Passionate about cycling in Nelson

21:00, Feb 05 2014
Chris Allison and John-Paul Pochin
PUSHING PEDALING: Bicycle Nelson Bays co-ordinators Chris Allison and John-Paul Pochin at the new cycleway under construction on St Vincent St.

Much to his wife's dismay cycling enthusiast John-Paul Pochin has collected a number of bikes over the years. He presently owns seven - everything from a 1996 carbon GT mountainbike to a fold-up "a-bike" that fits into a small bag.

One of his favourites is a classic Dutch-style bike that he bought for $100 or "less than a tank of petrol".

John-Paul co-ordinates Bicycle Nelson Bays with Chris Allison. He promotes cycling and works with the media on the issue. He is also one of many people behind last year's hugely successful Light Nelson festival and takes two minutes from his busy schedule to talk to The Leader.

How long have you been cycling and what kind of cyclist would you describe yourself as?

I've had a bike since I was about 3 years old. I'm now a road cyclist, a mountainbiker and a cycle commuter. Portland splits people into four types of Transportation Cyclists: Strong and Fearless (less than 1 per cent), Enthused and Fearless (7 per cent), Interested but Concerned (60 per cent) and No Way No How (33 per cent). I'd put myself somewhere near the strong and fearless category; I've been cycling a long time and there aren't many circumstances where I wouldn't ride a bike. I'm the type of cyclist that Bicycle Nelson Bays isn't too concerned about.

Where are your favourite places to ride in the Nelson region?

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On the road I love riding from Tahunanui along Rocks Rd. If I'm cycling to Richmond I tend to take the railway reserve there but come back via Rocks Rd. I don't get bored of the view and it's a constant reminder of some of the reasons we moved to Nelson. In terms of mountainbiking, we are spoilt for choice here. The Copper Mine has been a long-time favourite but recently you're more likely to see me on The Great Taste Trail, partly because I'm currently not very fit but also because it's somewhere I can easily ride with my family.

What does the organisation do? How big is it?

BNB is a cycle advocacy group and our aim is primarily to get more people cycling and to create a more liveable city. We do this by campaigning for and being actively involved in improving the safety of cyclists, improving the cycling routes and promoting the benefits of cycling through the media, events and other activities. BNB has been running for many years in different forms but we currently have a core group of five people; myself, Chris, Peter Pattullo, Sally Mackay and Will Andrews all bringing different skills and knowledge to the organisation. Between us we handle the everyday running of BNB but we often canvas ideas, opinions, issues and help from a wider group. We're increasingly using social media for this and our Facebook page has been the fastest growing of any cycle advocacy group in New Zealand.

Are we at a tipping point for cycling in the region? New Zealand?

Yes, I believe we are, particularly in Nelson. With a combination of improvements to cycling infrastructure as well as a large number of ever-increasing recreational cycle tracks we're seeing more and more cyclists about. The big change I believe is in the type of cyclists we're seeing though. More and more we're seeing people in everyday clothes riding casually to work or to the shops.

What is Nelson city and the region doing well in regards to cycling infrastructure?

Nelson has been very good at leading the way when it comes to infrastructure. The railway reserve to Richmond is a fantastic example of that and of course the segregated path currently being created on St Vincent St will help link that route to the CBD. The Atawai cycleway was also a good investment for Nelson and greatly increased cycling numbers from the east. The council is also putting a lot of effort into getting children cycling to school by creating lower speeds zones, improving existing as well as creating more shared paths and other cycle routes.

What could it be doing better?

There are several areas in Nelson that that need to be improved. We have some good north-south cycle routes but we need better links across town. Cycling facilities on Rocks Rd are very inadequate meaning many less confident cyclists prefer to drive. Hopefully the present study will show that a shared cycling-walking boulevard is possible. We still have several pinch points which need to be addressed and an over-reliance on roundabouts, both of which are hazardous to cyclists. We're moving in the right direction but there is still a lot to be done and we need to continue to push for more off-road cycleways.

Why do you think cyclists get under some people's skin so much?

To share roads with cars and trucks takes a confident cyclist and possibly, to some, this comes across as arrogance. Driving on the roads, being stuck in traffic or trying to find a parking space for example, can also be a frustrating experience and I think cyclists are an easy target at which to vent some of that frustration. Ironically of course, the more people we have cycling, the less congested our roads become and more parking spaces become available. Bad infrastructure, for example when cyclists are forced out into traffic at pinch points, can also cause conflict with cyclists. You do get some cyclists behaving badly, they are people after all, but the vast majority behave respectfully and courteously and do not deserve the kind of comments that are all too often directed at them.

What would you like to say to the knockers?

Give cyclists a chance or even better, give cycling a chance. As cycling numbers increase we're going through a transitional period and we have many new cyclists around. Everybody (including cyclists) will need to be more patient and tolerant. In the long run it will be worth it though; Cyclists reduce the need for more roads and parking, and cause negligible wear to existing infrastructure. They create a healthier population reducing the burden on our health service - yes, cyclists are helping to reduce your tax! Of course a city that isn't clogged up with cars is also more pleasant to live, work and shop in, and it's more attractive to tourists too. And (yawn) yes, we do help pay for the roads (even those who don't own a car).

What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?

Despite accusations to the contrary, I'm not anti-car. I even own a 3.8L petrol-guzzling Jaguar (although I haven't driven it in more than a year). We also have a family car which is great for taking the kayak, paddleboard, dogs and children to the beach for example. Because we cycle a lot though we find we just don't need to use the car very much, which is great because that leaves more money to buy bikes.

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