Another daft Coroner recommendation

February 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A is calling for high-visibility clothing to be compulsory for cyclists after a top road safety cop was struck while in Petone.

Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald – who served for five years as New Zealand’s top traffic officer – was killed in the Lower Hutt suburb while cycling home from work in Wellington to Eastbourne on June 19, 2008.

The truck driver who hit him, Desmond Wilson, was found guilty of careless driving causing death, ordered to pay $2000 reparations, and disqualified for nine months. 

Now, Wellington Regional Coroner Ian Smith is calling for high-visibility clothing to be as compulsory as helmets for cyclists, enhanced cyclist education, a one-metre gap between motorist and cyclist be added to the road code, and clear rules about when a cyclist must use designated lanes only. …

‘Turning to the issue of hi-vis clothing it is in my view a no-brainer. It should be complulsory for cyclists to wear at all times when riding in public.”

Sigh.

First of all, if you are cycling at night you are a special sort of moron if you do not wear hi-vis gear.

But do we want a country where it is illegal to ever ride a bike if you don’t have hi-vis clothing?

Even on a country lane on a bright sunny day?

And don’t even think about how many Police hours would be spent on checking if a cyclist has their hi-vis clothing on.

I recall the report about how the lack of a helmet law in the Netherlands has led to vastly more people cycling there, and overall health gains.

Imagine how many people would be put off cycling with such a daft law?

The suggestions on the one meter gap and the rules about using designated lanes seem worthwhile though.

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50 Responses to “Another daft Coroner recommendation”

  1. queenstfarmer (696 comments) says:

    These coroners need to pull their heads in. People drown at the beach & rivers – will they start calling for compulsory floatation devices for swimmers?

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  2. Manolo (12,614 comments) says:

    Nanny-statism marches on at an increased pace.
    Like rust, this shit never rests and relies on a populace with sheep-like mentality.

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  3. Simon Lyall (100 comments) says:

    The thing was he was wear high-visibility gear, which didn’t save him:

    ” At the time of the crash, Mr Fitzgerald was wearing reflective stripes on his clothing and backpack, and both front and rear lights were working. ” (from the Herald article, the decision doesn’t seem to be only ).

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  4. peterwn (2,932 comments) says:

    He could suggest that all Lambton Quay, Willis St, Manners St and Courtenay Place pedestrians must wear hi-vis jackets. Might save some Kamikaze pedestrians from their own folly.

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  5. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    …and at least three layers of government-approved bubblewrap and duct tape. Where do we find these idiots from to be coroners?

    The cyclist’s (and motorcyclist’s) biggest problem is the complete ineptitude of most Kiwi drivers.

    Read this: http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/raf-pilot-teach-cyclists and bear it in mind next time you get behind the wheel.

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  6. OlderChas (19 comments) says:

    By whom – (and how?) – is the one metre gap going to be measured? Police “eyechrometers”??

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  7. scrubone (2,971 comments) says:

    I wrote a post on this last night.

    It’s like the coroner’s office *wants* to be ridiculed.

    Now, those who don’t cycle because they hate helmets are idots, but they do exist. This will have the same supression effect on cycling. Irony is that the fewer cyclists the less people will think to look out for them.

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  8. Ross12 (926 comments) says:

    Is it compulsory to have a light back and front on a bike when out at night ? ( like it used to be years ago) If as I suspect it is not then that show be a higher priority than high vis vests.
    I think there is an issue arising with high vis vests — there so many people wearing them ( all for the right reasons ) the vests are becoming so common place that you don’t notice them. I know that sounds stupid but its like you become “immune” to seeing them. I think the manufacturers mabe need to research the use of different colours or more reflectors for those people who are really in problem areas.

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  9. RF (1,126 comments) says:

    Pardon the pun but this appears to be an over kill on the part of the Coroner.

    I agree that its common sense to wear High Vis gear as well as helmets but the onus should be on the wearer. The Police do not really enforce the non wearing of cycle helmets now owing to more urgent jobs so I am unable to see them chasing you for not wearing safety clothing.

    I knew Steve Fitzgerald who was one of nature’s gentlemen and you could not get a more safety conscious person who loved his job at Police HQ.

