More of us are getting on our bikes

FIT AND INVIGORATED:  Roger Waddell enjoys cycling to work.
FIT AND INVIGORATED: Roger Waddell enjoys cycling to work.

New census figures confirm what is evident on the road, cycling is on the increase in Nelson - and a push is on to make the region a cycling mecca.

Census data on how people travel to work show a 26 per cent rise in Nelson and a 12 per cent rise in Tasman, contrasting against a 2 per cent rise in going by car.

The data release this week comes as a Nelson Tasman Cycle Forum finalises a regional cycling strategy that aims to make the region "an integrated cycle mecca".

And the Green Party has highlighted the new figures to illustrate the need to fund new cycle lanes to keep people safe.

The census returns show in Nelson 1491 people said they cycled to work, up from 1179 in the 2006 census, making a 26 per cent rise.

A lot more travel to work by car - 11,388 by private car, 2499 drove a company vehicle, 693 were passengers in a company car, 162 went by public bus, 1584 walked or jogged and 303 rode a motorcycle.

Nelson outstripped the national average growth in cycling, which was 16 per cent.

In Tasman, there was a 12 per cent increase to 1014 cycling to work, 10,461 drove a private vehicle, 2760 drove a company vehicle, 699 were passengers in a company car, 1233 walked or jogged, 81 went by bus and 303 by motorcycle.

Green Party MP Kevin Hague said increasing numbers of Nelson residents were choosing to ride their bicycles to work despite the lack of safe, separated cycle lanes.

"It's time for a change in the way we invest our transport budget to meet the demand for safe cycle lanes."

He said National currently spent less than 1 per cent of the transport budget on cycling, while the Greens want to invest $200 million in infrastructure "so kids can cycle and walk to school safely, and to ease congestion on New Zealand's roads".

Bicycle Nelson Bays co-ordinator Chris Allison said it was encouraging to see the increase in people cycling to work.

"There will always be people who need to drive to work and we're not saying everybody must cycle. We're pleased some people are starting to respond to some of the better infrastructure.

"A lot of people are riding the Great Taste Trail and other recreational trails. When you get some better facilities it creates more demand for some facilities in other areas."

The figures were also a confirmation of Nelson City Council's efforts to encourage cycling to take pressure off infrastructure.

A Nelson Tasman Cycle Forum held on Tuesday at Sports House was attended by 20 people representing a range of organisations involved in cycling across the Nelson Tasman region, and they discussed a draft regional cycling strategy.

Facilitator Craig Wilson said the strategy was about pursuing a competitive advantage to create an integrated cycling mecca.

"There needs to be a real focus to generate some new wow things for the region, with priorities like completion of the Great Taste Trail. At the other end it's about being able to cycle safely, such as removing pinch points where cyclists have to swerve into the roadway."

The framework had identified 26 infrastructure projects.

"I believe the Great Taste Trail is going to create a great wow factor but we are a long way behind others because they got more money," said Mr Wilson, who was involved in the national cycle trail project for four years.

However, the Tasman District Council has deferred $600,000 funding of the next section of the trail from Wakefield to Spooners tunnel as it tries to reduce debt.

The Nelson Tasman Cycle Trails Trust plans to present to the council's engineering committee next Thursday, urging the council to keep the momentum of the trail project going, and will explore whether it can get support from a new government cycle trail fund of $2 million a year nationally for the next four years.

Trust chairwoman Gillian Wratt said it was good seeing all the groups pulling together, and there were exciting projects in the pot such as Nelson's gondola and mountainbiking adventure park proposal.

Zipping past the gridlock

Mapua commuter Roger Waddell has switched to cycling to travel to his job in the city.

Census results from 2006 to 2013 show an increase in the number of people travelling to work by bicycle.

Mr Waddell began cycling to work three years ago.  Now, two or three times a week he drives from Mapua to Richmond, dropping daughter Briar off at Waimea College.

He then hops on his electric bike and heads to work at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, where he organises courses for secondary students.

A big plus is that it’s fast.  It takes Mr Waddell 25 minutes to ride from Richmond to Nelson, and he confesses that he feels a little smug as he passes the slow-moving peak-hour traffic at Bishopdale.

He uses the cycle pathway and the Railway Reserve.  ‘‘It’s fantastic – 95 per cent is off-road, it’s a healthy option, and I arrive at work feeling invigorated – and it’s cheaper.’’

The minuses were having to be prepared, have his clothing ready and be mindful of the weather, he said.  In bad weather, he still opts for his car.

However, wnteWhile summer lasts, he is making the most of the opportunity to use the early Friday morning ferry from Mapua to Rabbit Island to ride from his home to Richmond as well.

TRAVEL TO WORK Census 2006 to 2013 Nelson by private car up 2.7% Nelson by bike up 26% Tasman by private car up 1.69% Tasman by bike up 12%