NZ Ministry of Transport considering coroner's call for hi-vis clothing to be made compulsory for cyclists

Coroner sitting in lorry death case says it's a "no-brainer" to make cyclists wear hi-vis at all times

by Simon_MacMichael   February 15, 2013  

Hi-Viz cyclist © Simon MacMichael.jpg

New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport is said to be considering a coroner’s request to make high-visibility clothing compulsory for cyclists. The coroner, who described it as a "no-brainer" and said it should apply to all cyclists riding in public at all times, made his recommendation in the case of a senior police officer originally from the UK who was described as “the face of road policing” in the country.

Superintendent Steve Fitzgerald, who began his career with Leicestershire Police in 1967 and moved to New Zealand seven years later, was killed by an articulated lorry as he negotiated a roundabout on his way home from work one evening in late June 2008, midwinter in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cycling campaigners had been lobbying unsuccessfully for a decade and a half for a safe, off-road route to bypass the roundabout, and Inspector Fitzgerald, aged 57, was wearing a helmet as required by law, was displaying lights on his bike and had reflective strips on his backpack and clothing, reports Stuff.co.nz.

The lorry driver involved in Superintendent Fitzgerald’s death, Desmond Wilson, was found guilty of careless driving causing death and ordered to pay NZ$2,000 reparations and banned from driving for nine months.

He told Wellington coroner Ian Smith that he believed cyclists should keep to designated cycle lanes and discouraged from using the roundabout where Inspector Fitzgerald was killed.

Some of the coroner’s comments criticised Hutt City Council for its failure to make the location safer for cyclists, whom he said “"are literally taking their lives in their hands".

He continued: "The intersection is, in my view, a most dangerous area for cyclists to use, no matter how experienced the riders are.

"Cyclists using this cycle/traffic lane area are literally taking their lives in their hands and a complete rethink and design of this area is required."

The coroner added that while Hutt City Council had tried to make some improvements, those "still fall short of making the road safe for cyclists".

He also called for improved cyclist education, the introduction of a one-metre gap to New Zealand’s highway code, and rules regarding when cyclists should be obliged to use cycle lanes.

Hi-vis clothing, he said, “is in my view a no-brainer. It should be compulsory for cyclists to wear at all times when riding in public."

Jane Dawson, representing the Cycling Advocates Network, insisted to the coroner that hi-vis clothing would not have prevented Superintendent Fitzgerald’s death.

However, Brenden Crocker, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, commented that it was giving serious consideration to the coroner’s comments.

On the same day that Superindent Fitzgerald was killed, a 61-year-old cyclist lost his life a few miles away in Silverstream. A press report at the time says that the rider was thrown into the path of a lorry when a motorist opened the door of her car as he approached.

At the time, Robert Ibell, chairman of Cycling Advocates' Network, told the NZ Herald: "Neither of these tragic deaths should have happened.

“In the case of the Petone crash [the one that claimed Inspector Fitzgerald’s life], continuing procrastination by Transit and buck-passing by several other authorities in the Wellington region have meant that the Ngauranga to Petone cycle track is still incomplete.

"Local cyclists have been asking for at least 14 years for something to be done on this route."

A poll on Stuff.co.nz asks whether it should be compulsory for cyclists to have to wear hi-viz clothing finds respondents overwhelmingly in favour, with 55 per cent agreeing as of 10pm GMT on Thursday evening.

Some 23 per cent of those voting said it wouldn’t make a difference, 11 per cent believed it couldn’t be enforced, 7 per cent said only at night, and just 4 per cent said they didn’t mind either way.

In the UK, as we reported last week, insurer Churchill is appealing to the Court of Appeal in a case relating to a teenage girl who suffered brain injuries after she was struck by a driver it insures while she was walking home at night along a country lane.

Churchill is not disputing the driver's liability, but says that contributory negligence was present on the teenager's part because she should have been aware of the need to take the precaution of wearing hi-vis clothing.

