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Cyclists spooked into riding footpaths

Worried Christchurch cyclists are using footpaths instead of biking on busy roads after the death of student nurse Sharla Haerewa.

Haerewa, 22, was killed after she was hit by a truck while cycling on Lincoln Rd to work.

Several cyclists who spoke to The Press said they often felt unsafe in the Lincoln Rd cycle lane, particularly at intersections, and instead biked on footpaths.

Janys Harrison, who lives on Barrington St and works on Hazeldean Avenue, walked her bike to work on Thursday morning because “it felt safer.”

She said the Lincoln Rd and Barrington/Clarence St intersection was a particular worry.

“It’s terrible because there is no room for cyclists.”

Tai Tapu resident Derek Brown cycled the same route as Haerewa on the morning she was killed and said distracted drivers were another worry. “That morning, there were 18 people texting as I was cycling down the cycle lane. And that’s standard.”

Community Constable William Timms, who oversees the Addington and Hoon Hay area, said he enforced traffic rules on helmets, but did not cite cyclists for riding on footpaths.

“I think with the roadworks and earthquake conditions, there would be times where it’s safer for the cyclists to be on the footpath than the road,” he said. “The most important thing is the cyclist’s safety.

“Everyone wants to get home safe at the end of the day, don’t they?”

Addington Neighbourhood Association chair Julie Derrick said Lincoln Rd had “quite a scary cycle lane”, but said cyclists should walk their bikes rather than ride on footpaths.

“Where you’ve got people coming out of shops, it’s just not safe.”

Spokes Canterbury chairman Keith Turner said that apart from specially designated shared paths, riding on footpaths was illegal. “Unfortunately at the moment there is a degree of nervousness among people riding,” he said.

“I also think a lot of people don’t actually realise it’s illegal to ride on the footpath.”

Turner said the fact that Haerewa was doing everything right in terms of wearing visible clothing and using working lights was “a problem”.

“The only solution you’ve got in a situation like that is proper, well-made, well-designed, separated cycleways where heavy vehicle traffic – any motorised traffic – is kept separate from people on bikes.”

The Christchurch City Council this month announced it will delay its rollout of a new $69 million network of cycleways by a further three years.

_Hannah Herchenbach for The Press