A councillor in New Zealand has made an eyebrow-raising objection to a plan to build a $14 million protected cycle lane, claiming that he would not be able to move out of the way of emergency service vehicles without risking scraping the bottom of his sports car on the infrastructure's segregation.
This is the bizarre story being reported from New Plymouth, a city on the country's north island, RNZ stating that, despite Murray Chong's criticism, at an "extraordinary meeting" New Plymouth District Council voted in favour of submitting the proposal to the New Zealand Transport Agency for approval.
The plan will see four kilometres of protected cycle lanes built, segregating riders from traffic with concrete separation barriers that will be 100mm high, Chong saying he risks damaging his Chevrolet Corvette if he tries to drive out the way of emergency services in his sports car that sits just 160mm off the ground.
"If they are 100mm high and you've got the curvature of the road, which might be 20mm either side, you're getting damned close to the limit," he said. "My vehicle is on the limit. It's legal, however, you know, I could rip the bottom sump out of my vehicle and all that."
The councillor is a former paramedic and raised the often-heard argument, and commonly debunked in response, that emergency services may be slowed down if the cycling infrastructure is built as he would have to carefully move out of their way in order to make sure his car was not damaged.
"You can't just verge off," he said. "It will slow emergency services vehicles down and I know — I used to be part of that service."
He also questioned who would pay for repairs to low-riding vehicles damaged, to top off his cycle lane comments. Mayor Neil Holdom has spoken in support of the project and stressed that "decisions that are going to result in that change" to "protect our young people" were necessary.
He said: "As somebody who has been run over twice and experienced some pretty hostile behaviour, if we want to get people on bikes — and in particular protect our young people — we have to take the decisions that are going to result in that change and make it safer.
"But I'm not a fan of in-lane bus stops. I'm yet to be convinced and I felt that was a bridge too far, but the reality is that if it came down dealing with the bus stops or we don't get the project, I think the view is what's more important and there are six schools along the corridor and the safety of those kids is paramount."
A petition opposing the project has been signed more than 7,000 times, some business owners objecting to the loss of parking spaces to make way for the cycle lane.
However, another councillor Anneka Carlson, said it would make the area "more connected for all different modes of transport".
"I'm really stoked that we got the numbers and we are setting the direction for government that this is where we want to take our roads. It's making our roads safer, but also more connected for all different modes of transport," she said.
"I think the voice of young people gets lost in central and local government and part of the reason I stood was to give a voice to people younger than me and my age. Young people I've spoken to want safer cycling and they want public transport, and that's a lot to do with their own independence, being able to do what they want to do without mums and dads having to drive them everywhere."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.