Cycle safe: Seeing red - who's running the lights at danger spots

By Mathew Dearnaley

Tragic death of rider sparks release of report over traffic at busy intersections.

Photo / Dean Purcell
Photo / Dean Purcell

Cyclists accounted for 60 per cent of red-light runners surveyed at four Auckland intersections, the city's transport authority has revealed.

Car drivers were responsible for 37 per cent of 360 red-light breaches observed by Auckland Transport, and buses, trucks and one motorcycle made up the balance.

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The survey was taken nine months ago, and used by Auckland Transport to formulate safety messages aimed at encouraging all road users to obey red lights, but was not publicised at the time.

It was taken during 12 peak travel hours over two days in late March at two intersections on Tamaki Drive, one at the junction of Quay St and Lower Albert St, and the other at the Newton-Great North-Ponsonby-Karangahape crossroads.

The council body has issued the results after last week's death of a novice bike rider who collided with a truck at an intersection with a busy freight route in Parnell, a tragedy which has sparked a Herald series starting today on cycling safety.

Police believe John Tangiia, 37, was probably freewheeling down Parnell Rise on Tuesday before turning left into Stanley St and colliding with a truck which appeared to have a green light while crossing the intersection from The Strand.

An average of more than 62,000 vehicles a day use the intersection, where two main freight routes between the port and the motorways converge. Although traffic is lighter over the holidays, it was still heavy with freight vehicles during a one-hour informal survey by the Herald on Friday afternoon, which found 24 red-light runners, including three trucks and a bus.

Only one cyclist rode across the intersection during the hour, doing so on a green light.

Word of the survey prompted Auckland Transport to issue last year's results to both the paper and to Cycle Action Auckland, which has criticised it for being too slow to open new bike lanes throughout the region.

Cycle Action chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert said cars running lights exceeded cyclists at the K-Rd intersection.

She referred to a presentation by a senior Auckland Transport official which won an accolade at an engineering conference, noting many instances of red-light running by cyclists were left-hand turns or motivated by riders wanting to get a head-start on other vehicles for safety reasons.

"Overall, cyclists' red-light running is a relatively infrequent and safe behaviour," corridor and centre plans team leader Daniel Newcombe said in the presentation.

Among recommendations he made to the Institution of Professional Engineers' transport group conference was for cyclists to be allowed to turn left on red lights, while treating the manoeuvre as a "give way" and assessing the risk to pedestrians.

Auckland Transport communications general manager Wally Thomas. said he needed to be updated on the recommendations but noted that cyclists accounted for only about 2 per cent of road users, so appeared to be over-represented in red-light running.

He said the number of red-light runs at the Stanley-Strand intersection, by other vehicles was a serious concern.

Despite the concern about last week's death, which remains under police investigation, he noted a 64 per cent reduction in serious cycling injuries in Auckland in 2012 compared with 2011 - from 51 to 18.

Read more:

Plea to share roads safely

10,000 fined for no helmet, some get speeding tickets

Road safety series

* The Herald begins a new series aimed at improving road safety, reducing the risk to cyclists and improving relations between motorists and riders.

* We want to help cut the number of cyclists injured and killed each year by raising awareness of the rights and responsibilities of both motorists and riders.

* We'll be highlighting known blackspots and where our readers have had near misses. We'll also be telling the stories of those on the frontline. We want to hear your experiences - and ideas and solutions to help reduce the toll

- NZ Herald

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