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Fatal Totara Street accident ‘predictable’

Marion Vialle told SunLive last year that she does “not feel safe at all” when travelling down Totara Street. Photo: John Borren.

Cycling advocates are pushing for more protection following a fatal crash between a truck and a cyclist in Tauranga on a key commuter route in Tauranga.

A cyclist died in hospital on Thursday, May 28 after colliding with a truck at the intersection of Totara Street and Maui Street in Mount Maunganui.

Tauranga City Council told SunLive they are now planning a “short-term” three-metre shared path for cyclists and walkers running along part of Totara Street.

But cyclists say this option is a “huge compromise” and they urgently want a protected cycle lane running along the entire street.

Bike Tauranga, Sustainable Business Network and Greater Tauranga issued a joint statement last week saying it is likely the "terrible tragedy" could have been avoided if a safer cycleway had already been in place.

Tauranga cyclist Nick Roozeburg agreed, saying it is “very sad to see this predictable death”.

The cycling advocacy groups have been championing for a safe cycle lane on Totara Street for more than five years. In 2015 it was ranked as the number two priority transport project across the wider Bay of Plenty and allocated funding of $1.5 million.

Bike Tauranga chairman Kevin Kerr says plans for the project have been put off multiple times due to questions around design, cost blowouts and the lack of agreement between key stakeholders.

Last year, Tauranga City Council said the Totara Street cycle lane was not "fit for purpose or adequately safe for people on bikes" because of its width.

The cycle lane varies from 1.2m to 1.5m in width, and the road speed limit is 60 km/h.

NZTA states that the desirable minimum width for a cycle lane next to kerb edge on a road with a 60km/hour speed limit is 1.75m.

Council's general manager of infrastructure Nic Johansson says they are finalising designs for a separate shared path that would run along the eastern side of Totara Street from Hewletts Road to Hull Road.

"It’s not an optimal long-term solution for Totara Street, but it provides a higher level of safety than what is there now."

The new design will be presented to the councillors in a few weeks.

Council are also widening the painted cycle lanes in the remaining section of Totara Street. The new width of the lanes between Hull Road and Rata Street will be from 1.5 to 1.8 metres wide.

Nick, who is on the Bike Tauranga Totara Street project team, says council’s plans are acceptable as a “last resort” to minimise more deaths.

Kevin says the short-term fix is a safer option, but it doesn't address the whole of Totara Street.

"It's not a good solution. As the most used road for cyclists in Tauranga, we would like to see Totara Street fixed properly."

He says an urgent meeting is being held this Friday with Council, NZTA, Regional Council, The Port and other key stakeholders.

“We are hoping that at the meeting we can fast-track and get things sorted.”

Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell says his heart goes out to the family of the cyclist and urgent action is required to ensure another accident doesn’t happen.

“It is really important that we get on with it, and put the cycleway in on the eastern side of Totara Street. We cannot have another accident, let alone another fatality.”

He says he will look at the remaining area from Hull Road to Rata Street.

"It is deemed to be safer between Hull Road and Rata Street because there are less trucks. I have a duty to look at that part of the road as well and I think we should look at including the cycleway in that part.”

A port of Tauranga spokesperson says they would like to see any cycleway changes be part of a "comprehensive, integrated, long-term solution" that benefits vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

Port of Tauranga has lobbied government agencies for state highway designation for Totara Street for many years, she says.

"Which would expedite funding for safety improvements, increased capacity and intersection upgrades."

Last year, Nick described Totara Street as an "absolute deathtrap for the inexperienced”.

Recently, he told SunLive he has had frequent close calls on the road.

"There is usually at least one wheel of a car or a truck in the cycle lane. They are brushing right beside your elbow, and they tend to get closer and closer.”

Kevin says the saddest part of this accident is two lives have been wrecked, both which could have been alleviated if a safe cycle lane was implemented sooner.

According to Tauranga City Council, more than 100,000 bike trips were made along Totara Street last year from January 2019 to January 2020.

Police say no charges have been laid in relation to the fatal accident and the investigation is ongoing.

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17 Comments
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Wake up

Posted on 09-06-2020 12:16 | By Lvdw

TCC need to wake up. If they expect to reduce vehicles on the road they should make necessary arrangements for those alternate means of commuting.

SIMPLE REALLY

Posted on 06-06-2020 21:52 | By The Caveman

Totara Street is THE MAJOR access to the port and the industrial areas associated with it. Cyclist who want to use the road have death wish. Either the council turns the the footpath into a joint use cycle / walking path or the deaths will (sorry) continue, especially with the way that some cyclists ride!!

Clothing and paint are not protection

Posted on 06-06-2020 09:25 | By

Some sensible comments but the same arguments about clothing keep coming up. Hi-Viz will not help if a driver is not paying attention! The fact that the councils go to solution for cycle provision is to put a bit of paint on the pavement and say its a shared path is a joke (7th option from NZTA guidance for cycle lanes/infrastructure) It needlessly endangers pedestrians. as for paying for the roads, cyclists do. As Totara St is a locally maintained road the council maintains the road via rates please come up with a more constructive argument. it is a lack of political will and hopefully most will remember the freedom that Level 4 gave to everyone and how safe and friendly the roads were for all.

@Greerton Boy....

Posted on 05-06-2020 21:34 | By groutby

...I agree totally, it (sadly) is more than possible to have all the safety gear as a cyclist or in my case ex. motorcyclist, and still need to ride all the time as though your life depended on the way you ride, because it probably does!...no easy answers again but without going down the track of ’cyclists should pay rego etc’...I don’t think that would make any difference, surely motorists don’t go out with the intention of causing harm to others...