    For gods sake Steve was wearing High Visability clothing yet he was still collected by the truck. The truck driver was the problem and has been prosecuted.

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  10. Graeme Edgeler (3,216 comments) says:

    The suggestions on the one meter gap and the rules about using designated lanes seem worthwhile though.

    NZTA already recommends a 1.5m gap!

    We should reduce it, for some reason?

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  11. hmmokrightitis (1,458 comments) says:

    When I go for an early ride, Im light up like a friggen christmas tree. 4 x AyUp’s finest at the front a collective 2800 lumens – perfect for night trail riding – and two rear facing red lights, and reflective clothing, especially on the bits that move, like feet and legs. Cars have flashed their lights at me thinking Im a car on high beam :)

    The mrs was always terrified I would never make it back when we lived in Auckland. Thankfully now we are in provincial NZ thats chanegd, but Im still bloody careful. NZ drivers are collectively shite.

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  12. Harriet (4,002 comments) says:

    “….Now, those who don’t cycle because they hate helmets are idots, but they do exist….”

    Not really, as DPF argues ‘a country lane’.

    The increase in Amsterdam of people cycling is mostly tourists: as tourists don’t want to hire a ‘dirty helmet’ so Amsterdam don’t make them where one.

    [Brisbane City Council done a study as to why no tourists hired bikes in Brisbane - and the Amsterdam Government told them why.] I live in QLD.

    Having said that, most tourists in Amsterdam ride aroud canels and the city walking areas – not the truck riddled suburbs.

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  13. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    Now, those who don’t cycle because they hate helmets are idots, but they do exist.

    No, I don’t think they do. What exists are people for whom having a helmet to tote around, once they’ve parked their bike somewhere, tips the balance to “fuck it, I’ll hop in the car”.

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  14. davidp (3,319 comments) says:

    >I recall the report about how the lack of a helmet law in the Netherlands has led to vastly more people cycling there, and overall health gains.

    Cycling is safe in the Netherlands because there are a lot of cyclists. They’re always around so car drivers expect to see them, are not surprised to see them, and know how to behave around them. Anything that reduces the number of cyclists increases the risk for the remaining cyclists. It is well documented that cycle helmet laws in both NZ and Australia have led to a decrease in the number of cyclists. So as well as the negative health impacts, the laws have also made cycling more dangerous.

    >The suggestions on the one meter gap and the rules about using designated lanes seem worthwhile though.

    Cycle lanes (of the non-just-paint variety) often expose cyclists to additional danger at intersections because they remove cycles from the priority flow of cars and other vehicles and force them to deal with turning traffic at each intersection. In my experience, cyclists will use a well designed cycle lane. But the majority are dangerous and also interrupt fast cyclists, so they’re rightfully ignored.

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  15. dime (8,746 comments) says:

    the world is so scary & dangerous. i think we should all stay at home.

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  16. Elaycee (4,058 comments) says:

    Whilst many here have jumped to the defence of cyclists and they attribute all blame to the truck driver for this accident, I note this:

    Mr Fitzgerald, 57, was cycling to his Eastbourne home when he swerved around a grate and was hit by a truck that was too far on the left side of the lane

    So the cyclist swerved around a grate and into the path of a truck.

    Actions have consequences. Perhaps if the cyclist had not swerved around the grate in the first place, there would not have been an accident… regardless of whether the truck was travelling too far to the left.

    Just saying……

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  17. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    Perhaps if the cyclist had not swerved around the grate in the first place

    So you’re agreeing with the cycling advocates who say that our roads need to be designed to take account of cyclists and not have stuff that they need to swerve around?

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  18. greenjacket (346 comments) says:

    As someone who drives daily along that road (Kaiwharawhara and Hutt Road and occassionally cycles it), a major issue are the cycle lanes – partly it is that the cycle lanes are awful, but even then there are a lot of cyclists who will not use the available lanes, but cycle on what is a pretty narrow and very busy road.

