Making roads safer for horse riders

Written by on 16 May 2017

National horse ride for safer roads

Horse riders all over New Zealand are preparing to Ride For Road Safety after the sentence handed down to a motorist who hit and killed Curious George and injured his rider, journalist Karen Rutherford.

The National Ride for Road Safety aims to attract people on horseback and on foot, walking designated routes from Northland to Invercargill, at 10am on Saturday 20th May.

“Karen’s dreadful injuries and George’s death have highlighted just how vulnerable we as riders are,” says National Coordinator Simone Frewin from Northland.

“This is a universal problem and we’re keen to educate motorists, as they’ve done in Britain with similar rides, that passing at 20km/h and giving a horse 2metres berth, is imperative for the safety of both the motorist and the rider.”

Karen Rutherford’s crash last August happened when Chinese national Peng Wang hit her and Curious George at around 70km/h. He admitted to the court he’d never read the road code before visiting NZ.

Horses are required by law to ride on the left hand side of the road, unless it is not practical or safe to do so.

But Ride for Road Safety campaigners say current legislation is ambiguous, stating:

*Motorists must “slow down or stop” and give a rider “plenty of room.”

“When you’re travelling at 100km/h on a rural road, what does slow down mean? Eighty? Sixty? Motorists need clarity,” according to NZ Horse Network’s Viv Dostine.

Her petition already signed by 4,200 people asks that NZ legislation at least match Australian legislation by having a 20km/h speed limit for passing horses, just as is the case for passing a school bus. There is also a call to specifically allow horse riders on grass verges, and introduce a charge in law for killing a horse.

New Zealanders own over 80 thousand recreational and sport horses- many of which are ridden on our rural roads.

But the equestrian community says there are weekly examples of near misses.

“In the past I’ve had people drive so close their wing mirrors have snapped off on my stirrup irons; ignorant driving is one thing but some people toot just to spook us. Horses are living breathing animals- a mode of transport for riders- who have every right to be on the road just as cyclists and cars do.”

Simone Frewin says she has had interest from people keen to hold rides on Sat 20th May in Matakohe, Dairy Flat, West Auckland, Cambridge, Pahiatua, Carterton, Kapiti, Temuka, Westland and Invercargill.

Between 50-100 horses are expected in each location.

We are hoping to have the support of Police escorts, with all riders and walkers asked to wear high-vis vests. A trailer will follow participants picking up any manure.

“We as riders have responsibilities too and this is a great opportunity to remind the public and ourselves about road riding etiquette, hand signals etc. Be a part of New Zealand’s biggest ever simultaneous ride, and let’s show the Government that cars and riders can co-exist with a few simple courtesies and a couple of tweaks to the law,” says Simone Frewin.


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