What are the Police doing about bike safety?

Many of us love to ride bikes. It’s a great way to get around, keep fit, beat the traffic, and save the planet. But it’s not as safe as it should be.

Green Party Active Transport spokesperson and champion of all people who ride bikes, Kevin Hague, recently discovered that Police do very little with the information they receive when cyclists report unsafe road behaviour to a dedicated police hotline.

At a time when so many people have died in bike accidents that the Coroner has launched a special inquest, this lax attitude to bike safety is not ok. In this podcast, Kevin talks about what he found out, and what he thinks we could do better to ensure that people who ride bikes are safe on our roads.

If you’ve got issues you’d like Kevin to raise when he meets with the Police about bike safety, email or call his Parliamentary office on 04 817 8253.

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10 Comments Posted

  1. Today, I saw a wonderful example of the Darwin Awards… a rainy Saturday afternoon/evening, and coming towards me, on the footpath of a suburban street, two kids on a small unregistered motorbike, one with helmet but his passenger was without one. Further down the street, a guy on a kid’s scooter, his arse hanging out of his shorts, maybe 18-25 years old. I stopped him and asked him if he knew the kids. He asked ‘why?’ Bleedin’ obvious I would have thought, so I merely pointed out that not only were they breaking at least 3 laws, but that they were also risking serious injury – to themselves, and to others, riding a motorbike on the pavement. He gave me an appeasing grin and hurried to catch up to the kids who had stopped to wait for him.
    I heard on Radio NZ on Friday, about a nutmeg who had been killed very dead (by means of massive brain damage) when he’d crashed his motorbike, while riding helmetless in a big parade to protest against helmet laws! As i said, Darwin Awards. The thing about brain damage is, you’re lucky if you die. Living in a residential facility, eating baby food, relying on a 6 x 6 square communication board with such things as pictures to point to asking for “toilet”, “drink” and “sleep” for your contact with staff… I’d rather die! But I don’t ride a bike of any sort without a helmet, so barring CVAs, that won’t be me. IMO Libertarians (or librarians, as my brother used to rark them up by calling them) are idiots, but they’re a whole order of magnitude stupider if they think helmet laws are “oppression by Nanny State”.

  2. Legally there is no choice, even if the police decide not to enforce the law. Logically, if a piece of polystyrene on your head mitigates the chances of injury/death via a speeding block of steel, why would you not where one. For all their faults, the black and white scourge of pre 1992 certainly would have enforced it/ persecuted those who failed to comply…. ahhh the good old days.

  3. @ Ajaxrider who said : “Helmets are a choice. I carry one with me on my 15 minute ride (mostly on the footpath) to school every morning at 8am. I opt to wear it for the dangerous stretches of road I travel on (Ponsonby Rd, Krd) and when I’m not wearing it I accept that I am risking head injury if I come off my bike. That is my problem, and I am happy to be responsible for this.”
    Helmets are not a choice, they’re the law. Today, both here in Pt Chev and in the city, I saw 3 or 4 helmet-less cyclists, including the same woman I saw on Tuesday. I wanted to give her the slapping she richly deserved. Some of these people think that the law says you don’t need a helmet of you’re on the footpath (wrong) or that provided the helmet is somewhere “on (your) person” that’s okay. Wrong again!
    You know you’re risking head injury, and you don’t care. You say you’re happy to be responsible for what happens. Great. But what about your parents, the ADHB, the Brain Injury Trust?
    I spent years teaching people with intellectual disabilities. Some were congenital, some from strokes, but others were the result of accidents such as you are risking.
    To be blunt – if you end up a drooling vegetable, you probably won’t know or care, but your family will. So will teachers, doctors, rehab staff. physios and the people who’ll be paying taxes to support you on ACC, and to support the Rehab unit where you’ll be spending the next months or years.
    To some people, such as the elegant woman who cycles down Carrington Road, helmetless and smug (she always looks at me as if I am something she scraped off the bottom of her shoe, possibly because I always look disapprovingly at her ) I feel like saying “Hey, Darwin awards, I hope you haven’t already reproduced!”
    But if I can save a brain, even that of someone who doesn’t care, I am actually saving a family’s grief and millions of dollars.

  4. Helmets are a choice. I carry one with me on my 15 minute ride (mostly on the footpath) to school every morning at 8am. I opt to wear it for the dangerous stretches of road I travel on (Ponsonby Rd, Krd) and when I’m not wearing it I accept that I am risking head injury if I come off my bike. That is my problem, and I am happy to be responsible for this.

    The attitude of drivers towards a ‘helmetted’ cyclist differs from attitudes towards a rider without one. Cars give the former more space, yet more aggresion. The latter receives less space and less care from other road users.

    Helmets are not the answer to making cycling more safe. They are a barrier to would-be cyclists who perceive them as ‘un-cool’ or ‘unfashionable’.

    This website (http://www.cycle-helmets.com/) sums up the argument against mandatory helmet laws with Australian evidence.

