Below is our submission to Nelson City Council in response to their request for feedback on the Parking Study:
Bicycle Nelson Bays strongly supports the Nelson City Council proposed plan for vehicle parking.
Parking is an important issue but there seems little awareness in some public discussion on parking that in our provincial towns around 40% of spending is done by those who arrive by foot, bus or cycle. We would therefore encourage council to increase the supply of cycle parking - an issue not covered by the recent parking workshop or proposed plan. Areas that are pleasant and safe for pedestrians also tend to be pleasant and safe for cyclists, and these numbers are increasing year-on-year.
Many cities are trying to undo the mistakes of the past where a history of catering to the ever-increasing ‘needs’ of the private car (for roads and parking) created such an unhealthy and unattractive environment that eventually people voted - literally - with their feet. When it comes to leaving our cars and shopping, or simply mingling with other Nelsonians at lunchtime, after work on in weekends, we all become pedestrians in the CBD. And no one chooses to drive somewhere unpleasant to shop, even if the parking is easy. (Or ostensibly ‘free’.)
Despite being quite tight for space, the CBD of Nelson reflects a delicate balance between the needs of people in cars and the needs of people on foot. Both locals and visitors appreciate the way that the provision for pedestrians puts them on a more ‘equal footing’ with cars.
A big part of keeping this balance between different users is how the flow of cars is managed in town, including parking, so we support council’s steps to use a 'carrot' and 'stick' approach; the carrot is providing easy and cheap alternatives such as free buses, encouraging cycling and walking, and providing cheap/free parking outside of the city center. The stick, at least in part, is carefully rationing the availability of parking and making parking cost more within the CBD where we need to cap the demand if our town is not to suffer strangulation-by-car. Managing the main ‘square’ car parks better with different technology also offers a more flexible tool for balancing the parking supply vs demand.
Vehicle parking in Nelson and surrounding suburbs is one part of a larger whole; it is inseparable from transport - how people move around Nelson by car, bike or bus - and from pedestrian needs. As in our submission to the annual plan, we think council should approach parking within a wider transport strategy where the real-world interconnectedness of each component part of this whole is acknowledged. The alternative is the approach in the otherwise extensive arterial study which did not include the impact on the CBD and it’s pedestrians, cyclists and parking if a new arterial road was to be built - a road that would funnel a significantly increased number of vehicles into the outskirts of the CBD.
We would also suggest that parking is not about car parks. Its about people’s behaviour. The vocal backlash over the recent strict enforcement of parking fees and times indicates that council’s approach to modifying people’s behaviour was counter-productive. We therefore strongly support the more constructive approach council is proposing, and especially the creative initiatives like swapping ‘Free Parking Tuesdays’ to ‘Free Bus Travel Tuesdays’. These measures are much more about encouraging the behaviour Nelson wants and not emphasising a single punitive approach to shift people’s behaviour.
Finally, we commend council for an approach which seeks to encourage a change in behaviour that is better for the environment. Creating a more pedestrian/cycle friendly, attractive city centre won't happen overnight, but it is a direction we must head in as the reality of climate change becomes increasingly inescapable in our region and in our daily lives.