An interesting and some might say puzzling decision today from Nelson City Council today over the Tahunanui Cycle project. But sometimes saying no is important, even to cycle projects, so here's our thoughts.
There's no question Tahuna is a complex challenge to get a good connection through for the priority (potential) user group; people who aren't tourists or recreation riders, or fast confident commuters, but people who would ride to work, or the shops, or school, if there was a relatively direct and safe option. These are the people NZTA and transport agencies across the world are targeting to use a bike occasionally (or more) instead of reflexively going for the car keys.
But this project should never have got to this point; we believe that staff essentially foreclosed the route options and effectively sidelined any attempt to make a route involving part of Pascoe St and Muritai St viable in order to 'get some runs on the board' with a relatively easy cycling project. Importantly, the consultation was never about, 'Will a Pascoe St route or Bolt Rd work best for you," it was "We have this cycleway we're going to build, do you like it?" You get very different answers to those 'consultation' approaches.
We can completely understand why staff took this 'let's just get something done here' approach; it's been incredibly frustrating for them trying to get cycle projects through over that last few years, but long-term we believe the Bolt road route would have been an expensive gesture that resulted in minimal use. Not good use of ratepayer's money.
So, where from here? It looks like a recreational and tourism (coastal) route connecting the Wakatu Dr path and airport to Tahuna beach is already on the agenda for council, so lets put some effort into getting a route that connects the real points of need - Tahuna beach/Rocks Rd at the north, and Stoke, and the Railway Reserve path at the south. Would NZTA fund both this proper Stoke-Tahuna route as well as the route submitted today? Despite some fudging of this issue in the council meeting we're pretty sure from past experience the answer would be a firm no, and that why we need it done once, and done right.
Hannah at the Nelson Mail covered this meeting and we understand she'll do a follow-up for the paper. We've talked through the issues with her and feel that she really 'gets it', so look out for that piece in the future.
We want to thank Councillors Noonan, Lawrey and Dahlberg for sticking with their reservations about this project against considerable pressure to 'just do it', especially when Matt is a long-term, solid backer of cycleways generally. Not easy to step back from that today, but we see this as a step towards a better long-term investment.
Watch this space...
Nelson Mail story on today's meeting here http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/92697939/nelson-city-council-set-to-approve-rocks-rd-cycleways-despite-link-road-doubts
You can read our previous feedback to the council regarding our preferred route here: https://bnb.org.nz/index.php/news/146-tahunanui-cycleway-project-feedback
Below is our response to the request for feedback on the proposed Rocks Road to Maitai Walking and Cycling Improvements (http://nelson.govt.nz/projects/infrastructure/rocks-road-to-maitai-walking-and-cycling-improvements/)
At this stage without more information regarding the proposed widths of the cycleways, paths etc. we do not feel we have enough information to make an informed decision on the preferred design. Picking a preferred design and then deciding on the widths of the paths is not logical as the suitability of the that design is very much dependent on the widths of the paths. However we offer the following observations and suggestions:
Option 1: Do the minimum - While the current on-road cycle lanes are wide, regardless of this many cyclists and potential cyclists do not feel comfortable cycling on the road. We do not consider this to be a suitable option as it does not significantly increase the safety or attractiveness of the route. Additionally, should a shared boulevard be built along Rocks Rd. as per options (3) and (4) of the NZTA Southern Link Study, those less confident cyclists would need to cross the road in order access the off -road path. Note also that this design does not meet the standards required if it’s to function as a linking component for the Great Taste Trail
Option 2: Protected separated cycleways are generally considered to be the most suitable, protecting cyclists from traffic and encouraging the "Interested but Concerned". If the widths are too narrow to allow faster cyclists to easily pass slower cyclists within the protected cycle lane they may instead use the road which offers no protection from hazards including the opening of car doors for example.
Option 3: This option is most consistent with our preferred designs for Rocks Road. Faster cyclists could continue to use the on-road cycle lanes while vulnerable, less confident cyclists could continue along the shared path on the boulevard. The devil, as always in the detail and without knowing the widths of the paths, the suitability of this design can't be determined. Specifically, the shared path needs to be sufficiently wide to accommodate expected numbers of both pedestrians and cyclists.
