Bikes have a place on street - mayor

PEDAL POWER: A cyclist rides on the footpath along Rocks Rd.
PEDAL POWER: A cyclist rides on the footpath along Rocks Rd.

Cycling on the CBD footpaths is illegal and skateboarding is prohibited, yet it happens all the time. What can be done about it? - Valerie Towse, Nelson.

Mayor Rachel Reese responds:

Bikes, dogs and skateboards are a politician's Achilles' heel. All are fraught with danger. Skateboards were high profile in Stoke for a while.

Dogs had their time in the sun 18 months ago.

Now bicycles on footpaths are making waves with a high profile crash.

We do have rules about bicycle and skateboard use in Nelson.

I will admit to brushing up on the technical aspects to answer this question.

In busy parts of the city, skateboards, roller skates, inline skates and wheeled recreational devices are prohibited to help avoid pedestrian collisions.

These areas include the CBD, the beach end of Muritai St and Tahunanui Dr, central Stoke and central Victory Square.

Skateboards and scooters are permitted on the eastern side of Collingwood St and the western side of Rutherford St so children can get to school.

I am a strong supporter of anything that gets children to school in a physically active way.

It's good for social interaction, independence and health.

The law on cycling on footpaths is pretty straight forward.

You can't cycle on a footpath unless you are delivering newspapers or mail, or you are riding a bike with wheels less than 355 millimetres diameter.

Cycling is important and a good transport choice - but not on a footpath.

So what can be done to discourage the rule-breakers?

If you need to get across town avoid the prohibited areas.

If you use a skateboard in a prohibited zone you run the risk of confiscation of your board by an enforcement officer or a parking warden.

To get your skateboard back you'll have to pay a $40 fine to Nelson City Council.

The same with cycling - don't cycle on the footpath.

If you do, risk getting fined.

I do understand the fear of cycling in traffic on busy roads. While I was doing my research I came across the New Zealand Transport Agency's Official New Zealand Code for Cyclist.

It's a well written document with input from a local cycle advocate.

Improve your knowledge and skills by reading the code and getting some bike training.

As an alternative to riding on the road we have a growing cycle network across the city, both cycle ways and shared paths.

But shared paths can create frustration between walkers and cyclist.

I like to walk around our city and I use those shared paths a lot.

I walk to clear my head and tame my waist line.

I do quite a lot of thinking when I'm walking.

Sometimes I take a friend or two for conversation.

I can also ride a bike - not well.

I grew up in Dunedin and cycling wasn't that attractive.

I learned to ride in my 30s, at cycle training in the Saxton Field carpark.

So as a novice cyclist, I am very wary of cars and very grateful for cycle ways and shared paths - the same shared paths that I often walk along.

In Nelson when it comes to shared paths a council bylaw asks that people have full regard for other users, with pedestrians having the right of way.

That last part is important. This is Nelson, not Amsterdam, and pedestrians come first.

That isn't an invitation for walkers to belligerently hog the space or refuse to move, but it is recognition that the pedestrian remains the more vulnerable of the shared path users.

On some of our shared walkways, cyclists can make walking about as relaxing as magpie swooping season in Australia.

The silent cyclist who appears at speed by my left elbow is not a welcome addition to my exercise time.

So please draw attention to the fact you are there and give pedestrians plenty of room, especially around children, older or disabled people - or any local body polly you see working off a few kilos.

And my personal view, if you're travelling at a commuting speed, get your high-vis on and get out on the road.

Finally, if you were wondering about my skateboarding ability - I'm challenged in the balance department.

Something to do with having very small feet.