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The number of cycling crashes in South Canterbury looks set to hit a five-year low this year.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) statistics showed there had been only five crashes involving cyclists in South Canterbury this year, the lowest since 2008.

Timaru Cycling Club president Dave Hawkey said roads were safer to cycle on because motorists were getting the message about sharing the road.

Mr Hawkey believes motorists are becoming used to the sight of cyclists on roads, which means they are more inclined to share the road with them.

“It’s because it (cycling) is becoming more of a popular pastime. There are certainly more cyclists out there, far more than there have been, and people are adopting safer driving.”

Timaru District Council road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude said there was a small percentage of drivers who ignored the messages, but overall drivers were more aware of their surroundings.

“When numbers [of crashes] go down it’s always a good sign,” he said.

Mr Naude said sharing the roads between cyclists and motorists was a give and take situation. He encouraged cyclists to make sure they were visible, and motorists to be more aware.

“The thing is with cycling, if you are involved in an incident you come off worse because you do not have much protection.”

He said many places in the Timaru District were cycle-friendly as there was not much traffic congestion on roads.

NZTA southern regional safety co-ordinator Lee Wright said, there were some excellent cycle safety initiatives in the district.

“The city’s School Travel Programmes have targeted young cyclists and students, and the lowering of speed limits through the city’s streets has helped create an environment that makes it safe for all road users.

“We all use the roads. Some of us prefer to drive, some ride, others walk, but it’s easy to forget that road users are all the same people, they just chose to travel in a particular way on a particular day.”

NZTA figures showed Timaru’s crashes peaked at 17 in 2008, followed by 12 in 2010 and 2012, 10 in 2009 and nine in 2011.

This year’s crashes have included one fatality, one serious crash and three minor incidents.

_Emma Cropper reporting for The Timaru Herald