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Cycle Safety Panel Draft Report Seeks Comments

Cycle Safety Panel Draft Report Seeks Comments


The Cycle Safety Panel Draft Report and Recommendations was published on 25th September 2014 and the panel are inviting comments. Lucinda Rees from NZ School Speeds, the organisation campaigning for consistent speed limits outside schools, is encouraged by its findings. Over the years the reduction in numbers of children cycling and walking to school has been a great concern to Ms Rees. She sincerely hopes that the NZ Transport Agency, the Ministry of Transport and Local Government NZ will be open to suggestions that will change the culture of drivers for the better.

Ms Rees commends the report for raising the priority actions of 'lower school zone speed limits' in the Governments 'Safer Journeys - a Road Safety Strategy' from medium to a high. However she suggests "the emphasis needs to be on consistent school speed limits as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and widely adopted by most European countries and beyond."

WHO recommends a maximum speed limit of 30km/h during peak times and no more than 60 or 70km/h at other times outside schools.

In the report the panel suggest a mandatory minimum 1 metre cyclist gap for vehicles travelling at up to 60km/h and a minimum 1.5 metre gap for 60km/h or more as an educational law. "Similarly a consistent school speed limit would also act as an educational tool for drivers, as they would learn to slow near children in all situations. This would change the driving culture from the "she'll be right" attitude that drivers currently have, due to the array of school speed limits up to 100km/h outside schools to that of a more responsible one," Rees suggests.

"Children who live on the wrong side of the road of school in rural areas are usually not allowed to cycle or walk to school. If they live less than 3.2 km from school, they are not entitled to use the school bus. So these children are ferried to school, causing congestion and dangerous situations on roads outside schools at peak times."

"It seems wrong too, that we can have speed limits outside schools up to 100km/h - yet a school bus that is loading or unloading school children has a 20km/h speed limit. That's why many drivers ignore the stationary school bus rule, endangering children along the way. School buses are usually parked outside schools during peak hours, so a 30km/h school zone speed limit would make the 20km/h school bus speed limit easily achievable. It would also give drivers awareness of what speed they need to slow to for children, whether they are getting on or off the school bus, crossing the road at school or even in residential areas where children may venture back onto the road.

Ms Rees lives in rural North Canterbury on the wrong side of the local primary school and she would often accompany her highly visible children by bicycle to school along 100km/h roads, "I wanted them to have an opportunity to learn about roads in their environment. Although most of the times drivers passed carefully, at times they would pass far too close, which is why I'm keen on the legal cyclist passing distance." On these journeys she saw many incidents that thankfully didn't result in accidents, but had the potential to. Most of these involved school children and sometimes they were the fault of the children who behaved unpredictably, but more often it was due to driver inattention or perhaps even resentful of bikes on their road, which at any speed is dangerous, but at 100km/h was plain madness.

"These journeys by cycle with my now teenage children where one now drives, seems to have made them aware of the dangers they pose cyclists and other vulnerable road users, although at times I felt that I was endangering them."

"The report has great vision" says Ms Rees and would like to thank the panel for putting their time, effort and thought into this. With school travel plans in place, consistent school speed limits and the mandatory cyclist passing gap, school children throughout the country will hopefully be given opportunity to make their way to school independently, freeing up roads of congestion and giving children the opportunity to "stand on their own two feet. Let's hope those who can make a change for the better, adopt these recommendations.

ENDS

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