33 user comments

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So I'll just throw away every bit of kit I have now and buy the new clone uniform; and if I don't then idiots in cars will just hit me and say, no hi-viz no road.

A bit off topic, but today I was going down a country lane; a car overtook me on a right hand bend, another car was coming the other way and he nipped back into the one car wide lane. I heard/glanced over my shoulder and saw another car following him a bit further back. Thinking I didn't want to fit myself and two cars across the road, I edged out into the middle of the lane, thinking the second car would have to back off. Instead he went fully onto the opposite side and accelerated head on at the oncoming car. He only just got across ahead of me and avoided colliding with the oncoming car whilst having to brake radically to avoid the back of the first car in my lane. So he had gained nothing.
Even if they see you there are still plenty if dic4s who will do anything to get past.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1187 posts]
15th February 2013 - 1:28

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I had a quick look on NZ's goverment transport website's " http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Pages/crashstatisticsdecember2012.... " december 2012 crash statistics page and apparently-

" During December, 14 of the deaths were car or van drivers, 12 were passengers, 6 were motorcyclists, 5 were pedestrians, 1 was a truck driver and 1 was a cyclist."

Funny how they are asking cyclists to be covered in high vis and not- pedestrians, motorcyclists, and whole cars, vans and trucks.

posted by mrkeith119 [85 posts]
15th February 2013 - 3:37

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Surely drivers to look as they drive is the no brainer?

No amount of hi-viz, flashing lights will help you if the driver does NOT see you. At the end of 2012 in Sunderland a driver tragically died after ploughing into a stationary paramedic ambulance and they are covered in hi-viz and reflectives.

This is just crap victim blaming again

posted by gazza_d [189 posts]
15th February 2013 - 7:32

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The irony is that - in NZ papers here - they have reported that this poor chap WAS wearing high-vis gear. Perhaps the driver was blinded by gear that was too bright.

Mandating and enforcing a distance between cyclists and cars would seem more sensible. I felt safer riding in Toulouse than I do here: perhaps a cultural issue.

Gerard the Kiwi

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posted by GerardR [84 posts]
15th February 2013 - 7:41

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The latest 'driverless cars' apparantly use lasers to map a route and then follow it next time without any driver input. So what happens when they come up to a cyclist? I can only asume there will be some sort of provision built in that prevents them overtaking the bike, so I look forward to leading a string of robot cars round the local roads.

New Forester

posted by Forester [82 posts]
15th February 2013 - 7:54

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I weep for the basket of anti-people, anti-cycling f*ckwittery that my home country has become.

NZ politicians don't see 'cyclists' as any sort of vote-getter, and are second-only to Australia in wanting to clamp down viciously on personal freedom/responsibility 'for their own good', contrary to all evidence from abroad.

If/when we move back we will be organising major no-helmet/no-hi-viz protest rides with our kids on board. Let's see the police arresting mums and dads with children in tow, to show this utter farce of a helmet regulation and approach to road safety for what it is.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [437 posts]
15th February 2013 - 8:39

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Outside of the cities, nz is lovely for cycling except for helmet compulsion AFAIK - quiet roads and considerate drivers - but the cities are awful, as they are designed with the car as king and screw everyone else. Even the frequent gridlocks in Wellington and Auckland don't seem to have woken them up. I despair and fear the UK is heading the same way.

Oh and yes, mad coroner - the guy was wearing hi viz and it didn't save him. The driver should be banned for life, unless there's something not reported.

posted by a.jumper [681 posts]
15th February 2013 - 9:31

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Fixing dangerous junctions would cost many millions of pounds of public money (or in this case NZ$, which at roughly 0.5 exchange rate makes the "reparations" judged appropriate in this case even more insulting.)

Lowering speed limits, banning for life all drivers who are shown to be psychotic, and/or reducing the amount of dangerous commercial traffic would cripple our just-in-time-manufacturing-based consumerist economies.

