DCC seeks urgent cycle safety action

Bollards provide definition between the road and cycle lane at the intersection of State Highway 1 (Cumberland St) and lower High St yesterday, in an effort by the New Zealand Transport Agency to improve cycle safety. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Bollards provide definition between the road and cycle lane at the intersection of State Highway 1 (Cumberland St) and lower High St yesterday, in an effort by the New Zealand Transport Agency to improve cycle safety. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

The Dunedin City Council is urgently addressing safety issues for cyclists on the one-way state highway system through Dunedin, following the death of a cyclist on Cumberland St on Monday.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said discussions between councillors and staff about cycle safety began a while ago, but the death of Dr Li Hong (Chris) He this week highlighted the need for an urgent solution, which might include temporary measures while permanent changes are considered.

"There is considerable concern right through council and we will be seeking urgent discussions with the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to look at how we can address these very clearly urgent issues," Mr Cull told the Otago Daily Times yesterday.

He said councillors and staff would meet early next week to determine what the council could do within the regulatory framework, what the NZTA was responsible for and how the organisations could work together.

"At the moment, the cycle lane on the one-way is in just about the most dangerous place to put it and there is only a white line separating cyclists from heavy traffic. There is a consensus among council staff, councillors and people in the community that cycle safety needs to be improved, so we would be silly not to be talking about some solutions," he said.

Mr Cull said he was setting up a strategic cycling advisory group to look at how the council could optimise its development of cycling throughout the city.

Yesterday morning, NZTA placed temporary bollards between the road and cycle lane at the intersection of State Highway 1 (Cumberland St) and lower High St.

NZTA state highways operations manager Roger Bailey said the installation was in response to complaints from cyclists about motorists cutting the corner and crossing into the cycle lane.

It had been an issue for the past year, he said.

"Initially we responded by painting the cycle lanes green to make them clearly visible to drivers. This worked initially, but the issue has re-emerged again in the last month," Mr Bailey said.

NZTA was looking at a more permanent solution, he said.

Not long after being installed yesterday, the bollards were run over by a truck as it cut the corner. The lunchtime incident was witnessed by a Dunedin resident who contacted the ODT about it.





For the whole length of the one ways cyclists shoud be riding on the footpath shared with pedestrians or place the cycle lane beside the footpath and the car parks beside cycle lane on the outside as they do overseas. It's not brain surgery and it's obvious the current layout is dangerous and unacceptable. It's also about time bells were made compuslory on pushbikes as well ,and riding in single file would a good idea particularly on busy roads, this used to be taught at school.

Ready to rumble

It has been said before and here it is again.  Put a rumble strip on the outside border of the cycle lane extending about 20m at the Leviathan corner where the bollards are now. Give all motorists immediate feedback if they trespass on the cycle lane there.

That being said again, if you are a cyclist don't be on that corner at the same as a truck and trailer unit.

Spare a thought

In our efforts to seek sensible working solutions to this ever present problem, whilst not minimising the devastating effect of the fatal accident on the victim's family and the truck driver, let's think on this:  Most people parking alongside the entrance way to our major public hospital will be there for the primary purpose of seeing, in some way, to someone receiving health care. 

Whether there to drop off or pick up someone, or a quick dash inside to deliver items - whatever their purpose in parking on what is a major thoroughfare, it is fair to assume that they will be in a state of heightened stress, to whatever degree. 

Each and every one of us is capable at any time, and anywhere, to make an error in judgement, or to simply not take full congnisance of our situation.  For the most part, we get away with it. 

Maybe a good first step would be to remove all parking from that stretch of the highway outside the public hospital and provide adequate, easily accessible, free, time limited parking close by.  


