The Great Taste Trail - It's not just for the tourists.

meganmapuaThere is something very satisfying about packing up a bike trailer with camping gear and setting off on a cycling adventure right from your front door. OK, we were only heading to Mapua but that's a 70km round trip of quality cycling time with my daughter.

I'm still not sure how we got to this point. Despite my passion for cycling, both of my daughters have rebelled against it and are two of the most unenthusiastic cyclists. But here we were, me and my youngest, riding down Hardy St., albeit on a tandem, with a trailer full of camping gear in tow.

We'd set off at mid-day. With the knowledge that there was no shade until we reached Rabbit Island this was not ideal but the wind at least was favorable, for now. We headed down Vanguard and then St. Vincent Street and on to the Railway Reserve heading North West out of Nelson. As it was a week day the shared paths were relatively quiet and we had an easy run.

We reached Stoke and decided it was too early to stop at McCashans but we did then stop a bit further on for a cool drink at the Coffee Factory (and they kindly allowed us to fill up our water bottles from the cold water cooler too which was great). Then it was under the highway and what I consider to be the most unpleasant stretch of the trail as we cycled next to the 100km/h traffic. This stretch feels a bit safer now that the barriers have been installed but the noise means you can't talk to each other anymore. Thankfully this stretch is short and it isn't too long before we turn off the sealed path and we start the off road stretch of the trail.

We headed towards the sea edge and we soon realised it was high tide, really high tide. As we cycled over the board walks the waves were coming up through the gaps making our trip even more of an adventure. At this point I was glad that despite the good weather I'd put our sleeping bag and clothes in a dry bag in on the trailer and even fixed mudguards on the tandem before setting off. It was somewhat concerning to see how much of this coastline was being eroded despite the good intentioned but seemingly futile attempts keep the sea at bay by planting native shrubs along the shore.

The wind wasn't as favorable anymore but that didn't really matter, we weren't in any hurry. The last ferry from Rabbit Island to Mapua was at 5:10pm so we had all the time we wanted. As the wind picked up though I did start to wonder if it would still be running. The people on the wind-carts at the 'Vortex' were enjoying it though.

I knew there was a new coffee/ice-cream stop along the route, Taste Tasman RAW on Lower Queen St. Unfortunately on my previous trip they didn't have Eftpos. I can imagine that to an observer at the time it would have looked like the scene of a film as we thought we'd found a watering hole only to discover it was a mirage and we had been forced to continue on through the 'desert' without refreshment. This time though (despite thinking I must get some cash out just in case - which I hadn't), we were in luck and they now had an Eftpos machine. We enjoyed a well deserved break and a real-fruit ice cream which was delicious.

With our new sugar rush we were off again heading towards the Waimea river bridge. When we got there a lone cyclist was coming in the opposite direction so we waited. When the rider approached we realised it was Hugh Gully, the principal of Nelson Intermediate School where my daughter had been attending and so we chatted for a while. He tells us that whenever he hears that somebody is heading to Kaiteriteri he asks them if he can be dropped off with his bike so that he can ride back to Nelson along the trail. I ask about the ferry. "Yes, it's running but very busy" he tells us.

By now it's started to get cloudy which cools things down a bit. The wind is picking up too. I wonder if we're going to get rain. If it does I just hope that we get the to the campsite and get the tent up first.

We finally reach Rabbit Island. I give my daughter the option of cycling through the middle or around the outside of the Island (the latter being the 'official' Great Trail route). While going through the middle would have sheltered us more from the wind we decide to stick to the main route since we're towing a trailer and that route will be easier going. The ferry is not too far away now so we sprint up the Island.

When we get to the ferry's landing spot on the beach we have 45 minutes to wait which gives us time to have a picnic. Cream cheese and crisp(chips) sandwiches have become synonymous with our picnics recently and why not, we'd just cycled 35 km - we deserved it.

There had only been a handful of people waiting when we arrived but it wasn't long before many more people came. I started counting the bikes - there were about 25 now with more arriving by the minute. I looked at our tandem with trailer attached and started to worry we weren't all going to fit so I decided to txt the ferry's skipper. "Don't worry" he replied, "we'll make it work".

Sure enough, when the ferry arrived, like the animals of Noa's ark, the skipper somehow fitted us all in. A short ride later and we were on the shore at Mapua warf. It felt like rain was imminent so we headed straight for the camp ground.

With most people back at work now there was plenty of room at the camp ground. We chose an area under the trees and quickly pitched the tent just a short time before it started to drizzle. We'd made it.

