Another cycling death tragedy

DEATH SCENE: A woman on a bike was killed yesterday morning when the bike she was riding [pictured] collided with a courier van in the Hamilton suburb of Hillcrest.
DEATH SCENE: A woman on a bike was killed yesterday morning when the bike she was riding [pictured] collided with a courier van in the Hamilton suburb of Hillcrest.

Another cyclist has been killed on Waikato roads, highlighting a national statistic that refuses to fall in line with vehicle passenger and driver crash deaths.

About 10 cyclists die on the road each year.

A high-level safety review panel is now composing a draft report aimed at keeping more cyclists alive. But any recommendations came too late for a woman who met her end at an intersection on the outskirts of Hamilton yesterday.

Police would not comment on the causes of the collision as it remained under investigation, yet some details were plain to see at the chilly early-morning scene.

The driver of a Courier Post van was heading towards Hillcrest on Morrinsville Rd when the collision occurred about 6.40am. Police then cordoned off the busy road.

The trail of debris began adjacent to the Matangi Rd entrance and stretched 10 metres to the van, which was severely damaged on the front. The cyclist's body lay beneath a white sheet. A hearse pulled up, after police photographed the scene, and took her away.

Speaking at the scene, district road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace said conditions were good.

"I urge people to make sure they're wearing appropriate clothing for the time of day if you're a cyclist," she said.

"If you're the driver of a vehicle make sure you are fit for purpose, your vehicle is fit for purpose and that you take extreme caution at all times, making sure that if someone does make an error that it doesn't end up in these tragic circumstances."

Grace urged anyone who saw yesterday's crash to contact police.

The death served as a reminder of what's at stake for a review panel that is finalising a draft report into cycling safety, Transport Agency road safety director Ernst Zollner said.

"We take every fatality as a sign that we need to try harder," he said. "People will always make mistakes but we want people to survive them. It's another reminder of why we're doing it and trying to find solutions."

The panel was sparked by Coroner Gordon Matenga's investigation into a spate of 13 deaths in 2010, and took into account 94 others since 2007.

Zollner, who is working closely with the expert panel, said they've now identified recommendations in three key areas - rural, urban and schools.

"We've had about ten deaths a year, more or less, and this is another example of why we're doing this work. As other areas [drivers and passengers] have improved, this area has not. We're still struggling to get this down."

Their data suggests up to 70 per cent of rural accidents occur where the road shoulder is non-existent or minimal; for urban accidents intersections pose key risks. Zollner said the review will crack the debate wide open. Because of its depth the delivery date to central and local government has been extended to November.

NZ Post Group spokesman Richard Trow said the driver involved in yesterday's fatal collision was "very shaken".

"He's at home with his family and we'll assess him [today]," Trow said. "I think he's just trying to deal with the situation."

Trow would not comment on the circumstances of the crash while the police investigation is underway.

"We're shocked and saddened by it. It's an awful thing to happen."

A mother at the crash scene, who declined to be named, said she did not allow her teens to ride across Morrinsville Rd to turn right from Matangi Rd as it was too dangerous.

Tim Hope, of the Hamilton Bicycling Network, rides through the intersection daily. He was happy with its current design.



Cyclists will continue to suffer at the hands of motorists until the Government properly invests in cycleways, says Hauraki District Mayor John Tregidga.

He called for a U-turn on the Government's approach to cyclists at a Waikato Regional Council regional transport committee meeting, which convened yesterday a few hours after the death of another cyclist on Waikato roads.

"You need to start looking at accident rates," Tregidga told Ministry of Transport representative Gareth Chaplin.

Tregidga said the cycling industry was growing at a rate much faster than the infrastructure needed to support cyclists' safety.

"We need to understand cycling is becoming such a big activity. It has the growth and it is just unbelievable."

Tregidga said the Government's investment into roading needed to better cater for cycling to ensure the safety of those choosing two wheels over four.

The timely comments were made the same morning a cyclist was killed in a collision with a courier van at the corner of Morrinsville and Matangi roads in Hamilton.

"I can see more accidents, until we get a handle on investing in our roads for cycling, but I'm under no illusions the challenges that's going to create."

Chaplin, general manager of sector performance at the Ministry of Transport, said a lot of funding related to cycling was embedded in roadwork.

"We do have to keep pace with the expectation of the community but we also have to keep faith with motorists."

Chaplin agreed there had been a "resurgence" in cycling in recent years.

Cycling groups such as the Cycling Advocates Network and cycling safety promotion programmes such as Bike Wise were building cycling safety. "The most important thing here is it's a partnership through the draft government policy statement [released by the ministry on June 15] and local government, and there's a lot of really good work going on in this region," Chaplin said.

Tregidga's comments were in relation to the successful Hauraki Rail Trail, which covers 82 kilometres between Te Aroha, Paeroa, Waihi and Thames.

Up to 12,000 cyclists each month use the cycleway, "well above what we predicted", Tregidga said.

Although much of the cycleway was not connected to state highways, Tregidga said the bike trails meant there were more cyclists on the roads.

"We need to continue to educate drivers that cycling is increasing and we are going to get more of them out there."



Cycling deaths, July 2007 - October 2013

94 deaths

72 men

22 women

Oldest 93, youngest 6

Average age 46.5

5 under-12s

55 of the 94 deaths were due to cyclist error 23 deaths in January, February, March

20 in April, May, June

20 in July, August, September

32 in October, November, December

13 mountainbike or BMX crashes

35 involved only the cyclist

59 involved hitting motor vehicles

1 collision with a pedestrian

1 collision with a dog 

Waikato Times