The council meeting tomorrow is a big one. It's got an agenda that runs into over 400 pages and nicely timed to be on the run up to Christmas (http://nelson.govt.nz/council/council-structure/council-meetings-2016/).
At this meeting councillors look set to vote to urge NZTA to build a highway, while at the same time they will dither over whether to build another crappy stretch of cycleway (currently to nowhere) on what should be a major cycle route (but hey, what's the point, we're going to build a new highway, right?). Oh yes, and they will also look at banning cyclists from a stretch of the Maitai. To us, it's clear that our views, and the views of many Nelson ratepayers, are not being represented in council.
It is for this reason and after much debate, BNB decided we wouldn't submit on any of these topics. We've repeated our message enough times to council and council staff and our views are well known. Council meetings like this are in general dominated by the same people; primarily those same names you see at the bottom of angry letters to the editor. Without fail we see the Tim Bayley - Cynthia McConville tag team (it would appear it's Tim's turn this time) for example. Similarly the faces of BNB have become well known and easy to ignore.
Any conflict between cycling and walking is great for selling newspapers and it also serves other agendas, but it undermines our efforts to create a healthy, sustainable, people-focused city. It's important therefore to look at the bigger picture - to look at what is really behind this conflict.
The Maitai walkway is a special place for many reasons - it's one of Nelson's biggest assets for cyclists and walkers, for young and old and for locals and for tourists. It's possible to cycle from the marina all the way up the Maitai for several kilometres off road (with the only road you need to cross being Trafalgar St.).
As people become more aware of the health benefits of cycling and walking, as well as the consequences of a car centric city, we're seeing increases in the numbers of people using active transport. As the numbers have increased, we've seen pressure put on the Maitai route and similar areas. This is primarily because our infrastructure hasn't kept pace with this growth, nor has it catered for the needs of different cyclists. Unfortunately, in our city every car park space is sacred, and the Southern Link is seen as the solution to everything. The aim of creating a healthy sustainable city in line with the 2060 strategy, where the needs of pedestrians and cyclists aren't sacrificed to the ‘needs' of cars, has been stunted, and our city is being increasingly left behind.
So what do we do ? We think it's time we reclaimed our streets. It's time to stop fighting over the scraps and realise that our city is becoming increasingly car-focused and unsustainable in it's current form. It's time we looked at and learnt from other cities and towns that have been able to transition to active and public transport. Places where the commitment to 'public space' means something more than being committed to car parking spaces and roads. It's time that our council worked for all of us.
We need you to step up, get involved, and fight for the future of Nelson! We have hundreds of people on our mailing list and our Facebook page has over 1800 ‘Likes' and while not everybody will agree with all our views, we assume that many of you do. We don't have the money to put full page ads in the paper so we need YOU to get active and help get the message out. Write to the mayor, write to your your councillors, spread the word through social media, talk to your friends and of course get out on your bike.
While the revolution may not be televised, fortunately the council meeting on tomorrow will be. If you can't make it there in person try and watch it on-line (https://www.youtube.com/user/NelsonCouncil) and when you hear our councillors and our mayor speak, ask yourself if they are representing your values and your views. If not, let them know - they have a legal responsibility to represent us.