We went back to the warf for dinner at 'Jelly Fish' then played ball back at the camp ground, watched some of Kath Bee's talent contest and as it started to get dark we played cards in the tent and then lay there reading alternate chapters of a book to each other until we were both too tired to read anymore. Life doesn't get much better than this.

Return Ferry: $24
Campsite: $35
Two great days with my daughter: Priceless

A bicycle is not just for Christmas

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OK, so you were lucky enough to get a new bike for Christmas but now is not the time to cast it to one side with your Christmas tree, now is the time to put it to work for you !

A bike can be a significant purchase but it can pay for itself in no time at all -

  • Shopping (or Quaxing) - buy yourself some a rack and panniers or even a trailer, it's amazing what you can carry on a bike, but a good simple rucksack can be almost as useful.
  • Commute - Save on car maintenance costs, petrol and parking costs and you'll recoup the cost of the bike in no time even if you only use your bike some of the time. Even if you live a long way out why not put your bike in the car and just riding the last few km - you may still be saving on parking costs and you'll arrive at work invigorated.
  • Have fun - Many would say that cycling is fun wherever you cycle but we're fortunate to have many and varied cycle paths and world class mountain bike tracks right on our doorstep, most of which, including The Great Taste Trail that you can ride absolutely free (a small amount to join the Mountain Bike Club for the more adventurous is money well spent though and gives you access to even more trails).
  • Get Fit - Work of those mince pies without the expense of the gym and also reduce long term health costs. In fact if you do any of the above, you'll be doing this without even noticing.

Sounds of the Southern Link ?

Sounds of the Southern Link ?

Cycling and Walking infrastructure is hampered by lack of investment, not because of the lack of a new highway. Unfortunately the desire by some to use this project as a political football has held Nelson back from being the city if could have been. The reality is that by focusing on this project as a solution to the regions woes, regardless of the social and environmental consequences, projects such as the St. Vincent St. cycleway have been severely compromised and the Rocks Rd. boulevard project delayed (possibly indefinitely). These compromises and delays reduce the uptake of cycling and also put peoples lives at risk. New roads do not reduce congestion. Reducing car usage does.

It is worth noting that there are four stages of assessment in the current NZTA investigation, and this is just the first stage which looks only at whether there is a problem worth considering further assessment, and not whether there are alternative responses to that problem, or if the potential solution of a new road would cause other problems to an extent that outweigh the advantages. Those assessments lie ahead.

Active Transport Workshops

Council held two workshops on walking and cycling issues last week, facilitated very well by Dave Allen and assisted by council staff. The information that came from these meetings will be fed into a set of principles and suggested outcomes that were developed by staff and elected councilors in an earlier workshop.

Overall there was a good deal of useful debate, and a number of participants echoed some similar themes - not least that the aspects of tension in some areas reflect Nelson’s success in building the numbers of people out there being active, but there’s a clear understanding that the implication of that growth might have been better planned and prepared for, with the result that  we now need to move into catch-up mode.

The first workshop focused on waking and cycling for transport and the second on recreation. BNB attended both, but took a more of an observer role at the second since in this area the Nelson Mountain Bike club and, to some extent, the Nelson Tasman Cycle Trails Trust provide leadership. The issues in the off-road/mountain biking area are in some ways similar yet  different to urban paths, and this is likely to be reflected in the application of some of the solutions (such as a more straight-forward application of specific-use paths), but the underlying issues involving (better) planned development and user responsibility will be the same.

With urban paths and routes the issues are complex; as a couple of participants noted, some shared paths carry a mix of different users in different sections at different times, and most providing an important amenity for large numbers in our community, so making these work better is unlikely to be a simple matter of banning particular user groups. This is particularly so when we look at the increasing number of more vulnerable people, like children and older, less experienced riders, for whom off-road shared paths are a necessary safe option. So the need to meet their needs, and the needs of walkers, should be pushing us to think creatively about how to provide options for the needs of faster and more confident riders, like experienced commuters and mountain bikers in a way that takes the pressure (and tension) of shared paths.

Most of this stuff is fairly obvious at a conceptual level so the devil will be, as is often the case, in the detail. It’s not quite clear what the process is from here, or what degree of consultation there will be in the next step(s), so we’ll keep you posted. What we will say is that we have been a little disappointed by the speed of progress in tackling this, and what it takes to get some issues on the Council’s agenda. BNB met with Nelson’s Mayor and the then president on Nelson Grey Power to discuss shared path issues in November last year, and pushed for an integrated approach to walking and cycling issues in our submission to the Regional Land Transport Strategy, also last year, so a little action earlier might have been a good move.

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