Confronting death

Lance Wiggs

Today I arrived very early on the scene of a cycle versus truck fatality in Auckland today (read the Herald's account here).

The sight of a person lying motionless in the street with mangled bicycle in the background is chilling enough.

The sounds of grief-stricken people comforting each other, the shock on the face of the woman in the car stuck in full view of the scene, the general feeling of despair – these things are not easy to portray. All of us were changed today.

For the family and friends of the deceased – utter devastation.

For the witnesses who saw the event happen, that event will replay for years.

For the police, ambulance and other emergency staff – another brutally tough day. I don’t know how they cope.

What can we do?
Today’s accident was, like all accidents, preventable.

Like all accidents the root and contributing causes of the accident will be varied and troublesome, but are also able to be eliminated.

However like all cycle accidents in NZ they likely won’t be, and we should all be very angry and upset about this.

Click to zoom

Most of the causes of this and other accidents are fairly obvious, and have been observed time and again by cycling and safety advocates. They come down to one core goal, to seek to limit human-vehicle interactions:

  • That means physically separating trucks and cars from cyclists, and cyclists from pedestrians, through a system of bike and pedestrian paths that criss-cross cities and form commuter routes. This increases bike use, boosts the retail economy and reduces motorised traffic, reducing associated infrastructure costs as well.
     
  • It means investing serious dollars into this human-scale infrastructure, and rather happily this also creates a lot more jobs per dollar than truck-scale infrastructure.
     
  • It means putting in place short term solutions immediately, such as smart use of painted lanes to widen cycle lanes, removing lanes of car traffic from Parnell Rise, removing car parks from Tamaki Drive (where a person was injured today) and laws which increase the incentive to give cyclists their space.
     
  • It means accelerating and building from the liveable city changes that have already happened in Auckland, removing car parks in favour of wide boulevard footpaths, bike lanes and multi-use zones. If it works for New York’s economy and people, it can work better here with our weather.
     
  • It needs a Mayor and Council and transport authorities and ministers to lead, and to take responsibility for just making changes happen.
     
  • And it also means asking seriously why we needed the truck there in the first place – and that goes back to whether we even want a working port in downtown Auckland. 

It’s an election year, and this is a great time for all parties and candidates to take a tough stand. Cycling and work safety are not Green, Red, Blue or other party-affiliated issues, but ones that offer benefits across the board. Improving cycling safety and work safety generates more retail and manufacturing revenue, saves on medical expenses, prolongs lives, saves money for individuals and families and delivers better environmental outcomes. It’s cheaper than building roads and rail, and will make it far safer for our children to walk and cycle to school. It seems obvious, and will attract a decent number of voters looking for a better life.

It’s a great time for us voters to ask the candidates and existing MPs what they are doing about safety on the streets and work, but we also need to ask and apply pressure to the recently elected mayors and councillors to follow through on their promises. I am particularly concerned with Auckland and Wellington mayors and councils, who have delivered little for cyclists on a mandate of change. Too many people are dead and I think we would all like to see a genuine sense of urgency before more people die.

Entrepreneur Lance Wiggs blogs at LanceWiggs.com.

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90 Comments & Questions

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That's not the Strand that is Stanley Street.

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No need for fancy, expensive "solutions" - just allow cyclists to use footpaths. In many places the roads are narrow and dangerous - but the footpaths are empty !

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Silliest solution around. Cyclists are noted for their impeccable manners towards pedestrians aren't they?

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Do some observations = on any reasonably busy road that is on a hill ( ie: reasonably steep). Somebody biking uphill at 5km/h. The cars are travelling at 50 km/h. Meanwhile the footpaths are mostly empty. What is safer ? Especially if the road is twisty and narrow ( as in Wellingron).

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Completely agree mike. Cyclists should be able to share under-utilised footpaths. Except in town centers many are virtually unused. That is cyclists doing leisure cycling of less than 15 or 20 km per hour. Commuting cyclists going 20km/h + need to be in a bike lane or road. Cyclists need to follow rules like every other transport mode. The idea that because you are on a bike you don't have to amend your behavior for congestion is dangerous. Many town spaces are being traffic calmed so cars and pedestrians can share. It's reasonable that in the city where space is at a premium cyclist will have to amend their behaviour iand sometimes share space with pedestrians. But they do need appropriate safe segregated spaces to ride.