Getting all drivers to pay attention and show some courtesy, would either be impossible, or require completely rethinking our attention-deficit societies. It would almost certainly have to include training people to think about the consequences of their own selfish actions, which is a lesson if learnt widely would make it very difficult for the rich to make more money by feeding people's selfish desires. And, as we all now know, from the last five years, when the incomes of the rich stop growing year-on-year, that means everything has to grind to a halt, and so this too would cripple pretty much any economy in the world.

In contrast, forcing all cyclists to wear polystyrene hats and day-glow clothing is free. In fact, it'll give a small short-term boost to the cycle apparel and retail industry. Long-term it might reduce uptake of cycling in the young, but then they'll stop holding up the cars of important people like coroners or transport ministers, and they'll spend even more money on cars of their own, or public transport, or obesity treatments.

That's what people in authority mean when they say proposals like this are a "no-brainer." Plus it might save one or two lives, far less than the other options, but enough to make it difficult to argue against in the mainstream media and the court of public opinion (which are anyway biased in favour of anything that takes those cheating, RLJing cyclists down a peg or two.)

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
15th February 2013 - 10:12

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@KiwiMike

Quote:
I weep for the basket of anti-people, anti-cycling f*ckwittery that my home country has become.

Kia ora bro, agree entirely.

@a.jumper

Very true. Grew up riding in Wellington - much more dangerous than London, mostly due to higher speeds, narrower streets and an even more healthy 'entitlement' feeling from motorists. It's where I learnt to ride at traffic speed where you can!

In general a stupid move. I am still 50/50 on helmets (I I will always wear one but don't support compulsory law). I still know plenty of cyclists in NZ and they are outraged, let me tell you!

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [247 posts]
15th February 2013 - 10:27

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Hmm. It's a no-brainer, or he's a no-brainer?

posted by step-hent [651 posts]
15th February 2013 - 10:34

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Forester wrote:
The latest 'driverless cars' apparantly use lasers to map a route and then follow it next time without any driver input. So what happens when they come up to a cyclist?

Google are pretty far ahead in this, but almost every car company and supplier are working on this technology. Look at 1:40 here to see what data is being generated
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CyqfwStKZc
A 360 degree real-time map of the 3D environment with every moving object being tracked!

Driverless cars are at least a decade away, but driver assist is already here (the Mercedes E-class will apply the brakes if a pedestrian steps out) and these systems will increase further. In fact, car soon won't achieve a 5* EURO NCAP rating unless they have autonomous safety systems designed to prevent accidents.

Of course this raises some interesting "4th law" sci-fi type questions about what a car would do if the driver overtook a cyclist and then detected a car coming the other way. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics)

(Put "driver assist" in youtube to see what everyones working on)

posted by ribena [133 posts]
15th February 2013 - 10:49

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Well if the b*gger is on the phone, driving too fast or simply not looking you could be wearing a tutu, banana slippers and reindeer antlers - they are going to hit you. And as others have said, if the roads are poorly designed for anything but cars then you have an accident waiting to happen.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

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posted by ragtag [154 posts]
15th February 2013 - 11:10

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Its an unfortunate reality that politics is about appearing popular rather than doing anything sensible. In fact a politician who makes a sensible but disliked decision doesn't usually remain a politician much longer.

A small minority of voters ride bicycles, a large majority drive cars. You don't get to be an elected politician in the first place without realising which way your bread is buttered.

Cycling is getting more prominent in the UK at the moment, which is why its getting talked about by politicians; but they'll never put the humble bicycle before a car; its a vote loser. This can be seen by the current thinking of trying to appear cycle friendly while doing nothing about the real danger, which we know is the careless/inconsiderate/aggressive driver (remember you can't do anything about the car; its a vote loser).

In the last decade road deaths have falled drastically, but this can be put down to improved car design and technology making a crash more survivable for a car's occupants.