    “Surveys show Western Australia’s mandatory helmet legislation reduced public cycling numbers by at least 30%, yet total hospitalised cyclist injuries did not decline at all. The reduction in head injury numbers was marginal. West Australian cyclist numbers recovered in the decade to 2000 but hospital admissions were at record levels from 1997, roughly 30% above pre-law levels by 2000. In essence, the results strongly suggest that the mandatory wearing of helmets increases the risk of accidents and thus injuries.”

    Attitude towards cycle safety should not based around whether or not we cyclists choose to wear helmets. I feel that the helmet argument desperately needs to be updated with evidence, and that police and driver complacancy is perpetuated by this ridiculous attaitude that ‘stupid cyclists who do not wear helmets deserve to be knocked off their bikes’.

  5. I have a friend who was cycling in Frankfurt city on a busy morning. As she was traveling along the road, someone open the passenger’s door on the left…yeah! & she flew like superman

  6. There is not enough room on the road for parked cars, buses and cyclists. I ride to uni every day, it all depends on what roads you bike on as to what your experience is like. When I lived in eastern Chch I had to bike along Blenheim and Riccarton to get to uni and it was a huge sense of achievement at getting there alive in the mornings each day. Now I live nearer to the uni and my experience is safer, more like the feeling of driving a car. Your in control. Cyclists are going to become more and more common as people choose to opt out of paying for fuel. Cyclists are part of the road and the traffic. Car and truck divers need to adjust their driving when they come across cyclists and make allowances for sudden changes in the environment. Cyclists should never ride side by side. All helmets should be improved in quality – most (polystyrene) helmets worn by cyclists are not adequate enough for a combination of skull, tarmac and metal. And finally drivers who put the lives of cyclists or anyone else on the road at risk, must be banned from driving and be forced to bike down Blenheim and Riccarton road every morning for a month (they might learn something).

  7. Back when MOT and Police were separate organisations, the cycle helmet laws were produced.

    After the amalgamation of the two forces, Policing of all traffic offenses dropped by a large percentage, mainly ‘cos MOT officers didn’t get an automatic upgrade into Police uniform. A lot failed to make the jump due to fitness or other problems, and became part of our burgeoning private security industry.

    Those that were left were inducted into Police protocol, and swiftly found out that policing traffic offenses like jay-walking (which has caused deaths in Wellington in the bus lanes recently) and car-vs-cycle infringements would not be given priority, ‘cos they have all these unsolved murders, child abuse cases, and drug dealers to sort out.

    Twenty years on, policing has had a few more shake-ups, parking tickets have basically been returned to local bodies to handle, and there is still no effective policing of car-vs-cyclist events, especially if neither party bleeds or dies. (‘accident causing injury’ is still a charge that can be levelled against a car that knocks down a cyclist, and that’s not a fine, it’s a District Court appearance and a choice for the Court to fine and/or remove driver’s licence upon conviction.)

    I’ve personally had more trouble with roadside debris when cycling, which has flipped me over my handlebars on many occasions, but I always wore a helmet so the worst I’ve had was bruising, and a gash on my leg once. Lately I’ve quit riding in the CBD after a near-miss when I was riding uphill that came close to seeing me under the wheels of an oncoming car.
    I decided that retiring gracefully was the better part of valour, and sold my titanium-framed mountain bike, along with the two sets of tires (on- and off-road) along with various paraphenalia. Yes, I miss it.
    Still have my helmet and cycling shoes, ‘cos, well you never know when an option to take a spin under good conditions may present itself … and I’m not dead yet! 😉

  8. Call me a pessimist but when you get hundreds of cyclists and hundreds of cars mixing it up on busy roads you are going to get accidents.

    Short of wrapping everything in rolls of bubble wrap and setting speed limits to 15 kmh people are going to hurt and or die, its just a fact of life.

    Rather than try to fix every little thing in society we should be concentrating on the big things where a real difference can be made.

    Oh and you cant account for idiot drivers, no matter what law you pass or how many safety measures you put in place youre always going to get idiots on the road.

  9. I recently saw an article about why not apply the law correctly helmet for those who ride bicycles, the chief of the police station and said the fine is applied is minimal, and most walk without a helmet, he implied that this was how a personal choice whether to wear a helmet or not, but I think it’s dangerous to go on like vehicle without seatbelt or a motorcycle without a helmet … in this case a long way to educate the population …

  10. Yes, indeed, what are they doing? My problem is that (I live in Point Chevalier) I see kids and adults too, riding bikes without helmets – three of them in ten minutes! All of the ones I saw today were in their 20s, including an elegantly dressed woman, who looked as she raced past me on the pavement, like a hippie/greenie – that was her style of dress. Many of these people seem to think that helmet laws don’t apply to people on the footpath, but that’s not so (I checked.) What a bad example to set for children! However, when I rang the Ponsonby police station having been told it was the right one, I was told by the woman who answered that she couldn’t care less. Why are helmet laws not enforced?

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