Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dead German Cyclist Named As Mia Susanne Pusch - Updated

Police have released the name of the 19 year old German touring cyclist (see previous post ) who died in a road collision in Bulls Manawatu: Mia Susanne Pusch.

Mia had been in NZ on a cycling holiday since late October and was travelling towards Wanganui when she was struck by a truck heading in the same direction, according to a police statement.

Mia kept a public blog of her journey through New Zealand (translation) on the bike she'd called "pinkie". In it she spoke about being constantly harassed by drivers honking their horns at her - sometimes as by way of a greeting, often accompanied by a thumbs up sign. These positive honkers appeared to be particularly frequent in underpowered and overloaded vehicles, people on vacation, since the owners had generally  learned that they didn't need to hurry.

Then there were the less positive types - the negative tooters driven by the importance of an "incredible race against time". Those who were fond of using a loud horn when a cyclist got in their way and slowed them down. The type that would sneak up at high speed to well within her safety zone (0.5 -1.0 metres)  and then overtake with horn blaring, leaving her shaking with adrenaline. 

Her mother is understandably distraught at her daughter's death and we'd like to extend our sincere condolences to her for her unimaginable loss, it's every parent's worst nightmare to lose a child in such a way. 

Update 1

We have discovered that Mia isn't the only German born cyclist to have died in New Zealand in the last 5 months. Gifted post grad student Jens Richardon, who'd been living in NZ for around 10 years and well used to NZ road conditions and drivers, was killed in a hit and run whilst  cycling in Springston-Leeston Rd, about 45 kilometres southwest of Christchurch in August of last year. link

Cycling cannot be considered to be a safe pursuit in New Zealand when there are so many aggressive hoons owning the road. We are instantly reminded of the awful death in October of North Shore doctor Graham Robinson who was struck and killed under similar cirumstances whilst cycling outside of Helensville. The driver of the white Toyota Hillux sped off after hitting him and police have yet to track him down, despite having an excellent description of the vehicle.

We also recall the 'Tamaki carnage' a month earlier when a cyclist was critically injured and three others hurt when a car ploughed into a pack of 20 riders on Tamaki Drive, Auckland. News reports at the time stated
"Witnesses to the crash said the vehicle was turning from Cliff Rd on to Tamaki Dr when it collided with the pack, who were riding from the waterfront towards Vale Rd. They said the car appeared to slow down briefly before speeding towards the cyclists.

"She accelerated into the middle of the group, just cleaned the guys up," said John Cooney. The driver was "roundly abused" by the riders when she stopped. Police inspector Willie Taylor said the driver appeared to have driven through a compulsory stop before colliding with the group."
Heather McCracken's report concluded with details of other cycling fatalities and high number of injuries on NZ's roads during 2009
* Fatal cost of riding your bike
Seven cyclists have been killed so far this year on New Zealand roads.
Last year 10 riders were killed and almost 900 injured, with most crashes occurring at intersections on urban roads.
Last weekend cyclist Frank van Kampen, 46, was killed after being struck by a car near Otaki.
A 34-year-old cyclist was killed last month in a hit-and-run accident near Leeston, Christchurch.
Another Christchurch crash took the life of a 19-year-old cyclist in July.
Two cyclists have been killed in the Bay of Plenty, one in a May accident at a Mt Maunganui roundabout, and another following a crash involving a logging truck near Te Puke in March.
Two Dunedin cyclists have also lost their lives - one after colliding with a car in the city in March, and another in a crash outside of Mosgiel in June."
Pretty awful figures for such a small country. NZ does have the worlds highest car ownership - 720 per 1000 people, even more than the United States' 675 per 1000 people (in 2005) and when that's combined with intolerance towards other road users the weaker and more vulnerable need to be better protected than they are at present.

We suggest a national network of safe cycling routes, in which bike riders are protected from collision hazards with motor vehicles and more publicity given to visitors about which roads are dangerous for cyclists, so that they may plan out their holidays around those routes before they leave home.

