Image 03It has been announced by Michael Woodhouse, Associate Minister of Transport, that the government will not adopt the coroner’s recent recommendations on cycling safety. The proposals came out of the coroner’s “inquest into the death of former national road policing manager Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald, 57, who was hit by a truck and trailer unit while cycling on the Petone foreshore in June 2008”.

Now at first glance this doesn’t look great. The coroner, Ian Smith, has made some recommendations that he thinks will increase the safety of cycling and the National government has rejected it. However, the recommendations by the coroner were:

  1. all cyclists should have to wear high-visibility clothing at all times (which is particularly ironic, seeing that Fitzgerald DID wear high-viz, yet it did not save him from being hit);
  2. there should be a mandatory one-metre gap between vehicles and cyclists;
  3. forcing cyclists to use cycle lanes; and
  4. more cycle safety education for those seeking their driver licence.
This is what would make cycling safe
This is what would make cycling safe

Now personally, I think no.1 would be detrimental to cycling and would increase the already prevalent view that cycling is unsafe. Forcing cyclists to use cycle lanes would also be detrimental, although of course that actually assumes there will be cycle lanes – something AT is not changing in any hurry.

The other two recommendations probably wouldn’t do any harm but I can’t see any great return from them either. Driver education would be nice but Northern Europe has shown that the best education is when the motorist is also a cyclist / when there’s many cyclists around.

The good news here is Michael Woodhouse’s justification for not implementing the hi-vis recommendation:

But in a letter to the coroner a few months later, Woodhouse said making hi-vis vests compulsory could discourage people from cycling by over-emphasising the risk and adding extra cost.

So it at least appears that Michael Woodhouse is adhering to the old physicians code of “first, do no harm”. Well done him.

And yes, this is the Michael Woodhouse who stated that what some see as auto dependence he sees as an example of freedom (or maybe for nothing left to lose – thanks Janis). Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Also check out Transport Blog’s take on this issue.


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