So, now wider Nelson gets to have a say on the prospect of improving Rocks Rd for pedestrians and cyclists. Lets look at some of the issues here:
1) This is about Rocks Road. This is not about some new arterial road that might be called the southern link. If Nelson waits to see what the southern link investigation says about the viability of that as a new road we will lose the funding for the current 2-options project. That’s because using this pool of funds has a specific time cutoff. The Mayor and most councillors understand this. The rest of us need to get our heads around this reality as well - which seems strangely difficult for some.
2) If a new arterial road was to be built in the future, work done to Rocks Rd in this current project could be adapted to take advantage of Rocks carrying fewer large trucks. But trucks will still need to use RR even if it isn’t the state highway - moving and delivery trucks, for instance. Also, most vehicle traffic on Rocks is currently made up of private cars, and many of these drivers will continue to to use this route to town (which is another story). So building a new road and directing most heavy traffic onto that won’t turn Rocks Rd into some kind of bucolic, private residential lane.
3) There is no Perfect Option 3. However, if you find a vast, buried oil lake under your back garden and you really want to donate this to NCC to fund some kind of perfect option go right ahead and ring customer services. Maybe you’ll get a rates' rebate. (Free parking too, just not at the airport.)
4) There are two layout options, but there’s probably wriggle room to adjust aspects of these to make each work a bit better, depending on what comes out of the consultation process and maybe from further detailed costing and design work. So what we’re looking at is a choice between two general ideas here with room to tweak the details.
5) OK, I lied about the ‘brief’ bit, but you’re half way through now…..
6) Rocks Rd currently serves vehicles ok, some cyclists ok, and many pedestrians poorly. The best option is to try to spread the benefits more evenly - so that pedestrians, for instance, get a decent walkable space and can actually push a buggy along one of NZ’s most stunning waterfronts. (Yes, yes, not having trucks beside you on this road would also be nice, but so would more sunshine and world peace. Lets start with what we’ve got.) Both proposed options shift a bit of space from vehicle drivers (mostly parking). Both give more and better space to walkers. One option gives safer space to cyclists. The choice between the 2 options is the choice between how this redistribution plays out.
7) At present, experienced and traffic-confident cyclists use Rocks Rd cycle lanes ok. Mostly, anyway. What we know from NZ and overseas data is that if people in the wider community have a safe off-road option they’ll use it to cycle to work, school or to shop. If they don’t have that option they won’t, and will probably drive. We’ll be covering this evidence in our submissions and in public debate in the coming month(s), but the evidence for this ‘suppressed demand’ effect is compelling.
8) Almost there…..3 more to go.
9) The two options going out for consultation primarily cater for two different cycling groups; one caters for a relatively small group of what we’d probably call traditional ‘commuters’ - the experienced and traffic-confident cyclists. They’ll use the updated on-road cycle lanes of Option 1, just as they’re using the existing on-road cycle lanes now. Gains in the numbers of cyclists using the ‘upgraded’ route will almost certainly be negligible. The other option will cater to the large pool of would-be cyclists, or to current cyclists who are risk-averse. Gains in the numbers of cyclists using the ‘upgraded’ route will be significant.
NZTA, which is paying for most of this project, is funding a project to facilitate a significant increase in the numbers of cyclists choosing to cycle to work, school or to shop.
Yes, some existing cyclists won’t like that second option. It means slowing down a bit and sharing the off-road space with others. That will add a few minutes to the ride - a ride which is actually quite difficult to match for sheer beauty just about anywhere, so why race it? And of course there is a bigger picture here for expanding cycling, and for creating a culture of cycling in Nelson.
(Only joking, you’ll know by now that when it comes to this project this is just beginning…..But it’s a big step down the path…. beside the sea, looking at the mountains, watching the water….)