Russ and Laura are no strangers to Seattle. Then again, they aren’t strangers to many places, considering they travel the world with their bicycles, documenting their inspiring trips with beautiful video at their blog the Path Less Pedaled.
The Portland-based couple are currently in New Zealand, where they have been highlighting the country’s stunning bicycle routes and growing urban bike cultures. But a recent incident does not leave the kind of impression a national tourism official would like.
Russ was punched in the face after an enraged New Zealand driver aggressively pulled over and attacked him. Russ is okay, though shaken up, and the incident made it into several national media outlets. From the New Zealand Herald:
But [cycling advocates] are struggling to remain upbeat after Mr Roca, 33, was tackled off his bike and – after picking himself up – punched by a motorist in Wellington on Tuesday afternoon.
They were riding single file in the inner of two southbound lanes along Riddiford St towards Newtown about 4.30pm when they say the driver cut them off, and then got out of his car.
“Words were exchanged, he stopped his car in front of us, Laura managed to swerve in front of him and he just came and knocked me off my bike,” Mr Roca said yesterday.
“He barged into me and knocked me over. I got up and he came towards me and punched me in the face and I went down again.”
He said other motorists stopped to help as the man sped off through a red light, and they provided licence-plate details for a complaint laid with the police yesterday.
He said he was lucky to be left with only a cut lip and sore shoulder and back from the attack, which would not deter him and Ms Crawford from exploring cycle trails in the South Island next week.
“The guy was just so angry that I think it was just his personal problems,” he said.
If you have met Russ and Laura or follow their blog, you know how ridiculous it is to think that someone would want to punch them. They are consistently positive, happy and friendly people who concentrate as much on the unique people and cultures of the places they go as they do on promoting cycling.
And, in sync with this attitude, Russ and Laura made sure to boost cycling in their interviews with media instead of merely concentrating on this one negative interaction, as Russ told NZH:
“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.”
One glance at a PLP video from their trip, and it’s clear that a punch in the face isn’t going to stop them. The stunning beauty of their adventures is far more powerful than one jerk, and perhaps the whole incident will raise the profile of bicycle travel in the country. If nothing else, it will lead more people to watch this awesome video:
Kiwi Chronicles: Episode 3 – On the Road Again – PathLessPedaled.com from Russ Roca on Vimeo.
Amazing to think of all the neurons around the world chugging away, quaffing glucose, working hard to form a rationale of how this was Roca’s fault. Who’ll touch down at Absurdity Base soonest?
Anyway, it’s important to remember how the nail that sticks up painfully and memorably pokes into one’s foot even as all the other nails do the right thing shouldn’t become our worldview. Remember, for every one unhinged motorist there are literally thousands of pleasant, cheerful others who’d never do this, lest we forget about “other motorists stopped to help” and “provided licence-plate details.”
Goes to show that there are crazy people everywhere. Sometimes when you encounter one, it’s time to just back off no matter how much you are in the right. Unless you really want to have a fight, and even if you win, then what? You beat up a crazy person? How are you going to feel about that the next day?
Anyway one of my high school friends borrowed my panniers and with his girlfriend went off to NZ and eloped! They had nothing but great experiences cycling there.
More details in the other newspaper.
You know it must be a quiet news day down there for this story to make both papers.
“In my quest to find Sir Edmund in New Zealand, I called a journalist there. Might he tell me where I could find someone who had Hillary’s telephone number? Just a minute, he said. Oh, have you got it, I asked? No, he replied, it’s just right here in the phone book. That’s right. Anybody could ring up the greatest citizen of the country, the guy on the five-dollar bill, the hero who stood first on the top of the world.”
NZ’s a pretty quiet place.
From the more detailed account, it appears that Mr. Roca and his partner reacted to the close passing of the car instead of calmly carrying on. Apparently, the cyclists waved their arms and “there was a finger gesture” (let’s take accountability, shall we?) So, while the driver is clearly in the wrong, the cyclists’ reaction seems to have provoked a worsening of the situation. It’s a good reminder that when you are confronted with bad behavior on the road, its better to take the “high road”.
Looks like an arrest in this case!
(trouble with living on an island really, no where to go to escape the law.)
This event may explain why city cycling in NZ remains in the 1%, margin of error threshold (apart from the city of Christchurch). Cycling in NZ remains the domain of the brave and fearless. On the surface, NZ may look benign and friendly but it has a road culture that more akin to the ‘wild west’. It seems like Rus and Laura didn’t ‘know their place’ in the road hierarchy and a motorist decided to enlighten them.