We all know that last year was a shocker on the roads.

Three hundred and seventy-nine people died, making it the deadliest year since 2009. And this year is starting off in a grim fashion with 10 people killed by Friday.

I suppose it stands to reason then that 2017 was a killer year for cyclists, too.

Eighteen cyclists were killed — that's almost four times the toll of previous years.


School kids, young adults and superannuitants were among those killed, representing the broad range of Kiwis who cycle.

Road policing Superintendent Steve Greally reckons that spike in deaths could be due to the warm dry weather, which encouraged people to cycle rather than take the car.

It could also be down to an increased number of people taking up cycling as a means of transportation or to get fit.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why so many cyclists never made it home last year but Cycling Action Network's Patrick Morgan says a wrap-around approach is needed to reduce the toll.

He wants more 30km/h and 40km/h speed limits in inner-city areas and better designing of intersections.

Intersections certainly could do with a design overhaul as the Transport Agency's Crash Analysis System showed that more than 60 per cent of fatal cycle crashes occurred at intersections or driveways.

Another common factor is heavy vehicles involved in a third of the accidents.

Morgan also says, quite rightly, that cyclists can help themselves by obeying road rules and not behaving like idiots.

Whenever the subject of cyclists comes up on the radio — and it comes up a lot — there is a lot of anger directed at cyclists. They behave like jerks, running through red lights, and flouting road rules so they deserve everything they get, seems to be the general opinion of motorists.

And certainly, living in the city, you see that a lot.

Just this week, as the husband and I headed to the tennis, a cyclist had a near miss when he ignored his red light and attempted to cross the road against two lanes of traffic heading on to the motorway.

And this was just a few metres away from an intersection where a cyclist was killed going against the lights and was subsequently crushed under a truck.

According to the official stats, 40 per cent of on-road cycling crashes are caused by the cyclist — and many of those involve school-aged children whose lack of experience contributes to the accident. So probably far fewer cyclists are at fault than many would have us believe.

Although Cycling Action Network's claim that cyclists traffic offences total less than 1 per cent of all traffic offences in a year is a little disingenuous. Cyclists aren't given the same scrutiny as motorists — were they policed in an even-handed manner, I have absolutely no doubt that percentage would rise.

Still, dickhead behaviour aside, everyone makes mistakes, even cyclists. And I don't think I'd feel any better if I'd killed a person knowing that it was their mistake not mine, which is why I always try to give cyclists as much room as possible when I travel by car.

I used to be a cyclist. When I was a kid, growing up in small towns, it was the most wonderful and liberating feeling to get on your bike and ride, independent of anybody else. I'd also love to be a cyclist again — we are having a contentious cycleway put through our neighbourhood and it would make sense to make the most of it.

I think when you have cycled yourself you're aware of just how vulnerable cyclists are and that the slightest error of judgment — from those on two wheels or four — can result in disaster.

Perhaps that's why the cycle toll is so high.

Fewer kids are cycling to school these days and so a generation of motorists has grown up with no concept of what it's like to be on a bike.

And a generation of New Zealanders seems to have grown up with no concept of empathy and that's why we've seen all sorts of statistics take a turn for the worse.