Cycling Safety Under Spotlight


Cyclists and no doubt cycling advocate groups will welcome news that just one Coroner will finish off conducting  the inquests into 8 deaths of cyclists over the last 12 months.

The Waikato Coroner will be in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Palmerston North op hear evidence into four groups of deaths related to cyclists so he can see if there are any patterns that could lead to recommendations of cycling safety and to hear from cyclists.

It’s hard to know how to change motorists’ behaviour -and to be fair, saying it as a cyclist myself, some cyclists who seem to take foolish risks or appear arrogant in trying to hog the road.

The issue of motorists not instinctively looking before opening their car door is a real problem that one encounters regularly. That has already lead to at least one recent fatality.  Maybe some motorists need stickers around their door handle reminding them to look first before pulling the handle.

Any road death is too many so the Coroner’s findings will be hopefully helpful in reminding everyone that cyclists do have the right to travel on the roads and those numbers are increasing - but cyclists need to feel safe.





  1. Doloras says:

    Surely all that needs to happen is for cyclists and motorists to be mutually respectful, and for everyone to obey the road rules, as much as possible. Some motorists seem not to understand that it is very difficult for me to brake and indicate at the same time when going downhill in wet conditions and therefore I might surprise them a bit. But let us forgive others as we forgive ourselves.

  2. Ingolfson says:

    Speed is indeed a problem in multiple ways - I’d be interested if high cyclist speeds are a factor, and whether rural roads are the main issues.

    Not implying an “at fault” situation here. Just considering how big the influence of the cyclists speed themselves is.

  3. Matt says:

    A case of particular interest to me is the Wellington one that’s been referred (Ben Lawless), as he’s the brother of my brother’s partner. From what I’ve been told by them, he was an absolute safety fanatic, and changed his light batteries at their place before leaving to ride home on the night he was killed. The driver’s defence, it appears, will be that she didn’t see him on a long, sweeping, well-lit bend - more likely, she didn’t look - because he didn’t have lights. A claim that isn’t supported by what was known of Ben’s habits and of his actions immediately before commencing the fatal trip.

    Any change will require that drivers be punished severely for inattention, because with cyclists and motorcyclists it only takes a second of not paying attention to the road to kill them. The woeful penalties for vehicular homicide in NZ are certainly no incentive for drivers to try harder.

  4. Geoff says:

    It would be helpful to have cycles display a license plate, or some other way to ensure they know that wrong actions can be followed up. As things stand, cyclists do what they want, and usually get away with it. They are road users after all.

  5. Michael says:

    The default position for a cycle lane should be on the inside of parked cars, not the outside. That way if a door is opened the results are not so drastic. The parked cars act as a barrier to traffic. This is the position taken by many cities overseas.

  6. Andrew says:

    In a way, would a licence plate for bikes help make it obvious that they are entitled to use the road?

  7. Geoff says:

    Yep, it works both ways. Treat all road users equally.

  8. Anthony says:

    A licnese plate is a great idea IMO, it would actually tell drivers that all cyclists are allowed to be on the road. Although some people would get discouraged by cycling because of the hassle of geting a plate, unless it is already provided on the bikes.

  9. Doloras says:

    I don’t know. Cars have licence plates but I very rarely bother reporting anyone who swears at me, attempts to run me off the road or squirts a water bottle on me.

  10. Matt L says:

    Need some of these, it is a little pico projector, no bike lane, now there is an instant one :-) (although it probably needs on on the back as well)

  11. JB says:

    Nice one Geoff. Another form of discouragement for cyclists will solve all our problems by simply eliminating them from the equation. We almost got rid of them all with the helmet laws. Cycle license plates will surely get the rest of them into an SUV where they can be responsible road users like the rest of us.

  12. Matt says:

    Geoff, would it shut you up with your rants about how cyclists have no right to be on the road? No, probably not. So let’s let the stupid idea drop, shall we?

  13. Matt says:

    JB, that’s Geoff’s goal. He hates cyclists, and doesn’t think they have any place on the road. It’s a consistent message in every post he makes on cycling-related topics. This is just another of his goofy ideas to push cyclists further away from general acceptance by motorised road users.

  14. Chris R says:

    I can’t see anything in Geoff’s posts that says he wants cyclists off the road.

    I, as a cyclist, think it’s a great idea!

  15. George D says:

    I actually think that it should be illegal to sell a bike without lights that conform to a particular standard (or a the purchaser signing a legal form to confirm that they already own lights which will be installed on the bike).

    You can’t sell a car without a set of lights. Bikes should be no different. The nonsense that you will only ride a bike during daylight betrays the fact that winter mornings and evenings are often very dark, and low light conditions caused by cloud or rain make visibility lower still.

    Retailers seem to oppose this, and the cycling-enthusiast community already have lights and wouldn’t see the need (and think of non-enthusiast riders as glorified pedestrians), but I think it’s an idea worth proceeding with anyway.

    I’m wary of adding further requirements to riders, but the idea that people will simply get lights after their purchase frequently falls well short of reality. I’d welcome responses.

  16. Ingolfson says:

    Cycling license plates? Why not pedestrian license plates too?

