A cyclist hit every 3 days

SHELLEY ROBINSON AND JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 10:05 30/06/2014
Bike crash graphic

Graphic showing collisions involving cyclists from January to May of this year.

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A cyclist is hit by a car and injured in Christchurch almost every three days, sparking calls for more police enforcement when drivers are in the wrong.

Latest NZ Transport Agency figures show 47 cyclists were injured - one fatally - when hit by a vehicle in the first five months of the year.

February was the worst month, with 13 cyclists injured, five of them seriously.

Most of the collisions were at intersections, one was at a mall entrance and one was in a petrol station forecourt.

Of the 14 serious injury incidents, eight happened between 6.30am and 9am, and five were from 4.15pm to 6.30pm, St John records shows.

Nursing student Sharla Haerewa, 22, was the only fatality. She died after truck driver John William Herridge, 75, turned into her path in Lincoln Rd early on April 2.

St John Ambulance South Island manager David Thomas said accidents involving vehicles and cyclists "seem to happen with grim regularity in Christchurch".

Cyclists spoken to yesterday agreed.

Liesl Johnstone said she worried when her engineer husband, Rex, biked to work, something he did most days.

"You pray every day that they will be safe. It may seem neurotic, but it feels so unsafe out there," she said.

Rex Johnstone said drivers "either see you or look right through you".

High visibility clothing made little difference.

He had experienced a "few" near misses, mostly when cars turned or crossed in front of him.

The central city felt the most unsafe, he said.

Cyclist lobby group Spokes Canterbury submission convenor Dirk DeLu said the statistics did not surprise him, but it was "sad that it was happening that often".

More enforcement when drivers knocked cyclists off their bikes was needed, he said. "It won't be popular, but we do need police out there writing the tickets."

DeLu said "95 per cent of the drivers" acted responsibly.

Canterbury University transport engineering senior lecturer Glen Koorey said most cyclists "get through fine".

Travel survey data showed about 50,000 cycle trips were made in the city each day.

"If you are talking about 150,000 cycle trips every three days for one person injured, it is not a bad rate really," he said.

"It's a relatively small chance of something happening."

Travel statistics showed Christchurch accounted for about a fifth of New Zealand cyclists, but a sixth of all injury and fatality crashes, Koorey said.

However, it could always be made safer, through infrastructure and the "safety in numbers" effect.

"If we could get to the point where for many years we are not even having one fatality in Christchurch, that would be a good sign."

The Christchurch City Council plans to build 13 major cycleways in the city by 2021. Those would make a "huge difference", Koorey said.

A United States research project, covering five cities, showed protected bikeways resulted in 20 per cent to 200 per cent increases in cyclist numbers.

Cr Phil Clearwater, Christchurch City Council environmental committee chairman, said construction on one of 13 planned city cycleways, the Uni-Cycle, was underway and the Grassmere Route would start later this year.

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Herridge last week pleaded guilty to careless driving causing Haerewa's death. He will be sentenced in October.

Canterbury road policing manager, Inspector Al Stewart, said police treated car versus cyclist crashes seriously.

"We would prosecute a driver who had struck a cyclist where it was evident that they were at fault. Equally though we would look at charging a cyclist who had caused a crash,'' he said. 

Stewart said it was likely minor incidents went unreported, but police wanted to know about them.

"It is a reasonably fine line between a minor injury and a serious one given how vulnerable cyclists are,'' he said.

"We would encourage cyclists involved in even minor incidents to report it to police so that we can build up a pattern of offending by drivers, and then direct out patrols to those areas and at those times."

Stewart felt most city drivers and cyclists were responsible around each other. Helmets and high visibility clothing increased cyclists' safety, he said.

- The Press

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