Survivor backs cycle safety

ANNA PEARSON AND KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014
Tee Chek Chan
TEE CHEK CHAN: Wants roads to be safer for cyclists.

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A Christchurch cyclist who survived being dragged under a truck says the Government should reconsider Wellington coroner Ian Smith's cycle-safety suggestions.

Tee Chek Tan was only minutes from work in rush-hour traffic when he was struck by an 18-wheeler truck and trailer in Curletts Rd last July.

"I was going straight and passed a lot of big vehicles like vans and trucks, which were stopped for the traffic light. They blocked my view to the other side. The truck that hit me was turning right into the Meadow Fresh factory from my opposite lane," he said.

Tan, in his 30s, survived being dragged up to 30 metres. His bike helmet was split in two.

The truck eventually came to a stop after another motorist alerted the driver by driving alongside him with his horn blaring. The driver had no idea there was a cyclist trapped under the truck.

Tan suffered injuries to his ribs and lungs and has not cycled to work since.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse ruled out pursuing Smith's suggestions when he called for an overhaul of cycle safety in February.

Smith said all cyclists should have to wear high-visibility clothing at all times of the day and there should be a mandatory one-metre gap between vehicles and cyclists.

He also suggested forcing cyclists to use cycle lanes and for there to be more cycle safety education in schools and for those seeking their driver's licences.

Tan said Woodhouse should reconsider Smith's suggestions.

"The rules proposed by Ian Smith certainly helped in my accident. I was wearing high-vis, and although the truck driver didn't see me, a motorist saw me and was able to stop the truck," he said.

Tan said cyclists needed to understand that motorists had blind spots.

Motorists, on the other hand, needed to understand that cyclists had a right to use the road. They should give them space and give way to them when it was their right-of-way.

GOVT REJECTS CYCLE SAFETY PLAN

The Government has quietly rejected a raft of coroner's recommendations designed to save cyclists' lives.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse ruled out pursuing the suggestions of Wellington coroner Ian Smith when he called for an overhaul of cycle safety in February.

Smith said all cyclists should have to wear high-visibility clothing at all times of the day and there should be a mandatory one-metre gap between vehicles and cyclists.

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He also suggested forcing cyclists to use cycle lanes and for there to be more cycle safety education in schools and for those seeking their drivers' licences.

Smith's recommendations followed his inquest into the death of former national road policing manager Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald, 57, who was hit by a truck and trailer unit while cycling on the Petone foreshore in 2008.

At the time, Smith said cycling legislation was too complex "and in my view needs a more simplistic revamp".

"Turning to the issue of high- vis clothing, it is in my view a no-brainer. It should be compulsory for cyclists to wear at all times when riding in public."

But in a letter to the coroner a few months later, Woodhouse said making high-visibility clothing compulsory could discourage people from cycling by over-emphasising the risk and adding extra cost.

Woodhouse also said the one- metre gap rule would be too difficult to enforce, while the theory tests already had a good balance of questions.

Cyclists support the minister's view on the whole, with the exception of the one-metre gap rule.

Spokes Canterbury chairman Keith Turner said mandatory high-vis clothing was "always going to be a tricky thing to get through".

In Christchurch, high-vis was becoming "slightly invisible, because everyone is wearing it".

"It doesn't sort of stand out the way it used to. That's not to say that people shouldn't use it. A lot of people do. It's a choice thing."

Turner said an enforced one or 1.5m gap between motorists and cyclists could be a good thing.

"If a police patrol sees someone who is obviously driving dangerously and too close they would have a tool they could use."

University of Canterbury transport engineering senior lecturer Glen Koorey, who is also a member of Spokes, said Woodhouse's reaction to Smith's recommendation regarding high-vis clothing was "very sensible".

He said better road-user behaviour was the key to saving lives - not mandatory high- visibility clothing.

Koorey has looked into 80 cyclist deaths in New Zealand since 2006 and found in more than half of the fatalities a motorist had not seen the cyclist at all or until it was too late.

Most wore helmets, but what the cyclist was wearing - including high-vis clothing, made no difference.

"If the motorist is not looking, then it does not matter what you are wearing," he said. "It could be that more investment needs to go into infrastructure, education or enforcement."

CHCH VICTIMS

2013: Joanne Marjorie Drummond, 54, died after being struck by a car turning from Wainoni Rd into Breezes Rd on March 27.

Carl Peter Taylor, 31, died in hospital from serious head injuries after being struck by an oncoming vehicle on Pages Rd on March 24. He may have crossed the centre line.

Colin Frank Alexander, 76, died on Hills Rd on July 16. He may have swerved in front of a car going in the same direction.

- The Press

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