Walk, bike package 'social engineering'

A new multimillion-dollar citywide project to increase the number of Nelsonians walking and cycling to work and school is unashamedly about social engineering, one city councillor says.

A meeting of the Nelson City Council infrastructure committee yesterday voted to confirm the delivery process of the council's Walk/Cycle/Schools Package.

The three-year package consists of a variety of capital projects aimed at increasing the number of people who walk or cycle in the city, particularly during school drop-off and pick-up times.

The overall cost of the project will be more than $13 million, with more than $8m of that coming from the NZ Transport Agency's R funds (regional funds).

The project will be rolled out between now and 2015.

Construction projects in the first year include shared paths in Bishopdale and on The Ridgeway, the beginning of a Maitai to Dun Mountain trail, a Poormans Stream walk/cycle connection, variable speed signs around schools, and streetlighting improvements.

Eventually the project will include construction of shared pathways on Rocks Rd.

The targets are that 25 per cent of all journey to work trips would be by walking or cycling by 2018, and that average peak hour travel time delays would not be more than five minutes above uncongested times.

Councillor Ian Barker said social engineering projects like this always forgot about the people.

"One of the reasons they bring their children to school is because they don't feel that the community is safe. There's still that problem within the community about letting kids go down the street and to school without supervision."

There would always be people who needed to use cars, he said.

Councillor Mike Ward said the policy was unashamedly about changing people's behaviour, and that was a good thing.

"There's nothing we do that doesn't change people's behaviour. This is deliberate behaviour change and for the good of the community."

Developing pedestrian and cycleways on Rocks Rd was not a waste of time, as it improved the commute for all those who used the road.

City council principal adviser on transport and roading Andrew James said some aspects of the plan would be controversial, from selecting certain schools in certain areas, to removing on-street parking.

Councillor Rachel Reese said the proposal would be controversial with people who were sharing flats and relied on on-street parking.

She had seen residents nearly come to blows over the parking issue, she said.

"Those people are needing to get to work and getting very, very frustrated at the loss of on-street parking."

Councillor Gail Collingwood said the plan was fantastic but did not remove from parents the responsibility for their children's safety.

"People shouldn't fall back and think that, now my child is safe," she said.

Councillors were also concerned that the members of a strategic group for the package were to be paid $25 an hour for showing up to meetings.

The group is made up of members of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, the Automobile Association, police, Bicycle Nelson Bays and the Nelson Youth Council.

The group will assess which projects to prioritise and assist with liaising with the community during the project.

Councillor Paul Matheson said he was concerned paying the members set a bad precedent and he wanted to see the payment removed.

"If people are willing enough to participate in this very important decision they can do it without payment," Mr Matheson said.

Mr James said the hourly rate had been suggested because the meetings were held in the afternoon and those attending would be taking time out from their jobs to help the council.

Mrs Collingwood said she had been volunteering in the community for 40 years and had never been paid, and suggested paying members for their out-of-pocket expenses such as travel and parking costs was more appropriate.

The motion to confirm the delivery process was passed with an amendment that the group was reimbursed for their travel and parking expenses only.

The Nelson Mail