Push for road safety park hits high gear

Palmerston North city councillors are putting their weight behind efforts to establish a bike park in the city where young children can learn road safety lessons through play.

The concept has gathered huge support through a Facebook page that has scored more than 2600 likes in six weeks.

Bike parks have already been set up in Napier, where young children can practise the road rules in miniature, with track lay-outs that mimic real road intersections with give way and stop signs, roundabouts and traffic lights.

Organising group spokeswoman Allanah Radich, with 17-month-old daughter Lilliann on her knee, told the council's policy and planning committee yesterday that the group's plan was to raise "a big chunk" of the estimated $217,000 for the development in the community and through business sponsorship.

It was investigating how to set up an incorporated society or trust so it could set about raising funds.

"We are hoping the council might give us the land."

A concept plan has suggested a site at the Victoria Esplanade near the children's playground.

Radich said other sites had been suggested, such as the Railway Land, but that already played a useful role as a flexible green space, and the park for young children would not be an ideal neighbour to the skate park that was frequented by older children and young people.

Mayor Jono Naylor and other councillors said it was refreshing to see a community group leading a project rather than coming to the council simply asking for money.

Cr Lew Findlay said it was not "a big ask" for a facility that would be well used for the benefit of the community, and progress should be made as quickly as possible. Cr Rachel Bowen, who proposed the council help the group to develop the plan, said the concept fitted well with the council's goals for Palmerston North to be the best place to raise a family and the safest place to ride a bike.

Cr Chris Teo-Sherrell said the idea was completely consistent with the recommendations of a council cycle action plan group that favoured investment in education so that children could use the road safely.

Deputy Mayor Jim Jefferies said his experience of going out on to real roads with a young grandson had demonstrated to him the value of an opportunity to practise safe cycling somewhere off the road.

He said young children, and the adults who travelled with them, needed to feel confident that the child knew how to stop safely coming up to intersections and give way to other traffic.

However, councillor Adrian Broad said while it was a good project, he was concerned the idea was "leap-frogging" 14 other projects that were already being investigated for possible inclusion in next year's review of the long term plan.

Some of those projects include disability access to The Globe Theatre's 200-seat auditorium, improved links to the Ashhurst Domain, and revitalising Broadway.

Councillors unanimously supported the proposal that council staff should work with the group and other interested parties to investigate the development of a road safety park and come back with a feasibility study in August.

Manawatu Standard