It’s good to see the government making the right call on a transport issue. From the Dominion Post:
The Government has rejected a coroner’s recommendations designed to save cyclists’ lives.
Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse ruled out pursuing the suggestions of Wellington coroner Ian Smith when he called for an overhaul of cycle safety last February.
Smith said all cyclists should have to wear high-visibility clothing at all times and there should be a mandatory one-metre gap between vehicles and cyclists.
Smith’s recommendations followed his inquest into the death of former national road policing manager Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald, 57, who was hit by a truck and trailer unit while cycling on the Petone foreshore in June 2008.
At the time, Smith said cycling legislation was too complex, “and in my view needs a more simplistic revamp”.
“Turning to the issue of hi-vis clothing, it is in my view a no-brainer. It should be compulsory for cyclists to wear at all times when riding in public.”
But in a letter to the coroner a few months later, Woodhouse said making hi-vis vests compulsory could discourage people from cycling by over-emphasising the risk and adding extra cost.
I think Michael Woodhouse as made the right decision. If people feel safer wearing hi-vis then they should but it isn’t something that should be mandatory. Further from memory Steve Fitzgerald was wearing hi-vis at the time the time he was hit so it’s not like it would have made any difference in that case.
In fact I’ve seen research that drivers change how they interact with cyclists subconsciously based on their gender and what they are wearing, for example they found that drivers give cyclists less space if they are a male and are wearing safety gear while will give more space to a female wearing no safety gear. I can’t find the reference off the top of my head but will update if I find it.
As for requiring drivers to give a minimum gap, I can certainly understand the concern that it would be hard, if not impossible to police.
Woodhouse said mandating a one-metre gap was not practical either, as police would struggle to accurately judge the gap. The road code encouraged a 1.5m gap, and he was happy to keep it that way.
Making cycle lanes compulsory was a move Woodhouse said he could support in future, but their quality would need to improve first. At present, some lanes were not maintained to the same high standard as roads and cyclists were exposed to hazards, such as opening car doors, he said
At the end of the day the best solution is to improve the quality of our infrastructure through more cycle lanes and of better quality. That will require a lot more investment from both the government and councils so we will be watching with interest this year to see what the new Government Policy Statement says and if it allocates anything more than crumbs to walking and cycling.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that Michael Woodhouse is actually a cyclist himself so perhaps that’s helped give him some perspective as to what’s needed. Good job minister.