Hamilton cyclists still at risk from drivers

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 11:20 24/01/2014
Bob Puru
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
CRASHES COMMON: Bob Puru gets to hear a lot of horror stories about crashes and prangs involving cyclists.

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On July 1 a group of 14 cyclists set off from Flagstaff business Bob's Bikes, on their regular Monday evening ride through the Hamilton countryside.

One never made it back.

At 6.20pm as the group were riding along Puketaha Rd, east of the city, they were ploughed into by Nicholas Dryland, who was attempting to overtake them.

During the manoeuvre, Dryland swerved back into the lane to avoid an oncoming car and collided with four of the riders. Craig Goulsbro suffered what proved to be fatal injuries while fellow riders William Donaldson and Christopher Smith were seriously injured.

Dryland later told police he thought there was only two riders ahead of him and was later found not to have been wearing his prescription contact lenses at the time the crash happened.

In October he was sentenced to 12 months' jail, disqualified from driving for 2 years and ordered to pay $11,000 reparation.

Bob's Bikes owner Bob Puru became an impromptu spokesman for the city's cycling community that day.

It's a role he is now slightly more comfortable with, after being thrust into the spotlight by the tragedy - one he fears will inevitably be repeated because nothing had really changed on the region's roads.

"The only thing that really has changed is that with all the crashes that happened last year, the cyclists are more aware of what can happen.

"But there is still a lot of stupidity from some of the drivers. Every single day there are a lot of car-versus-car crashes around Hamilton, and there's usually at least one that involves a cyclist in some way.

"We see a lot of damage to bikes which have been struck by cars. We have one guy at the moment who has around $400 worth of damage to his bike. That's probably more than the bike is worth. However, the police can't prosecute the driver who hit this guy because he did not suffer an injury."

Drivers who texted behind the wheel were a lethal threat, he said, and the legal penalties for being caught texting while driving needed to be much harsher to deter people from indulging in the habit.

It's not simply a case of "two wheels good, four wheels bad" however.

"Cyclists have to play their part and ride sensibly on the road . . . the smartest thing the riders can do is keep left. The rest is up to the drivers.

"Ninety per cent of cyclists are pretty good. Ninety per cent of drivers are pretty good. However, there are still a few idiots out there . . . It's just like when you have a party and one clown comes along and spoils it for everybody. It's just the same on the roads."

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There have been some positive cycle safety initiatives launched in Hamilton in recent times. Next month sees the formation of a new group, the Hamilton Bicycling Network, which has Olympian and trans-Atlantic rowing champion Rob Hamill as its patron. The network, which aims to promote safe pleasurable cycling as commuter transport, will be launched in Garden Place on February 1 with a bicycling fashion show.

Meanwhile, the NZ Transport Agency has launched a new "moment of truth" outdoor and radio advertising campaign to promote awareness of cyclists and to encourage safe sharing of the road.

"The campaign is aimed at encouraging motorists to share the road with cyclists safely. It is designed to personalise and humanise people cycling, so motorists see them as real people who have a right to share the road safely," spokesman Andy Knackstedt said.

"With their backs to the driver and helmets on, cyclists can often look like silhouettes and drivers don't usually see their faces. We want to remind drivers when they're on the road that cyclists are everyday people just like them - they are mums and dads, sisters and brothers. They could be their friends, relatives, neighbours or colleagues. We all have a right to travel safely on the road."

mike.mather@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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