Council held two workshops on walking and cycling issues last week, facilitated very well by Dave Allen and assisted by council staff. The information that came from these meetings will be fed into a set of principles and suggested outcomes that were developed by staff and elected councilors in an earlier workshop.
Overall there was a good deal of useful debate, and a number of participants echoed some similar themes - not least that the aspects of tension in some areas reflect Nelson’s success in building the numbers of people out there being active, but there’s a clear understanding that the implication of that growth might have been better planned and prepared for, with the result that we now need to move into catch-up mode.
The first workshop focused on waking and cycling for transport and the second on recreation. BNB attended both, but took a more of an observer role at the second since in this area the Nelson Mountain Bike club and, to some extent, the Nelson Tasman Cycle Trails Trust provide leadership. The issues in the off-road/mountain biking area are in some ways similar yet different to urban paths, and this is likely to be reflected in the application of some of the solutions (such as a more straight-forward application of specific-use paths), but the underlying issues involving (better) planned development and user responsibility will be the same.
With urban paths and routes the issues are complex; as a couple of participants noted, some shared paths carry a mix of different users in different sections at different times, and most providing an important amenity for large numbers in our community, so making these work better is unlikely to be a simple matter of banning particular user groups. This is particularly so when we look at the increasing number of more vulnerable people, like children and older, less experienced riders, for whom off-road shared paths are a necessary safe option. So the need to meet their needs, and the needs of walkers, should be pushing us to think creatively about how to provide options for the needs of faster and more confident riders, like experienced commuters and mountain bikers in a way that takes the pressure (and tension) of shared paths.
Most of this stuff is fairly obvious at a conceptual level so the devil will be, as is often the case, in the detail. It’s not quite clear what the process is from here, or what degree of consultation there will be in the next step(s), so we’ll keep you posted. What we will say is that we have been a little disappointed by the speed of progress in tackling this, and what it takes to get some issues on the Council’s agenda. BNB met with Nelson’s Mayor and the then president on Nelson Grey Power to discuss shared path issues in November last year, and pushed for an integrated approach to walking and cycling issues in our submission to the Regional Land Transport Strategy, also last year, so a little action earlier might have been a good move.