Cycling road races were banned in Mangere, Auckland after a fatal head-on crash when two clubs ran events in the opposite direction on the same circuit.

Road races had become popular in the 1920s and 30s, and there were several clubs in many cities and towns. New Plymouth had five.

In races at Mangere on Saturday, April 26, 1930, Manukau Amateur Cycling Club riders had spread out across the road in a sprint finish. At the same time, Auckland Cycle Club riders raced towards them.

Cycle road races were banned at Mangere, Auckland in May 1930 after a fatal, head-on collision. Photo / Herald, National Library
Cycle road races were banned at Mangere, Auckland in May 1930 after a fatal, head-on collision. Photo / Herald, National Library
Auckland Cycle Club members at Tamaki in Auckland ready to start a 33km handicap race in May 1931. Photo / Herald, National Library
Auckland Cycle Club members at Tamaki in Auckland ready to start a 33km handicap race in May 1931. Photo / Herald, National Library

Both sets of riders were speeding, heads down - witnesses estimated they were going 50km/h.

Advertisement

Several of the Auckland Club riders, who raced for cash prizes, veered off the tarseal onto the road's scoria verges, but two were unable to do this and ploughed into the amateur bunch in a terrible crash.

"There was immediately a scene of confusion, the two professionals and five amateurs being hurled in all directions," the Herald wrote, "while their machines were thrown in a tangled mass on the road.

"Mackie was rendered unconscious, Dwight and Casey received minor injuries, while Aldred and Pratney both received severe head and internal injuries."

William Pratney, 19, a farm hand and "cash cyclist", was in the following days said to be recovering at Auckland Hospital. However, Lawrence Aldred, 19, an employee of a Auckland photographic studio, died within several hours of the crash.

The Herald said Aldred was one of the most popular and respected members of his club, because of his riding and his sportsmanlike behaviour. He was ranked in the top six riders in Auckland and had won many events, the last being at Western Springs Stadium a week before his death.

Manukau Amateur Cycling Club riders before the Mt Roskill start of a 50km road race in September 1930. Photo / Herald, National Library
Manukau Amateur Cycling Club riders before the Mt Roskill start of a 50km road race in September 1930. Photo / Herald, National Library
Riders in the Manukau Amateur Cycling Club's race from Western Springs to Henderson and back through Oratia and Glen Eden, June 1931. Photo / Herald, National Library
Riders in the Manukau Amateur Cycling Club's race from Western Springs to Henderson and back through Oratia and Glen Eden, June 1931. Photo / Herald, National Library

The Manukau club had started using the 8.8km Mangere circuit in 1926; the Auckland club started there the following year.

The Manukau riders raced anti-clockwise, the Auckland club went clockwise.

"... each Saturday the two clubs pass each other at some point on the road. Only once before, last season, have they met near the Manukau finishing line, and on that occasion there was nearly an accident," the Herald reported.

Both clubs were racing without a permit from the Manukau County Council. Neither had ever applied for one, although the council had the power under a bylaw to prevent the races.

The council responded by initially banning the races on the Mangere circuit, then allowed them to proceed if the clubs bought £1500 (about $150,000 today) of third party insurance.

The insurance proved a problem and the clubs found race routes elsewhere. The Auckland club made other changes, too.

"One rule the club intends enforcing on its members, is to the effect that each man must have his machine equipped with a brake," wrote the Auckland Star. "This they consider is essential, as there is a slight hill to negotiate for 200 yards, and riders will then be able to slacken down."