Feedback needs to be predictable, not harsh

Rob Fischer repeats the old wives' tale that harsher penalties (for vehicle drivers who endanger cyclists) will succeed in "changing people's minds about the seriousness of dangerous driving behaviour through similarly serious penalties".
Possibly, but not if driving faults are like other crimes. Research has shown, and our own experience bears this out, that it is not the severity of consequence but their probability that changes behaviour. This goes all the way down to smoking cigarettes indoors - it's not punishment that has changed behaviour but regular disapproval from other people, even other smokers who themselves always go outside to light up.
Crimes involving careful planning, such as tunnelling into a bank, take into account penalties and balance the likelihood of being caught vs probable gain. We can reasonably assume that changing security measures including cameras that can be used to identify the perps should they get inside the bank have put several people off trying. This does not apply to impulsive (most crimes of violence, opportunist theft) offending.
Opening the car door is an automatic action when one has reached one's destination. It is a harmless action at least 99.9% of the time, and in cases where a cyclist or other motorist has managed to swerve successfully even the person in the parked car may not realise how close they came to causing an accident, so there is no feedback.
Without regular feedback, and without a high probability that they will be caught and punished either by authorities or by the overt disapproval of society, the habitual actions that may once in a blue moon lead to tragedy will not be changed.[Abridged]

How to make a decision?

Readers may have noticed my published letter on this matter on the same day as the ODT ran a story saying that a strategic committee is being formed to look at the issue of cyclist deaths.  But this situation is complicated by the fact that the road is a State Highway and thereby comes under the jurisdiction of Transit NZ which has, as its Southern Director, the past CEO of Dunedin City Council, Jim Harland. 

Firstly, the DCC has clearly demonstrated its inability to make rapid quality decisions and we only need to look at the ongoing soap opera that is the John Wilson Memorial Drive to see that.  The Dunedin City Council also has a history of not being able to plan roading and we need only look as far back as next week to see the developing shambles over the diversion of roads round the stadium. 

A second example of this planning is the installation of cycle lanes in and around Wharf Street.  Largely unused by cyclists, but certainly used as convenient parking by large truck units going to all the adjacent manufacturing businesses nearby. 

The quick short and effective answer is to make one side of the one-way street's footpaths a cycle-way and the other side pedestrian traffic.   The other short and rapid decision that could be made is to prosecute all skateboarders weaving all over city streets or using their boards at night on the roads.  Just a matter of time before a few of these people get hit on a wet and dark night by a driver that has no hope of seeing them.

Blame game is unhelpful

In my view there are three players here: cyclists, authorities (councils/NZTA) and motorists. Each as a part to play. Cyclists need to ride safely, motorists need to be tolerant, and the authorities need to design the roads smartly. Because of the vulnerability of cyclists it only takes one of these players to stuff up for a death to occur. 

In reality we need solutions, not penalties. Penalties in this case would instantly put motorists even further "against" cyclists because no motorist deliberately runs a cyclist over. I feel sorry for the truck driver as much as I do for the victim and his family.

I think having parked cars in between the road and cycle lanes is a good idea if drainage can be maintained. 

Let's not forget cycling is inherently more dangerous than driving and the cyclists must accept that and ride safely, while the drivers need to be cautious around them. NZTA can play their part by designing the roads intelligently.

Time to change the focus

I think that the DCC has had the wrong focus over quite a number of years when it comes to cycling. There has been a significant amount of investment in connecting the harbourside communities with shared cycle/pedestrian routes. This is great for those that live in those areas or for recreational cyclists, but I think there are greater priorities.
In contrast there has been very little funding allocated to the CBD; in fact, there has been very little improvement in a generation. At the moment cycle commuters are being channelled along relatively safe suburban routes into a highly hazardous CBD environment.
Investing in safe cycle routes in the CBD rather than suburbs would bring far more benefits in terms of safety and reduced congestion. I work in the CBD but choose not to cycle to work because of the risks. I would cycle if it was safer.
I would never want to complain about anything without proposing a solution. As a starting point I would like to see a major safe cycle-only route being through the CBD. It could be established by eliminating parking on one side of the One Way North all the way from the Oval to the Gardens. It could be separated from traffic with a low barrier or could be raised to the level of the footpath.
In time additional routes could be added and it could become part of wide network. Sure there would be issues with the removal of parking space, but I'm sure these issues could be worked through.