In my opinion the only thing that will make any difference in road safety within a generation is driverless/automated cars. This technology is the pancea of road safety. Computers don't nod off, are not careless or impatient, they're never drunk or hung over. Computers don't have an ego, don't get tired and can use their mobile phones without taking their electronic eyes off the road. Computers can be programmed to make a reliable judgement of a situation and act accordingly, and with enough testing they can be made to get the judgement right every single time; something humans will never be able to do.

In twenty five years time when road deaths have dropped from 2000 to 20 annually please revisit these comments and say bloody hell qwerky, you were right.

posted by qwerky [130 posts]
15th February 2013 - 11:20

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When will people realise that being visible and wearing flouro/hi-viz do not go hand in hand? It's all about the contrast with your surroundings and the light conditions. So hi-viz yellow might work well on a dull grey day, but in bright sunshine and set against sunlit hedgerows its as good as camouflage.

So much of this thought process seems to be based on city commuting. Well, guess what? Some of us live in the countryside and don't get overtaken by many cement lorries or buses. This is the thin end of the wedge. First clothing, then helmets, licences to ride a bike, insurance to ride etc etc.

Cycling saves lives, and government interference that puts people off riding and back into cars just add to our NHS bill in the long term.

Rant over! Angry

posted by sorebones [104 posts]
15th February 2013 - 12:38

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Good grief.
what's wrong with:

a) Driver/road-user education
b) Common sense.

Both are clearly lacking.

On the point of the driver education, as a cyclist NZ drivers are the worst I've encountered in the world.

(note, that's in my personal experience)

posted by ir_bandito [58 posts]
15th February 2013 - 13:38

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Illegal, illegal, illegal, illegal,
illegal, illegal, illegal, illegal,
illegal, illegal, illegal, illegal,
illegal, illegal, illegal, illegal,
illegal, illegal, illegal, illegal.
Crazy, bike shops will actually close when people decide they don't want to look like dayglo dickens.

david_sparshott_-_cycling_jerseys_print.jpg

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1187 posts]
15th February 2013 - 14:16

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In the last month i have seen two incidents where cyclists have been knocked off their bike by cars. Both cyclists were:

> Thankfully unharmed
> Wearing fluorescent jackets
> Had lights front and rear, both of reasonable brightness
> Were rightfully angry with the driver for not having seen them

While there is a case for increasing cyclist visability there is a much stronger case for the person controlling the vehicle to be aware of their surroundings and driving with care & attention.

but who is listening?

posted by kitkat [191 posts]
15th February 2013 - 14:17

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Utter tosh. On this line we should also ban black, grey and brown cars (actually brown cars should be banned just for bad taste). Pedestrians should also have a flashing beacon on their mandatory crash helmet in case they have to cross the road.

Driver awareness needs to improve, penalties need to increase and better cycling facilities on major roads.

this is a cop out, put a d**k behind a wheel and they will hit you whatever you are wearing.

posted by Simmo72 [274 posts]
15th February 2013 - 14:47

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I think all badgers should be given lessons on crossing the road and general Highway Code because they keep wandering out! It is the driver who should be held at fault. The rider had hi viz refelectors and good lighting. Somebody beat me to banning cars that are not hi viz. Or perhaps they should only come in Police reflective colours and a few flashing lights for good measure.
The 1 meter overtaking rule is good (I think France works on 1.5 m) but too many would rather get too close to a cyclist than wait just 20 or 30 seconds to overtake safely.

If I was only half as good as I am in my own mind.

posted by JulesW [24 posts]
15th February 2013 - 17:20

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As others have posted above, inattentive drivers will hit cyclists whatever they are wearing. Also, if everyone is in hi-vis clothing, it won't be long until some other ludicrous excuse is developed by drivers/insurance companies for hitting cyclists.

posted by Sadly Biggins [264 posts]
15th February 2013 - 18:06

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Sadly Biggins wrote:
As others have posted above, inattentive drivers will hit cyclists whatever they are wearing. Also, if everyone is in hi-vis clothing, it won't be long until some other ludicrous excuse is developed by drivers/insurance companies for hitting cyclists.

' ... I was dazzled so much by his bright clothing that I had to close my eyes and hit him, your Honour.'