Removing parking would provide a significant increase in available lane/cycle way width along the route. There are a significant number of cars parked along the East side of Haven Road. However, from our observations over a period of time, cars parked outside Haven motors appear to be primarily showroom cars and have been placed there to promote the cars and the business. Should the tax-payer be providing parking that benefits just one business and not the wider community? Further North along the road there are still a significant number of cars parked but as there is only one other business it's hard to determine why so many people park there (people working in the port? Are there other places that they could park?)
Currently very few pedestrians walk along the route. As there is currently no barrier to pedestrians using the route as it is, even if the development of the Haven Precinct goes ahead, would we expect a significant increase?
The observed low number of pedestrians currently using the route leads into the way the options have been presented. For option 1, the first image shows 2 cyclists and the second shows 3, with no pedestrians in either image. In Option 2, again the first and second image show just 2 cyclists and no pedestrians. Then for option 3, the first image again shows just two cyclists and no pedestrians, however the final image suddenly shows four cyclists, two cycling on the shared pathway along with a family including young children stretched across the entire path - carnage is about to ensue! Of course this is not what we observe on a daily basis on our shared pathways and a representation of an option in this way, whether deliberate or not, is bound to sway opinion and undermines it's usefulness in determining the best option.
There is no information regarding the junctions, and road crossings. These are the Achilles' heal of any cycle route and, without that information, it's not possible to make an informed choice on the preferred options.
Why do we not see an option of a two way cycle way on the seaward side? This would combine the best of Options 2 and 3. So why isn't this being considered?
Below is our response to the request for feedback on the Tahunanui Cycleway project (http://nelson.govt.nz/projects/infrastructure/tahunanui-cycleway/)
Our feedback is based on our involvement in this project over the past few years as well as our own experiences and observations. We have attended several workshops and meetings regarding these routes as well as the last two open days.
Our preferred route is highlighed in a thick blue line in the map here.
The preferred cycle route proposed by council provides a link from the Great Taste Trail and the Airport to the beach. Should a suitable cycle-way be created on Rocks Rd., this will also provide a pleasant route into Nelson city. However, without links from the Annesbrook area for example, this route will primarily be attractive to tourists and those businesses connected with tourism such as the B&B accommodation, holiday park etc. along the route and at the destination; While the Great Taste Trail is a valuable asset for Nelson, and well used by locals as well as tourists, we think it will have very little benefit for commuters or provide a significant increase to the safety of children cycling to school.
Specifically, the proposed route does little to support children traveling to Tahunanui school and those commuting into Nelson from Richmond and Stoke by bike are likely to continue to feed onto the Railway Reserve as this offers a complete and more direct route into Nelson.
In addition, it is worth noting that this project is part of the Walk/Cycle/School package funded through NZTA (http://nelson.govt.nz/services/transport/tahunanui-cycling-connections/). The goals of this project were:
While the proposed route does fulfill some of these aims, it's worth noting that 'tourism' is not mentioned .
Possibly; Linking the Great Taste Trail into Tahunanui would increase the number of cyclists in the area and support local businesses. It's also an opportunity to introduce designs that encourage cycling and walking to some streets to showcase those concepts. The danger is that this will be considered 'job done' rather than a first stage to making Tahunanui cycle friendly. Since it's taken several years to get to this point, and funding for cycle-ways for some reason appears to be extremely hard to come by (unless, it seems, there is the possibility of a financial return through tourism for example) we wouldn't expect a 'stage 2' of this project any time soon.
We note however that there is a plan to possibly link the Great Taste Trail to the beach via a cycleway around the perimeter of the airport and the camp ground so this route may have limited benefit, except as a more direct route, in the future.
Parkers Rd. currently cuts Tahunanui in half. It's a dangerous road - wide and busy with frequent trucks and there are no crossing points. Without a safe way to get to get across, the route to Tahunanui school along Muritai St. is left flapping in the wind. A crossing point that would bring people safely onto the East (school) side of Muritai Street should therefore be a priority. It would then make sense to have a two way cycleway also on the East side of Muritai Street and an off road cycle way (a shared path perhaps) along the East side on Pascoe Street that would link to existing shared paths on Quarenteen Rd. This route is already identified (in yellow) on the Opus map 'Final Routes'.
The route would provide an alternative, safer route, to Tahunanui Drive for those heading to the beach or school from the Annesbrook area and the Railway Reserve.
This is our preferred route, and we'd like to see this in place as a priority, possibly, if funding will allow, with the council's preferred route as a second stage or in parallel.
This 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)
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.