Safety concerns ... Horse Riders of Dunedin Unite group
members and friends, (from left) Rikki Rowland and daughter
Charlie Rowland-Nisbet (3) on miniature horse Snippy, Ranui
McRoberts on Ellie-May, Lynda Davidson on Fabian, and Cate
Davidson (11) on Star, are stepping up to highlight the
issue of driver behaviour around horses in Dunedin. Photo
by Brenda Harwood
Horse riding advocacy group Horse Riders of Dunedin Unite
has added its voice to calls for an increased focus on road
safety in the city.
The group has stepped forward in the wake of the death of
cyclist Dr Li Hong (Chris) He on Cumberland St last week, and
the Dunedin City Council's moves to urgently address safety
"Now is an appropriate time to consider the rights of the
equestrian community alongside cyclists and pedestrians in
all road planning and education for road users," group
founder Sarah Hexamer said.
Members of the group, which was founded in May and has about
90 members, have made extensive submissions on the council's
Social Wellbeing Strategy and have called for a driver
Horse riders in Dunedin took their lives in their hands every
time they rode their horses on or near roads around greater
Dunedin, Mrs Hexamer said.
"Virtually every time you have to ride on or beside the road
- and we avoid it as much as possible - you will have a scary
encounter," she said.
Dunedin rider Ranui McRoberts knows only too well how
dangerous the roads can be - she has been hit by vehicles
twice in the past two years. The first occasion was two years
ago, when she was clipped by a vehicle driven by a tourist.
Miss McRoberts' foot took off the wing mirror of the car and
her horse fell down a bank.
"It was incredibly close to being a major accident - and the
horse was never the same. I had to re-home her for retirement
in the end," she said.
The second incident happened about a month ago on Dukes Rd,
Miss McRoberts and a friend were riding chestnut mare
Ellie-May when a driver sped past, clipping them with the
"There was a big bang and Ellie-May jumped to the side but
that driver never even slowed down," she said.
Police were called and responded quickly but the incident had
happened so fast the riders had been unable to get the
vehicle's number plate.
While some drivers were very considerate, others passed too
close and too quickly, or were towing noisy trailers, group
member Jane Pike said.
"We move over as far as we can but motorists need to realise
that a horse is not the same as a bike - it has a mind of its
own and you don't have total control," Mrs Pike said.
The consequences of hitting a horse could be serious, even
fatal, for drivers as well as riders.
"However, if people obey the road rules, cruise past horses
slowly and give us a wide berth, then everything will be
fine," Mrs Hexamer said.
University of Otago Injury Prevention Research Unit director
and Spokes Dunedin cycling advocate Hank Weiss said vehicle
speed was an issue for cyclists, pedestrians and horse
"Cyclists will have some camaraderie with horse riders,
because both are minority road users who want safe options,"
Prof Weiss said.
Dunedin City Council events and community development manager
Rebecca Williams said the equestrian group's Social Wellbeing
Strategy feedback had "definitely been heard" and had been
fed through to the teams working on the council's
Transportation Strategy and Parks and Recreation Strategy.
Council senior traffic engineer Ron Minnema said he would be
happy to meet the group to discuss their concerns, which
could be added to council's "risk register". Items contained
in the register were taken into consideration when roading
upgrades were made, he said.
Council transport safety specialist Charlotte Flaherty said
the Dunedin Road Users Forum would be a "perfect fit" for the