With all the roadworks on Waimea Rd. at the moment, it's a great opportunity to make use of our scenic Railway Reserve cycle/walking route when traveling to and from Nelson. Travel time from Annesbrook to the center of Nelson is only around 20 minutes by bike.
For information on this and other cycle routes around Nelson see the page on the Nelson City Council website http://nelson.govt.nz/recreation/recreation/cycling/bike-nelson-cycling-maps/.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The Southern Link is an irrelevant distraction to the current Rocks Road project.
The new investigation into the southern link route will kick off sometime in late 2014 early 2015. Any subsequent consenting process is estimated to run for at least a further three years - if, and that’s a big ‘if’, the investigation finds that next step to be warranted. At the end of this process the SL project may be dropped, or it might proceed. If the project goes ahead it still needs to be built, which won’t be quick.
Meanwhile, work on Concept 2 (for instance) can begin without waiting around 4 years to see if the SL gets over all the hurdles, and then another 4 years or so if it does. If some version of Concept 2 is eventually approved Nelson would have this facility funded (a not insignificant step) and built regardless of whether the SL was approved - and funded - or not.
If the SL was built and heavy traffic is directed onto that, any change in the available road/path space would be minor and can be dealt with at this later time. Our Mayor has said we just need to get on with the Rocks Road project and we agree.
Both Concepts 1 and 2 provide a very overdue upgrade for walkers. Concept 1 marginally improves the existing on-road cycle lanes in a few areas.
That’s about it for Concept 1; a minor tweak will work fine for experienced, confident riders who don’t mind mixing it up with lots of fast vehicle traffic. But in Nelson the percentage of people who do their trip to work by bike is 8.2%, while the percentage of people who ride on Rocks Road is under 2.9%. This makes it very clear that what we have currently, and what’s provided by Concept 1, is only tolerated by a small subgroup of our existing pool of commuter cyclists. Meanwhile lots of other commuter cyclists stay away. So yes for $13 million you get a nice footpath, but why bother when we can get so much more?
Concept 2 is slightly more expensive (up to $15M) and yes it’s more complex, but it offers a great deal more. Like Concept 1 it gives walkers a good space, but it moves the facility to a whole new dimension:
1. By providing an off-road cycle path Concept 2 removes the major deterrent for people who are already prepared to cycle commute in Nelson but who simply won’t ride on this road - that’s the gap between the 8.2% of those currently commuting around Nelson and the less than 2.9% willing to take a punt on the on-road cycle lanes. Closing that gap means fewer cars.
2. Concept 2 opens things up to the much larger pool of people who would ride if the facilities were safe, but who aren’t riding to commute, or to go shopping, or to the beach - yet. What we know is that at least 45% of Nelsonians ride a bike, but obviously most of these people don’t commute or go shopping by bike. The main reason given by local people for avoiding the on-road cycle lanes is that they feel unsafe. Those percentage figures, and that reason, are surprisingly consistent across NZ and internationally. They all tell us the same thing; there are a lot of potential cycle commuters, shoppers and beach-goers out there waiting for safe facilities. And all the research tells us that ‘safe facilities’ means off-road. When safe, off-road facilities are installed, this latent or suppressed demand is unleashed. Want to see at least 10-15% fewer cars on Rocks Road? Without the off-road path of Concept 2 you won’t. End of story.
3. Concept 2 will mean that Tahunanui and Nelson will get the Great Taste Trail Riders and the slow-moving/high spend cycle tourists who our region is actively chasing. Why are trails like the Otago Central Rail Trail (around 17,000 users annually) and the relatively new Great Taste Trail (average of 300 riders per day) so popular? Number one reason from NZ and international research; these are off-road cycle paths. Will these riders and their spending come to and through Tahunanui, and flow past the Rocks Road businesses and into the central business district when this link to town is on-road? No. So, sorry about that Tahunanui businesses and accommodation providers, and shops in the CBD. Meanwhile, Tasman accommodation, cafes, and shops send you their warm regards. (2012 spending estimate from the 12,000 people who rode the full Otago Central Rail Trail; a bit over $12 million.)