Something has to be done to re-educate NZ drivers too, perhaps a national advertising campaign to make them more aware of the difficulties cyclists face and that the roads are for all to share, a revision of the driving test and tougher penalties for dangerous driving causing death or injury.

For other information about NZ poor road death and injury statistics see "Road death toll increases" and "NZ's roads described as killing fields"

See also 1.5m to Survive: 1.5 metres of  space for NZ's 1.5 million cyclists 

Related post : Another German Cyclist Killed In March

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Quality Of Life Index 2010

Many New Zealanders will be disappointed to hear that the country has only been placed fifth in this year's International Living magazine's Quality of Life index. Australia, its nearest and dearest neighbor has been placed second with France taking the top accolade.
Top 10 list
1. France
2. Australia
3. Switzerland
4. Germany
5. New Zealand
6. Luxembourg
7. USA
8. Belgium
9. Canada
10. Italy

We've been through the individual rankings for each of the parameters the 194 countries were measured against: Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk, and Climate and we've compared NZ's scores with other countries and their placement on the list shown here.

Cost of living
63rd. NZ's worst individual score! Despite NZ marketing often itself as having a low cost of living it ranked the same as Canada, Panama and Costa Rica.

Leisure and culture
17th on the ranked list, putting it on a par with a host of countries including Australia, South Korea and the UK.

NZ is often perceived as a financially astute and secure country but it wallows in at 25th place, way behind Australia, Singapore and the United States, comparable to the UK which is still in recession and Brazil.

Surely NZ should score well on this I hear you ask? not as well as you think - only 29th, Brunei takes the top honours, whilst NZ scores the same as Zimbabwe, Cuba and a few others.

We're all expecting a high ranking here and plenty of countries get full marks, including NZ.

NZ does well with its health score and is placed 9th alongside Belgium.
19th, could do better. Australia, Canada and the UK (all compete with NZ for skilled migrants) are placed higher. NZ fares only slightly better than Singapore and not as well as Denmark.
Risk and Safety
Most countries not currently fighting a war on their own soil do well here and score 100%

Zimbabwe takes top honors, NZ is comparable to Japan at joint 25th and the US, all are lower than Australia, Italy and France.

In summary, other than sharing the top scores for Freedom and Risk and Safety with many other countries, NZ seems to score its best marks for Health. The countries that do better are, France with an astonishing 100%, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Norway, Germany, Malta and Japan.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Crime In Palmerston North

The good people of Palmerston North seem to be having a hard time of it at the hands of their criminal element, just weeks ago it was revealed that the town suffers at least one sex assault every week.

Palmerston North is a town which has endured various shootings , a stoush  at a school in Feilding, a hammer attack on teenager Blake Coleman, knife crimes and public humiliation when it was discovered that its Wikipedia page had been 'edited' to remove negative references to gang violence and crime.
We decided to look at the town's current listing on Wikipedia and found this under the crime and policing heading - despite its appalling sex assault record and women warned to be vigilant whilst walking home alone over the Christmas period (when it was likely the attack rate would increase) so much for "satisfaction with safety in public places at night":
"Palmerston North is the main centre of the New Zealand Police's Central District.[15] Palmerston North has improved from 36th to 7th in a list of the best places for low crime figures (2008). Overall, crime dropped by 10% in the past year (2008). This is a result of organisations working together on prevention and enforcement strategies. Violent crime has increased by 5% in the past year but this is compared with an 11% rise nationally. Satisfaction with safety in public places at night has remained at its 2007 level.[16]"

Now we have the sad news that a 63 year old man has been beaten and robbed in his own home by 'several men' (some may call that a gang, but not in Palmerston North) He was injured in the attack, which took place in the early hours of this morning, and has been taken to hospital with light to moderate injuries. The police haven't said what weapons, if any, were used. Thank goodness he wasn't more seriously injured but he must still be very shaken after his ordeal.

The injured man was at an address in Waldegrave St,  which is about 2.5 km from Heretaunga Street where a shooting took place in September and 2.1 km from  another shooting on Grey Street in June

Our thoughts are with the injured man and we wish him a speedy, full recovery. We hope the thugs are caught soon.

