I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I’ve imagined it as an idyllic sort of place at the antipodes, full of snow-capped mountains, sheep stations and civilized folks. Judging from an incident involving a pair of touring cyclists whose travels I’ve been following on their website and Facebook, I guess, like anyplace in this world, New Zealand has its share of assholes.
Russ Roca and Laura Crawford, who have been touring New Zealand on British-made Brompton folding bikes, encountered one of that country’s ilk on Tuesday as they were riding single file just south of Wellington on the North Island.
A motorist passed them dangerously close, stopped his car up the road and came back to push Roca off his bike and punch him in the face, according to a report in The Dominion Post.
“The whole thing was surreal,” Roca was quoted as saying.
“Last year German cyclist Mia Susanne Pusch, 19, blogged about the perils of cycling on New Zealand roads, describing Kiwi truck drivers as ‘beasts.’ She died after colliding with a truck and trailer near Bulls.”
Patrick Morgan, a spokesman for New Zealand’s Cycling Advocates Network, said the attack on Roca was embarrassing to New Zealand.
“This assault is unacceptable but unfortunately … not rare,” Morgan said.
In a report in The New Zealand Herald, Roca was quoted as saying:
“It seems like such an isolated experience — it is not going to put us off touring or riding the trails of New Zealand.
“I don’t want to diminish it, because it was absolutely awful, but it was a fluke thing — I don’t think anyone should take it as a reason not to cycle.”
I had a chance to meet Roca and Crawford on April 28, 2010, when they gave a presentation at a Fort Worth bike shop on their bicycle travels around the United States. (See April 27, 2010, blog post, “Nomads on two wheels.”)
Here’s hoping that their continued travels in New Zealand are asshole-free.