Cyclist calls for driver awareness

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013
steve keenan
Mytchall Bransgrove
SCARY CYCLING: Steve Keenan rises carefully in Park Lane to avoid upsetting motorists.

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A couple of weeks ago Timaru paramedic Evan Davey was pedalling along Wai-iti Rd when a car came up so close behind him its wheels were touching the white line which defines the cycle lane from the road. The driver passed him, did a U-turn then parked.

As Mr Davey drove past he stopped and told the motorist he should have given him more space as there was only about 30cm between the car and his handlebars.

"He told me I needed to get off the middle of the road. There was no point arguing."

Mr Davey would like to see everyone forced to ride a bicycle for five years before getting a car licence in an effort to prevent injury to cyclists. Awareness between the two groups of road users does not seem to be improving despite awareness promotions such as Share the Road.

Mr Davey says motorists' impatience with cyclists comes from ignorance.

"I think drivers don't have an understanding of the potential harm they can cause cyclists by driving too close," he said.

If they saw some of the accidents he attended during his work, he is sure they would be more careful.

He has also seen the damage done to cyclists who do not wear helmets.

Brosnan Transport general manager and road cyclist Reon Park said that motorists seemed happy waiting for sheep being herded down the road but did not have the same patience with cyclists.

In the past five years there had been 54 traffic accidents in Timaru involving cyclists, one of which, in 2008, was fatal.

According to South Canterbury Road Safety, cyclists caused 23 of the accidents (42 per cent), while vehicles caused 30 (56 per cent). Last year there were three accidents causing serious injury to cyclists and six causing minor injuries and one non-injury accident involving a cyclist.

The majority, 81 per cent, happened during the week while 19 per cent were in the weekend.

Most were caused by poor observation at 69 per cent, with failing to give way or stopping the second biggest crash factor at 39 per cent.

Cycling Timaru club members Denese and Steve Keenan have been keen cyclists for 30 and 40 years respectively and have endured verbal abuse and the occasional missile hurled from passing cars.

Mrs Keenan said some people had no tolerance of bikes probably because they did not ride themselves.

Despite the cycle accident statistics remaining mostly consistent during the past five years, she had experienced less rage, in the past six months, aimed at cyclists and she was being more conscious of vehicles.

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"Mostly motorists are well behaved. We are all trying," she said.

Mr Keenan would like to see State Highway 8 to Pleasant Point widened just east of the town.

He said it was narrow right beside a Share the Road sign and there was virtually no room to share.

Mr Park found the volume of traffic too high on the main roads so trained inland where it was quieter.

Though trucks passing a cyclist at 100kmh could cause a bit of wind and be quite dangerous on a narrow road, Mr Park said his drivers stuck to main highways.

"Motorists are more impatient than truck drivers. Truck drivers are professionals," he said.

When it comes to annoying habits on the road he can see faults on both sides.

"Some cyclists ride three abreast and I just shake my head."

Mark Taylor enjoys the camaraderie of cycling with others and wants to ride two abreast as he is entitled to so cars will drive around him. He is adamant that educating the public had not worked and some of the abuse received was "beyond belief".

"I would like people to consider cyclists as human beings."

- The Timaru Herald

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