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Cyclists are the least law abiding of all the transport options; allowing them anywhere near pedestrians is simply dangerous. It is bad enough having to cross roads at lights on frequently used cycle routes due to the number of "red lights are only optional" cyclists around. As a pedestrian I've been hit three times by cyclists at lights - having them on the footpath would mean that my kids will no longer be allowed to walk!

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when was the last time you heard of a cyclist pedestrian accident that resulted in death or even serious injury??

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They don't use their bells, why is that? It used to be compulsory.

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You used to have to dismount, and push your bike across a pedestrian crossing. Is that rule still in force? And you used to have to use hand signals when making a right turn. Children were trained at school.

Cyclists have become quite a big issue for Chinese traffic engineers as motorised traffic has grown:

In the low and middle income countries including China, the majority of such deaths and injuries are among“vulnerable road users” (VRU) - pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Without sufficient safety facilities on the road, urban junctions are the places where many crashes and traffic conflicts occur. However, the VRU’s safety at the junctions has not been always considered
sufficiently by people when planning cities or designing roads.
http://www.internationaltransportforum.org/irtadpublic/pdf/seoul/7-Yuan.pdf

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More examples of studies of mixed traffic in cities, We are not talking about racing-bikes here, just normal traffic flows. Perhaps there needs to be a (lower) speed limit on cyclists in NZ and speedometers fitted:

mixed traffic (traffic made up of bicycles and automobiles) is
widespread in Chinese cities. It is also greatly responsible for major
traffic problems, such as [conflicts], low efficiency and safety
problems. These problerns are most evident at street intersections.
http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/s4/f2/dsk1/tape3/PQDD_0019/MQ5431...

In this paper, a new cellular automata model is proposed to simulate the car and bicycle heterogeneous traffic on urban road. To capture the complex interactions between these two types of vehicles, ... http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/atr.1257/abstract

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Given the entire intersection is subject to traffic lighting perhaps a simpler and cheaper solution is for everyone to actually obey the road rules.

If the cyclist was dragged 70m by the truck it suggests the accident happened on the intersection.

Lets not jump to blame the truck driver and a whole host of motorist bashing until the full facts are released.

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Half a truck length only. I have no idea which person if any was "right", but one person is dead. Plenty of potential scenarios but basically bikes don't interact well with trucks.

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Obey the road rules? What an archaic, backward-looking idea. Whatever next - keeping left unless overtaking?

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Sympathies to the family of the cyclist and the driver.

But until cyclists have to pay a registration fee and contribute to the upkeep of roads they shouldn't be on them. Cyclists think they own the road, push ahead at intersections and are often very rude in their dealings with motorists. Ban the Bikes !

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Pedestrians should pay as well. And so should people in wheelchairs and using crutches or high heels. Think of the damage they create.

We call these payments taxes. If you don't like it go live somewhere where people don't pay tax. It worked well for Greece.

It's easy to be rude to car drivers after you've almost been killed or seriously hurt. Those near misses happen on average once it twice per cycle trip for me, and I wait at lights. Cyclists are encouraged to push ahead at lights and there are even spaces for that, so chill out in your no doubt single passenger air conditioned car.

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Lance, while your original article incites thought, your reply here unfortunately is shallow & shows that you have lost your objectivity.

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The writer has lost all sense of objectivity and instead chooses to reveal the traits inherent in many of the cycling fraternity......it's all about me!

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Cyclists are extraordinarily self righteous but my lord are they rude and create insane dangers to themselves on the road.

They pay nothing to ride on the road that car owners do and they cut through intersections and create a menace to themselves and others.

Ban the bikes.

