Time to look closely at the Rocks Rd options

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:

  • The Boathouse, Wednesday 6 August, 6-8pm
  • The Boathouse, Sunday 3 August, 1:30 – 4pm.

A Brief Bit on the Rocks Road Project and Options

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.

The end.
(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….)

Film Night - Premium Rush - 3rd June at The Boathouse (Film starts 7pm)

filmnight premiumrush website

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/

Parking Study Submission

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.

Submission to the Nelson City Council Draft Annual Plan 2014/2015

The focus of this submission is primarily Nelson City Council’s role in providing cycle infrastructure and planning around transport behaviour.


Nelson City Council is investing in developing a range of cycle ways, lanes, and trails as part of urban and reserve/forest-based cycling facilities. This submission strongly supports this investment by Council.

In the past cycling may have been viewed as a low volume recreational or transport choice. More recently, increasing numbers of Nelson residents are using Council cycling facilities and so removing pressure on the roading network. This is confirmed by the 26% rise in people biking to work in Nelson (2006-2013 census figures) compared to a national increase of 16%. Significant growth like this underlines the considerable potential for cycling in Nelson as a community, tourism and wider transport activity.

Bicycle Nelson Bays shares the view of a recent Nelson Mail editorial that: “The more our local councils build facilities catering for two-wheelers, the greater the numbers that will use them. This in turn means: extending the life of existing road facilities, including parking; reducing peak-time traffic snarls; potentially healthier and happier people …and citizens generally in closer connection with their community.” (28 March 2014)

What Council is doing - specific projects

Walk and cycle to school projects

Broadgreen Intermediate gives a glimpse of what’s possible when good, safe infrastructure is provided that allows Nelson children to make their own way to and from school; 60–70% of students regularly cycle to school in fine weather, and around 50% on wet days. The implications for freeing up parents’ time and money - and freeing up roads at peak times - are clear.

These are very measurable benefits, but not necessarily captured by Council performance measures. Council does however have performance measures like:

“Minimised social and economic costs of crashes on the transport network: The social cost for Nelson’s worst 10 intersections was $6.7 million in 2012 compared with an average of $4.4 million for the previous five years.”

This performance goal is therefore not achieved, but achieving it will be directly related to the walk/cycle to schools projects. Research out of Christchurch has looked closely at the role of parents’ daily ‘school run’. What is well established is that a large proportion of peak period traffic (and congestion) is made up of ‘school run’ vehicles. What has been less clear in the past is the role of this pattern in vehicle accidents. The Christchurch research has established that although overall vehicle accident rates are declining in NZ, the school run times of 08.00-09.00 and 15.00-15.30 are the times when vehicle accidents are increasing (this increase isn’t occurring in the later 17.00-18.00 rush hour period).

As we have argued in the past, these walk/cycle to schools projects are therefore a critical social, community and economic investment for Nelson. Funding for these needs to be protected - and in time added to - so that routes to schools are made safer and more effective, and are spread more widely across Nelson.

St Vincent St. 

The new segregated cycle path is an excellent start in providing a safer route into the CBD from the south for current and potential shoppers, commuters, school children and recreational riders. However, Bicycle Nelson Bays has submitted to council in the past that best practice for this type of design is to have cycle-priority crossings where possible on such paths. This would bring the facility into line with the design used on the rest - the majority - of this route through Stoke. Applying the current inconsistent design approach means this route will be less safe - and less used. We therefore urge Council to allocate funding to address this necessary improvement work.

We are pleased to see that the Railway Reserve to CBD cycleway has further funding allocated in 2013/14 to extend this facility nearer to a complete connection into the CBD; incomplete cycle routes are like incomplete roads - they discourage use. The removal of the Halifax Street cycle lane from 2014/15 projects is supported by Bicycle Nelson Bays only if an adequate alternative approach can be identified and planned for as soon as possible.

Rocks Road walk/cycle project.

