Courts ‘soft' on cyclist killers

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014
Truck in fatal crashf
Daniel Tobin
Police examine a truck involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist.

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New Zealand's justice system places little value on the lives of cyclists killed on the country's roads, the families of two Christchurch victims say.

Christchurch widower Malcolm Drummond lost his wife, Joanne, when she was killed by a motorist in March last year.

She had been riding straight on Wainoni Rd on a green light, and it appeared the driver did not see her on the vehicle's left.

Drummond said courts needed to be tougher on those who killed or seriously injured cyclists.

"The bloke lost his licence for nine months, got a bit of PD [periodic detention] and a bit of community service. I know it was an accident, but that's not much for a life," he said.

He did not believe measures such as high-visibility clothing or installing cycleways would make any difference to cyclist safety.

Drummond's comments come after the death of 22-year-old nursing student Sharla Phyllis Haerewa, who was killed while cycling on Lincoln Rd on Wednesday morning.

Avison Longworth's husband, Melvin Sidney Longworth, died in hospital three days after a collision with a car on Hills Rd in October 2011.

It took more than two years before the driver involved was ordered by the court to donate $1000, given about 100 hours community service and lost his licence for nine months.

The family was disappointed the driver pulled out of a restorative justice session, and that the court had not ordered him to undertake a defensive driving course.

"It wasn't a good process. It was terrible," Avison Longworth said.

"Every time it comes back before the courts it affects the whole family. It's horrific to be honest."

Their son, Jason Longworth, said his father's death was "simply an accident".

He thought the penalty imposed reflected the fact there were no mitigating factors, like alcohol.

It had not stopped Jason Longworth from cycling regularly, but he wanted motorists to realise that "cyclists have every right to be on the road".

"Sometimes cyclists are slow . . . but 20 or 30 seconds to wait for a cyclist to get through roadworks is a good use of time when the alternative could be a cycle death."

Bike NZ chairman Richard Leggett was recently appointed chairman of the Safer Cycling Panel, formed by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) after a coronial review into 13 cycling deaths in 2010.

It has been tasked with making recommendations to central and local government on how to prevent further deaths.

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Leggett said the 10-person panel was due to meet for the first time on April 15 and was expected to report back to NZTA and the Government by the end of September.

"It's too early to say where the emphasis will be. If [the recommendations] are serious and well-thought and can be shown that if enacted they will make a difference, then I think there will be a very good chance that we will get them implemented," he said.

Spokes Canterbury chairman Keith Turner said the cycling lobby group was seeking an "urgent" meeting with the Christchurch City Council's environmental committee following a proposal to delay the construction of 13 major cycleways across the city by three years.

"We just want to be reassured that all the numbers are lining up."

The delays appeared to be about "capacity rather than finance", and Spokes wanted to make sure the council had looked in to working with other engineering companies, who did have the capacity for the job, Turner said.

"If that fails then we will look at taking a little more direct action."

Turner said Haerewa's death this week was particularly poignant for him as her younger sister attended West Spreydon School, where he teaches.

FEW COUNCILORS BIKE

Christchurch City councillors want the city's planned cycleways built as soon as possible, but say speed should not compromise quality.

A survey of the 14 elected officials found Phil Clearwater was the only councillor who occasionally cycled to work.

Three councillors sometimes took the bus, but the rest travelled by car.

Their reasons included distance, poor road and traffic conditions, fear, heavy paperwork and time constraints getting to meetings across the city.

The council wants to build 13 major city cycleways by 2021 - a proposed extension to the original deadline of 2018.

Councillors spoken to by The Press yesterday expressed a desire to make the $69 million project happen sooner, but only if it was logistically possible and did not compromise quality.

University of Canterbury transport engineering senior lecturer Glen Koorey, a member of cycling advocacy group Spokes, said the cycling rate among councillors was an accurate reflection of the general population.

He hoped that once the new cycleways were in place, more councillors would lead by example.

"If they can say, ‘I wasn't happy before, but now it's a great option', that is definitely going to sell it to people," Koorey said.

"I'd like to think it [the cycleways network] could be done quicker than eight years."

Although it was difficult to argue someone should cycle long distances, cargo bikes and panniers were good options to carry the paperwork, Koorey said.

Work on two network cycleways will start this year. These are the Uni-Cycle, connecting University of Canterbury with the city, and the Papanui Parallel, connecting Papanui with the city.

A public meeting on the Papanui route is scheduled for Monday at Paparoa Street School.

Work on the new signal-controlled crossings in Deans Ave, at the city end of the Northern Line Cycleway, will start after winter.

WHAT THEY SAID

Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck

I don't cycle. I'm not keen on the concept of cycling down Riccarton Rd, which is where I would be going. Up to 20 to 25 per cent of people, when these cycleways are off the road, have said they would cycle. I'm in that category. Would I like the cycleways to be sped up? Yes I would, if that is at all practicable.