Judge 'I am minded to suggest that cyclists should avoid bright and distracting clothing.'

If I was only half as good as I am in my own mind.

posted by JulesW [24 posts]
15th February 2013 - 18:39

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Rubbish. I wear hi-vis all the time, and a helmet and have taken to putting my super-bright front lamp on flashing mode whilst riding in town, even in daylight, to ensure I'll be seen. But clearly not - nearly got wiped out by a taxi driver pulling out of an estate entrance this morning. What do you have to do? I'll have to carry an airhorn next.

posted by RuthF28 [89 posts]
15th February 2013 - 20:28

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Google ' most and astur attentional set as a cause of traffic accident'
http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.co.uk/2007/02/how-your-mindset-can-c...

posted by wyadvd [116 posts]
15th February 2013 - 21:45

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I found that it makes no difference, even when I am lit up like a Christmas tree, flashing lights, reflective and fluorescent yellow from head to toe. You will all ways get some plonk that is just totally oblivions to you or a complete nutter trying to shave 2 seconds off there journey time! Yes if its dark then I should have lights front and back that is the right and proper thing to do (very cheap and available today) or if overcast with lights on flashing but in daylight I should need no more, if then someone then puts me at risk or knocks me off then it there fault and should be accountable in law, not the cyclist!

posted by 60kg lean keen ... [56 posts]
15th February 2013 - 23:03

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I've actually experimented with hi viz over the last 4 years of commuting 15 miles each way. I now wear black from head to toe. Believe it or not I get FAR fewer people pulling out on me at junctions in black. In hi viz it's like I'm invisible sometimes. The difference is so marked that I now feel very unsafe in hiviz. I'm being totally serious.

posted by wyadvd [116 posts]
16th February 2013 - 0:23

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http://www.ridesafebacksafe.co.uk/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=3141&OB=DESC

There must be some science that backs the above up. There must be!

posted by wyadvd [116 posts]
16th February 2013 - 0:42

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This rule would never be introduced in the UK because it would kill off the Boris Bike scheme overnight. How many people are going to remember to bring a hi-vis jacket with them before hiring a Boris bike? Same goes for the helmets.

I think the Boris bike scheme has many faults but the one *brilliant* side effect of the scheme is that laws such as this will never be introduced.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
16th February 2013 - 2:30

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The first of the two fatalities on the same road on the same day which led the coroner to make his recommendation that cyclists should wear high-vis clothing was my father 'Tuakau Flash'.

Dad rode his beloved bicycle "squidgy" to get around Upper Hutt every day. He had been cycling for transport and enjoyment for forty years.

I cannot remember him ever wearing high-vis clothing. He even had to be pressured in using lights at night. He only wore a helmet because it is compulsory under NZ law.

The dimwitted and irresponsible guy who opened the door and knocked dad into the path of a truck was convicted of careless use of a motor vehicle causing death. The judge found that he did not bother to check for cyclists before flinging open the door of his car.

Dad could have been doused in fluorescent paint with a neon sign attached to the front of his bike and it still wouldn't have made any difference.

I should also point out that the truck driver in the incident was entirely blameless and was devastated by the death of my father under the wheels of his vehicle. He has suffered from depression and anxiety ever since then and has been unable to return to work as a truck driver.

posted by Pelirrojo [1 posts]
16th February 2013 - 23:58

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Why cycling in high-vis may be not as safe as you think
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2013/jan/10/cycling-high...

posted by aSolihullCyclist [4 posts]
18th February 2013 - 20:01

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[[[[[ "Hi-viz jackets to be worn by all cyclists, at all times"? What, on a hot summer's day? Shome mishtake here, surely. There will be mass protest rides over there, I'll be bound. One appreciates the coroner's concern, but I doubt he'll get away with it. And as said above, there are always more pedestrians hit than bikers...so, screaming yellow PVC thingies for all, innit!
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [270 posts]
19th February 2013 - 3:00

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