I pushed the breaks with a ferociousness that could only be found in the aftermath of adrenalin. With the bicycle break clamped tight, I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. All I could hear was the skid of a car and a woman on the sidewalk screaming.
The roundabouts of NZ are a unique breed. A pedigree unlike those found in Europe or North America. Instead of yielding around a large circular grassy knoll, there is a skinny center post to maneuver around. No motorist forced to tackle such an obstacle truly enjoys the roundabout. The motorists accelerate in an attempt to leave the insanity as quickly as possible. Out of fear of being committed and straight jacketed to a cemetery they exit across several lanes with a heavy footed vengeance. A sane tiny woman on a bicycle amidst such lunacy goes unnoticed.
At a pause in the screaming and the noise of the car skidding, I opened my eyes and had a look. To my surprise I still had 2 legs, 1 head and a bicycle. The woman out of breath from screaming on the sidewalk probably needed to change her pants and was therefore in worse shape than me. I couldn’t blame the women for letting out such a shriek, audible by dolphins and bystanders in the 100 mile vicinity.
The New Zealand government is presently concerned about the rising death toll of cyclists. The government realizes that most accidents go unreported so they have launched a well publicized campaign and national hotline to encourage motorists and cyclists to report all accidents. The data collected will be used to make road safety improvements. The roads here on the North Island are rural and few and far between so drivers and cyclists must take the same road, the popular option of the cyclist taking secondary roads doesn’t exists. This motorist and cyclist relationship can get complicated when trying to exit town via the roundabouts.
With my 2 grateful legs and 1 intact head, I picked up my bicycle and pushed it out of town into the beautiful Marlborough wine region. As the sun was setting over the aftermath of the rowdy roundabout, I find myself sitting at a picnic table near the village of St. Arnauld drinking a fresh bottle of red wine. After most of the bottle, I am grateful to know that although there won’t be any more roundabouts until I get close to Christchurch there will be more New Zealand pinot noir.