Go By Bike Day 2017

2017 Go By Bike Day poster 2feb2017 800This coming Wednesday (15th) is Nelson's Go by Bike day - this is like all other days which of course are also 'go by bike' days, however on Wednesday there will breakfast, giveaways, entertainment, great food and coffee! If you don't normally cycle, find yourself a bike and enjoy the company and camaraderie of other cyclists (7:30am-9am).

NELSON -1903 Square (Free breakfast including coffee or hot chocolate from the coffee cart for first 100 people, live music.)
• RICHMOND - Sundial Square (Free breakfast and coffee for the first 100 people, live music)
• TAKAKA - Quiet Revolution (Free breakfast)
• MOTUEKA - Museum (Free breakfast)

Haven Rd. Cycleway

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Bicycle Nelson Bays was recently asked to comment on the Haven Rd. cycleway plans for an article in the Nelson Mail (http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/88504468/nelson-city-council-grants-225000-in-funding-towards-latest-cycle-connection). We did write some comprehensive answers to the questions posed but of course they only have room to print snippets. You can read our full answers below:

1. What do you make of the Haven Road cycle pathway? Will it serve its intended purpose to add another link in the cycle network (connecting to St Vincent St)?

The Haven Rd. link will bring the St. Vincent St. cycleway a step closer but this is far from an ideal cycleway, particularly when compared with the Railway reserve section of the cycleway in Stoke for example; The St Vincent Street route in it's current form is not ideal with several road crossings, including the busy Gloucester St., and the busy car park entrance to Warehouse/Countdown, all of which are prioritised for cars. Additionally, the question is still going to be; how to create good crossings on Halifax St. and Rutherford Street as well as how those West of the cycle way have easy access. Until these issues are addressed, the Haven Rd. link is going to be of limited value.

The link itself is a poor alternative for Nelson and our visitors - to implement this will requiring the plants and trees along the long south boundary to be removed (this was a major reason why the Maitai shared path widening didn't go ahead and therefore seems somewhat ironic and inconsistent). This planting provides Anzac Park users with a visual screen of the commercial buildings across the road, and shelters the park users and planting from the southerlies. This proposal is a reactive, ill-considered, quick-fix compromise which demonstrates the degree of fear that many NCC councillors experience at the prospect of losing a few (sacred) car parks - as proposed in one option - or trusting Nelson people to share some public space in the park without civil disorder and - presumably - mass casualties.

2. Do you have any indication as to whether cyclists might just decide to cycle through Anzac Park anyway, given it's right next to the shared path?

If the alternative route is attractive enough for cyclists then it should take the majority of traffic from the park but the park may still offer a more attractive route for some (particularly if the design of the alternative is poor). However, rather than enticing cyclists to use alternative routes with well designed and attractive cycle-ways, we are extremely suspicious that there will be a push to ban cyclists from this, and perhaps other park areas (including the Maitai). It could be this that has driven the decision to support the alternative route. It remains to be seen how long it will take the council to produce the designs for the Haven Rd route, what the design is and whether there will be further delays and public consultation at that point.

3. What are your biggest frustrations with where things are at in terms of Nelson's cycling network?

The lack of cross town links and poor connections between cycleways. The lack of evidence based decisions when it comes to our infrastructure. Why are we encouraging more vehicles into our city centre rather than focusing on pedestrians and cyclists which many studies have shown to be better for retailers for example?

4. What's working well? Or rather, what do you see as steps in the right direction?

The Railway Reserve is a fantastic asset for Nelson and serves cyclists and walkers well. It provides an attractive and safe link to several schools which is reflected in the large percentage of children walking and cycling to school along the route. The slow speed zones outside of every school in Nelson was a great step in the right direction but we could go much further (reducing/removing parking from around schools for example and expanding slower speed zones throughout the city).

5. Any other comments or observations as to what the Council ought to do to get things moving?

It needs to inform itself about what NZTA is doing with cycling in NZ - and why. The agency is learning from what is being done well overseas to address congestion via modal shift. This awareness is also behind the commitment to improve the provision for cycling in an increasing number of NZ cities and towns - why not in Nelson?

The council should be prioritising active and public transport over cars and it should be using the latest research to explain to the public why it is our best interest to do so.

The council also needs to focus on cross town (East-West) links.

