Editorial: Safety first for cyclists

There's no doubt the annual Central South Island Charity Bike Ride is a special event.

How else would the three-day journey through the South Canterbury hinterland, which raises money for numerous worthy causes, have taken out the top prize at this year's Timaru community awards?

The event, which came about as a result of the vision of four local men and will see its fourth running in February, has already achieved its founders' long-term target by raising $100,000 in only its third edition this year.

However the ride – it's not a race as pointed out today on this page – has been in the news for a less positive reason in recent days, after Parkinson's Disease sufferer Ian Shore, who has participated in previous races, was told he couldn't ride in 2008.

Unfortunately he was told it was because he was a "liability", which was a poor choice of words that the organisers have already put their hands up to, and perhaps Mr Shore was right when he suggested in a story in the Herald last week that he should have been given the news in person, rather than on the phone.

Mr Shore's unfortunate situation has seen him backed by several letters to the Herald, some alleging he was discriminated against. But in that respect it's difficult to be critical of the organisers because, as they have clearly pointed out, they are the ones carrying the major financial risk attached to the ride.

This is not a personal attack on Mr Shore. It is, as pointed out in yesterday's Herald by the event's senior traffic management supervisor, John Lawson, a general tightening up of the safety measures surrounding an event that will be held on branches of the state highway network.

A safety review after the event this year had identified "several safety issues and areas where we need to enhance our traffic management to comply with the traffic management plan", he said, pointing out that the standard of riding had to improve to minimise the traffic hazard of having a large number of cyclists on the road.

The fact that would-be participants are being encouraged to attend organised Sunday training rides, where their ability and competency to take part in the February ride can be assessed, indicates that the strengthening of these safety measures goes well beyond Mr Shore's situation.

With the organisers having decided not to increase rider numbers beyond the 140 or so who took part this year, there are likely to be others wishing to ride who will not make the cut. Lack of fitness or a perceived inability to ride comfortably within assigned groups may be the cause, but essentially they and Mr Shore will have missed out based on the safety concerns of those carrying the financial can. Given the risk they're exposed to if a major incident should occur, that seems a reasonable stance to take.

The Timaru Herald