Driving and cycling habits under fire after three deaths

By Hayden Donnell, Katherine Irvine, Michael Dickison

John McLaren was knocked off his bicycle last week. Photo / Richard Robinson
John McLaren was knocked off his bicycle last week. Photo / Richard Robinson

The deaths of three cyclists in crashes over the weekend have reignited a public discussion over whether New Zealanders' driving and cycling habits need to change.

A cyclist who was forced off the road only to receive an angry lecture from the driver is among those who have shared their harrowing road experiences.

Wilhelm Muller, 71, and Mark Ferguson, 46, were killed in a crash on Sunday morning 12km south of Morrinsville when a car driving toward them lost control and ploughed into their cycling group. Patricia Anne Veronica Fraser, 34, died near Palmerston North after being hit by a car travelling in the same direction.

Mr Muller's family have said they would like to raise awareness about road safety and change driver attitudes in the wake of his death.

His son, Steven Muller, said his father's cycling club had previously had many close shaves because of intolerant motorists, including some who threw bottles at bicycles.

The club is demanding that the Government take action to educate all road users.

Responding to the weekend tragedies, Department of Conservation ranger John McLaren said he had broken his collarbone and shoulder blade when he was knocked off his bike by a grey SUV in East Auckland last Thursday.

He was recovering on the sidewalk when the driver came to blame him for the crash, angry that his car window had been hit.

The driver then left without calling an ambulance or giving his name and contact details.

"I think drivers don't realise they're in this insulated steel box. Cars do have to give cyclists space," Mr McLaren said.

In another incident, Jay Sayer was nearly knocked off his bike when a carload of young men came too close on Hunua Rd, near Papakura.

"I raised my hand like I was saying 'what are you trying to do' then four hands gave me the bird outside the car window," Mr Sayer said.

Driver attitudes needed to change, he said. "There is a small amount of drivers out there trying to give us a fright."

But a Herald reader said cyclists' attitudes made driving treacherous for motorists.

He had been driving on a rural road with his family when he turned a corner to find cyclists riding side-by-side.

"I had nowhere to go without crossing the centre line - fortunately I was driving slow enough to stop, this time," he said. "This gave me, and my family, a huge fright."

The cyclists then rudely told him they were in a race, he said.

"It is all too common to see cyclists in dangerous situations. As a road user I would like to see more care and maybe better education of our cyclists."

Roz Reekie-May, from the Morrinsville cycling club that lost two of its members on Sunday, said motorists should respect cyclists as much as they respected other slow-moving objects - including cows.

"When there are cows on the road, there's no trouble whatsoever to stop and wait for them to cross the road. But when it's cyclists, some of them see red," Ms Reekie-May said.

Too many motorists treated a 100km/h speed limit as a target, even on corners.

Club captain Mark May said he wanted to see strong leadership and swift action from the Government in light of the sadness that was devastating his cycling club.

"It's about time politicians of New Zealand started to earn their pay cheques. They need to educate on both sides. Not all cyclists are saints," Mr May said. "Most cars are really good. Unfortunately, a few people ruin it for everyone."

Getting drivers involved in accidents to re-sit their licence tests would be a good start, he said.

"The Government has to do something. It cannot continue to be slowly putting through weak legislation."

- NZ Herald

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