Riders join road safety call

Safety concerns ... Horse Riders of Dunedin Unite group members and friends, (from left) Rikki...
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 issues.

"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 education campaign.

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, near Mosgiel.

Miss McRoberts and a friend were riding chestnut mare Ellie-May when a driver sped past, clipping them with the wing mirror.

"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 riders.

"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 group. 


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