Coroner wants cyclist high-vis compulsory

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 06:31 15/02/2013
cyclist
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

STAYING VISIBLE: Scott Ussher has not used the Petone roundabout since Steve Fitzgerald died there. He believes cyclists must take responsibility for their actions.

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The Ministry of Transport is considering a coroner's recommendation to make all cyclists wear high-visibility clothing after a top road safety policeman was killed while cycling in Petone.

Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald, 57 - who served for five years as the national road policing manager - was knocked off his bike by a truck while riding home to Eastbourne on June 19, 2008.

Wellington coroner Ian Smith is now calling for high-visibility vests to be compulsory for cyclists, just as helmets are. He also wants enhanced cyclist education, a one-metre gap between motorists and cyclists to be added to the road code, and clear rules about when a cyclist must use designated lanes.

Cycling legislation was too complex "and in my view needs a more simplistic revamp", he says in his findings on Mr Fitzgerald's death on the roundabout at the junction of Hutt Rd and The Esplanade.

"Turning to the issue of high-vis clothing, it is in my view a no-brainer. It should be compulsory for cyclists to wear at all times when riding in public."

Mr Fitzgerald was wearing reflective stripes on his clothing and backpack, and had front and rear lights on when he was hit at 5.25pm.

Mr Smith also called for the redesign of the roundabout, where cyclists "are literally taking their lives in their hands".

"The intersection is, in my view, a most dangerous area for cyclists to use, no matter how experienced the riders are.

"Cyclists using this cycle/traffic lane area are literally taking their lives in their hands and a complete rethink and design of this area is required."

Hutt City Council had made efforts to improve the site, but they "still fall short of making the road safe for cyclists".

Desmond Wilson, the truck driver who hit Mr Fitzgerald, told the coroner he believed cyclists should stay in designated cycle lanes and be deterred from using the roundabout because the traffic was too heavy. The accident happened as Mr Wilson tried to negotiate his truck around the tight roundabout.

After the crash, Mr Wilson was found guilty of careless driving causing death, ordered to pay $2000 reparations, and disqualified for nine months.

Cycling Advocates Network spokeswoman Jane Dawson told the coroner high-visibility clothing would not have been a relevant intervention in Mr Fitzgerald's death, and instead wanted the Hutt City Council and the Transport Agency to bear some responsibility for the roundabout being too narrow and not allowing for cyclists.

A council spokesman said yesterday that improvements had been made to provide greater separation between cyclists and motorists on the Petone off- ramp since the accident, and other cycling modifications were proposed as part of a wider council plan.

Ministry spokesman Brenden Crocker said it was taking Mr Smith's recommendations seriously.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Compulsory high-vis clothing, as with helmets.

Enhanced cyclist education.

One-metre gap between motorists and cyclists.

Clearer rules about when a cyclist must use designated lane.

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- The Dominion Post

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