One of the great things about a walking and cycling conference like 2WALKandCYCLE is the opportunity to have a good look around at what the locals have been up to in that regard. So it was that last week’s conference in Nelson featured a number of opportunities (organised or otherwise) during our time there to get out and have a look around the city.
While we often regard Christchurch as New Zealand’s “cycling city”, it is in fact Nelson (population: 46,000) that takes the honours in terms of cycle commuting to work, with 8.7% of commuters biking, compared to our 7.0%. It certainly helps that they are blessed with a great climate, but they have also been very proactive in developing a number of significant cycle facilities around the city, as well as working very hard on the promotional side of things too.
One of the latest additions to their network was making waves while we were in town. The St Vincent Street cycleway is a two-way separated cycleway that was opened last April along part of the route that connects central Nelson to Stoke and the southern suburbs. Right from day one, there has been much controversy about its design, essentially a two-way facility behind on-street parking. Concerns have been raised about visibility and conflicts across various driveways and side-roads (where no specific bike priority is provided).
The week we were in town there had already been some further bagging in the media, with concerns about undertaking the next stage. What really fuelled the fire was when the project won the CAN Cycle-Friendly Award for “best cycle facility” at the Conference Dinner; a few of us ended up talking to media about the rights and wrongs of this project. Nelson City acknowledge some improvements need to be made to the design (and there are plans to implement some of that soon) but, rather like the Ilam Road Cycleway, it appeared to be quite popular in spite of the flaws (and personally was easily rideable) – what really won them the award was the initiative to “have a go”.
Another innovation being tried out in Nelson are some of the sharrow markings, previously discussed by us. While some have been located in relatively quiet suburban streets (a common use for them), Nelson has also tried out some on Hardy Street, which is a reasonably busy link into the central city. Being a typically narrow urban street, the idea is to encourage riders to “take the lane” where necessary, as well as alerting motorists to the likely presence of riders. Just this week, the “after” trials of Nelson’s sharrow have been undertaken (looking at things like lateral position, speeds, and perceptions) and central Govt transport bods will be meeting later this month to review the results from all of the trials around the country.
Nelson’s central city also does traffic calming very well, through the use of cobbled surfaces, raised humps, and so on, even if occasionally someone gets publicly grumpy about them. At the top end of Trafalgar Street, the layout is more like a shared space, with the removal of kerbs and even a fountain in the middle of the street. In this kind of environment it feels perfectly fine to ride your bike in the middle of the lane.
Shared spaces are also being trialled in Nelson’s hill suburbs too. In one instance, there wasn’t enough space to include a footpath as well as the traffic and parking spaces (and this was one place where off-street parking was limited). So a 30km/h Residential Shared Zone was created instead, using humps and kerb extensions to help reinforce it.
These are just some examples of what Nelson has to offer for biking. I haven’t even mentioned the brilliant Railway Reserve Cycleway further out (with priority crossings over intersecting streets), or the current ongoing saga about what to do along the SH6 Rocks Road coastal route (including various cycleway options).
Nelson is also the starting point for the new Great Taste Cycle Trail, which lets you ride further out to the Tasman region, including Mapua, Motueka and Kaiteriteri – well worth a look one day. And Nelson also has made available adult cycle skills training courses (still waiting for that one, Christchurch…) and introduced an 0800 CYCLECRASH hotline to collect data on crashes and near misses across their network.
So if you haven’t been to Nelson recently, I’d suggest you go and have a nosey – and bring your bike!
What do you think of Nelson’s cycling facilities?