See also: "Police kept busy with young teens":  About eight teenage boys attacked two men and two women in their early 20s, in Linton St near The Brewer's Apprentice, about 1.30am on Sunday 14 Feb 2010.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two American Tourists Attacked In Rotorua

4 days after the event the press eventually found out that a young American couple were attacked and robbed in Rotorua on Saturday night. The thugs responsible for the attack  - all teenagers (the youngest is 14) have appeared in court over the last two days and the tourists are now safely away from further media attention. This appeared in today's Herald and followed a story published yesterday by 3 News and Stuff
"Three teenagers have been charged with aggravated robbery after two American visitors were attacked in Rotorua. The tourists, a man and a woman in their early 20s, were set upon near Rangiuru St late on Saturday night. 

They were bruised and scratched and their belongings were stolen, police said.
An 18-year-old youth and a 14-year-old boy appeared in the Rotorua Youth Court yesterday and were remanded.A 17-year-old youth will appear in the Youth Court today."
The names, or town of origin, for the tourists have not been released.

View Larger Map, Rangiuru Street near to where the attack took place
The attack has drawn surprisingly little attention from the public, warranting but a single comment on the 3News website by "Dan"
"Shame on our youth. The recent incidents relating to tourists have started a huge decline in numbers of inbound tourists as well as tourism dollars which are crucial for our economy. Wonder what the politicians and police are going to do about this. The law needs to be amended drastically with regards to the punishment handed out if arrested."
Unfortunately incidents such as these are not isolated, nor uncommon. On November 30 a group of "international tourists" (details of their nationality were never released) were attacked and robbed whilst they bathed at Kerosene Creek, 35km south of Rotorua. see blog post Tourists robbed. 

Other tourist attacks and robberies include

Two German tourists attacked in Paihia, Northland

Two American tourists were robbed at Shipwreck Bay in Northland whilst sandboarding

Asian woman, (probably Japanese) age 22, raped in her room by 2 teenagers in a home invasion in Opotiki

Three Chinese tourists attacked and robbed at Te paki, 90 Mile Beach by two men they'd stopped to help

French tourist Anthony Cressend, beaten and robbed at campsite in Ahipara, Northland

Two Australian tourists robbed at knifepoint for their holiday money in Te Puke, SE of Tauranga.

Japanese tourist age 23 (female) kidnapped, robbed and assaulted in Rotorua by four men

French tourist (male) raped at gunpoint near Opotiki

American peace corp twins Adam and Alex Rahmlow, 21 were robbed of all their possessions by a man they tried to help in Amberley, Christchurch.

Dutch couple
raped and robbed on a campsite in Tuatapere, NW of Invercargill, whilst on their honeymoon. (Dutch govt. issued a travel warning about NZ)

Two Koreans were attacked and robbed of their possession which included a laptop computer by a man claiming to be a gang member in Blenheim.

British tourist worker sexually assaulted near Hururu Falls, Northland when she was dragged off a walking track.

Canadian tourist Jeremie Kawerninski, kidnapped, assaulted and robbed in Lower Hutt, Wellington

Dutch couple robbed and sexually attacked Haruru Falls, Northland whilst on honeymoon.

Two British women robbed and raped in their campervan at Tokomaru Bay, north of Gisborne.

Japanese tourist subjected to a prolonged and brutal sex attack in a communal area of a backpacker's hostel in Turangi, Taupo.

Scottish woman Karen Aim
brutally murdered by a youth in Taupo.

German woman
Birgit Brauer murdered near New Plymouth.

Korean man Jae Hyeon Kim
decapitated with a spade by white supremacist.

Japanese tourist robbed at gunpoint in Oamaru.

Irish cycle tourist Paul Mack bashed, robbed and urinated on throughout his NZ tour.

6 English and Danish
tourists attacked and stabbed in Cashel Mall, Christchurch for having "foreign accents."

Irish man Robby
O'Brien beaten up in Westport.

