Spokes in the wheel…

Cycle-path-photoIn Nelson, the City Council has appeared hell-bent on introducing shared pathways – where walkers vie with bikes.

Hell-bent? In February 2015 the editor of Nelson Mail in Don’t get carried away over cycle ways appealed for common sense. The Editor wrote:

The Council seems hell-bent on using its share of national roading subsidies for cycling facilities, regardless of whether such projects rank highly on ratepayer priority lists.

Already they’ve introduced odd and potentially dangerous experiments and walkers are voicing their distaste over the Council’s bulldozing tactics.

As well as the odd and potentially dangerous experiments, the Council spent $3m on a cycle /walkway with an aeronautical concrete persona – now dubbed the ‘runway.’

Then in a knockout to aesthetics and walkers and a nearby retirement village – word got out. The Nelson City Council planned to cut down 23 long treasured trees and straitjacket a further section of the Matai River Walkway. Develop another cycle/walkway. In other words, brutalise what the local residents say is one of the best riverside walks in New Zealand – when there’s already a quiet road alongside it for cyclists.

(At this time of writing the Nelson City Council has not made up its mind. Hearsay says it’s divided.)

But cyclists are politicised. In London, the Guardian’s Zoe Williams describes the political punch of the cyclist and the more supine profile of the pedestrian. From bike-besotted Copenhagen down to Nelson, cyclists are up on their back wheels. And shouting. In response, friends fresh back from Amsterdam whispered. Yes whispered. “It was a nightmare walking there, with all those cyclists weaving around us.”

However this year in Nelson, Nelson Walkers Unite group has made its mark. And Nelson resident and author Maurice Gee and his wife Margareta in a recent Letter to the Editor of the Nelson Mail, titled Why we walk, asked: …‘Should we walk in single file? No. We’re out for a stroll together and conversation with other walkers or groups of them and to get friendly with them and their free- running dogs…’

Another older resident fronted up to the Nelson City Council. She spoke of giving up the pleasure of her daily walk on her local Railway Reserve, now a shared pathway. She no longer feels safe walking her dog, because of conflict with cyclists; abuse and a potential fall.

From the other side of the globe, a report, Perception of Safety of cyclists in Dublin City, from Dublin’s Trinity College in 2012, showed that 80% of regular cyclists would rather share a road with cars than a space with pedestrians because the latter cause accidents.

In answer to this, some councils have divided shared paths by a simple white line, but the report goes on to say, little stops a pedestrian accidentally crossing the white line.

‘Tourist nightmares’ London’s Hyde Park cyclists call these over-the-line strollers.

How about this?

But this issue is circuitous. The New Zealand Transport Agency which spent $15.4 million on Auckland’s Grafton Gully cycleway, specifically for cyclists has now changed its tune. Apparently pedestrians have taken to it – Uni walkers, AUT walkers and the like. The law now allows walkers. But the Herald also reported a cyclist saying he clocked 61km/h on the downhill section…Hmm.

Even Cycle Action Auckland’s website site notes… Our future will not always lie in sharing.

Share and share alike. But not on your bike?

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Janet Hart

Janet Hart lives in Nelson, where she taught English in secondary schools for nearly 30 years, before dabbling in a little historical New Zealand Art. In 2012 she took up Magazine Journalism, which now consumes her.