Good comments by all

Posted on 05-06-2020 21:20 | By

Bike riders wear fluorescent colours including your backpack and helmet, have the best rear facing lights available and reflective gear. Assume all other cars, trucks etc cannot see you. Do not race up the inside /between traffic to get slightly ahead! Do not assume every one has 20 year old eyes, at change of light a pushbike doing speed in black is invisible

Cycle lane

Posted on 05-06-2020 20:27 | By Mallyg

All you cycles need to go for a ride in a truck for a day down that road and see see how stupid most of you are I drive that road 15 to 20 trips a day and 95percent do not Follow followthe road rules plus the road is way to narrow please remember it’s the main road into the port and all the industrial Area right down to hull rd cheers malcolm

@Blasta

Posted on 05-06-2020 20:12 | By

Hi Blasta I’m not saying you’re wrong in any way whatsoever or mean it negatively but how does Health and Safety come into this assuming you’re referring to Work Safe NZ? It’s an interesting statement. Good on you looking out for your Son.

Totara St

Posted on 05-06-2020 17:50 | By cardan

Why is the cyclist dressed all in black in poor light?

Tga unsafe for cycling

Posted on 05-06-2020 17:12 | By Blasta

In compliance with the H&S act, I tell my son NOT to ride on the roads in Tga. An accident is not possible, but PROBABLE. Not just the vehicle drivers and driving but the road design combined with the sheer congestion makes cycling unviable and unsafe. Council needs to ban cycling around Tauranga if they don’t want to be in breach of the H&S act.

Alternative ? ? ?

Posted on 05-06-2020 16:43 | By

Just a thought outside of the box. Has anyone considered an alternative route or slight deviation - there is a relatively disused railway corridor running parallel with Tasman Quay from Hewletts Raod through to Astrolab/Hull Road (given part of it is port land) couldnt a safe cycle path be formed along this route with sensible crossings/warning system in place at key locations. Would suit perfectly both local & tourism riding use . this is provided between The Strand and reclamation. less cost, implication and inconvenience

Contribution?

Posted on 05-06-2020 16:15 | By

It’s ok cyclists demanding cycle lanes but what would their reaction be if the were asked to pay for these......would they be happy to each contribute to the cost? How about introducing a rego for bicycles, then that revenue can be used towards the cost of creating safe cycle lanes. Don’t expect vehicle taxes to pay for this.

A sad loss... Condolencess

Posted on 05-06-2020 16:10 | By GreertonBoy

To the person’s loved ones... I must say tho, I used to ride bicycles and motorcycles, but I realised that being on the road with speeding, texting and otherwise distracted drivers of vehicles weighing over 100 times the weight of my bike... was a no win situation for me. I chose/choose to not ride bicycles on the road (even cycle lanes) as I KNOW IT IS DANGEROUS. Millions could be spent on cycle lanes (payed for by drivers alone) but cyclists will STILL be at risk. Riding a bicycle on a road shared with vehicles is a choice. CYCLISTS have to choose to do, or not do it.Cyclists on the road need to accept that they will likely be injured (bike lane or not) and weigh/accept the risk, (or not). It is not fair nor just, but, sadly, it is reality (as I see it).

Reduce the speed limit

Posted on 05-06-2020 13:23 | By

It seems daft that reducing the speed limit to 50Km/h (and enforcing it) wasn’t mentioned. over the 2.5km of Totara St it would increase the drive time from 2m30s to 3mins!! the photo also highlights what Nick said about drivers in the cycle lane.

A Picture Is A 1000 Words.

Posted on 05-06-2020 12:27 | By

In the picture leading this article is a truck and a car both in the cycle lane coming up to a cyclist . . . How often do you see pedestrians on Totara Street - put the cycle lane onto the footpath thereby widening the road and if need be there is room to widen the footpath. Hang of a lot safer.

Awful

Posted on 05-06-2020 12:24 | By Kancho

It’s always so sad that someone loses there lives which spurs action which should have probsbly happened long before. As an aside I always walk facing oncoming traffic to be able to see what’s happening. I am very uncomfortable with my back to traffic and wonder why cyclists do as it’s is very scary. I have a bicycle and used to ride but now I find it too scary unless on a footpath facing the traffic flow. This is of course not a good solution so I gave up and drive for safety sake which somewhat defeats the idea of encouragement to cycle. I used to use the bus until the changes made a simple one bus ride into two, worse in bad weather and extra twenty or more minutes. So back into my car again.

Dear Tauranga Council....

Posted on 05-06-2020 12:14 | By

Hear the people. We live on a busy 13 minute drive being Papamoa Beach Road with a 60km limit. We witness regular vehicles traveling well over this speed (up to 120km on regular occurances, we call 111 but will it someone to be killed before action will be taken. We need speed cameras, we need lower speed limit (increase the chance of survival if hit), we need crossings and pedestrian refuges so the thousand of people each year using it can cross safely and we need the footpath running this popular road upgraded for use with both foot traffic and bikes. Another cyclist hit before lock down, three dead dogs and many near misses with families and kids. There is ongoing vehicles speeding, racing and crashes on this road. It’s time for Council to hear and action some massive improvements. Prevention now please!

Cycle Lane

Posted on 05-06-2020 12:03 | By surfsup

How did the figure of 100.000 cycle trips come about. Cycle lanes and roads that have a heavy truck presence do not go together.