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  19. Viking2 (10,695 comments) says:

    Totally foolish to put 44 tonne truck and trailers right next to 85kg cyclists who have almost no control of their cycle.
    Its called mass and 85-100 kg makes fuck all impression on 44 tonne. The wind alone is sufficient sometimes to cause the cyclist to have partial control without obstacles getting in the way.
    Still a case of personal responsibility. Want to get clobbered then ride your fucking bike in a lane with the trucks. Who are we to tell you how Darwinish it really is?

    anyway the truck driver was doing what he was always told to do and was behaving as the road code required. apparently we are supposed to keep to the left. Aren’t we?

    ross12 (265) Says:
    February 15th, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Is it compulsory to have a light back and front on a bike when out at night ? ( like it used to be years ago) If as I suspect it is not then that show be a higher priority than high vis vests.
    I think there is an issue arising with high vis vests — there so many people wearing them ( all for the right reasons ) the vests are becoming so common place that you don’t notice them. I know that sounds stupid but its like you become “immune” to seeing them. I think the manufacturers mabe need to research the use of different colours or more reflectors for those people who are really in problem areas.

    quite correct. A person working for a contractor (fultons I think) on the Mt. wharves was killed when the grader backed over him. He was wearing an orange vest and was mistaken for a road cone.

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  20. tropicana (79 comments) says:

    What! You mean that the grader-driver admitted to deliberately driving over a road cone, and successfully used this as an excuse? OMG.

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  21. Elaycee (4,058 comments) says:

    So you’re agreeing with the cycling advocates who say that our roads need to be designed to take account of cyclists and not have stuff that they need to swerve around?

    Best read the original comment again…..

    I said that actions have consequences and IF the cyclist had not swerved around a grate, there may not have been an accident in the first place.

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  22. tropicana (79 comments) says:

    Coroners must have an ADA ceremony – “Annual Daft Awards”
    It’s obvious they are in competition for something.

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  23. Yogibear (227 comments) says:

    I’m totally against hi-viz

    If kiwi drivers cant see me on my bike, how can they aim for me?

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  24. CeeJay said (3 comments) says:

    Looks like the coroner is trying to put the blame for this on the cyclist. “Enhanced cyclist education?” It was the truck driver who was convicted of careless driving causing death…. Where’s the call for enhanced driver education?

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  25. Rightandleft (574 comments) says:

    The coroner won’t be satisfied until there are no cycle deaths on our roads, ever. The only way to reach that goal is to stop people cycling at all and I’d say this ruling would be a good step in that direction. If we keep taking recommendations like this seriously it won’t be long before we’re up there with the UK in the nanny-state department.

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  26. graham (2,211 comments) says:

    ross12: “Is it compulsory to have a light back and front on a bike when out at night ?”

    Yes.

    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/cyclist-code/about-equipment/cycle-equipment.html#compulsory

    When cycling at night or when visibility is poor, cycles must have the following:

    C. One or more steady or flashing rear-facing red light that can be seen at night from a distance of 100 metres.
    D. One or two white or yellow headlights that can be seen at night from a distance of 100 metres. Only one of these headlights may flash.
    E. Pedal retroreflectors on the forward and rearward facing surfaces of each pedal. If the cycle does not have these, you must wear reflective material.

    More to the point, as a cyclist myself I think any cyclist riding without lights at night is stupid. Many cyclists have them on during the day as well, I certainly do.

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  27. Yogibear (227 comments) says:

    Seriously though (in reference to my former post), cycling, like many other regulated areas is domintated by robust studies and psudeo-science riddled with spurious correlation.

    For every study that shows better visibility reduces risk, there is one that shows that better cyclist visibility means motorists feel more comfortable getting closer to the cyclist, leaving less room for error for both cyclist and motorist.

    A 1m rule ( the current 1.5m is a guide) is the suggestion which if followed by the average kiwi motorist will do the most to improve safety, but its totally unenforcable.

    Most cycle safety is ultimately self-regulating. I wear a helmet because I know that if I come off its me that gets hurt. I wear hi viz and have lights when the light is poor, because I know if something hits me, I’ll come off second best. Im no more, or no less likely to change my approach based on regulation.

