In the last five days, five cyclists have been killed on New Zealand roads.
13 November: Patricia Anne Veronica Fraser, 34, died during a training run for the Lake Taupo cycle race, when a motorist ran her down. She was cycling single file when she was hit from behind. Her friend, Tania Malaquin, who was cycling right next to her, says she may never cycle again. She describes the accident:
“He was passing on double yellow lines, between two corners, where there was not enough stretch of road to pass safely under any circumstances. It was just ludicrous. He just made the worst decision that he has ever made in his life.”
Patricia was married, and had four children: Jakob, 13, Eylish, 10, Lily-Rose, 7, and Paityn, 5. Patricia’s husband Joe will ride the race in memory of his wife, wearing her number.
14 November: Mark Andrew Ferguson, 46, Wilhelm Muller, 71, and Kay Heather Wolfe, 45, were killed by a motorist who crossed into the wrong lane and ploughed into a group of cyclists near Morrinsville, hitting them head on.
17 November 2010: The latest cyclist to die in New Zealand was a British woman, 27-year-old Jane Mary Bishop. She was cycling along the notoriously busy and dangerous Tamaki Drive in waterfront Auckland, when a parked motorist opened a door. Jane swerved to avoid the door, and was run down by a truck. The truck driver and resource personnel laboured to extricate her from the truck wheels and keep her alive, but she died before paramedics arrived.
Seems like the truck driver tried to help – but it also seems to me he was way too close for safety, otherwise Jane might have had space to swerve.
In this connection, I am happy to hear that Nova Scotia has introduced legislation for new bicycle safety laws. If passed, these laws will ensure that Nova Scotia becomes the first Canadian province to enact the one-metre rule, which is already law in 15 U.S. states. This law requires motor vehicle drivers to leave one metre of open space between their vehicle and cyclists when passing. The amendments would also introduce several other safety measures for cyclists:
- prohibiting vehicle parking in a bicycle lane
- making it an offence to fail to yield to a cyclist in a bicycle lane
- redefining cycling on the extreme right
- allowing drivers of vehicles to cross a centre line to pass a bicycle, if the driver can do so safely
Also, and very encouragingly, penalties for breaking this law will be severe enough to be a deterrent (which is a nice change from the recent case where KILLING 2 cyclists only earned a $5,000 fine). Nova Scotia proposes a $455.26 fine for breaking the one metre law, and $1,260.21 for driving in a bicycle lane.
This last one pleases me, given that I have been stationary in a bike lane at a red light and had a car honking at me because he wanted to make an illegal right via the bike lane. The driver was furious, while his female companion was looking embarrassed, as well she might. Interestingly, the driver next to me gave me a thumbs up when I calmly refused to either move or get angry. I am however well aware that the driver could have chosen to run me down – which is why I am happy to read that Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Bill Estabrooks said:
“We know that Nova Scotians expect and deserve to feel safe on our roads. By clarifying the roles and responsibilities of cyclists and motorists, the rules will be clearer and safety will be enhanced.”
We need more of these positive legal amendments in Canada, so we can start to change the stats that show that cyclists are between 3 and 11 times more likely to die as motorists, per passenger mile (and that’s pretty intense, given that every year, 3,000 Canadian drivers die on our roads).
What we really need is a law such as the one in the Netherlands. There, the law imposes a rebuttable presumption of liability on drivers. This means that if a motorist is involved in a crash with a cyclist, the law presumes that the motorist is liable for the crash, unless the motorist can rebut that presumption with evidence to the contrary. The Dutch realized that the cyclist will virtually always be the injured party in a collision with an car, and so by putting the onus of fault on the driver, they have given motorists a powerful legal incentive to pay more attention to the presence of cyclists.
Maybe such a law, combined with the one metre law, would prevent cyclist deaths such as the recent ones in New Zealand, and also prevent incidents like the latest one in New Zealand. Just this morning, 12-year-old Jacqueline Wyatt was cycling to school when she was clipped and then run over by a 6 tonne truck driven by Tex Simmons. Jacqueline is now in hospital, fighting for her life.
Bring on more legislation to protect cyclists – we need it desperately, so that we don’t have to see tragic sights like this.