Moment her world came crashing down

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
It is not just gold medal-winning mountain bikers at the Commonwealth Games who need to show a better attitude, it is also regular riders using shared tracks and trails around New Zealand.

That is the view of a former Wanaka woman, now in the Burwood Hospital spinal unit with a broken neck, the result of being hit and knocked off her  mountain bike by another mountain biker. Mark Price  reports.

One minute she was pedalling her mountain bike uphill on a Timaru track. The next she was lying face down in the gravel with a broken neck.

The 60-year-old Timaru woman, formerly of Wanaka, has spent the past two months in Burwood Hospital’s spinal unit, paralysed apart from having some movement in her arms.

Her goal is to walk again, but it is too early to tell. She expects to be in hospital for up to another five months.

"I talked to the consultant and he said I would have to be more patient.

"I’m used to being a mountain climber, and this is not something you do in five minutes."

The woman prefers not to be named but wants it known how carelessness and lack of consideration by mountain bikers can have serious consequences.

She recounted to the Otago Daily Times the events of the crash on Waitangi Day weekend.

A fit and able mountain biker with a love of the outdoors, she was heading home on the Centennial Park bike track/walking track in Timaru.

"I was just tootling home ... trying to be a good considerate trail user."

She stopped to share a few words with a woman walking her dogs, then began climbing a hill.

Around the corner at speed came a man on a mountain bike, who shouted something and a moment later ran into her, knocking her to the ground,  breaking her nose and glasses, smashing her helmet and damaging her spinal cord.

"I thought he said, ‘get out of the way’, but I can’t remember actually; I had concussion as well.

"I definitely remember the impact, feeling him crash into me, then being on my face down on the ground and being unable to move.

"I knew instantly that I had had a spinal injury."

The man asked her if she could move her legs but then the woman with the dogs, who was a physiotherapist, appeared and said: "don’t move, don’t do anything".

The Centennial Park bike track/walking track in Timaru. Photo: Alexia Johnston
The Centennial Park bike track/walking track in Timaru. Photo: Alexia Johnston
The man called an ambulance, but that’s the last contact the woman has had with him.

"What I want is not to expend my energy thinking about him.

"This guy will have to live with this in his life.

"I think it will be a hard thing to live with, but that’s his world, not mine.

"I’ve got to focus on my world and getting well ..."

What she does want is for other mountain bikers to consider how their approach to riding a shared trail can bring about life-changing consequences.

"Your whole life is suddenly changed by someone being really careless.

"I’m not saying anyone goes out thinking they are going to cause an accident.

"But their carelessness means that that’s what’s happened.

"This has changed my life forever."

The woman was admitted to hospital 10 days before her 60th birthday.She would like her experience to influence the way other mountain bikers approach similar tracks.

"If you are using a trail labelled a multi-use trail, you have a responsibility to always ride in control and be able to stop.

"Whenever you turn a corner, and see whatever’s in front of you, it’s your responsibility."

A friend, Nicola Martinovich, has spoken to other mountain bikers and multisport athletes, including Commonwealth Games mountain biker Anton Cooper, and says all agree that it was common sense for both parties on a track to be considerate and respectful.

Where a track was too narrow for two bikes to pass each other in opposite directions, then it was an "unwritten rule" the person on the bike coming downhill would give way.If that meant stopping and dismounting, then that was what needed to happen.

Bike Wanaka spokesman Simon Telfer told the Otago Daily Times there were no hard and fast rules around giving way on mountain-bike tracks.It often depended on how the track was designated — there were tracks for uphill, downhill and two-way traffic.

"If it’s a downhill track, you probably wouldn’t expect people to be coming up it."

However, the woman says the track she was on was not designated for the exclusive use of mountain bikers and had signs saying: "Share with Care".

"This was like the Outlet Track, in Wanaka — a multi-use track where you have families and dogs and people ambling and not paying attention and you’re in the situation where if you are riding a bike, you are only one of many users of that trail.

"It’s your job to be in control.

"My accident was due to someone riding this trail as if they were on a dedicated mountain-biking trail and going at speed rather than being prepared to stop."

The mountain bikers’ code of conduct developed by the Mountain Bike Association of New Zealand starts with the words: "Respect others".

It  goes on to say: "Stay in control so you can safely avoid others and keep yourself intact."

It does not, as yet, advise mountain bikers to give way if going downhill.


Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

That's hilarious, a scientific study on whether people should be allowed to ride mountain bikes. Maybe people shouldn't be allowed to step outside their front door because that is what is destroying the natural world if that's what you're worried about.

Yes I know it's a different sport, but in Canada at least, a cross-country skier going downhill on a trail has the right of way--for very obvious reasons, and I should think a mountain-biker going downhill at speed is in the same situation. That said, it seems the mountain biker who crashed into the lady must have been out of control, or a very poor rider to just barrel into her.

"Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area"... whoa mjvande, that's a pretty broad brush stroke there! What is 'natural'? Would you include Signal Hill, the Rail Trail, forestry areas such as Flagstaff ....
As for bicycles being inanimate and having no rights, neither do hiking boots :-)
The article was about an accident on a shared trail in New Zealand. The environment, flora and fauna, and laws are different to the USA. I agree that cycling does do more damage than hiking, but the article wasn't about that at all. Shared trails require a considerate attitude towards other users. I'd expand that to roads and life in general. A twist on the golden rule: do what you want so long at it does no harm to others.