Keeping cyclists safe on our roads
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Have you heard about the Dutch reach?
This term has been circulating news publications lately and refers to a driver reaching across their body and opening their door with their left hand. The intention is to prompt the driver to twist slightly to the right and look for passing cyclists before opening the door.
Last year, the Accident Compensation Corporation received almost a claim a week from cyclists hit by car doors, paying out more than $58,000 throughout the year.
According to the NZTA, between 2008 and 2012, an average of 121 cyclists were seriously injured and nine cyclists were killed each year in crashes involving a car. In three quarters of all cyclist/vehicle crashes where a cyclist was admitted to hospital, car drivers were found to be at fault.
Cyclists are more vulnerable on the road than other users as they can be less visible and are not as protected.
They encounter hazards on a daily basis that require a fair amount of navigating. Parked or departing cars, potholes, glass, rubbish, wind or doors opening can all cause a cyclist to suddenly change their path.
This is why the road code recommends drivers leave at least 1.5m gap if they are passing a cyclist. If the road is narrow, it is important to be patient and wait until it is safe to pass a cyclist.
At intersections, drivers should apply the same rules to cyclists as to any other vehicle on the road. Indicators are a must to tell the cyclist where you are turning.
Of course, it’s a two-way street and cyclists are also expected to obey the road rules and behave predictably. Unsettling, hesitant or erratic behaviour can result in motorists making impulse decisions as they typically have less time to react to prevent an accident.
Sudden manoeuvring can put other road users at risk, so it’s important that cyclists are alert — no earphones — and aware of traffic approaching from behind. Use cycle lanes where available. On the road, clearly signal turns and allow vehicles to pass safely, particularly where traffic flow is heavy.
People in cars or on bikes both have a right to use our roads, and both share a responsibility to understand and respect each other’s needs.
We want all road users to be safe. Give cyclists space — it’s not just a bike, it’s a person on a bike with a family, friends, a life.