Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency declined the application for a temporary traffic management plan for the Tākahe to Akaroa road relay race this year due to significant safety concerns on SH75.
“We could not let people run in traffic lanes on the main route between Akaroa and Christchurch, confident that reasonable and adequate measures were in place to keep them and other road users like cyclists safe for this day-long run,” says Peter Brown, Regional Manager Central and Lower South Island, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.
Waka Kotahi was not satisfied that the organiser had practical controls to address significant safety concerns, including some raised after the 2021 race by the public and New Zealand Police.
There was at least one verifiable instance of a near miss/ head-on collision in 2021 and other evidence of other near-miss risks on the highway.
Runners and others were at risk on a number of occasions along the winding and hilly route to Akaroa in 2021.
In recent weeks the speed limit has been lowered to a maximum of 80km/ hour on SH75 and in some sections to 60km/h or lower, however, these speeds are still not survivable by a runner in a head-on event with a vehicle, says Mr Brown.
The organiser’s suggestion that the traffic speed for most of the 50km SH75 route to Akaroa be reduced to 30km/ hour for the ten-hour duration of the race to protect runners is unrealistic and unachievable, says Mr Brown. “We have consulted with New Zealand Police and they have agreed there would have been limited driver compliance with the organiser’s proposals over the length of the route and resulted in substantial delays and frustration.”
After last year’s event, Waka Kotahi raised safety concerns with the organiser in response to complaints from the public and NZ Police and advised that changes had to be made if an event in 2022 was to gain support. However, the traffic management plan for 2022 showed that little had changed.
The two main proposed changes were not adequate or practicable in the view of Waka Kotahi, says Mr Brown. Ie a 30km/h Temporary Speed Limit for a 44km length of SH75 and 18 Manual Traffic Control (Stop/Go) locations, including the 6.3km length from Puaha Rd (base of Hilltop) up to Hilltop.
Other options to reduce risk to all parties do not appear to have been considered says Mr Brown. For example, use of safer off-road options (eg the Little River cycling rail trail from Motukarara), making it a requirement for runners to wear hi-visibility clothing or requiring no parking alongside the road shoulders.
Despite working with the race organiser since November 2021 when the original safety concerns were raised about the 2021 race and regular contact over the past six months, a very similar proposed traffic management plan was submitted on 12 September, 2022, and declined on 13 September.