Russian couple Denis Khotchenko and Lera Nesterova beaten and robbed in Milford, Auckland

English woman knifed and sexually assaulted in a toilet block at an A1 motor camp in Kaikoura

American campers Patrick Dykstra and Kelsey McGinley
beaten and robbed at Whangarei Falls.

Australian tourist sexually assaulted on a street in broad daylight in Nelson.

Australian tourist subjected to a sex attack by Maia Crawford Rongonui whilst walking home to a backpackers in Christchurch.

tourist left with a fractured skull outside Silver Fern backpackers in Taupo.

tourist beaten and robbed at Lake Rotorua.

British man Paul Speakman
and his young son beaten and robbed in a campervan at Athenree Gorge, Katikati.

Chinese woman attacked for speaking Chinese on a train approaching Petone.

Scottish visitor Stuart Martin who was left in a coma and with a boot print on his face after a street bashing in Taradale, Christchurch.

Pretty shocking for a country as small as New Zealand. But these are just some of the crimes that make it as far as the news, true figures for tourist assaults and robberies either aren't gathered or they're not released. Who can tell how bad the problem is? and if a problem isn't measured how can it ever be  resolved?

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

German Cyclist Killed In Bulls, Manawatu

Today we heard the awful news that another tourist has been killed on New Zealand's roads.

A 19 year old woman on a cycling holiday from Germany died after she was hit by a truck on State Highway 3 approxmiately 4km north of Bulls, Manawatu between the junctions with Neumans Line and Stantoft Road. Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.

View Larger Map
Her death came days after American journalist Deborah Howell was killed near Springs Creek.

Related posts :
Dead German cyclist named as Mia Susanne Pusch

Facebook group set up in memory of Mia Pusch

Another German Cyclist killed in March - Stephan Stoermer

Today's posts - click here

Monday, January 4, 2010

More On The Tragic Death of Deborah Howell

The Marlborough Express has published further details about the tragic death of American journalist Deborah Howell, who died after being struck by a car near Blenheim on Saturday. Her husband said they were being transferred to accommodation by Marlborough Travel when his wife asked the driver to stop, because she wanted to take a photograph on Rapaura Rd:

The husband of a leading United States journalist killed while holidaying in Marlborough says his wife always told him to face reporters if anything happened to her. Former Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, 68, a veteran newspaper editor, was fatally injured when she was struck by a car on Rapaura Rd, near Spring Creek, north of Blenheim, about 12.10pm Saturday.

She had stepped out of the car she was in to take a photograph when she was hit by an oncoming vehicle. Her husband, Peter Magrath, said he believed she was not used to cars driving on the left, and had looked the wrong way.

Sergeant Dan Mattison, of Blenheim, said Ms Howell was taken to Wairau Hospital by Blenheim St John Ambulance with serious injuries. She died soon after.

Mr Magrath, a former University of Minnesota president, agreed to talk to The Marlborough Express, because his wife always told him to face reporters. "You don't have to answer questions, but I would dishonour her if I didn't talk to reporters," Mr Magrath said" more here
Later news reports stated that the driver of the car that struck Ms Howell was not from the area. Police are investigating whether there are ground for charging her. The most common charge was likely to be careless driving causing death.

According to the report in the  Marlborough Express
"Rapaura Rd, also known as State Highway 62, has previously been labelled the most dangerous stretch of highway in New Zealand.

While the 12.7-kilometre stretch has a relatively low traffic volume, it was the scene of four fatal crashes and two serious injury crashes from 2002 to 2006."
 See also The disturbing toll on New Zealand's roads - The AA wants the Government to put more effort into studying the factors that lead to crashes.

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Spanish Tourists Not To Blame For Fatal Accident

The Northern Advocate has published a story confirming that Spanish tourists were not at fault in a fatal accident on state highway 1, 4km north of Towai (the road between Whangarei and Paihia) on December 22.

Joan Roma Serra and his partner Eva Fajula Rovira from Torello, a town  in  Catalonia, were both 34 years old, died when the camper van they were driving hit a truck and trailer head-on.

