Ben 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.