17 Feb 2018

Touring cyclists warned against riding at night

5:17 pm on 17 February 2018

Touring cyclists riding at night have been warned that they are putting all road users at risk.

Touring cyclists who ride at night are being told they are putting people at risk.

Touring cyclists who ride at night are being told they are putting people at risk. Photo: 123RF

Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley said truck drivers were reporting an increasing number of near-misses with cycle tourists as they ride at night to avoid the daytime heat.

The latest Transport Agency crash data showed 17 cyclists were killed on New Zealand roads in the 12 months to 16 February this year. It is a better picture than in 1990 when 27 cyclists were killed and just over 1000 injured on New Zealand roads - before the advent of cycle trails.

The agency's 2017 crash data report shows that while most cyclist injuries occur on urban roads, just over 35 percent of cyclist deaths between 2012 and 2016 happened on open roads, due to the higher impact speeds associated with crashes on these roads.

The report also showed that the time of greatest risk to adult cyclists are the twilight hours between 6pm and 8pm.

Mr Shirley said 500,000 more light vehicles and 12,000 more heavy vehicles had been added to New Zealand roads over the past six years, at the same time that cycle tourism and the number of cyclists on the roads also increased.

He said it was only a matter of time before there was a spike in fatalities.

"Many truck drivers are reporting an increase of cyclists - they appear to be tourists often, travelling at night with the warm summer to try and beat the heat. We suspect they don't realise how vulnerable they are and many of our roads just aren't designed to adequately cope [with] the cyclists," Mr Shirley said.

He said the road transport industry recognised tourism was a key part of the economy, and despite millions of dollars having been spent on cycleways, not enough cyclists were using them.

"Even when facilities are provided for them they often want to go on the open road and often in situations where it's just not compatible for a cyclist to be there," Mr Shirley said.

A French cycle tourist in New Zealand said riding at night wasn't advisable, because the roads were narrow and too many drivers speed.

Elie Pennetier, who has cycled through southern Europe and Australia, said he had ridden at night overseas but only once in New Zealand, when he arrived in the country late at night.

"It's happened but it's quite unusual - it's for a specific reason only. I did it in Australia because of very strong headwinds in the daytime and at night there was no wind."

Mr Pennetier said his experience of New Zealand roads was that some truck drivers acted poorly by driving too fast past cyclists. He said other cycle tourists he had met did not tend to ride at night.

"Some of the truck drivers think the road belongs to them. Sometimes they're in such a rush and push me out of the road.

"It's risky riding at night but it's easy to light your bike well."

Mr Pennetier said he used cycle trails where possible.

The manager of Noahs Ark Backpackers in Greymouth, Lynda Richmond, said they get a lot of cycle tourists and she takes it upon herself to alert them to road safety in New Zealand - some take it on board while others appear offended, she said.

She said in her experience, not many rode at night.

"On New Zealand roads there are a lot of different conditions and level of driver ability. We blame foreigners for not driving well but we're not the best drivers also.

"We advise cyclists about road safety, and about the need to wear bright clothing in particular."