"A young German cyclist killed in a collision with a truck in New Zealand this week described aggressive truck drivers as "beasts" just days before her death.
Mia Susanne Pusch, 19, arrived in New Zealand in early October and had been cycling around the country until her death last Tuesday.
She died when she and a truck and trailer travelling the same direction collided in a passing zone about four kilometres north of Bulls, in Manawatu.
Pusch had written her last blog a few days earlier, lamenting the perils of cycling on New Zealand roads,..." More....
I would not personally ride the route from Bulls to Whanganui. Nice road, scenic but hairy to say the least because of all the trucks and cars that hurtle along that stretch of highway. It is a road that is exposed to strong and gusty cross winds. In her defense, how could a German tourist have known just how dangerous that piece of road is? Or how crazy the traffic is?
The cycling photo above, used to promote New Zealand as a safe cycle touring destination, is misleading. Gosh - they are even riding two abreast! I am sure that many cycle tourists get a shock once a day or two into their tour of New Zealand. My, how things have changed!
In 1973 I cycled from Putaruru to Dunedin. The only thing the trip killed was my backside. In 1974, I was back on my bike, pedaling the entire circumference of the South Island, stopping in Christchurch along the way to watch my sister, Lorraine, compete in the Commonwealth Games 800m. In those days I could sit on the center line of the South's highways, only having to pull to the left every now and then to let a car go by. It was a safe and relaxing way to see New Zealand. I have done several other epic tours, here and overseas. I am reluctant nowadays to tour most New Zealand highways.
Back in those early days there were few cars and barely ever a truck. Everything large went by rail. With deregulation during the 1980's everything changed: Most goods, large and small, are delivered by trucks nowadays - large and small.
The trouble with trucks
Most of our roads are unsuitable for heavy trucks and certainly not for sharing the same spaces with vulnerable cyclists. Trucks produce sudden pressure waves and suction as they pass, depending on the strength and direction of any cross winds. If a truck passes a cyclist at high speed and too close, the cyclist risks either being blown off the road or sucked under the wheels of the truck. The latter is obviously more of a risk when being passed by a long truck and trailer unit.
So what's the solution?
I can't see drivers changing in a hurry the way they scream up and down the highways. The number of trucks and cars on our roads will continue to increase as the population swells. While there are ongoing improvements to our highways, this is only in response to growing volume and mostly on the basis of cost/benefit. Bikes and pedestrians are of little importance when new highways are designed; even the most basic of safety measures are still ignored, such as ensuring drainage grills are right angled rather than parallel to the direction of travel.
I think the best solution for cycle touring is to get the tourists off the highways. I say this with a good deal of reluctance and sadness because I think more people should be using bikes to get around, including holiday touring their way about the country with their families. Cyclists have every right to be on the road and motorists should respect this and show due care for these most vulnerable road users. But I am not about to be a sacrificial hero for the "Cause" and I don't expect anybody else to be one either. We need to offer a safer option.
National Cycle Ways
I am excited about plans now under way to create a national network of cycle routes. If things keep going to plan, then New Zealand will have a network of off road routes that can be cycled and walked the length and breadth of the country.
There are already many trails that are suitable for cycle touring, including the immensely popular Otago Rail Trail. The Rail Trail is really easy to ride, while most of New Zealand is hard grunt! Undulating terrain and wind make sure of that. Bearing this in mind, we should be promoting New Zealand s the place to come for riding off road trails. We should also be giving clear guidelines about road safety for foreign cyclist who want to stick to the roads, including the safest routes to follow. We certainly should not be giving tourists the false impression that they can safely hop off the plane in Auckland and ride the length of State Highway One.
Do you have a question?
Email Gary: gary at myotec.co.nz (Replace the "at" with @ and remove spaces). Please include any relevant background information to your question.