    And why try to legislate away cyclist misbehaviour, instead of facing the NZTA-reported fact that in 3 out of 4 serious cyclist-motorist crashes, the motorist is at fault?

    Bit like asking people that get mugged to stay at home, so the thugs can’t get them.

  17. The Trickster says:

    Matt - at least this time he isn’t trying to erronously tell everyone what the law is when it can be shown with a 20 second Google search that he’s completely wrong.

    Deloras - exactly. About the only time they’re actually useful for monitoring is if you’ve got the chance to actually get the plate, and the last time that happened was when I was coming back from a bike race in a car and following a woman who looked pretty drunk on the motorway.

    JB - yeah, a bit like the guy I saw on Monday furiously tooting at a pedestrian crossing on K Rd while he RAN the red light himself. Got to be about the worst I’ve seen someone run a red for ages (bike or car).

  18. The Trickster says:

    Ingolfson - we need a “Like” button around here.

  19. Geoff says:

    @Matt - The select group of arrogant cyclists who constantly rant about wanting to be respected as equal users of the road and blame everything on motorists, would surely welcome any treatment that puts them on an equal footing. Or could it be that they live by a double standard, as you seem to be implying?

    I’m not against cycling, just those who think they own the roads and do what they want, when they want, blaming everyone else for their actions.

  20. Geoff says:

    @Ingolfson, the reason so many reported incidents have the motorist at fault, is simply because only motorists can be reported. Cyclists can’t, because they have no ID on them. Pedestrian plates? Nice one, but it’s the cyclists who say they want to be treated as equal road users.

    A few months ago I was driving along Tamaki Drive, in a line of cars that was being held up by two cyclists riding two abreast in the lane, yakking away to each other, oblivious to their surroundings. When they came to a bridge they finally went to single file, and the traffic slowly started to move past them. When it came my turn to pass them, they suddenly shot out into the lane two abreast again, without looking behind them. I took evasive action by aiming my car through the narrow 2.5 gap between them and the next lane, missing the idiot by inches. Further along I pulled over (was at my destination) and the cyclist who put himself in harms way slapped the roof of the car and abused me. The guy nearly died, but did he learn anything from it? Nope. His arrogance and strange belief that he can ride as he wants and disregard the rules, blinds him to his own personal safety.

    Having ID displayed will force the arrogant buggers like that one to pull their head in and start treating the roads and their users with respect, instead of blaming motorists for their actions.

  21. The Trickster says:

    Geoff says:
    May 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    “the reason so many reported incidents have the motorist at fault, is simply because only motorists can be reported. Cyclists can’t, because they have no ID on them.”

    Got any proof on that, or is that opinion masquarading as truth again?

    Interesting that you bring up an example from a few months ago, I can bring up crap weekly easily. Hell, if I got angry about every little minute stupid thing I see those in cars doing, I’d just end up v pissed off when riding.

    I can bring up two that happened to me from within a similar time frame.

    1. Riding along in the bus lane on Tamaki Dr as I’m legally allowed to and had a woman pull across between traffic in front of me causing $900 worth of damage to the bike and a week off the bike while my badly sprained wrist healed up.

    2. About 1 1/2 months later - stopped at the Stop sign at the bottom of my street - a woman behind me however didn’t stop and I ended up having to have my bike replaced by insurance which left me $800 down after they depreciated it.

    And that’s only me. Unfortunately my wider group of friends have had a bad few months of it too with one ending up with a rather large hemotoma on his left thigh after a Range Rover failed to give way.

    Oh, and please state what rule he “disregarded”, or are we going to play the same old game again?

    FYI, I ride with ID (A drivers license funnily enough) on me at all times, just in case I end up having a bad one in which they can’t identify me straight away - like pretty much all riders I know.

  22. JB says:

    Once again, I agree with the astute wisdom of ‘Geoff’: Cyclists are incredibly selfish.

    -Their bikes take up way to much room on the road.
    -They cause congestion
    -They often cause serious harm to others.
    -They make the urban environment unpleasant.
    -They require vast areas of land for parking.
    -If global warming existed, they would be causing it!

    Worst of all: They are gaining in popularity!!!
    Tamaki drive mustn’t be allowed to be overrun by this damaging breed of ‘arrogant’ commuters. We motorists must fight for our right to have a delay-free drive along our pristine water-front urban highway. Only by having more cars, will this dream become a reality!

  23. Geoff says:

    @The Trickster - Bad motorists are not reason to allow bad cycling.

    @JB - You seem to be saying “cyling is good, so lets allow bad cycling”.

    It isn’t about motorists vs cyclists. It’s about both parties having respect for each other and all other users. The focus on improved behaviour is a two way street.

    There are bad cyclists out there, like the ones I described. They need to be tackled every bit as much as bad motorists, and having them attach a simple ID plate behind the back seat is a cheap and easy way to alleviate the problem.

  24. Anthony says:

    From what some people still don’t realise is that drivers aren’t any better, i had the misfortune to nearly crash into a concrete power pole after a driver literally came 40cm close to touching me at 80km an hour on a wide highway giving me such a fright that it made me swere off the road. I was barely on the road at all, about 20cm to the left of the left-side line.

