A frightening fall on to rocks from Nelson's waterfront road should spur authorities to improve cyclist and pedestrian conditions, says a health board member.
Judy Crowe escaped with bruises after a two-metre fall from Rocks Rd on Monday, but said it could have been much more serious if she had not been wearing her cycle helmet.
Ms Crowe said she had got off her bike and was attempting to manoeuvre around pedestrians on the narrow footpath when she lost her footing. She had dismounted as part of a continuing protest against the cycleways along Rocks Rd, which she considers unsafe.
She fell over the chain and onto the rocks. Ambulance and fire service attended and she was taken to Nelson Hospital for further assessment.
She was initially treated for neck and spinal injuries but came out unscathed, apart from extensive bruising to her face.
It would have been much worse if she had not been wearing her wetsuit or helmet, said Ms Crowe, a Nelson Marlborough District Health Board member. She said she would not have fallen had the pathway been wider and the chained barriers higher.
Nelson City Council communications manager Angela Ricker said the council managed the footpath on Rocks Rd and acknowledged in places it was not as wide as it should be.
The council also acknowledged the chains did not meet current standards and for this reason, and others, the council and the NZ Transport Agency had commissioned an investigation.
It will report on ways to improve safety for Rocks Rd walkers and cyclists, while retaining heritage values such as the chains.
The investigation was now under way and would include extensive community consultation. It would then be subject to typical council and NZTA processes that could take "some time", as they involved two agencies, she said.
Ms Crowe said she was on the footpath and not cycling because she was protesting against a lack of safety on the Rocks Rd cycleway.
It was an issue she was particularly passionate about.
"I know there is this long-term plan and investigation, but what about cyclist and pedestrian safety in the meantime?"
Cyclists were subject to a catch 22, where they were forced to either cycle in a lane that was dangerous or cycle illegally on the footpath, she said.
She believed, given the high number of cyclists in the area, there should have been better infrastructure.
The speed of vehicles (50kmh) on the highway, the lack of segregated cycle lanes and vehicles driving across the cycle lane were the key problems, she said.
She found trucks and vehicles in general often travelled across the cycle lane line
"I don't feel at all comfortable cycling within the cycle lane. I choose to cycle on the footpath."
On narrow pavements, including where yesterday's accident happened, she always dismounted.
Cycle Advocates Network spokesman Patrick Morgan said it was understandable that people were not choosing to use the cycleway because of a perception of lack of safety.
"It is a no-brainer, it is not a good idea to mix people on bikes with heavy traffic so we need segregated cycleways."
Nelson had the highest rates of cyclists in the country and it was one of the top cycle spots, he said.
"It would be a shame to see it lose its reputation as a cycle-friendly town, so this is another reason to be investing more money in effective cycle infrastructure."
NZTA central region media manager Anthony Frith said the responsibility for road safety must be shared by all road users.
All roads carried a degree of risk, particularly for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, and to reduce this risk NZTA urged motorists to give cyclists space, avoid risky passing manoeuvres, and observe the speed limit at all times.
"We also note that together with Nelson City Council we are investigating the feasibility of a safer, separated pathway for cyclists along Rocks Rd."
There were no current plans to change the speed limit.
"If people have any safety concerns about this highway - or any other highway - we want to encourage them to contact us directly, or to contact police immediately if they encounter any dangerous road user behaviour."
NZTA said there had been seven reported crashes on Rocks Rd involving cyclists in the last five years, with three of them involving a truck and a cyclist, resulting in one serious injury and two minor injuries.
- The Nelson Mail
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