With schools now back, it’s important to maintain safe driving around schools and surrounding areas at times where our children will be most likely to walk and ride.
To help keep our kids safe, special school speed zones are in operation around many of our schools. These involve dropping the speed limit to 40km/h around the school for at least 35 minutes before the start of school and 20 minutes at the end of the school day. Highly visible electronic 40km/h signs make it easy to know that you’ve entered the zone.
The speed limit is applied for 10 minutes at any other time when at least 50 children will cross the road, enter or leave vehicles at the roadside. Appropriate signs mark the beginning and end of the area where the speed limit operates.
Keep an eye out for school patrols operating at pedestrian crossings near schools and also Kea crossings, which are just like school patrols, except they are unmarked and when the patrols are not operating, the road reverts back to a normal roadway.
E-bikes, bike share and alternate transport modes (scooters, etc.) are also things motorists need to factor in, on and around our roads.
Cyclists are more vulnerable out on the road as they can be less visible and are not as protected as other road users. They encounter hazards on a daily basis that require a fair amount of navigating. Parked or departing cars, potholes, glass, rubbish, wind and opening doors can all cause a cyclist to suddenly change their path.
According to a report by the NZ Ministry of Transport, 5 cyclists died in 2018 and 774 were injured in police-reported crashes on New Zealand roads. Of all cyclist/vehicle crashes where a cyclist was hospitalised, three quarters of them were found to be due to the responsibility of car drivers.
This is why the NZ Roadcode recommends drivers leave at least 1.5m gap if they are passing a cyclist. If the road is narrow, it is important to be patient and wait until it is safe to pass a cyclist. At intersections, drivers should apply the same rules to cyclists as to any other vehicle on the road - indicators are a must to tell the cyclist where you are turning.
Of course, it’s a two way street and cyclists are also expected to obey the road rules and behave predictably. Unsettling, hesitant or erratic behaviour can result in motorists making impulse decisions as they typically have less time to react to prevent an accident. Sudden manoeuvring can put other road users at risk, so it’s important that cyclists are alert – no earphones – and aware of traffic approaching from behind. Use cycle lanes where they’re available and, if they’re not, clearly signal any turns and allow vehicles to pass safely, particularly where traffic flow is heavier. And most of all use lights and wear appropriate safety gear.
People in cars or on bikes both have a right to use our roads, and both share a responsibility to understand and respect each other’s needs. At the end of the day, we want all road users to be safe. Give cyclists and other users space - it's not just a bike, it's a person on a bike with a family, friends, a life.