Bicycle Nelson Bays acknowledges that for a small group of fast, experienced, confident riders, Concept 1 is the preferred option; Concept 1 keeps things nice and exclusive. But if we want to open Rocks Road to the rest of the Nelson community - to families, to tourists, and to more women riders - this means that a few riders have to make a degree of sacrifice for the many. And that means we need to look at Concept 2 for the basis of something rather stunning for Nelson.
BNB also acknowledges that there is work to be done in further developing Concept 2 - one area might be to retain more parking in key locations. What we all need to remember is that the detail in Concept 2 is a starting point for discussion and is open to change depending on the feedback. There is, however, a group of people in Nelson who have always opposed any boulevard-style improvement of Rocks Road. Their fear is that a successful facility will undermine their campaign for the southern link. The result, as we’re seeing, is an almost frenzied attempt to find any and every real or imagined flaw in the provisional detail of Concept 2 - a kind of ‘death by a 1000 cuts’.
Council is emphasising that in this first stage of the project the important thing is for our community to help make the choice between the two general concepts (off-road cycle way and shared path, on-road cycle lanes and separate footpath). If the general principle of an off-road cycle way and shared path stacks up and has support, more work can be done on the details.
We think that’s a good process to follow, and a sound economic and social investment for the whole Nelson community.
(If you know anyone who is unclear or may be misinformed about this project, please pass this information on. If you’ve already submitted feedback via the online form and now feel differently about the project you can resubmit your views - let them know you’ve changed your mind and why. Thanks! Feedback link here: http://nelson.govt.nz/services/transport/creating-travel-choices/rocks-road-walking-and-cycling/give-us-your-views/)
From Thursday 24th July until Monday 25th August at 5pm you can check out the two options for Rocks Road and send your feedback to council. Details on how and where to do this are at the bottom of this post.
It’s great to see this effort to improve a critical transport and recreational route into and out of Nelson. We think there’s an opportunity here to give both walkers and cyclists a much better experience of this remarkable stretch of our coastline, and to make using the route safer for those who wish to cycle between Tahunanui and town, whether as commuters, shoppers, tourists, school children, or for recreational purposes.
As we’ve said before on this page, the best option will spread the available space more evenly, which will mean a different compromise to the one we currently have; least compromised at present are motor vehicles, most compromised are cyclists and walkers. Rebalancing this will mean some degree of loss of space for motor vehicles, primarily in parking.
We don’t have a view that one of these two Rocks Road options ‘must’ be implemented. Trying to meet a balance of walking, cycling, driving, parking and recreational use in the limited space available is a challenging task. It may be that we just don’t think this is possible, and that, after looking closely at the concepts, we can't support either of the options. But we like to make our decisions based on evidence, not on fear or on wishful thinking.
BNB has always supported conducting a thorough, independent feasibility study into improving this route. While another lobby group has attempted to block this opportunity to investigate what’s possible, and to stop Nelson residents having a say in the decision-making, we think this is too important an opportunity to be captured by narrow, interest-group politics.
BNB will look closely at the material provided by council on the project and will post our views on the options soon - once we’ve considered the designs and their implications. We welcome your ideas and opinions throughout this process. We all have a month to think this over carefully, so let’s do that.
A description of the concepts, including an online feedback form is on the Council website, here (from thurs):
Displays on the concepts and background material will also be at the Stoke, Tahunanui and main library (Halifax Street), and at the Civic Offices, 110 Trafalgar St. You can also learn more and give feedback at the following Open Days:
So, now wider Nelson gets to have a say on the prospect of improving Rocks Rd for pedestrians and cyclists. Lets look at some of the issues here:
1) This is about Rocks Road. This is not about some new arterial road that might be called the southern link. If Nelson waits to see what the southern link investigation says about the viability of that as a new road we will lose the funding for the current 2-options project. That’s because using this pool of funds has a specific time cutoff. The Mayor and most councillors understand this. The rest of us need to get our heads around this reality as well - which seems strangely difficult for some.
