Student killed in cycle crash

TRAGIC DEATH: Sharla Phyllis Haerewa, 22, was hit by a truck on Lincoln Road.
TRAGIC DEATH: Sharla Phyllis Haerewa, 22, was hit by a truck on Lincoln Road.

The death of a student nurse, killed biking to work on a Christchurch road, has prompted pleas to urgently make city streets safer for cyclists.

Sharla Phyllis Haerewa, 22, was hit by a truck on busy Lincoln Rd about 6.40am yesterday as she travelled to Christchurch hospital for work.

Police said she was wearing a reflective cover and flashing LED light on her backpack. She had working lights at the front and rear of the cycle.

The truck had turned directly into her path at the intersection with Domain Tce, knocking her from the bike and dragging the cycle nearly 40 metres before coming to a stop. Haerewa died at the scene.

Police are considering whether charges will be laid against the truck driver, a man in his 70s.

CPIT chief executive Kay Giles said Haerewa was in her second year of a nursing degree. She was a student ambassador, which Giles said was a position highly competed for among students. Giles said this indicated the woman's high-achieving nature.

"Obviously we are all terribly saddened by it all. Our sympathy is with her whanau," Giles said.

CPIT was offering support to the woman's classmates and teachers.

Haerewa's death comes just a week after the Christchurch City Council back-pedalled on its promise to introduce a new $69 million network of cycleways within five years, instead proposing to push out the delivery date of 13 major cycleways by three years.

Keith Turner, chairman of the cycling lobby group Spokes Canterbury, said any crash where someone died or suffered serious injury was a tragedy.

"It [the accident] reinforces the need for as many separated cycleways as quickly as we can possibly have them because it makes it safer."

Yesterday's crash happened in an area that was mostly residential and there was a normal cycleway running along the road.

"The problem with the [painted] lines on the road is it's very easy for any sort of vehicle to cross over into them, or cyclist moving out of them," Turner said.

"The good thing about separated cycleways is it's a very clearly defined area and harder to cross."

Turner said the crash also reinforced the need for all drivers to "behave on the road in a safe way", and for cyclists to make sure they could be seen by using lights and wearing bright clothing.

"We hope that this becomes another prod or prompt that action needs to be taken - and needs to be taken quickly - to make the roads safer, including for cyclists."

Christchurch cyclist John McKenzie, who was also the editor of NZ Road Cyclist magazine, said the council's proposal to delay the city's new cycleways was "just shocking". "It's a war out there and it shouldn't be."

Cr Phil Clearwater said the decision to extend the cycle lanes project by three years was based on practical, rather than financial, considerations.

"Council want to build the cycleways as fast as possible. They are starting now. We want high-quality cycleways and that requires a lot of attention and planning on the design to make sure we get good standards.

"We need to purchase land in places and negotiate with neighbours. We will be taking into account the availability of contractors. There is a shortage of skilled labour with the rebuild happening," Clearwater said.

The Lincoln Rd route should be prioritised for cycle lanes.

"Anybody being killed is a terrible tragedy and there is no question that we want to build cycleways to make cycling safer.

"I think there is already good reason to prioritise it [the Lincoln Rd route]. I think this death highlights for us that there are stretches of our roads that are quite unsafe."

Canterbury road policing manager Inspector Al Stewart said Haerewa's death was believed to be the first fatal crash involving a cyclist in Christchurch since last July. Three cyclists died on the city's roads last year, and no cyclist deaths were recorded in 2012. Yesterday's incident raises Canterbury's overall 2014 road toll to three.

The Press