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Motorcyclists take a stand

Former motorcycle road racer Aaron Slight wants crash data to inform any decisions on State Highway 2 improvements. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

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A motorcycle safety consultant and a former professional motorcycle road racer are opposing safety barriers and roundabout designs planned for State Highway 2.

On Monday, the New Zealand Transport Agency made public a consultation document outlining safety improvements for the road between Masterton and Featherston.

A flexible median barrier, three new roundabouts, and a turnaround were planned for the stretch of road between Masterton and Carterton.

“Flexible road safety barriers ‘catch’ vehicles that leave their lane before they hit something less forgiving – like other vehicles or roadside hazards such as trees, poles, and ditches,” the document said.

The document acknowledged a common concern among motorcycle riders that steel rope barriers were not safe.

“Studies have shown this isn’t correct. It’s the opposite. Barriers can reduce the number of motorcyclists killed and injured by 50 per cent.”

Motorcycle safety consultant Allan Kirk said the studies focused on the deflection of vehicles rather than on the motorcyclists themselves.

“For obvious reasons – you can’t teach rats to ride motorcycles – there has been no research on what happens when the rider hits a wire rope barrier,” Kirk said.

“Placing wire rope barriers on the danger straights, is simply cheap and nasty and playing with road safety. Those wire rope barriers are a real danger to motorcyclists.”

Kirk said if there were any barriers, he would prefer to have a wider road with concrete between the lanes.

Driving mentor and former motorcycle road racer Aaron Slight said the document lacked information on the cause of these crashes.

“We need to know how those accidents occurred before we can plan a way to fix the problem – if indeed there is a problem,” Slight said.

One of the most recent fatal crashes had involved a head-on collision. In January 2019, a man had died when a sleep-deprived truck driver crashed into his vehicle at the Tauherenikau bridge.

“Inattention while driving is the biggest killer for average New Zealand drivers,” Slight said.

He said the answer was to increase safety education rather than safety barriers.

“You get your licence when you’re 16, and you never have to sit it again. How do we know the standard of drivers out there in their 50s and 60s?”

Slight said refresher courses could help to keep drivers trained throughout their lives.

“I find it really hard not to be negative because all I want to do is keep a common sense approach to our roading that will keep the country moving and keep people safe.”

Both Slight and Kirk also took issue with NZTA’s roundabout designs.

Slight said an East Taratahi Rd roundabout was unnecessary.

He suggested people who wanted to turn right from East Taratahi Rd on to SH2 could instead drive up Hughes Line and access the proposed roundabout at Norfolk Rd.

“There’s always a different route you can take. It doesn’t have to cater to everyone at one intersection.”

The NZTA document said there was not enough room to safely pass between the Norfolk Rd and East Taratahi Rd roundabouts.

“We are proposing that this passing lane is removed.”

Kirk said he would prefer to keep the passing lane and remove the East Taratahi Rd roundabout.

Slight and Kirk agreed that the proposed roundabout at Ngaumutawa Rd was much needed.

However, Slight said the design was flawed, with only one lane turning out of Ngaumutawa Rd on to SH2.

“Don’t we want the traffic to keep moving?”

  • Feedback on NZTA’s proposed changes is due by August 27. Email [email protected] to have your say.

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