By biking you’re volunteering to die

In the wake of two serious cycling-related accidents in the space of a week, the New Zealand Herald decided to ask the public, “What can be done to make cycling in NZ safer?” Su Yin Khoo looks at the statistics.

Why isn’t the Government doing anything to prevent this health hazard?

Photo by hugovk

Last Sunday, a motorist failed to stop at an intersection with a stop sign and crashed into four cyclists. One remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital. The other three escaped with broken bones and had their bikes written off.

And just one week before, a cyclist was mowed down by a drunk driver on the cycle lane. He leaves behind a wife, teenage stepson and a baby daughter.

In the wake of two serious cycling-related accidents in the space of a week, the New Zealand Herald decided to ask the public, “What can be done to make cycling in NZ safer?

I should know better than to start reading the opinions proffered in ‘Your Views’. This comment in particular struck a chord with me:

Cycling is the leading cause of voluntary death on the roads of New Zealand and, like tobacco, ought to be banned. It is an untaxed, unlicensed, unenforced menace and is an entirely preventable hazard on New Zealand’s roadways.

Cyclists selfishly impose their filthy habit on other road users, yet they do not pay a single cent toward contributing to the upkeep of our roads and highways, and they flaunt our laws that were designed to protect the health and safety of us all. Why should we all have to pay for their medical bills? Come on, New Zealand! Let’s lead the world in fighting this dangerous health risk! How many more New Zealanders need to die on our roads before we learn that cycling is dangerous? Cycling kills. –Chieftain (Waitakere City)

Cycling is a filthy habit just like smoking! If you choose to cycle, you are volunteering to die! Ban this nefarious activity before we slip further down the OECD rankings! Won’t somebody please think of the children?

The attitude and mindset of motorists like Chieftain alarms me. Whenever a topic like this comes up for debate, they make unsubstantiated claims based on one bad experience on the road with a cyclist but conveniently black out the many bad experiences with other motorists.

This is where The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist deserves a page in the Road Code.

The premise that cyclists’ behavior somehow voids their right to sharing the road is indefensible. “Well officer, I thought it was OK to hit this cyclist because several blocks back I saw another run a red light” is not something anyone could defend. This becomes an increasingly difficult premise when one considers that, as I’ve tried to point out, cyclists aren’t behaving any differently than drivers or pedestrians. They’re taking liberties with law where they think it’s safe to do so. Right or wrong, that is what every class does.

For giggles, let’s look at some local statistics. The Ministry of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Crashes in New Zealand 2008 report tell me:

Types of road users killed and injured:

  • 8,536 drivers
  • 3,365 passengers
  • 1, 314 motorcyclists
  • 895 pedal cyclists
  • 939 pedestrians

In 2008, per 100,000 population:

  • Cyclists: 21 injured, 0.2 killed
  • Pedestrians: 22 injured, 0.7 killed
  • I couldn’t find stats for drivers

Who was at fault?

  • Cyclists are found to have primary responsibility in only 27 percent of all cyclist-vehicle crashes in which they are injured or killed. As the severity of the crash increases, there is a slight increase in the proportion of cyclists found to have the primary responsibility. #
  • Pedestrians were at fault in approximately 55 percent of all crashes resulting in the injury of pedestrians for 2003–2007. Fault is assigned to a pedestrian only if the driver of the vehicle involved was not found to have the primary fault for the crash. #

It seems to me that walking is the leading cause of voluntary death. In fact, it was pretty reckless of the Good team to have participated in the 100km Oxfam trailwalker challenge without a proper insurance policy at all.

So here’s what I think you should do: write to your local council and urge them to start ripping off the footpaths and replace them with cycle lanes instead.

Be safe on the roads, everyone.

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