Would you stand on the edge of a busy road with your back turned towards a 30 tonne articulated truck as it drives towards you at 100km/h, knowing it's going to pass within a metre of you? Plain lunacy? Well, BikeNZ is appealing to all New Zealanders to consider this frightening challenge.
BikeNZ CEO Kieran Turner acknowledges that few in their right mind would want to take up this challenge, yet this is what cyclists, who now number over one third of the population, face every single day. BikeNZ is now asking for 1.5m when passing a cyclist to become law.
"We're appealing to the New Zealand public for support and to sign the 1.5m to survive petition at www.ridestrong.org.nz. Would you let your husband, wife, daughter or son cycle on our roads knowing there are no rules as to how close cars and trucks pass? " Says Mr Turner.
The government is now asking for public feedback to develop a new ten year Road Safety Strategy, Safer Journeys, which closes Friday October 2nd.
"It is time for cyclists to be heard. We are urging anyone who rides a bike, family or friends to visit RideStrong and sign the 1.5 to survive petition if they want any real change in the next 10 years." Says Turner.
"1.5m is the only thing that stands between a cyclist and a serious crash. We need to drive home to motorists that cyclists are bearing all of the risks arising from a driver's decisions and actions.
"1.5m to survive unlocks many of the issues that need to be addressed to improve safety for cyclists. Passing 1.5m into law would result significant improvements for awareness, education, and behaviour for both cyclists and motorists. It would also result in improvements to infrastructure and future road planning and design that would benefit all road users.
"The fact is more and more kiwis are turning to cycling for fitness, fun and freedom, and to avoid the increasing costs and inconvenience or using a car. It is estimated nearly 1.5 million New Zealanders cycle each year, yet our road rules and infrastructure have not kept up with demand. Unless we make some significant changes the situation will only get worst pushing cyclists off our roads and back into driving cars.
The government has started to recognise some of the economic benefits of cycling with support for cycle tourism national cycleway. Cycling provides a simple solution to the government's priority goal of economic efficiency across the New Zealand's economy. More people cycling eases city congestion is the most cost effective form of transport infrastructure development and delivers significant public health benefits.
"It would be a significant backwards step and missed opportunity for New Zealand as a whole if we were not able to capitalise on the huge benefits cycling has to offer. Already we're seeing less and less kids ride bikes, and this does not bode well for the health challenges we face.
Westernised countries worldwide are increasing investing in cycling as a form of transport. Providing greater safety for cyclists is a key aspect to increase the numbers of people cycling. The City of London claimed the number of cyclists in the capital had grown by 83% in a single year. Transport for London have been investing in awareness campaigns, cycle-friendly infrastructure, and promotional campaigns such as Cycle Fridays- encouraging beginners to ride to work with more experienced marshals. Transport for London's 'Moon walking Bear' Youtube video road safety campaign was a massive success with over 6 million views.
Research from the UK demonstrates a 'safety in numbers' approach- the more cyclists on the road, the safer they are as motorists adapt.
"Failure to act quickly to the number of people taking to the pedals will have more serious impacts too. We will see more crashes resulting in serious injury and deaths, and a continued trend of growing antagonism between cyclists and motorists on our roads.
"Many of us are both cyclists and motorists. BikeNZ want to find solutions that work for all parties and embrace New Zealand's growing culture of cycling. 1.5m is a single idea that has a big impact."
Cycling in New Zealand facts:
· Cyclists face the second highest risk of all road users of injury or death on our roads (motorcyclists face the highest risk.
· The social cost of road crashes involving cyclists is $172 million per year.
· Only 1% of cyclists, and 2.5% of the overall population ride to work. (2006 Census)
· Crashes involving cyclists in NZ have been on the rise since 2004 (Ministry of Transport 2009)
· Since 2000 there has been an 81% increase in recreational cycling (SPARC Activity Surveys 2007-2008)
· Despite the growth of recreational cycling and the purchase of bikes, the average km's cycled per week per person for transport has consistently dropped since 1989, from 2.4km to 1.3km in 2008. (Ministry of Transport 2008)
· The number of cyclists killed or injured has been trending upwards since 2004, at a time when the total distance spent cycling as a means of transport has fallen, showing improving safety for cyclists should be a priority.(Ministry of Transport 2008)
· New spending as part of the National Land Transport Programme 2009-12 on cycling and walking facilities drops from $17.9 million in 2009/10, to $10.0 million and $10.6 million in the subsequent two years, despite an anticipated high demand for these funds from councils according to NZTA. (National Land Transport Programme 2009-2012, NZTA)