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  28. Than (368 comments) says:

    Elaycee, exactly what do you think the cyclist should have done? His choices were;

    1) Swerve 30-50cm into the lane to avoid the grate. Which (if other road users are obeying the road code) is a perfectly safe maneuver, leaving still ~1m or so separation of bike and traffic.
    2) Bike straight over the grate. Which (depending on speed and the design of both grate and bike) has a reasonable chance of making him lose control of his bike and fall off, quite possibly straight in front of traffic.

    Swerving to avoid a grate is usually the safest option, and it is what I do on most roads.

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  29. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    I said that actions have consequences and IF the cyclist had not swerved around a grate

    @Elaycee,

    As it happens I cycle that route occasionally – although only in daylight. The grate in question will almost certainly be one which a cyclist has to steer around to avoid their front wheel lodging in said grate (as the gaps run in the same direction of travel as the traffic), which would have had deposited the cyclist on the road in way of the truck.

    Different action (no swerve) = same result.

    (WCC – in one of their better uses of public monies – is replacing the old storm water grates with new designs where the gaps run perpendicular to the traffic and which are ‘zig-zagged’ in a pattern where no cycle wheel is going to fall into them and dislodge the rider. A smart move.)

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  30. krazykiwi (9,188 comments) says:

    Simon Lyall beat me to it. The cyclist in question was wearing high vis, with lights on. The coroner should stick to determining the case of death, and leave the headline grabbing to the professionals

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  31. bhudson (4,720 comments) says:

    As for the coroner recommending that cyclists wear high-viz vests. If that is claimed to be any sense as a policy, then surely all cars (which also have lights) should be mandated to be coated in reflective paint.

    It is as sensible as the recent coronal call of a health warning on on coca-cola.

    Perhaps surprisingly, but welcome from the man who normally wants to regulate everything, Gareth Hughes has tweeted that we should be more focused on safer roads and driving/cycling behaviours than high-viz vests.

    Perhaps the first time I have agreed with him.

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  32. tvb (3,937 comments) says:

    Coroners inquiries are essentially fact finding bodies. When coroners start to wade into public policy matters they lose credibility. They invariable come up with some new law to prevent this or that and frankly they do not have much idea what is best if anything.

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  33. graham (2,211 comments) says:

    davidp, I agree with your comments re cycle lanes. A lot of the ones that I see are just add-ons to the footpath. As such, they usually cross over people’s driveways which is just stupid. While a pedestrian is going slowly enough that they can hear and react to a car reversing out of a driveway, a cyclist isn’t. Add in fences and trees to block your view of driveways. Now look at what happens when the cycle lane has to cross a road – by and large, the cyclist must dismount and cross the road on foot.

    I can only think of one cycle lane in Auckland that I would use. The rest are a waste of money and space because they haven’t been designed properly.

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  34. Raphael (61 comments) says:

    hmmokrightitis: “When I go for an early ride, Im light up like a friggen christmas tree. 4 x AyUp’s finest at the front a collective 2800 lumens – perfect for night trail riding – and two rear facing red lights, and reflective clothing, especially on the bits that move, like feet and legs.”

    I have pretty much the same setup (except with the addition some nifty little lights Torpedo7 used to sell that fit into the bar-ends).

    I would still have cars not see me when I used to live in Hamilton and commute in the dark.

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  35. Harriet (4,002 comments) says:

    Viking 2#

    “….Totally foolish to put 44 tonne truck and trailers right next to 85kg cyclists who have almost no control of their cycle…….The wind alone is sufficient sometimes to cause the cyclist to have partial control without obstacles getting in the way….”

    When I was a kid in NZ, a girl who lived next door to me died that way, she was ‘sucked’ under a passing truck while on her bike.

    Hat never saved her – she was on a step-through!

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  36. muggins (2,898 comments) says:

    I rode a bike on and off to work for over 40 years.
    But that was in smaller cities. I don’t know whether I would have been game to do that in either Auckland or Wellington.
    And in those days we didn’t have to wear cycle helmets.
    I only had a couple of accidents,both my own fault. Once was when I was going down a slight hill and didn’t see another cyclist coming along the main street. We ended up holding on to each other until we both fell over. No damage to either of us but his bike ended up with a buckled wheel.
    The other time was when I was going round a roundabout and I swerved to avoid some broken glass. Before I could get the brakes full on I hit the curb and went arse over turkey, slightly fracturing my arm.
    I nearly got clipped once when I was out doing a training ride. I was going around this fairly easy blind bend when a truck with a trailer decided to overtake me when he should have waited. The back of his trailer brushed my arm as he was trying to straighten up.

