Dylan is the deputy editor of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Opinion: Cyclists put at risk by an outdated safety plan

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Make Tauranga more cycle friendly. Photo/file
Make Tauranga more cycle friendly. Photo/file

The tragic death of a 71-year-old American cyclist, killed by a truck on Tuesday, has thrown a spotlight on cyclists' safety concerns amid the city's increasing traffic.

Bay cyclists approached by the Bay of Plenty Times this week were anxious not to be seen as using the death for leverage, but did say they had concerns about safety with the increasing traffic on city roads.

One of the points raised was that it was easier for locals who knew the cycleway but it could be dangerous for tourists who were unfamiliar with Tauranga and could "suddenly find themselves dumped in major traffic" when emerging from a cycleway.

There is a feeling among cyclists that other cities had moved ahead of Tauranga with cycle safety. They point to Rotorua as a city that had set a standard for cycle safety, having developed a clear strategy for a cycle network after public consultation.

It appears a valid point.

Tauranga's existing urban cycleways programme was developed a decade ago. Given the rapid population growth the city has experienced over that time and the resulting increase in traffic, which we all experience on daily basis, it stands to reason that plan needs to be updated.

I agree with the view that Tauranga's cycleways need to be separated from traffic and that key intersections should be engineered to be cycle-friendly. While both cyclists and motorists might make every effort to share the road safely, accidents happen and, as shown this week, the results can fatal.

Cyclists I have spoken to say they feel they run the gauntlet when they venture out on the city's roads. It shouldn't be that way.

It's not just cyclists who are worried. One alarmed motorist says he warned the Tauranga City Council just two weeks ago about a dangerous stretch of road where the cyclist was killed.

Tauranga boat skipper Glen James said he had come close to hitting three people in four months while driving his car out of Den Place, near the spot where the tourist was killed.

The aim of the city's cycleway programme is to improve cycle safety and increase the number of people riding bikes to work. Clearly, though, more work needs to be done to address current safety fears.

Bay cyclists should not have put their lives at risk getting around the city.

Nor should visitors to our city.

They are major contributors to our regional economy. The region, which encompasses the Western Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, Kawerau and Whakatane districts saw a total visitor spend of $929 million for the 12 months to September.

The cruise ship market, which was not counted in these figures, added a further $39m to the local economy each year.

The council must act to make our roads safer for cyclists.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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