Bike wise and staying safe on the road
Learning to ride safely is crucial when taking to the road on two wheels
The humble bicycle forms part of New Zealand’s quintessential social landscape. Kids all over the country commonly graduate from three wheels to two before they’re old enough to go to school. More adults also choose to ride their bikes to work every morning instead of sitting in an hour of rush-hour traffic each way.
We all know that fewer cars on our roads would make a real difference – to our health, the environment, not to mention the traffic! But learning how to ride a bike isn’t as simple as balancing. The road is a car’s domain so it’s essential that every bike rider masters cycle safety skills from a young age.
The stats are pretty confronting. In 2014, 10 cyclists died, 158 were seriously injured and 573 suffered minor injuries in police-reported crashes on New Zealand roads (roughly 6 per cent of casualties from police-reported crashes in 2014). Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of all cyclists killed or injured were aged 10-19 years, while nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of cyclists involved in police-reported crashes were male. Nine in every 10 cyclist casualties occurred on busy urban roads with a speed limit of 70kmh or less, while 44 per cent of cyclist deaths occurred on open roads due to higher-impact speeds.
So how can we help each other to be safe on the roads?
1. There are huge health benefits to cycling but there are also risks. Cyclists are more likely to be injured in a crash than car drivers for the simple reason that a bicycle offers a much lower degree of protection and less visibility.
Urban roads can be particularly risky because of the high volume of traffic (not to mention impatient drivers). Open roads, while not as high on the casualty stakes, are potentially dangerous because of their high speed limits. 8am-10am and 4pm-6pm are the most dangerous times of the day for cyclists because roads get busier, plus during winter it gets dark much earlier which reduces visibility significantly later in the day.
2. Your kids are never too young to learn what’s right and what’s not on the road. Teach them balance, turning and signalling skills on a quiet residential street or in an empty carpark before they head out on their own. Better still, contact your local council and see if it can direct you to a local cycle skills training session. It’s strongly recommended that children under the age of 10 should only cycle on the road with adult supervision. And always make sure your kids wear their helmets on their heads, not their handlebars.
3. Get your community involved – especially if your neighbourhood is home to a lot of kids. Use Neighbourly.co.nz to start a kids’ bike club on a Saturday morning, and run them through a specialist cyclist skills training workshop.
4. February is Bike Wise Month and a national programme of cycling-related activities and events is held across the country. Bike Wise will be hosting many community and school events like Big Bike Tune Ups, Go by Bike Day events and cycle skills trainings. Information: bikewise.co.nz/events
Bicycles are becoming increasingly popular and parents are advised to make sure their kids are Bike wise before they hit the streets.