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You ignorant git! Cyclist pay nothing? I think you need to look at the facts that a reasonable percentage of cyclists own vehicles and some more than one. So they might not be paying the tax that you are as you are using petrol. However, their healther form of commuting could well be cheaper in the long run, unless of course they are hit by a car or truck. Now cyclist have a bit to answer for themselves, yes a reasonable percentage are rude, that is a defense mechanism, when you ride a bike you understand your at the bottom of the food chain on the road, so the defense is be rude so you're seen. Crazy huh! That doesn't justify the actions. Care on both sides needs to be taken, and cyclists do need to adhere to the road rules. I think you need to remember this cyclist was someones son, brother possibly father and partner! And any cyclist that is hurt in a incident could well be a relation of yours. But banning the bikes, you idiot! Your thought process is obviously ban everything. This country doesn't need people like you F off!

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A cyclist speaks:

"This country doesn't need people like you F off!"

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The country needs the common sense you are so keen to insult others for. Then demanding there exit from the country for delivering it, I'll leave it to you to naval gaze that level of stupidity.
Frankly if you ride a bike in a major city in NZ you are a blo*** idiot.
It's unsafe it's not catered for Councils and the majority of city motorists who pay for the roading infrastructure don't want them and don't want to pay for them.
Waffle insult and rant as much as you like, but continue to ignore that at yours or your relations inevitable peril.

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Please acquaint yourself with the New Zealand road rules and the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, to which New Zealand is a signatory. Cyclists have a legal right to use the road. The end.

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Equally, cyclists have an obligation to obey the road rules - which so many of them don't do. Crashing red lights, cycling between channels (left and right), busting pedestrian crossings, etc The end.

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How many motorists obey the rules all the time? Remember the uproar a month ago about the 4 km/h 'tolerance'? Many motorists were up in arms that their 'right' to speed by 10 km/h was being taken away.

The difference is when cyclists get it wrong, they don't have a protective shell around them to soften the blow.

Have you never come across a rude motorist?

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Only a small minority of cyclists pay no registration fee - because most (including me) also own motor vehicles but sometimes elect to leave these at home and use a bike. The argument that cyclists have no rights because they don't pay for road maintenance fails on this and many other points.

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If we use your logic, a person who owns more than one car should only have to pay one lot of registration and road tax.

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Sooooooooo if I own three cars I should only have to register one because I only use one at a time. Cool.

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40 ft containers are designed to be transported by ship and rail.

The 40ft trailers are too long to be safe on urban roads.

Rail the containers to Westfield and then the rest of NZ.

Limit the size of loads in the CBD. & make our roads safer.

Rail transport is more efficient, safer and practical.. but way too socialist for Key , Brownlee and Joyce I am afraid.

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Agree with rail or ship as alternative although rail would be more expensive to the taxpayer and more difficult to maintain. No other political party would in reality do any different than the present government.

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Footpaths are not a solution. Ever tried to ride one? Forever slowing to a crawl for driveways, intersections and glass. Impractical.

Quite right Kate re wait for facts but meanwhile let's dwell on facts we know. More cycling is good for traffic congestion, health of (most) cyclists, carbon emmissions and local retailers. We can reap benefits by making cycling easier, safer and more appealing with bike lanes and time limits on trucks in the city.

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Some of the worst cyclist behaviour can be witnessed on East Tamaki Rd any weekend. They put themselves in danger, that is when they are not riding 3 or 4 abreast and causing congestion.

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Substitute Auckland for Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane etc. I thought the pollies back home in NZ were more forward thinking than here. It seems not to be the case.

Ride In Peace.

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Before we start car bashing, let's wait until we hear the facts shall we. I for one personally see cyclists flaunting road rules and causing a general nuisance of themselves on a weekly basis. They don't slow down at red lights and they plough on through - they use the roads and choose which rules to adhere to and which ones to bend.. and they do so at their own whim. This creates havoc because as a motorist I have no idea what the cyclist is going to do or how to anticipate them, because they don't abide by the same rules.

This is a terrible tragedy what happened.. but for Lance to question why the truck was even there.. on the road for goodness sake, seems to me to be jumping to conclusions and vehicle-bashing for the sake of it.

WHere is cyclist education in all of this? Why are motorists continually told how to act around bikes and how much distance to give them when they themselves don't obey the road rules themselves? The roads are designed for and were meant for cars. Until all roads have proper cycle lanes etc then they should be treated as such, and some cyclists need to treat the road with a lot more respect than they currently do.

