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Cyclists dice with death on highways

Wanganui Chronicle: Cyclists dice with death on highways

Jess Jones | 12th January 2010

Tourists aren’t the only ones who are dicing with death on the road, says a young Wanganui cyclist.

Triathlete Nick Berry, 18, who rides hundreds of kilometres a week in training, is no stranger to dealing with trucks sharing the highways.

For cyclists on the open road, trucks created a lot more wind than cars and it could make riders feel unstable, he said.

"It’s scary how close they come to you - even in the slower speed zones."

He was commenting after a German cyclist was killed near Wanganui.

Last Tuesday, Mia Susanne Pusch was died in collision with a truck and trailer travelling in the same direction, on a passing zone about 4km north of Bulls.

Her death and other driving incidents involving foreign tourists sparked a call from one police highway patrol officer, who said tourists needed more education about New Zealand roads to prevent serious and fatal crashes.

"We don’t want them going home in a wooden box," said Sergeant Geoff Sutherland, head of the Southland police highway patrol.

And with the 2011 Rugby World Cup coming up, national road policing manager Superintendent Paula Rose said road safety messages for tourists had to be a major focus.

Wanganui’s Tamara Backpackers hostel owner and cyclist Rory Smith said a lot of foreign riders who had come through his accommodation were more worried about riding on the open road since last week’s incident.

"Truck drivers are fairly ruthless out there, especially in the higher speed zones.

"Unless they legislate something soon, more people are going to get killed," he said.

Mr Berry said one of the most threatening spots in Wanganui was in the 50km/h zone on Great North Rd ... "with trucks passing cyclists close and fast all the time".

Police Central District Traffic Inspector Neil Wynne said people needed to be well aware when they were cycling alongside heavy vehicles.

"If you stand still on the side of the road in a 100km/h zone, you can feel the trucks whizz past. Imagine what it’s like to be on a bike."

He said all riders should be aware of safety precautions, such as wearing high-visibility clothing and positioning themselves suitably on the road, which was as far to the left as possible.

"Some of the cyclists you see getting passed very closely, and it’s dangerous."

New Zealand Road Transport Association area manager Tom Cloke said there was no justification for the claim that truck drivers were going too fast.

"Police have done extensive research and have found that truck drivers are driving within the speed limit"

Mr Cloke said any death was sad but there was no evidence that truck drivers were the cause.