First Critical Mass for Timaru

First Critical Mass for Timaru

Story: BETHANY MARETT - Timaru Herald | Saturday, 01 November 2008

Photo: JOHN BISSET/Timaru Herald

RIDING FOR RIGHTS: Some of the more than 50 cyclists who took to Timaru's streets yesterday afternoon to highlight the rights of cyclists.

MORE than 50 South Canterbury cyclists took to Timaru's streets yesterday in a bid to claim their rights on the road.

The group met at the Piazza then rode for about 30 minutes, down Stafford Street, King Street, Otipua Road and Wai-iti road,

The gathering was formed as part of a "Critical Mass," an international event held on the last Friday of each month.

While yesterday was the first ride for Timaru it gained strong support from people of all ages and from various cycling fraternities.

Timaru recreational and club cyclist James Archbold was there to support the cause and let others know cyclists do have rights.

"If drivers have got to slow down to go around a tractor or a slow car, why can't they slow down to go around us."

He and two other cycling friends clock up about 1000 miles a week between them.

Numerous "near-miss" incidents could be recounted, namely with cars passing too close.

"And basic road rage by motorists because they have to stop for five minutes and can't go flying past."

Also in support was Timaru fireman Trevor Karten. As well as being a regular cyclist on the road he's also felt the consequences close to home, attending the recent fatal accident on the Pleasant Point Highway.

Diann Thin was also there to support general cycling awareness.

"It works both ways for cyclists and people in cars."

She knows all too well how easy it is for the door of a parked car to be opened in front of her and said it was important for all road users to be aware.

Timaru man Tomasz Goszka cycles for recreation and to keep fit. His reason for attendance was simple.

"Because I don't want to be killed on the roads."

The group, easily visible in bright reflector clothing, rode together as a bunch led by South Canterbury Squeaky Wheel member Ron Paulin.

While the Critical Mass has no central organisation, and is an idea and an event, not an organisation, Squeaky Wheel spokesperson Jon Harris has taken on much of the advocacy role for the Timaru event.

He believes general awareness of cyclists' right to share the road needs to be increased, particularly as cycling is a sustainable form of transport that is growing in popularity.

Previously the mass rallies have been celebrated around the world in more than 300 cities. In New Zealand rides have been held in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Gisborne, Palmerston North and Wellington.