Very often tourists are too easily blamed for road smashes in NZ - either because of their inexperience of local driving conditions or because they're affected by jet-lag. It's good to see accident investigators managing to look beyond the nationality of the driver before reaching a conclusion as to the cause of an 'accident'. On this occasion the visitors were simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time" as it seems the truck was on their side of the road.

The stretch of road in question was said to be notorious among truck drivers, many of whom were wary of it. A temporary 70 km/hr limit has now been imposed "uneven surface" warning signs have been put up, why this didn't happen sooner is a mystery, perhaps the tourists' deaths may have been avoided if they had been. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the deceased couple for their sad loss.

Very often the nationality of tourists killed or injured on the roads isn't released  to the media and there seems to be no official data on the numbers of tourists involved every year, or of the types of vehicles they were driving. The true extent of the carnage may not be realised.

The last time we heard of Spanish tourists being injured was in August when a family, also travelling in a camper van, were injured in a smash in the Lindis Pass in Cantebury. The same month a French honeymooning couple were injured when their camper van collided with a logging truck north of Napier.

In another fatal smash in Northland in March two Swedish tourists were killed south of Whangarei just hours after they arrived in New Zealand (see blog post) at the time Whangarei police Sergeant Chris Goodall said the road had a "decided history of loss of control accident whenever it rains." and that although the road was three lanes wide there was a tendency for people to "fall off" and to lose concentration. The deceased were later named as 20 year old  Emelie Jenny Green and Theresia Andrea Johansson.  

According to the Herald it was the second fatal accident in the area in two days. Robert Watene, 22, died when his car and a truck collided on State Highway 1 near the Waipu turnoff, about 30km north of the Brynderwyn Hills.

In other posts we've highlighted on many occasions that according to AA information
  • New Zealand's Road Safety to 2010 strategy forecasts that 42 lives a year could be saved by improvements in road engineering.
  • Installing rumble strips on roads can reduce crashes by up to 27% by preventing run-off-road and head-on collisions.
  • Installing a barrier along an embankment can reduce run-off-road casualty crashes by as much as 45%.
Yet scores of crashes are still occurring. Even though accident blackspots are well known about deaths and serious injuries are still happening. What will it take to reduce the carnage on New Zealand's roads?

Thinking of driving in NZ? See 'Accident Blackspots':  what a few of NZ's more infamous and unforgiving black spots look like.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

American Journalist Deborah Howell Dies On NZ Roadside

A well known and respected American journalist  Deborah Howell has been hit and killed whilst on holiday in New Zealand. Ms Howell died yesterday after a car hit her on Cravens Road, near Spring Creek at around 12.10pm, she was one of eleven people to die on NZ roads over the holiday period.  Deborah Howell was a former Washington Post ombudsman and one of the first women to lead a major U.S. newspaper. She will be greatly missed.

View Larger Map, general view of Cravens Road
Ms Howell was traveling in New Zealand on vacation with her husband, C. Peter Magrath, at the time of the accident. Her stepson Nick Coleman said Howell suffered fatal injuries when struck by a vehicle. She lived in Glen Echo (source Washington Post)

In March University of Washington student, 22 year old Celia Kelly, died when a Toyota carrying her and four others collided head-on with a Honda near Taupo, New Zealand. Celia was sitting on a back seat and was killed instantly.

On November 10 a 61 year old American tourist and his female passenger were injured when their car collided with a petrol tanker whilst both vehicles were travelling south on Highway 6, between Frankton and Jack's Point at around 8:45 am . The driver had to cut free from the wreckage.

American Rita Zaross, 62, died in a head on crash between two cars in Northland and countless others have been killed and injured over the years, official figures for tourist road casualties aren't available.

New Zealand has an appalling record for deaths and injuries on its roads, which are particularly dangerous for cyclists, see Charity cyclists shocked at NZ's dangerous roads - a blog written by Wouter Van Wezemael who tried to cycle the length of NZ with his family but found it far too hazardous.
see also posts tagged
' Dangerous Roads'
'Accident Blackspots'

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