2) If a new arterial road was to be built in the future, work done to Rocks Rd in this current project could be adapted to take advantage of Rocks carrying fewer large trucks. But trucks will still need to use RR even if it isn’t the state highway - moving and delivery trucks, for instance. Also, most vehicle traffic on Rocks is currently made up of private cars, and many of these drivers will continue to to use this route to town (which is another story). So building a new road and directing most heavy traffic onto that won’t turn Rocks Rd into some kind of bucolic, private residential lane.
3) There is no Perfect Option 3. However, if you find a vast, buried oil lake under your back garden and you really want to donate this to NCC to fund some kind of perfect option go right ahead and ring customer services. Maybe you’ll get a rates' rebate. (Free parking too, just not at the airport.)
4) There are two layout options, but there’s probably wriggle room to adjust aspects of these to make each work a bit better, depending on what comes out of the consultation process and maybe from further detailed costing and design work. So what we’re looking at is a choice between two general ideas here with room to tweak the details.
5) OK, I lied about the ‘brief’ bit, but you’re half way through now…..
6) Rocks Rd currently serves vehicles ok, some cyclists ok, and many pedestrians poorly. The best option is to try to spread the benefits more evenly - so that pedestrians, for instance, get a decent walkable space and can actually push a buggy along one of NZ’s most stunning waterfronts. (Yes, yes, not having trucks beside you on this road would also be nice, but so would more sunshine and world peace. Lets start with what we’ve got.) Both proposed options shift a bit of space from vehicle drivers (mostly parking). Both give more and better space to walkers. One option gives safer space to cyclists. The choice between the 2 options is the choice between how this redistribution plays out.
7) At present, experienced and traffic-confident cyclists use Rocks Rd cycle lanes ok. Mostly, anyway. What we know from NZ and overseas data is that if people in the wider community have a safe off-road option they’ll use it to cycle to work, school or to shop. If they don’t have that option they won’t, and will probably drive. We’ll be covering this evidence in our submissions and in public debate in the coming month(s), but the evidence for this ‘suppressed demand’ effect is compelling.
8) Almost there…..3 more to go.
9) The two options going out for consultation primarily cater for two different cycling groups; one caters for a relatively small group of what we’d probably call traditional ‘commuters’ - the experienced and traffic-confident cyclists. They’ll use the updated on-road cycle lanes of Option 1, just as they’re using the existing on-road cycle lanes now. Gains in the numbers of cyclists using the ‘upgraded’ route will almost certainly be negligible. The other option will cater to the large pool of would-be cyclists, or to current cyclists who are risk-averse. Gains in the numbers of cyclists using the ‘upgraded’ route will be significant.
NZTA, which is paying for most of this project, is funding a project to facilitate a significant increase in the numbers of cyclists choosing to cycle to work, school or to shop.
Yes, some existing cyclists won’t like that second option. It means slowing down a bit and sharing the off-road space with others. That will add a few minutes to the ride - a ride which is actually quite difficult to match for sheer beauty just about anywhere, so why race it? And of course there is a bigger picture here for expanding cycling, and for creating a culture of cycling in Nelson.
(Only joking, you’ll know by now that when it comes to this project this is just beginning…..But it’s a big step down the path…. beside the sea, looking at the mountains, watching the water….)
The next BNB film night at The Boathouse will be a bit of a contrast to our previous one. We're going to be showing the cycle courier action film "Premium Rush" (http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/premium-rush-2012). This is a fun film with some great footage of wild riding on the streets of NY.
The discussion after the screening takes the theme of "Cyclists; hero or hoon" to look at what is and isn't ok with rider behaviour, and how the behaviour of a minority gets used against a majority.
The bar will be open from 6pm-7pm with the film starting at 7pm. Everybody is welcome.
Gold coin donation to help towards the venue cost.
For more information see our Facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/450332051770345/