Wellington 'worst place in NZ to ride'

MICHAEL FORBES AND KERRY MCBRIDE
Last updated 05:00 19/09/2013

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Cyclists have labelled Wellington the worst place in the country to ride a bike, as a report reveals a "disproportionately high" number of them are being killed or seriously injured.

The region's policy-makers have a goal of no more than 110 cyclist "casualties" a year on our roads. But a report issued by the Greater Wellington Regional Council shows the mark was overshot last year, with 125 incidents.

That equated to 91 cyclists suffering minor injuries, 33 suffering serious injuries, and one death.

We want to hear from cyclists? What's the worst section of Wellington roads to ride a bike on? Email us at news@dompost.co.nz

Last year's numbers were a vast improvement on 2007 and 2008, in which 157 casualties were recorded, but the numbers had been heading downward, until 2012 reversed the trend.

The 33 seriously injured cyclists last year was the second-worst tally this decade, which was a concern, the report says.

"There is still much room for improvement across the region, and a continued focus on pedestrian and cycle safety will be needed."

The report also points out the number of cycle casualties last year was disproportionately high, given that cycling accounted for just 1 per cent of all journeys in the Wellington region between 2008 and 2012.

According to the national Cycling Advocates Network, Wellington is the most dangerous place in the country to ride a bike, with an average of 7.7 fatal or serious crashes per million hours of riding.

Spokesman Patrick Morgan said there was strong public demand for cycling in the region, but local politicians were not doing enough to ensure riders' safety.

"The most important thing we can do is look at the road structure and introduce more cycle lanes. People on bikes want physical separation from vehicles."

A large increase in cycle injuries within Wellington city was behind last year's negative trend, according to the Greater Wellington report. In 2011, about 50 cyclists were injured or killed on the capital's roads. Last year, it was just under 70.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, a keen cyclist, agreed that more could be done to improve safety.

But she felt the problem was not lost on her council, which had plans in the pipeline for about 19 safe cycle routes.

"We need a step-change in cycling,. I think in the next three years you'll see a lot less of these plans on the drawing board and a huge improvement on the ground."

The $1.8 million budgeted for cycling in the current Annual Plan was a big improvement on 2007, when less than $100,000 was set aside, she said. But she felt $5m would be a better figure.

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Lyndon Hammond, NZ Transport Agency regional manager of planning and investment, said the report also showed there were more cyclists on the roads than in previous years.

Investigations were under way that could result in about 30 kilometres of new cycleway facilities for the Wellington region.

Coroner Gordon Matenga is deliberating on a joint coronial finding after hearings into a series of cycling deaths over the past year, and is likely to make recommendations within the next few months.

His findings will include the death of Benjamin Lawless, who was hit by a motorist in Karori in 2011.

PLEA FOR END TO ROUGH RIDE

When a motorist ran a red light earlier this year, Jill Ford found out first-hand why Wellington's roads are the most dangerous in the country for cyclists.

She was knocked from her bike and ended up in hospital for three days, and on crutches for weeks.

"I have been a cyclist for years, and some drivers just basically ignore you. I'm a very defensive cyclist because you have to be."

Families did not want to take their kids on to the road, and other road users often would not give cyclists proper space, said Ms Ford, of the Love Cycling campaign.

"If all the car drivers would just practise common courtesy, we'd be far safer."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said she had been in three cycling crashes.

"And they've never been my fault."

The first was in 1997 when a pedestrian walked into the path of her bike. The next was in 2004, when she collided with a car turning into a petrol station. Then, in October last year, she was hit by a car in Johnsonville.

THE FIVE WORST THINGS ABOUT CYCLISTS

- Riding abreast in a group, particularly on busy roads and during commuting times.

- Not moving aside to let traffic pass, or not using a cycle lane when they are able to.

- Failing to look whether there is a gap when changing lanes.

- Not wearing any or enough visibility gear.

- Passing on the inside of traffic at left-hand turns.

From Trade Me discussion board, GeekZone, Stuff Nation.

THE FIVE WORST THINGS ABOUT DRIVERS

- Not giving cyclists enough room.

- Not obeying road rules.

- Treating cyclists differently from car drivers.

- Not paying attention to where the cyclist is.

- Attempting sudden, tricky manoeuvres near cyclists.

From cyclist Jill Ford, of Love Cycling.

- The Dominion Post

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