Cycling's a Nicer Way to Start the Day (opinion piece for The Nelson Leader)

It's an exciting time for Nelson with the building of the cycle trails and the money from the NZTA and NCC for the walking cycling and schools package. I'm sure that there are far more cyclists around than there were even a year ago and I feel there is a bit of a buzz in the air at the moment.

I take my youngest daughter to school on a tandem bike most days. I really enjoy this time we have cycling together; it's very much shared time (although she doesn't share much of the peddling). I know exactly how long it will take to get from A-B (under 10 minutes from The Wood to Hampden St. school for example) regardless of the traffic and I don't have the frustration of finding somewhere to park when I get there. Additionally, although I wouldn't say I am particularly fit, these short trips around town to school, the office, the shops at least allow me to maintain a minimum level of fitness.

On the other hand, when I drive my daughter to school (because she's created a 2m high contraption out of cardboard boxes for a school project for example) I feel more like a taxi service. I generally arrive frustrated, the time I've spent in the car feels like wasted time and unless I drive home and pick up my bike, I have to pay to park at the office. I start my day in a completely different, and somewhat negative, mood.

Like many people who ride a bike, I'm keen to show the positive side of cycling and very much get away from the 'us and them',  'car vs bike' rhetoric that only fuels resentment on both sides (it's worth noting here that most cyclists are motorists too). I'm not suggesting that everybody should get rid of their car tomorrow and buy a bike instead. There are many reasons why people do drive and I respect that, just like I hope that everybody will respect those that wish to cycle.

Often cyclists are viewed as ‘different’, and some people focus on behaviour they see as reckless. Unfortunately humans can be reckless, and some just happen to be cycling at the time. People often try to take shortcuts and don't always take the safest option, whether we're driving a car (do we always drive to the speed limit, stop at an amber light, indicate before turning etc?) or as pedestrians do we always use the crossing point or even look properly before walking into the road ?

I believe that increasing the number of cyclists in this region will have a positive impact on the standard of living for the people who live here. I absolutely love this place. My wife and I spent almost 15 or so years trying to get to the point that we could settle down in Nelson. One day I hope that Nelson will be a showcase for the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, and not just in regard to cycling (although I believe that's a very big part of the solution), but in many aspects. I'd love tourists to come to Nelson and take back ideas of how towns could be.

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