Hypo: You don't need a huge number of police or new prisons, you just need decent deterrents and a couple of high profile cases where running over a cyclist is actually treated as a crime. If they then drive when banned, we need more high profile cases where they get stomped on badly. It's about changing people's minds about the seriousness of dangerous driving behaviour through similarly serious penalties ... it works in other countries and I fail to believe (as you seem to) that NZers are just too stupid to get it.

Great idea, but...

TrafficJam asks, "Would it not make more sense to forbid motorists who break the law from driving?"

She overlooks the fact that NZ cannot afford the huge numbers of police needed to be everywhere a driver speeds, goes out of their lane, fails to yield, has no W.O.F. or rego, doesn't indicate, doesn't check in mirrors, and opens the car doors without looking. 
Supposing we were able to recruit and pay that many extra police, what would we do about the increase in numbers of people who drive without a licence?  Many of them only get caught when they have an accident.  
When the numbers of unlicensed drivers rises to the giddy heights caused if TrafficJam's suggestion were implemented, the chances of getting away with it would rise proportionately.  But when they were caught the justice system would have to deal with them, imposing community service, fining them and making sure they paid their fines, and imprisoning those who offended repeatedly, didn't pay their fines, didn't do their community service.  The prison population explosion would require many new prisons and staff, another cost to the dwindling numbers of taxpayers still at large.
I'm a regretful naysayer, because in some ways it is a brilliant suggestion - it would provide work for so many police, architects and builders, then staff would be needed for the new prisons. But since none of these jobs earn money for the country and all would be paid by the government, i.e. out of taxes, NZ would have to borrow even more as well as skimp on other expenditure, such as infrastructure and education. [Abridged]

Brilliant logic

Wayne's suggestion that banning cycling would improve safety is illogical. 

Would it not make more sense to forbid motorists who break the law from driving? These are the motorists who speed, who can't stay in their lanes, who fail to yield, who fail to maintain a warrant or registration, who don't indicate, who don't check their mirrors - and obviously the motorists who open their doors wildly without looking. Motorists are the problem. Removing motorists is the solution.

Remove the parking

Until someone makes the career-ending decision to strip the parking adjacent to cycleways throughout the city, this will continue.

The DCC and NZTA need to sit down and decide to either strip the parking or look at cycling as a form of transportation that cannot be on the main thoroughfares. The review just undertaken by some 'consultant' is ridiculous. This is not new. The roads the DCC haven't done yet they cannot afford to add cycleways to without significant costs of moving kerbs

I bet they haven't even considered starting again and looking at lower volume traffic routes and making the cycleways the priority at the intersections of other low volume cross roads as happens in other European cities. This would remove the conflict between cylcists and other fast moving vehicles. If you want to promote cycing you have to make it safe, and currently it isn't. The speed of vehicles around cycleways and the proximity of parking makes them dangerous. One wrong move by the vehicle and the cyclist pays the ultimate price.

Can a councilor or a DCC/NZTA staff member make the decison and get rid of the parking?


Banning cars

Banning cars on roads would be more effective.

Complete ban on driving

A complete ban on driving would prevent both pollution and accidents and therefore is the far more logical way to go. After all, it's also pedestrians that get hit by motor vehicles.

Cycle lane paint worn out

You can tell how much traffic cuts the green painted bit by how worn out it already is in many places.

Ban cycling on the roads!

A complete ban on cycling would be a more permanent solution to this dangerous folly of cycling. How much longer does the motorist have to play dodgems and how many more cyclists have to be killed before the Councils/Govt wake up! Ban cycling on roads and ban it now!

Green paint?!

The green paint did nothing from day 1.  The problem hasn't re-emerged, its been there for years and despite us telling the DCC they did nothing, two deaths later and they are putting together a group to talk!

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