Mutual respect key to cycle safety

07:39, Apr 09 2014

The death of Palmerston North cyclist Jocelyn Goodwin has renewed debate about cycle safety on the nation's roads.

That public conversation is vital, but the time has come for it to be held in a mature, constructive voice.

Too often, the discussion about road safety as it relates to cyclists has been focused on assigning blame, trading insults and holding up anecdotes as evidence of which side is right, and which side is wrong.

The facts surrounding Goodwin's death in Summerhill on Sunday morning have not been determined, and the outcome of the investigation should not be prejudged.

In many respects, the outcome is irrelevant. Determining who might have been at fault, if indeed either party erred, will not change the fact that a much-loved wife and mother has lost her life, and the driver of the truck involved will be haunted by a deeply traumatic experience, possibly for the rest of his life. There are no winners, only victims.

Any rational discussion about how to avoid more lives being lost must begin with an acceptance that cyclists have just as much right to be on our roads as motorists. Litigating that point leads only to more acrimony, and further away from solutions.


Cyclists need to behave in a way that keeps themselves as safe as possible and minimises any inconvenience to fast-moving traffic, and motorists need to be patient and tolerant. Mutual respect is central to improving cycle safety, but it is only part of the answer.

Road engineering and urban design will play a huge role in making our highways and cities safer for everybody. Too often, the slightest error can have catastrophic consequences. The risks can never be completely eradicated, but by separating cyclists and motorists as much as possible we can create an environment where a minor error in judgment doesn't cost someone their life.

Cycling is only going to become a more popular and cost-effective form of transport and recreation. As such, the cycle safety issue is only going to become bigger, and the need for change more pressing. We need to talk about what that change might look like, and we need to talk about it with the loved ones of people like Jocelyn Goodwin in the forefront of our minds.

ONE MORE THING: Palmerston North is set to erect another sculpture in the central city, this time near the iSite in The Square. The sculptures add so much to the life and vibrancy of the city, and the Palmerston North Sculpture Trust should be applauded for all the work they've done to make the CBD a better, more interesting place.

Manawatu Standard