Push to lower speed limit after crash

By Rachel Tiffen

Witnesses offer information after Saturday's incident in St Heliers. Cycle Action Auckland has promised to take action. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Witnesses offer information after Saturday's incident in St Heliers. Cycle Action Auckland has promised to take action. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Cyclists will push for a lower speed limit on Auckland's Tamaki Drive after a young driver ploughed into a pack of riders, critically injuring one.

Police will today speak with the 20-year-old woman who appeared to drive through a compulsory stop near Vale Rd in St Heliers Bay before hitting the group of 20 middle-aged riders on Saturday morning.

Cycle Action Auckland, which represents about 1200 cyclists, said it was sick of defending cyclists' rights.

"You will see some action this coming week. We have to address this issue," said co-chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert. "The really important thing is that this ghastly accident is a means of stepping up safety and respect given to cyclists. Why is everyone so down on these so-called pack cyclists? We are constantly having to defend the fact that we're here at all."

Ms Cuthbert said the group would push for a reduced speed limit of 40km/h along Tamaki Drive and the introduction of a designated cycle lane.

Last night, Auckland engineer Greg Paterson was in a critical but stable condition in Auckland City Hospital. The three other members of the group injured in the crash - which was described as "absolute carnage" - were discharged over the weekend.

Dave Woods suffered a broken vertebra in the neck, broken ribs and cuts to the face, Kevin Marsh had a deep gash to the knee and broken kneecap, and Steve Lobb had a broken collarbone, shoulder blade and thumb. Mr Paterson's wife, Claire, was yesterday with him in the hospital's intensive care unit, but declined to comment.

Constable Mark Rodgers, crash analyst for the Auckland serious crash unit, said the driver was likely to be charged. "I suspect so, unless there's something that comes out in the investigation.

"My understanding is that at least three-quarters of the pack were wearing high-visibility clothing. If you have a pack of 20-odd cyclists, how can you not see them?"

He said drink-driving had been ruled out and that driver fatigue or inattention were the most likely causes. The main priority today would be speaking with and supporting Mr Paterson's family.

Mr Rodgers said police would analyse the scene and the vehicle and speak with the driver, the riders and witnesses.

"It's a big job but we have to do it thoroughly."

He urged anyone who witnessed the accident to contact him on (09) 359 3100 or email mark.rodgers@police.govt.nz.

The accident has raised the issue of cyclists' place on Auckland roads.

Ms Cuthbert said it was "the most ironic timing for such a ghastly accident", after World Carfree Day last Tuesday, when motorists were urged to leave their cars at home.

She said the council's "share our roads" policy and the Government's strong position on climate change should be enough to evoke change.

Ken Baguley, Auckland City transport committee chairman, said it was as much about educating drivers as dedicating parts of the "scarce resource of road to one particular party".

He said the committee supported a joint proposal from Cycle Action and the Nextbike hire company to set up "three great urban rides" through Auckland. This would highlight city landmarks by directing cyclists on to signposted existing roads. The routes were chosen to take advantage of Auckland's coastline and long ridges, and would encompass Eden Park for 2011 Rugby World Cup visitors.

"We simply don't have the space to dedicate roads to cyclists so signage and education would be absolutely the first priority."

Committee members were looking at how cycling budgets could be re-allocated to allow for this and reporting back in November.

Ms Cuthbert said Cycle Action Auckland did not want to polarise cyclists and motorists, as most cyclists were motorists too.

"It [Tamaki Drive] is such a gorgeous part of Auckland, we all want to use it. It seems like cyclists are put at the bottom of the pecking order. But what about recreational drivers? I don't question their right to be there."

- NZ Herald

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