Kiri is a digital journalist for bayofplentytimes.co.nz.

Surge in cycling makes city roads safer

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EXPERT: Road safety and cycling advocate Iris Thomas says there has been a huge increase in cyclists on the roads in Tauranga.PHOTO/FILE
EXPERT: Road safety and cycling advocate Iris Thomas says there has been a huge increase in cyclists on the roads in Tauranga.PHOTO/FILE

There have been fewer serious injuries sustained by cyclists in Tauranga in the past four years despite a dramatic increase in people taking up the environmentally friendly mode of transport.

Figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend show there have been at least 106 crashes involving cyclists in Tauranga since 2013.

Most of these crashes happened on the city's busiest arterial routes - State Highway 2, Cameron Rd, Oceanbeach Rd, Papamoa Beach Rd, State Highway 29, Welcome Bay Rd and 11th Ave.

Last year there were 35 crashes involving cyclists, including four seriously hurt and 24 suffering minor injuries.

In 2014, six were seriously hurt and only 18 received minor injuries.

"Years ago you would be lucky to see a single cyclist on the road, only the diehard cyclists who go out training at the weekend. Now, cyclists are everywhere," Ms Thomas said. "I'm surprised at the people who are taking up cycling.

There's definitely more recreational cyclists and definitely an increase in off-road cycling and I can't say I blame them but I'm seeing more commuting to work."

Ms Thomas said the increase was a good thing and ultimately made roads safer.

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"Research shows the more cyclists there are, the safer it is. It heightens the awareness for drivers because there are so many. It lowers crash statistics."

Between 2003 and 2008, less than a quarter (24 per cent) of people surveyed in Tauranga had cycled in the last year. Only 11 per cent had cycled in the last month.

Between 2009 and 2014 (the most recent figures available), 46 per cent of people surveyed in Tauranga had cycled in the last year. Thirty per cent had cycled in the last month.

Ms Thomas said there had also been an increase of traffic on the roads.

"For me, I'm not a fan of cycling in the traffic on Cameron Rd at 5pm. I would say the road congestion means that drivers are looking for those gaps and not looking for cyclists, but in saying that the more congestion there is, the slower the traffic is."

Ms Thomas said any hostile rivalry between cyclists and drivers had reduced significantly in Tauranga.

"It used to be cyclists versus cars. Drivers would forget that cyclists are actually drivers as well. But we are on the road now and we are finding drivers are a lot more courteous and accommodating than they used to be. There are a lot of smiles. It's fabulous."

Ms Thomas said the biggest safety issue for cyclists was being seen. "Most crashes happen because the driver doesn't see them so cyclists need to take it upon themselves to be seen, be bright."

To remind cyclists to put lights on their bikes and wear high-vis, reflective clothes, Bike Wise, Travel Safe, Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and NZ Police have started an annual Be Bright campaign.

This involved checkpoints where Travel Safe and Tauranga City Council representatives would assess and provide reflective gear and lights to cyclists at key cycling routes throughout the city.

Travel Safe Programme Leader Karen Smith said cyclists' visibility to other road users, especially during times of low light and poor visibility, was essential to their safety.

The checkpoints would involve assessment of cyclists' reflective gear and lights. Riders who had adequate lights would be rewarded with safe reflective cycling gear such as backpack covers, cats eyes and ankle and arm bands. Cyclists who did not have adequate lights would be fitted with a set of lights. Cyclists could also go into a draw to win $50 bike store vouchers.

The Be Bright campaign for cyclists was launched in April 2016 to coincide with the end of daylight saving and would run until mid-June.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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