Door ZoneBen wrote earlier this week about the Coroner’s inquiry into Jane Bishop’s Tamaki Drive death. For the past 2 years the same  coroner has been touring the main cities investigating the cause of 13 recent cycling deaths. Coroner Gordon Matenga was given the job by the Head Coroner – a similar inquiry was set up to learn from quad bike fatalities on farms. Gordon Matenga’s report is published as the Coronial Review of Cycling Safety In  NZ. You can read the report here.

Although Coroner Matenga was asked to review 13 specific deaths, he received evidence, submissions and information relating to 95 deaths since 2007. He reports surprise (and implies dissatisfaction) that the NZTA took no part in the Review, despite the fact it is responsible for road safety in NZ.

The Inquiry report is worth reading. It accepts that deaths from cycling incidents are preventable and that ‘incidents’ with vehicles need to be seen as ‘crashes’, rather than ‘accidents’. Overall the report says that a crash with a motor vehicle is the highest single cause of cycling death. Motorists ‘not seeing’ cyclists is an issue. High viz is not seen as a panacea (thank heavens) but visibility of lights is discussed.

The list of suggestions raised during the review is no surprise, (see paragraph 18 of the report) but is good to have. It highlighted to me how quickly our thinking is changing. For instance, 3 years ago we were asking for connected cycle routes on key urban routes. It’s now obvious  from overseas, opinion polls in Auckland and  central Dunedin’s recent proposal for SH1, that segregated cycleways are essential for safety on those key routes.

In the end Coroner Matenga recommended the NZTA should convene a panel of experts and stakeholders in cycling and road safety to consider the Review report and other information as it sees fit, to compile a list of recommendations to central and local government to improve cycling safety and prevent further cycling crashes and fatalities.

Is this ‘passing the buck’ a cop-out?

We don’t think so, as we need NZTA in the centre of this issue. For too long cycling has been a disjointed and disempowered part of the NZTA organisation and operations. We know it funds alot of the country’s cycling infrastructure, and publishes research reports which sit on Wellington bookshelves. But this is a miniscule part of the Agency’s overall operations. There’s a serious lack of leadership on cycling in the NZTA; no champion or accountability that the public is aware of.

Since the advent of the Supercity in Auckland we’ve seen a new focus by Local Boards to put cycling centre-stage, along with walking. We also see signs that residents are way ahead of the bureaucrats in Auckland Transport and many Councillors in knowing that heaps more $$$  need to be moved from road improvements and parking to encourage more use of drivers to invest in public transport, walking and cycling. The simple reality is that until this reprioritising occurs, our city won’t win the international stellar status the mayor desires, and cyclists will continue to be injured and killed on our streets.

We were pleased to get a call from Wellington NZTA last week to chat about how the Agency plans to respond to the Coroner’s challenge. We heard it is committed to fast action and real change. Fingers crossed this will be a strong beam of light shining through the long, dark and narrow tunnel of inaction we have been trying to negotiate for years. We don’t want another ‘report on a report’ for the NZTA’s bookshelf.

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10 responses to “Cycling Safety Inquiry passed to the NZTA

  1. Not just NZTA but also the Ministry of Transport as they, and the minister, have a hand in how transport budgets are set. This is vital.

  2. There were some excellent submissions presented with relevant information and helpful points raised. The exception being the AA submission which while having some appropriate points generally gives the impression cyclists should not be on the roads.

    There are some ridiculous “statistics” quoted particularly relating to the contentious issue of cycle helmets …..88% less likely to have a head injury with a helmet???!!! Even the pro helmet group of experts have reduced this stupid figure to 40% now. I am a great believer that statistics unless accurate are totally useless. From personal observation over the years pre helmet law about 20% of cycle accidents involved the head and about 80% of that 20% were abrasions to the chin, cheek etc, or not the area protected by a cycle helmet.

    I have no objection to cyclists wearing a helmet if they feel safer, this ads to confidence but the benefits are grossly exaggerated.

      1. The issue can be resolved with infrastructure. Motorists do not see people on bikes (nor pedestrians for that matter) as a physical threat so pass closer to them than they would another car. Infrastructure is the answer.

  3. The law of the jungle applies to the road the same as anywhere else. You protect yourself in preference to somebody else. A classic case was the driver near Gordonton who, when overtaking a line of cyclists dangerously realised his mistake and rather than have a collision with an opposing vehicle cut into the line of cyclists with horrendous results for the cyclists. All the cyclists I understand were highly visible.

    This disaster would i suspect fall into the Bath study examples. It is well understand the cyclists worst enemy is the road designer, not the motorist so better design and driver/ cyclist education is far more important than a dayglo jerkin. Perhaps a cycling test should be the first step in a driving test?

    1. ‘Perhaps a cycling test should be the first step in a driving test?’

      I have been saying this for years. Putting aside the benefits of such a test to cycling safety -road cycling also teaches you loads of stuff that is important for driving (road awareness, signalling, timing, incident response. I reckon that even if you where to never ride a bike or even never encounter a bike whilst driving a car again you would still learn enough to make this such a test a worthwhile step.

      Don’t suppose that thought ever crossed the coroners mind, never made it into a report that the NZTA seem destined to ignore.

  4. Often motorists say” I didn’t see him” and a couple of points I have noted that have not been mentioned could contribute to this statement.

    1) Some years ago my eyes were playing up and my long range vision was reduced. I voluntarily started to wear glasses driving and later after an operation I was able to go without glasses again. I was horrified when the optician told me how bad your eyes had to be before the law required glasses when driving. It was another line lower, or is it higher, on the chart. He was not impressed either. There must be many drivers legally driving without glasses who should be.

    2) Vision from modern cars is terrible, particularly when reversing. I have a new car and the “A” pillar totally blocks my vision right in the area where a vehicle is on a roundabout about to pass you. Similarly pedestrians on crossings and so on. My car is by no where the worst i have seen ,they all seem to be the same and you have to make sure and look round the pillar. This has become worse now because the pillar has one of the numerous airbags fitted to it.
    Reversing is by way of mirrors and relying on the reversing warning device which is great.

    It’s all very well having safety devices such as airbags but not to the detriment of vision. Equally wearing high vis. clothing will hardly help either of these scenarios!.

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