Experts are divided on how to keep cyclists safe following a collision that claimed the life of a Hamilton man and left others injured this week.
The incident in Puketaha Rd on the outskirts of Hamilton left one of the group of 16 cyclists, 49-year-old Craig Goulsbro, in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital.
Mr Goulsbro died on Wednesday. His funeral service will be held on Monday in Hamilton Gardens.
Road Transport Association Waikato area executive Gary Masters said there were plenty of Waikato roads where cyclists simply should not go - and Puketaha Rd was one of them.
"You have a 2.8 metre-wide lane there with no shoulders. A truck takes up 2.5m and that leaves absolutely no room for mistakes."
However, it was often not the amount of space towards the centre of the road the cyclists took up that was the problem - rather, it was the length of the groups of cyclists that posed the dangers.
"You get these groups of 15 to 20 cyclists all riding in single file and you tend to occasionally get a worm effect, where they start to sway back and forth.
"These groups of cyclists can be in a chain up to 50 to 60 metres long and that's really dangerous. It is the same reason why they don't let trucks drive four or five behind each other in a convoy - that's illegal. You need to treat overtaking [the cyclists] as if you were overtaking another vehicle, and it can be a bloody long vehicle to overtake."
Mr Masters said to make things safer for other road users, the cyclists should travel in groups of no more than five - and only ride on roads where there was "a decent shoulder" of room at each side.
An accident in Poihipi Rd in Taupo in March in which a woman rider was clipped by a passing truck and killed, was a chilling example of what could happen, he said. "I'm not saying it is all the cyclists' fault. There are some ignorant buggers driving cars too. But the cyclists are going on planned outings. They need to put some caution and thought into where they are going."
The cyclists involved in Monday night's accident were part of a group that hold regular rides twice a week from Flagstaff business Bob's Bikes.
Bob's Bikes owner Bob Puru, who organises the rides, said there was one guaranteed way of making rural roads safer for cyclists: "Take the bloody cars off them".
Mr Puru was less than impressed with Mr Masters' suggestion that cyclists should avoid narrower country thoroughfares like Puketaha Rd.
"That makes out like it is all the cyclists' fault. It is not our fault at all - it's the drivers who speed up and down these roads and don't have any respect for the other people who use them.
"What it comes down to is driver behaviour. If you are driving along and you see a tractor chugging along at 20kmh, what do you do? You slow right down and pass it carefully. You would also do the same thing with someone's grandmother driving along at 80kmh. Why can't people do that with the cyclists?"
Bike NZ chairman Richard Leggatt said there were no rules regarding how many cyclists should be in a group travelling together, however his organisation recommended about 20 or less.
"It is perfectly legal for cyclists to ride two abreast. They don't have to be in single file.
"If you have a group of 20 riding two abreast, that creates a group about 10 riders long. That is no longer than your average truck or trailer unit and it should be fairly easy to pass, if the motorist is driving at a safe speed."
Mr Leggatt said it should be possible to identify roads which were popular with cyclists, and those roads should be prioritised to be widened accordingly.
The number of cyclists on the nation's roads was steadily growing - but that did not mean the death statistics had to steadily climb as well.
"Cyclists are vulnerable to cars, but more people cycling doesn't have to mean more people being killed. With driver patience and a good attitude and some well-instructed and capable cyclists, I fail to see why we can't get down to zero fatalities."
- Waikato Times
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