We note that this project has been renamed from the “Rocks Road 4 metre shared path project” and this renaming suggests a more flexible and realistic approach. As Bicycle Nelson Bays submitted to last year’s Annual Plan, an off-road Rocks Road cycleway has the potential to create a stunning facility, but we recognise the project is not without considerable political, engineering, funding and safety challenges. Extending the timing of this project also therefore seems prudent.

From the outset it has been clear that a good deal of work would be necessary to make even the current path adequate for the existing number of (minimal) users - in a number of places it’s not easy for pedestrians to pass each other and some pushchairs/buggies won’t fit on the footpath. There would also seem to be a good deal of remedial/maintenance work needed for the road and safety fence. We urge Council to retain a focus on the viability and funding of a Rocks Road walk/cycle facility as a separate issue to the remedial/maintenance work identified by this project.

We also urge council to be clear about what it is aiming to achieve on this project. Countries like Holland and Denmark, and increasingly in the US and Australia, are not gaining road network efficiency through increased cycling by building race-tracks for cyclists. The past image of cycle commuters as a ‘hard core’ riding at high speeds and where necessary sharing space with vehicles on the road is not Council’s target for future cycling growth. The numbers of these cyclists is always likely to be small. The real potential for cycle commuting involves ‘ordinary people’ riding ordinary bikes at a leisurely pace. This fact - evident wherever a modal shift has been successfully achieved - must be factored into council’s approach to Rocks Road.

Public transport

Bicycle Nelson Bays has consistently supported Council’s commitment to providing public transport as a transport alternative that increases the efficiency of our roading network. We note Council’s aim of “public transport services that meet the transport needs of the community with an equitable sharing of costs, fare recovery ratio 2012-2015; 30-35%.” Since “the fare recovery ratio in 2012/13 was 63 percent” we would question whether this ratio means that fares are higher than they need to be. This is important if Council want to develop a more sustainable public transport model, since lower fares will induce more demand and build a habit of use. We would also encourage Council to continue to ask Tasman District Council to reexamine it’s position on supporting public transport.

Where to from here.

Council has achieved a great deal in the past through progressive improvements to infrastructure, and the current package of projects with a substantial R-Fund contribution looks to be creating a major step-wise increase in cycling behaviour. There is good evidence for the economic wisdom for this investment.

Our concern is that such projects may outstrip the wider strategic context for cycling - Council’s ‘map’ of what it wants to achieve in transport and recreational cycling. The existing Cycle Strategy was written in 2006 and was expected to run through to 2010. (The same situation applies to the 2005 Pedestrian Strategy). Eight years ago the progress that is evident now had not occurred - and neither had the predictable consequences.

One of these consequences is that pressure from successfully increasing cycling numbers on council facilities (mountain-biking or road/cycle path cycling) will involve a transition period where conflict between users also increases. This has been apparent on the roads, cycle paths, and MTB trails. Similarly predictable is that providing a high quality surface on the St Vincent St cycle path while not upgrading the adjacent footpath results in pedestrians voting with their feet/pushchairs/mobility scooters and moving to the new cycling facility.

Taking a strategic approach to planning for cycling doesn’t mean having a current Cycle Strategy, it means adopting an approach that looks for these predictable phases and consequences of change and plans for them.
We would go further and suggest that Council adopt a ‘transport strategy’ - an approach that no longer separates out driving, parking, cycling, pedestrians, and public transport as if each of these were isolated engineering challenges. All of these activities are a part of our daily habits of transport. In the real world these activities are all closely inter-connected; changing aspects of one of these is very likely to impact on the others.

As Nelson City Council continues to look for ways to make Nelson a more liveable, vital and sustainable (including economically) city, Bicycle Nelson Bays looks forward to working with Council on the vision Nelsonians have mapped out for this city in the Nelson 2060 document.

We would be grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of this submission at the public hearings.

Chris Allison
John-Paul Pochin
Bicycle Nelson Bays

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