Cr Yani Johanson

I generally don't cycle. I live in the central city, so when the roads are fixed, I would probably inline-skate to council. I usually drive as I often have a short time between meetings across the city. It would take really good cycleways that are separated from the road. The traffic is an absolute nightmare. It is a dangerous place.

Cr Jamie Gough

No, I don't cycle a lot to be fair. It's a time thing. With meetings dotted all over the city it would take more time than I have. There's a lot of things I think are important to the community that I don't necessarily do myself and I'll do everything I can to promote it. Delaying the cycleways is certainly not ideal. If money was no object it would have been done yesterday, but we've got to be realistic.

Cr Glenn Livingstone

I want to cycle to the council but it's too dangerous. Obviously we want to push ahead with segregated cycleways [but] even if we had all the money now, things will take time. There's got to be an all-round attitudinal change in the city. It will take a combination of practical and social steps to develop a positive reputation for both drivers and cyclists.

Cr Tim Scandrett

I haven't [cycled] for a long time, probably because I'm lazy. I'm dubious of everyone on the road, because it keeps you alive. The advice from the Netherlands about cycleways is, you're better to take time and get it right the first time. And they are world leaders. In the city, we have traffic flows that aren't normal and appalling road conditions.

Cr Andrew Turner

I'm not a regular cyclist. When I do, it would be on the tracks on the Port Hills and the quieter roads around Banks Peninsula. I tend to drive to work or take the bus. There were some practical reasons why the bulk of the cycleways project has been delayed in terms of the annual plan. I would be keen to identify projects that we can get some work done much earlier.

Cr Jimmy Chen

A long time ago I biked, but at the moment, no. I usually drive my own car. It's to save time. As a councillor, I need to go everywhere. The cycle facilities are urgent, so we need to speed up progress as soon as possible. Riccarton Rd and Lincoln Rd, they are high-risk because there are no separate cycleways.

Cr Pauline Cotter

I'm more of a recreational cyclist. I'm a nervous cycler. I won't take a risk, I'm always looking behind me and if I see a truck or bus I'll go on to the footpath. I'd be happy to cycle to work. The cycleways timeframe is not actually a funding thing, it's the logistics. Eight years sounds like a long time, but it's starting, we're rolling it out.

Cr Phil Clearwater

I bike to work sometimes. Too often I take the car, but I'm looking at how I can use the bus or bike more often. I used to bike or walk to work every day. I've come off a couple times with a few scrapes, on Strickland and Montreal streets. The cycleways project would be difficult to speed up, but we want them built as fast as possible.

Cr David East

I occasionally bike, but it's more off-road [or] in the northeast where traffic volumes aren't exactly horrendous. Cycling to work is not an option for me. I live right in the northeast extreme of town. I'm carting around a reasonable amount of paperwork. There is a responsibility on cyclists to obey the road code.

Cr Ali Jones

I do not cycle as a usual way of getting around. I did make a conscious decision to cycle to the council, but the main thing that stops that is school drop-off in the morning and the amount of paperwork and laptop I have to take with me. I would support any plans to speed up the cycleway implementation, as long as it was done prudently, following best practice and, to be frank, we have to have the funding as well.

Cr Raf Manji

I enjoy cycling and used to get around on my bike all the time but since joining council I have started driving again, as I have a lot of files to carry around. I find cycling very easy here but you do have to look after yourself, ride sensibly and make sure vehicle drivers know you are there. I'd love it to be done in a year but it's just not practicable.

Cr Paul Lonsdale

I haven't cycled in a while. I used to cycle a lot, but I've got a lot of meetings and I'm required to be in different places. I've never found it scary. I was always taught, as a cyclist on the road, you have to pretend you are invisible. If we are going to be pushing the cycleway timelines out, what we may need to do is expedite the installation of safer intersections.

Mayor Liane Dalziel

The mayor declined to take part in the survey, but is known to commute by car or bus.

SAFETY TIPS

Cyclists:

- Do not ride more than two abreast with other cyclists, and ride in single file when passing other vehicles including parked cars.

- Use cycle paths or lanes, where provided.

- You may need to "take the lane" when turning left. Move to the centre of the lane, as you would in a car, to avoid being cut off by a vehicle on the corner.

- Ride at least one metre from parked cars, if possible.

- Slow down near parked or lined-up vehicles, pass slowly and only when safe.

Motorists:

- Ideally leave a space of 1.5 metres around cyclists.

- When turning left: if you have just passed someone on a bike, assume the cyclist is in one of your blind spots and do not turn until you know they are safely out of your way.

- You must not drive in or cross a cycle lane except for a maximum of 50 metres when entering or leaving side roads, driveways or parking spaces.

- If you are crossing a cycle lane, give way to cyclists before you cross.

- Slow down near cyclists and be prepared to wait behind them if it is not safe to pass.

SOURCES: BikeWise, NZTA.


- The Press

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