Southern link 'a distraction' - cycle advocate

BUSY:  A cyclist, pedestrians, and vehicles share Rocks Road.
BUSY: A cyclist, pedestrians, and vehicles share Rocks Road.

Bicycle Nelson Bays co-ordinator Chris Allison says Nelson MP Nick Smith's warning for the city council to link a Rocks Rd revamp with the potential southern link route could mean a missed opportunity.

The Nelson City Council's works and infrastructure committee was today considering a report which outlines three options for Rocks Rd. They are: on-road cycles and widened footpath for $9-13 million; a shared path arrangement costing $11-14m, or separated footpath and cycle lanes on the seaward side for $33-47m.

Smith said yesterday the idea of converting Rocks Rd into a boulevard with proper cycleway and walkway was only realistic if the existing state highway was relocated to the southern link route.

Allison said: "If that becomes a hinge point for going ahead then if there is an obstacle to the southern link, and we know there are potentially a number of obstacles to the southern link, then we basically close the door on the opportunity we now have so that's quite a gamble to try and make that connection.

"I can see politically why it is attractive, but it actually feels like a huge distraction."

Allison said the southern link could have wide reaching impacts.

"The idea of putting the southern link in and that being a huge bonus for this project completely ignores the fact that there are going to be huge other costs with that kind of project - not just with the people that live on the side of it, but for the way Nelson city centre operates at the moment with a balance between pedestrians and cars," he said.

Allison thought the council was doing well in its transport work by pushing public transport and using the roads already in existence more efficiently.

"We think basically there is a dumb approach and a smart approach and what council has been pushing in the past is a smart approach - and that is public transport, walking and cycling," he said.

Of the three concepts being proposed for Rocks Rd, Allison said the third was too expensive, which left the two other options with similar overall project costs and bills to the city's ratepayers.

He said the first concept of fixing up the "really crappy" footpath was good and the second with a shared pathway on the seaward side of the road would provide a safe option for cyclists who found the road as it was "intimidating".

"Option two for us is quite a profound shift from option one," he said. "If option two was put in place then what we understand is that a reasonably large section of the population who don't want to ride on the road would then use that route."

Allison understood the costs proposed for the potential upgrades included remedial work on Rocks Rd as it was not strong in terms of its engineering.

The Nelson Mail