David – The writer behind the Cycle Tour NZ online guide to bicycle touring in NZ answers the question, “Is New Zealand still safe for cyclists?”:
“Unfortunately the death of touring cyclists is not an uncommon event now in New Zealand and there appears to be a general reluctance by the Government and New Zealand culture generally to accept we have a problem, primarily with the driving habits of our truck drivers.
I wrote to the newspaper complaining and my letter was published but little has happened that is constructive. It is well to remember that for every fatality there are uncounted numbers of close calls which give a very poor image of our country as a safe haven for cycle tourists.
I believe most accidents occur in the North Island in the provincial areas where truck drivers are singularly aggressive. I would still tour New Zealand by bike but would head for the South Island and miss most of the North altogether. I recall a Scottish cycle tourist telling me that after discussing a close call with a truck driver he was told that; ‘If you get in my way I will go right over the top of you’. The truck driver appeared to believe this was acceptable behaviour rather than the actions of a psychopath.
There IS something you can do. I suggest you e mail the press in New Zealand and the Government tourism office and state clearly that New Zealand is no longer regarded globally as a safe destination for cycle tourists and that some concerted, Government funded safety campaign is undertaken. Ironically, a National Cycle Network is planned here. List the complaints you hear from touring cyclists and send them to Government agencies here…including me and I will pass them on.
A bit of pressure will make this country beautiful AND safe to tour.”