An interesting and some might say puzzling decision today from Nelson City Council today over the Tahunanui Cycle project. But sometimes saying no is important, even to cycle projects, so here's our thoughts.
There's no question Tahuna is a complex challenge to get a good connection through for the priority (potential) user group; people who aren't tourists or recreation riders, or fast confident commuters, but people who would ride to work, or the shops, or school, if there was a relatively direct and safe option. These are the people NZTA and transport agencies across the world are targeting to use a bike occasionally (or more) instead of reflexively going for the car keys.
But this project should never have got to this point; we believe that staff essentially foreclosed the route options and effectively sidelined any attempt to make a route involving part of Pascoe St and Muritai St viable in order to 'get some runs on the board' with a relatively easy cycling project. Importantly, the consultation was never about, 'Will a Pascoe St route or Bolt Rd work best for you," it was "We have this cycleway we're going to build, do you like it?" You get very different answers to those 'consultation' approaches.
We can completely understand why staff took this 'let's just get something done here' approach; it's been incredibly frustrating for them trying to get cycle projects through over that last few years, but long-term we believe the Bolt road route would have been an expensive gesture that resulted in minimal use. Not good use of ratepayer's money.
So, where from here? It looks like a recreational and tourism (coastal) route connecting the Wakatu Dr path and airport to Tahuna beach is already on the agenda for council, so lets put some effort into getting a route that connects the real points of need - Tahuna beach/Rocks Rd at the north, and Stoke, and the Railway Reserve path at the south. Would NZTA fund both this proper Stoke-Tahuna route as well as the route submitted today? Despite some fudging of this issue in the council meeting we're pretty sure from past experience the answer would be a firm no, and that why we need it done once, and done right.
Hannah at the Nelson Mail covered this meeting and we understand she'll do a follow-up for the paper. We've talked through the issues with her and feel that she really 'gets it', so look out for that piece in the future.
We want to thank Councillors Noonan, Lawrey and Dahlberg for sticking with their reservations about this project against considerable pressure to 'just do it', especially when Matt is a long-term, solid backer of cycleways generally. Not easy to step back from that today, but we see this as a step towards a better long-term investment.
Watch this space...
Nelson Mail story on today's meeting here http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/92697939/nelson-city-council-set-to-approve-rocks-rd-cycleways-despite-link-road-doubts
You can read our previous feedback to the council regarding our preferred route here: https://bnb.org.nz/index.php/news/146-tahunanui-cycleway-project-feedback