It also needs to recognise that people cycle for many different reasons, just like people walk for different reasons; some want to get from A-B, some want to enjoy a scenic ride and some people like to go mountain biking. It also needs to recognise that many (most?) of the cyclists that the infrastructure is aimed at are not cycling, yet.

2017, The Year of the Bicycle ?

Back in 2012, NCC approved $13 million to fund school walking and cycling projects in Nelson. The funding came primarily from NZTA regional funding (R-funding http://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/planning/nltp-2012-2015/docs/factsheet-nelson.pdf).

This was an exciting time; It was a significant commitment to active transport by NCC and $13,000,000 could make a real difference to our infrastructure, surely? Encouraging more children to walk and cycle, particularly to school would have significant health benefits, reduce congestion and hopefully help reduce our long term dependency on private motor vehicles for transport in Nelson. Of course, this being Nelson, not everybody saw this as a positive step (http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7808037/Walk-bike-package-social-engineering).

The council formed the Active Transport Advisory Group 'ATAG' to prioritise projects that could be funded via the school Walking Cycling funding package. BNB was part of that alongside representatives from NZTA, Walking, NMHDHB, AA, the police, ACC, youth council and NCC.

We were filled with optimism; It was opportunity to be part of a project that had the potential to make a difference, to make changes that would benefit people living and working in Nelson as well as future generations. The ATAG group took up a surprising amount of time with frequent and long meetings but we could see the potential of a number of major projects. So where are those projects now?

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Brook St. Cycleway and Nile Street Shared path

This project was aimed at providing safer cycling and walking routes for children in the Brook valley, primarily to link up with Central and St. Josephs schools but it would also link the Codgers Mountain bike tracks with the city. This was a difficult project due primarily to the unusual layout of the Brook St. and, shock-horror, it was going to require the removal of a small number of parking spaces. This being Nelson, the  Brook Street Store owner launched a petition opposing the changes (http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/8721205/Parking-plans-not-set-in-stone) and other residents, who's concern seemed to be primarily the increase and behavior of mountain bikers and the lack of consultation over of the Codgers tracks, campaigned and effectively putting an end to the project.

Central City Slow Speed Zones

This project started with the ambitious plan of creating one large slow speed zone that would encompass the schools and central city area making all our central city streets safer. While the project was watered down somewhat to slow speed zones (40km/h) outside schools and only at the start and end of of the school day, it is a step in the right direction.

St. Vincent St. Cycleway

This should have been the 'jewel' in Nelson's cycling infrastructure - A dedicated cycleway linking Richmond (and all the schools in-between) via the Railway reserve to the heart of Nelson (http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/communities/9665865/Cycle-lane-a-national-first). By the end of 2014, stage one and two linking the Railway Reserve to Gloucester St. were largely complete, albeit with numerous compromises. It certainly wasn't perfect but in the climate of the time it was viewed as a major achievement to get that far, earning it national recognition and even an award (https://can.org.nz/media/2014/best-cycling-projects-and-champions-announced). The Beatson Rd. shared path was also complete by the end of 2015.

Stage three of the St. Vincent St. cycleway fared somewhat worse though and after a significant delay the design ended up as a shared path, divided by a busy entrance, and only stretching as far as Haven Rd., significantly undermining the effectiveness of the entire route. A plan to continue the route through Anzac Park was recently rejected by Councillors and instead a 'compromise plan' that will remove much of the planting on the long south border of the park (in order to leave car parking untouched) was approved to go through for design work.

Maitai Shared path

Despite a perception of being a cycle friendly city, Nelson has relatively few urban off road cycle routes. In a city where the car is most certainly king, where the removal of any car parking or reduced motor vehicle access is often met with protests and even threats of legal action, what few off road cycle-ways we have are almost exclusively shared pathways (the exception being the St. Vincent St. Cycleway above plus a short cycle-specific section at the north end of Collingwood St). As the number of people choosing to walk and cycle has increased, these shared spaces have become increasingly congested however. A plan to widen part of the Maitai shared path to better accommodate this increase and make it safer for walkers was therefore proposed by council.  The initial design and extent of the widening caught many by surprise creating a backlash, particularly from a newly formed 'walking' group that campaiged to ban cyclists from the Maitai path altogether. The project has now been put on hold until after further consultation, expected to be at some time this year.

