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Cyclists outraged by Tranzurban manager’s mocking Facebook post

Wellington cyclists are outraged at a senior Tranzurban bus manager after a controversial social media post mocking bikers.

Photo: 123RF

The company’s operations infrastructure manager, Graham Atkinson, posted on Facebook earlier this week a meme with the heading: “I’m a wanker starter pack”.

It shows images of cycling gear, a bike and helmet, along with a picture of a cycle lane – but an arrow directing bikers to drive on the main part of the road.

Image: RNZ / Screengrab

If relations between the bus company and the public were already strained, Mr Atkinson’s post on the closed group Wellington NZ Bus News, probably didn’t help.

Tranzurban runs a number of routes in the capital, but the contract has become a bone of contention with the public – with buses late, full, or not turning up at all.

After Mr Atkinson’s post went up, a screenshot was posted on the Cycle Wellington page.

The comments then started flowing.

“It’s so disheartening to know that this is how people driving huge heavy vehicles view a vulnerable little person on a bike.”

“A brief search for ‘cyclist hit by bus Wellington’ shows why people don’t see it as funny, particularly when the operations manager of Tranzurban is the person posting this.”

Patrick Morgan also posted on the Cycle Wellington page.

He’s not happy.

“It clearly crosses the line – it is not just a simple giggle at people riding bikes … when you’re on the road and when you’re on a bicycle you’re at the receiving end – so sorry I don’t see this as a joke,” he said.

Mr Morgan, who is a project manager at the Cycling Action Network, said around one in three people in Wellington cycle regularly.

“It can be really scary sharing a road with a bus and it doesn’t really help if that kind of attitude is prevalent with a senior manager at that company,” he said.

While there were a number of comments against Mr Atkinson’s meme – some others suggested people should take a chill pill.

“Some people here need a sense of humour.”

To make matters worse, a Tranzurban employee responded to the concerns of a regular Wellington cyclist on instant messenger.

Tranzurban: “I’m aware of who it is. But as I said, as he didn’t mention or bring the company into disrepute in the post, there’s not much I can do. Employee’s are free to hold and express their own viewpoints.”

Wellington person: “So tranz urban has no concern about staff having these views toward safety?”

Tranzurban: “The post is about a stereotypical viewpoint of cyclists, and makes no mention of causing harm to cyclists. I personally see no concern for any individuals safety on this post.”

Mr Atkinson – whose job title is clearly visible on his Facebook profile – is an experienced bus driver.

He did not return RNZ’s request for an interview.

However, in a statement, his employer Tranzurban did respond.

Director Keven Snelgrove said as soon as it was brought to the company’s attention – the meme was removed from the closed Facebook group.

He said its response on instant messenger was not handled well and was a serious error of judgement – that team member has since been spoken to.

However, Mr Atkinson – while apologetic – has kept his job.

RNZ / Jonathan Mitchell