Cyclists have welcomed some aspects of the Government's Road Safety Policy Statement released today but called for stronger action to make New Zealand's roads safer.
Cycling Advocates' Network (CAN) chairperson Robert Ibell said "We're pleased to see a strong focus on education, including changes to driver training, and a continued emphasis on speed reduction. However, the Government has backed away from important safety measures like banning cellphone use while driving, lowering the blood alcohol limit, and reducing motor vehicle numbers."
"Cyclists are particularly vulnerable when drivers are distracted by their cellphones. Every cyclist has stories of 'near misses' with cars or trucks, and for some people those incidents are enough to put them off cycling." said Mr Ibell. "There is clear evidence that using a cellphone while driving is the equivalent of driving while drunk, and we want to see the practice banned."
"Reducing the number of motor vehicles on the road by making alternative ways to travel more attractive would have huge safety and environmental benefits but is ignored in the policy statement." said Ibell.
CAN sees benefits for all road users, including cyclists, in lowering the maximum blood alcohol limit. "Research in Australia found that lowering the blood alcohol limit not only had an impact on those driving between 50-80mg, but also reduced the number of drivers with higher blood alcohol concentrations." said Ibell.
CAN is calling on the Government to adopt additional road safety measures:
- speed limit enforcement tolerance reduced to a maximum of 5 per cent of the posted speed limit (currently a 10 km/h tolerance) throughout the road network, not just outside schools
- lower speed limits (e.g. 40 km/h) introduced much more widely, especially in urban areas
- cellphone use while driving banned
- blood alcohol limit reduced to 50mg
- minimum passing gap of 1.5 metres introduced for motorists overtaking cyclists
- cycle skills training in schools rolled out nationwide.
Recently released statistics from the 2006 census show a continuing decline in everyday cycling across the country, from 5.2 per cent of work trips by bike in 1986 to 1.9 per cent this year, a drop of over 60 per cent.
CAN believes everyday cycling is heading for extinction unless major changes are made to the way the transport system is designed and the way road users behave. "New Zealanders should be able to choose how they get around, but we know that many are put off cycling because they think our roads are too unsafe." said Mr Ibell.
CAN wants clear priority given to the safety of the most vulnerable road users in the planning and design of roading infrastructure. "Trade-offs have to be made between the needs of different road users." said Mr Ibell. "All too often these trade-offs benefit motorists at the expense of cyclists and other vulnerable road users. We would like New Zealand to follow the overseas practice of adopting a road user hierarchy, where those most at risk are given priority in the design of the roading system."
For further information, contact Robert Ibell, CAN Chairperson, 04-972 2552