I am in no way implying that this particular cyclist ran the intersection or did anything that caused this terrible accident, but I'm just calling it as I see it.

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It's pretty clear that this cyclist did ignore the red light. Rules (and road taxes) don't apply to them though.

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While one death is one too many on our road, it's always a debate between the road users, namely pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle (cars, motor bikes, trucks, sygways etc). We are all arrogant and believe our mode of transport is the best, because it suits our life styles.

If you look at the big cities, no matter how efficient their road planning and public transport, there is still no way to accommodate all types of road users in any situation. This blame game will never end unless we all work and play at home.

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By all accounts the truck was on a green light going straight and the cyclist hit the truck.

I don't think this cyclist is really a pin-up for Green policy and the loud and irrational cycle lobby and their political point scoring attempts today

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So cyclist turned left on red light. If a car had done this we wouldn't have this article in NBR. There are bad drivers but also lots of cyclists who ride through red lights

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A car driver would probably not be dead. To ride a cycle with no protection whatsoever requires some commonsense and caution in traffic.

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Making cyclists safer is easiest done by getting more people to cycle. Car drivers who cycle regularly are more aware of cyclists and having lots of cyclists around also keeps you on the look out.

And the answer to getting more people to cycle is to remove the stupid helmet law. Who wants to carry a helmet around with them to the shops / beach? Let adults decide and they'll return to cycling. And therefore lower medical costs by generally being fitter.

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This is one of these great urban myths. Cycling a few miles to and from work - especially with all its attendant stops - together with a leisurely w/e bike with the kids makes bugger-all difference to one's fitness. To make any real fitness progress via cycling, one needs to do a *lot* of it, and do at least some of it hard.

And in terms of overall health, biking to and from work etc is almost certainly harmful due to all the car fumes one is forced to inhale.

By all means claim the right to cycle safely on NZ roads, but don't try to justify it on public health grounds.

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Any activity is better than no activity

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Your comment about fumes is inaccurate. Research has actually demonstarted that people sitting in cars arw inhaling more fumes and particulate than people outside on bikes or walking, this is because there is less air movement.

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Cyclists belong on the main road like swimmers belong in shipping lanes. If you want to ride a cycle, go to a velodrome, go cross country, ride BMX or what-have-you. "Play stupid games, win stupid prizes".

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The velodrome is not a viable cycling route to my destination: the local shops or my office. How do you suggest I get there?

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By Truck or car or something which requires you to have passed a test, and have paid a licence fee. BAN THE BIKES !

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Walk, bus, train, ferry. Any or all of the above will get you there in a form of transport that doesn't massively disrupt road flow and endanger yourself and others.

You no more belong on the road in a cycle than I do in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson.

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Swimmers have no form of machine assisting them. A better comparison would be with a row boat in a shipping lane. I have cycled on the road before a couple of times. I kept as far to the left as safely possible and went as fast as safely possible. I always indicated what I was doing and I got to my destination without a hitch or toot. But clearly from what I've read not all cyclist are alike.

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Like many others I consistently see cyclists flout the law. Yesterday evening while travelling behind a cyclist I watched in disgust as he barrelled through a zebra crossing whilst two young kids were crossing, forcing them to step backwards to avoid harm. I tooted a warning which seemed to enrage the rider who proceeded to turn round and proffer a two fingered salute. I do not know all the facts of the particular case described in this article but if someone ignores the basic laws of the road I have little to no sympathy for them if they get injured or killed. Lets wait till the police investigation is complete before jumping to conclusions.

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I must admit that as a pedestrian (I don't own a car), I despise cyclists.

They flaunt the road rules continuously, riding through red lights and frequently straight through the full intersection pedestrian crossings that are the norm in central Auckland.

In my younger days, as a motorcyclist, I learnt that I had to take responsibility for my own safety by assuming that every other road user was an idiot who was out to get me.

I would suggest that if cyclists adopted a similar approach, less of them would get injured.

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it's flout (not flaunt) ...

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