    The cyclists AND drivers need to sort this out.

  25. JB says:

    Should cyclists and motorists be equal?

    This is like expecting a hungry hyena to be able to feasibly share an armchair with one of Geoff’s pet cats. Even if Mittons takes up the smallest amount of space on the head rest, the hyena will still be irritated and want to take bites. Or in the very least the Hyena may suggest the cat wear a collar name tag so it can complain to Geoff when Mittons gets too much priority for the Hyena’s liking.

  26. Geoff says:

    JB, cyclists and motorists are both people, and equally capable of showing respect for each other.

    Why do you defend the right of cyclists to ignore the road rules? Why do think only motorists should keep to the rules, but not cyclists?

    Road safety is for all road users, and those unwilling to put safety first should get off the roads, be they in a car or on a cycle.

  27. JB says:

    ‘cyclists and motorists are both people’. Yes Geoff that’s true. You can’t really notice the difference between them until they get into their car. Or… until they go onto a blog and comment about the faults of cyclists on a post about the death of eight ‘people’.

    You must love constantly seeing your name in the ‘top debate’ section.

  28. Geoff says:

    JB, why the insults?

    I think all road users should be safe and responsible. You obviously think differently and believe safety is only for motorists. That’s the very arrogance that needs to be stamped out from road users.

    Any debate on the safety of cyclists needs to take into account that there are many cyclists who ride dangerously. Interaction between the two modes requires all users to be responsible.

  29. Chris R says:

    JB - can we please not get personal?

  30. AKT says:

    Very few rules here - but there is one.
    Play nice - or get banned.

  31. The Trickster says:

    May 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Nobody here is necessarily defending anybodys right to ignore the road rules.

    However I would suggest that the group that safety messages need to be aimed at is the group that is maiming and killing… and apart from an off-road incident in the Waikato in either 2005 or 2006 cyclists certainly are not the ones doing the killing. The fact that some quarters expect me and others that ride to dress up like Bobo the Clown is ridiculous. Perhaps a better eye test and regular re-testing of drivers whenever they have to update their license would solve some of that.

  32. ingolfson says:

    “the reason so many reported incidents have the motorist at fault, is simply because only motorists can be reported. Cyclists can’t, because they have no ID on them.”

    Simply disproven. The 75% figure I quoted is not related to some “Oh, he cut me off” / “Oh, those cyclists were riding three abreast” cases.

    Those 75% are those cases in which cyclists died or were seriously injured in crashes with motor vehicles. Almost all of these get reported (my guess - 95% or more of the serious injuries, 99.99% of all deaths) . Or do you assume that cyclists who were at fault preferred to not go to hospital, so the statistics look better?

    Based on the 75% / 25% fault split for serious and fatal accidents, one would heavily assume that blame in minor accidents is similarly spread. And even if in reality, that wasn’t the case, minor incidents are by their nature, minor.

    Therefore, yes, motorists do have to blame themselves more, and it is not about CONDONING bad or illegal cycling behaviours when one wonders why some people think coming down harder on cyclists should be a response to cycling fatalities (what this blog post is about). AFTER you have come down hard on motorists misbehaving around cyclists, we can certainly talk about that too.

  33. Matt says:

    What ingolfson said. The stats about fault are based on the outcomes of incidents where the police investigate because someone was taken from the scene as a status 2 (conditional unstable, may deteriorate further) or worse (active CPR is status 1, and status 0 is kinda obvious), which is the criteria for Serious Crash getting involved.

    Geoff, you cannot fob this one off as down to cyclists not being identifiable. If you’re injured seriously enough to get SCU in on the incident, they know who you are (or should). I don’t think there’re any serious bicycle crashes on the books at present where the cyclist remains unidentified.

    In car vs bicycle, the cyclist never wins. Ever. They might ding the car, and if the driver is really unfortunate they might find the cyclist’s head has come through the windscreen and ended up in their face, but in the incredibly unlikely event that the driver gets seriously hurt the cyclist is certain to be dead.

  34. The Trickster says:

    Re: crash stats - I thought they were simply accidents where police investigated and assigned fault, so everything from minor non-injury crashes where fault was disputed to involvement of the Serious Crash Unit.

    Thing is, the statistics gathering is reasonably comprehensive and there are maps floating around somewhere which show all of the accidents involving cyclists in each region of Auckland, all featuring details on when/cause/weather/lighting/location.

  35. Matt says:

    Trickster, the 75:25 split that ingolfson refers to is only serious crashes, and they’re a good indicator because they’re almost certain to be reported because it’s required by law and it’s also unlikely that the cyclist will not require ambulance transport.
    It’s like using murder as a crime indicator - it’s unlikely that a murder won’t come to the attention of the police, contrasted with the selective reporting of most other types of violent crime.

  36. The Trickster says:

    The split I’ve seen is based off

    Or the following:

    63% no fault of cyclist
    13% shared
    25% fault of cyclist

    I understand from reading that that those splits include everything from minor injuries to fatals.


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