Spotlight on cyclists' deaths

By Kiri Gillespie

Te Puna man Hugh Clark  rode his bicycle into a stationary car on Welcome Bay Rd, 
causing serious injuries to his jaw and face. Photo / George Nova.
Te Puna man Hugh Clark rode his bicycle into a stationary car on Welcome Bay Rd, causing serious injuries to his jaw and face. Photo / George Nova.

A bay cycle safety expert is urging cyclists to do "everything they can" to be seen after an investigation into cycling deaths found more than half were caused by cyclists, with middle-aged men most at risk.

A coroner's investigation into 94 New Zealand deaths found an average of 15 cyclists a year have been killed on our roads since mid-2007. In the Western Bay of Plenty, one cyclist was killed, two seriously injured and nine suffered minor injuries between 2010 and 2012.

Coroner Gordon Matenga said he was surprised to find 58.5 per cent of deaths were the result of cyclists' errors, which was "contrary to every submission to me which suggested that motorists were deemed to be responsible in most cycle crashes".

Tauranga cycle safety expert Iris Thomas said cyclists needed to be vigilant and ride "defensively" as drivers failing to spot cyclists was the biggest problem.

"We've got to do everything we can to be seen on the road."

She had seen cyclists pull "dangerous manoeuvres" on local streets.

These included not checking behind before changing direction, and crossing in front of traffic to mount the footpath without warning.

However, cycle safety had improved over the past few years, she said.

Experienced Tauranga cyclist Cliff Kingston, who organised weekly social rides, was surprised by the findings.

"Cyclists are very aware of their vulnerability but there are also times when vehicles see us but they don't register we are there."

Some cyclists did silly things, "but then, so do some motorists", he said.

Cycling advocate and medical officer of health Phil Shoemack said New Zealand lacked suitable infrastructure for safe cycling, compared with Europe where the mode of transport was encouraged and made easily accessible.

"We don't do much to make roads safer for cyclists," he said.

Te Puna man Hugh Clark, who was seriously injured when he rode into a parked car in 2008, acknowledged he was at fault in his crash "but it doesn't really matter who's right and who's wrong because you're always going to come off worse when you're on a bicycle".

Mr Matenga's report showed the victims ranged in age from 6 to 93, with an average age of 46 years, and more than three-quarters were male.

Attitudes toward cycling needed a complete "rethink", Mr Matenga said.

- with APNZ

- Bay of Plenty Times

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