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  37. BeaB (1,944 comments) says:

    It’s all a balance.

    One school, true story.
    Before helmets – 500 bike stands and more needed.
    After helmets
    Only about 6 bike stands used and the rest ripped out.
    Much more space needed for parents’ cars dropping off and picking up kids and an explosion in student parking round the suburb.

    So, heads protected but the kids off their bikes and into cars. Lack of exercise, fresh air etc etc.

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  38. Ed Snack (1,535 comments) says:

    BeaB, I don’t think one can blame helmets for that drop, blame instead the “stranger danger” and general fearfulness now endemic in parents. People don’t let their children ride to school because it is deemed too dangerous, and helmets don’t do enough to offset that perception. I think it goes along with smaller families as well. Also blame the general explosion in the number of cars available, everyone just about has a second car for one parent to take the children to school; in my youth I have to say that even a single car was a stretch for many, but there were more school buses as well.

    As a regular cyclist and occasional racer I thoroughly support helmets, and my children don’t ride without them. They won’t save you from everything, but having seen the results of one lad in my younger days who fell badly without a helmet, helmets can prevent some things. In that case that boy survived eventually with little apparent lasting impact, but for some time he was thought to have potentially crippling brain trauma as well as damaged lungs and did spend 6 months in hospital. He ran into a car door that was opened suddenly, he wasn’t going all that fast but fell badly and hit his head hard, then aspirated vomit to cap it off; and a helmet would probably have left him with a sore head and nothing else.

    My kids ride to school every day except when they have to take things too big to be managed on a bike (read Guitar Lessons day); one of them recently hit a car (not the other way round!) and spent the afternoon in A&E with concussion and chipped teeth, but he still rides every day. It sometimes appears to be the only bloody exercise gets. Where we are has quite good bike lanes and the traffic is generally pretty aware of bikes, but there are risks which I don’t like, but life itself is a risk is it not ?

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  39. Pete George (21,796 comments) says:

    Interesting to see someone from the Green Party opposing this. Julie Anne Genter:

    Implementing mandatory high-vis gear for cyclists as suggested by Wellington coroner Ian Smith will have a chilling impact on international cycle tourists visiting NZ, the Green Party said today.

    The suggestion to make high-vis compulsory was yesterday rubbished by cycle tourism blogger Russell Roca on twitter yesterday. ‘Dear NZ, a sure way to end all bike TOURISM is with mandatory hi-vis for cyclists.’

    “International cycle tourists will not come to New Zealand to use our cycle trails if they are forced to wear high-vis,” said Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

    “Cycling is a healthy activity. Forcing people to wear fluorescent high-vis clothing sends the wrong message and will scare away valuable cycle tourism dollars.

    “High-vis doesn’t prevent fatalities, in the incident cited the person was wearing reflective strips and was using bike lights.

    “Cities around the world which have high rates of cycling and safe cycling environments don’t force people to wear high-vis.

    “The best way to achieve a safe environment for people to cycle in is to normalise cycling as a mode of transport.

    “We need to invest more in cycling infrastructure and better education for all road users about how to share the road.

    “The National Government is spending over 100 times more on state highways than they are on walking and cycling. A small increase in investment in safer cycling infrastructure would result in a better outcome for all road users.

    “Making it compulsory to use unsafe cycle lanes, like the one in Dunedin in which a cyclist was killed last year, is a recipe for disaster.

    http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/high-vis-threat-cycle-trail

    And I agree about Dunedin – it’s nuts having cycle lanes on the main highway one way system through the city. There have been two cyclists taken out by trucks in the last year or so.

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  40. Pete George (21,796 comments) says:

    And more Green opposition:

    @RusselNorman

    Mayor on bike wearing high vis hit by car. Coroner calls for mandatory flashing lights and airhorns on bike helmets?

