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Awareness The Key To Cycle Safety

The more cyclists a community has on the streets, the fewer cycle accidents will be suffered.

Research from Christchurch which established this inverse link is supported by recent Hamilton-based research into child cycle safety.

The fundamental cause of most cycle accidents is a lack of awareness of each other’s needs on the part of both cyclists and drivers, according to Waikato University Sociology students Holly Snape and Ursula Bennett.

The students, who analysed data collected by other students, note that in regions such as Hamilton city, where drivers seldom share the road with cyclists, they become less attuned to cyclists’ special needs. The Hamilton situation, their report notes, is representative of the majority of New Zealand urban areas.

Child cyclists, for their part, are often unaware of basic road rules, and add physical limitations to their lack of road sense. Their small stature gives them limited visibility, their perception of time and space may not be well-developed, and they are also inclined to make some idiosyncratic decisions.

“For instance,” Holly says, “if they have right of way at an intersection where there is a large truck, they’re inclined to wait and let the truck go. That simply creates confusion for everybody.”

But the children aren’t alone in displaying poor road skills. The research found repeated reports of cyclists being pushed off the road by buses pulling into kerbs in front of them, while motorists opening doors or cutting cyclists off at intersections also caused problems.

Some recent road engineering measures have improved matters though. Motorists and cyclists are still getting to grips with how to use the green advanced stop areas under trial in Hamilton, but other initiatives such as cycle lanes separated from parking areas have proved useful.

One difficulty, the researchers report, is that budget restrictions mean improvements for cyclists are not made until roads need to be upgraded for motorists.

With travel to and from school being the major danger time for cyclists, the researchers have made special recommendations in this area. Overloading of cyclists with heavy homework and sports gear is a particular danger.

The actions of parents picking up other children outside school can also pose a danger, and too many families buy bikes for children to “grow into”.

The researchers think a brush up on the rights each has to the road might be timely for drivers and cyclists alike. The education, they say, could have long term benefits.

“Cyclists are our future motorists. Changing their attitudes now will help them become better drivers in the future.”

The report and its recommendations have been presented to the sponsor, the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of New Zealand.


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