Tahunanui Cycle Route

After numerous meetings and workshops, various routes through Tahunanui were proposed to make cycling safer for those living in the area or who are passing through it. Several years on, the council is still holding opendays (two more in February http://nelson.govt.nz/projects/infrastructure/tahunanui-cycleway/) and this project seems no further along.

Rocks Rd. Boulevard

Ah yes - Last but by no means least, the Rocks Rd. Boulevard. The project would provide a walking and cycling link to the proposed Tahunanui cycleways and the St. Vincent and Maitai routes above. Together with the St. Vincent St. cycleway, this project was a real opportunity to make a dramatic difference to our infrastructure and, by reducing motor vehicles in our city and opening up the waterfront, to the quality of life for those that live in Nelson. A spin off of that was of course some big benefits in terms of tourism.

The 'Route' Problem

The realisation that these projects could undermine the 'need' for the Southern Link seems to have been met with quite a panic. The Waterfront association went into overdrive with campaigns such as 'Save the Chains'. Nick Smith also went into action and despite the Southern Link project being thrown out by the environment court just a few years earlier (and found not to be justified in the near future by a recent and very comprehensive NZTA study) Smith pushed NZTA to again investigate options. This has been a significant expense, not just in terms of money but also in the enormous amount of time for everybody involved. More concerning was the linking of the Rocks Rd. boulevard to the investigation by NCC’s regional transport committee, effectively delaying projects, possibly indefinitely pending the outcome of the investigation.

Seen by some as the last chance for the Southern Link, it appears that every effort is being made to undermine alternative projects. In addition, and with the help of Bowater Honda (no conflict of interest there) we've seen a successful campaign for free parking in central Nelson. The effect of this was to immediately undermine what was increasing numbers of people using public transport and for NCC to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in reduced income from parking revenue. We've also seen campaigns that have pitted cyclists and walkers against each other in an attempt to undermine shared paths (http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/67561679/shared-path-conflict-aired).

If you live in Nelson, whether you're a retailer, parent, car driver, cyclist or walker... if you care about our city, if you care about our planet, you should be cross.

What can you do ?

  • Join us. We'll keep you up to date with current issues but we're also hoping to get more people actively involved in BNB. We're planning on more social events this year and as well as a more direct and visible approach with respect to campaigns.
  • Start asking questions. Who will really benefit from this mess? Why has so little progress been made? Why have small lobby groups been given so much airtime by local media and why has the council been so easily swayed?
  • Write to the Councillors and mayor and let them know your views. They are supposed to be working for ALL of us.
  • Get out and ride your bike ! More people cycling is a great visual way to show that there is a demand for more cycling infrastructure and you'll also help to keep other cyclists safe through safety in numbers.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle. It remains one of the most healthy, convenient, efficient and environmentally friendly forms of transport. Let make 2017 the year of the bicycle in Nelson.

The 'Route' of our Problems

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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.

Cyclists Are Not Welcome Here !

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Over the past few years we've seen projects that could have helped increase the number of cyclists either delayed, shelved completely or seriously compromised to the point that they have become almost pointless. We've had to fight for every scrap of infrastructure and now we're increasingly having to fight just to keep the infrastructure we have.

The proposed banning of cyclists from stretches of our shared paths is not going to hurt mountain bikers, it's not even going to hurt many of the confident cyclists you see out and cycling now, it's going to hurt the 'interested but concerned'; those that are not even cycling yet. It's going to hurt children, it's going to hurt the elderly. It's going to hurt the parents that want to ride with their sons and daughters. It's going to hurt those that want to ditch the car and commute to work.

For those paying attention, it won't come as a surprise that those that have been vocally opposed to cyclists are some of the same people that have been campaigning for the Southern Link. While we allow the Southern Link and those supporting it to dominate council decisions and while other countries instead focus on cycling infrastructure and on reducing inner city traffic, Nelson is going to be increasingly left behind.

Tourists, with the expectation of an environmentally conscious, cycle friendly city are going to be increasingly disappointed, but even if tourism doesn't concern you, perhaps your quality of life does. While we drag our feet we will continue to have more traffic on the roads, higher rates, more pollution - a dirtier, noisier and less healthy city.

What can you do ?

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