    Referring to: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/8309914/Driver-admits-hitting-cycling-mayor

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  41. thor42 (759 comments) says:

    I think that it should be compulsory for someone to wear hi-vis clothing at all times (not just when they’re cycling) if they are a Labour, Greens, Mana, Maori Party or NZ First supporter.

    That way, we can recognise them immediately, point at them and have a good laugh.

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  42. davidp (3,319 comments) says:

    Ed Snack>People don’t let their children ride to school because it is deemed too dangerous, and helmets don’t do enough to offset that perception.

    Offset? Helmet laws actually promote the idea that cycling is a dangerous activity.

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  43. BeaB (1,944 comments) says:

    Ed Snack
    The change happened almost overnight. Totally attributable to helmets. I admit some kids began to walk, ambling along, arriving late, stopping in parks on the way.

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  44. Concerned (34 comments) says:

    I promise I will buy a bicycle the very day the helmet law is repealed.

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  45. commie76 (1 comment) says:

    My sister is in charge of cycling policy for a central London borough. Under the mayor, cycling in central London has gone through something of a renaissance to bring it into line with other european cities.

    http://www.visitlondon.com/traveller-information/getting-around-london/london-transport/london-cycle-hire-scheme

    Sis reckons that the success of this program would be hampered by the compulsory wearing of Helmets, and there is evidence to support that, I imagine the legal requirement to wear high vis would further diminish those wanting to cycle.

    I firmly believe in self-responsibility, hense, Let those who ride, decide.

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  46. wiseowl (570 comments) says:

    My bicycle is gathering dust.

    Like ‘concerned’ the day they repeal the compulsion on wearing helmets I’ll be on my bike.

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  47. Anthony (736 comments) says:

    I still see idiots cycling at night with no lights let alone a high vis vest. I also see cyclists who insist on cycling on the road when there is a cycle lane – no doubt those same cyclists who never obey traffic signals and bike on a footpath full of people when it suits them to get to their destination quicker.

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  48. Kea (10,451 comments) says:

    Yet another poorly considered recommendation from Ian Smith. Poor old Ian is losing the plot.

    It is also disgusting that the victim (the truck driver) was prosecuted for hitting a cyclist who swerved in front of him.

    These road lice need to learn their place and if they hit a vehicle, as in this case, they need to be prosecuted the same as any other road user.

    Instead we see the victim (the person the offending cyclist hit) being punished.

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  49. Kea (10,451 comments) says:

    “wiseowl (207) Says:
    February 15th, 2013 at 7:01 pm
    My bicycle is gathering dust.

    Like ‘concerned’ the day they repeal the compulsion on wearing helmets I’ll be on my bike.”

    Same here !

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  50. Left Right and Centre (2,388 comments) says:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/8309914/Driver-admits-hitting-cycling-mayor

    If you’re a local authority melon mayor who cycles then you’ll never know if someone did in fact see you and gave you a nudge simply because the opportunity is far too good to pass up…..

    Ok.. you’ve got two conflicting statistics. ‘High visibility clothing reduces the rate of bicycle vs heavy metal’. But you’ve also got the unbending statistic of ‘bicycle vs heavy metal resulting in injury or death’. So…. if 100% of cyclists wore high visibility clothing, what change if any would occur in the latter statistic? Most intelligent people would guess…. ‘hey, not a lot really. Fuck all’.

    Like ‘concerned’ the day they repeal the compulsion on wearing helmets I’ll be on my bike.”

    Kea… I see so many feral lowlives that don’t bother with anything… helmets, lights… nothing. They ride on the footpath etc… do whatever they want. What are the under-resourced NZ Police going to do about it? Yep

    The jury is out on the effectiveness of high visibility clothing. There’s a lot of other foibles of human driving psychology behaviour to take into account as to why crashes result. You could argue the ‘if it saves just one life, then it’s all worth it’ point… sure. But then… if it puts people off cycling… that’s not good. Feral cyclists will ignore the law anyway.

    The mayor of Wellington was wearing a hi-viz and going about her lawful business following the rules. And gets hit.

    Leave it up to people to make up their own mind. Leave it as a ‘useful’ suggestion to inform people of and that’s it. There’s not the same weight of evidence that there is for say… seatbelts in vehicles.

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