The tragic death of another Dunedin cyclist has renewed
debate about safety and the city's cycling infrastructure.
University of Otago dentistry senior lecturer Dr Li Hong He
(34) died this week when he was run over by a stock truck
outside Dunedin Hospital while cycling along Cumberland St.
Police are investigating the incident, which follows a
similar one which claim- ed the life of a retired Dunedin man
who was hit by an empty logging truck at the intersection of
Anzac Ave and Castle St last November. In both cases, the
cyclists were using designated cycle lanes on the busy State
Highway 1 routes through the city.
There have been other cyclist deaths - and many accidents,
injuries and close calls. Only a week after the Anzac Ave
fatality, a male cyclist was knocked off his bicycle after it
was clipped by a container truck in Strathallan St.
And last month, a group of four cyclists riding single file
on Wharf St were shaken after a close brush with a fully
laden logging truck.
The New Zealand Transport Agency's (NZTA) Communities at Risk
Register shows Dunedin City is ranked fourth in New Zealand
in terms of the number of serious and fatal crashes involving
cyclists in urban areas. Figures from the Ministry of
Transport's Safer Journeys strategy show in recent years an
average of 300 cyclists are hospitalised in New Zealand and
10 killed from crashes involving a vehicle. Cyclists were
found to have primary responsibility in only 25% of such
crashes. In urban areas, pedestrians and cyclists account for
30% of all road deaths.
It is important to remember behind the statistics are people
who have lost their lives - and families and friends their
loved ones - and that the accidents are traumatic for all
involved. It is clear that safety for cyclists must be to the
forefront as communities throughout New Zealand and the world
move towards more sustainable transport and actively
encourage cycling in urban environments.
Europe is leading the cycling renaissance and cities such as
Amsterdam and Copenhagen are pioneers in terms of
cycle-friendly urban planning and design, with bike-sharing
programmes, a network of cycleways and an increased emphasis
on routes which keep bicycles and motor vehicles physically
separated. The United States, Canada and Asia are fast
following in their tracks in terms of adopting such
There appears to be increased will at council and government
level in New Zealand to provide for cyclists. The Safer
Journeys strategy over the next 10 years aims to "achieve a
safe road environment that encourages more people to walk and
cycle, where vehicles travel at safe speeds and there is a
culture of sharing the road".
Exciting initiatives are taking place in New Plymouth and
Hastings, the country's first walking and cycling "Model
Communities" - an NZTA-funded (to the tune of $7.3 million)
pilot that encourages walking or cycling as the easiest and
safest transport choices and helps councils integrate them
into their planning and strategies.
In Dunedin, at grassroots level, the city council is involved
in providing cycle skills training in schools, and similar
training is available for adults. Sections of the Dunedin to
Port Chalmers and Otago Peninsula shared pedestrian and
cycleways are completed and being used by many. And design
work on the $4.5 million southern commuter routes in the
city's Strategic Cycling Network has begun, with physical
work expected to start early next year.
The routes could feature a variety of dedicated cycle
facilities such as cycle-only lanes, shared pathways, lower
speed limits and cycle parking.
There will be an opportunity for public consultation before
work begins and it is to be hoped the council and NZTA will
consider public feedback, the recent tragic deaths and the
international evidence, and will adopt best practice wherever
possible in the infrastructure.
While it seems we are travelling in the right direction, it
is also a fact that costs keep progress slow and impact on
designs. Therefore, until the desired safer streets exist, it
is incumbent on everyone to take responsibility for road
safety - and examine their actions and attitudes towards our
most vulnerable road users.