

Police have been approached for comment.