New Plymouth might have the worst roads in the country – but it will have a cycle network that will be the envy of the nation.
The city has been given a multi-million-dollar Government boost for walking and cycling projects.
Ironically, earlier this week a national road assessment safety programme declared 59 per cent of Taranaki's rural highways had major deficiencies.
However, news that the city has been selected as one of two model walking and cycling communities – which comes with a $3.71 million bonus – was greeted enthusiastically yesterday.
The extra cash will be added to money already set aside by the New Plymouth District Council for projects and means $5.4m will be spent on infrastructure and $1.17m on community pro-grammes over the next two years.
The council was one of 22 to bid for the New Zealand Transport Association scheme when it was announced earlier this year.
The other big winner yesterday was Hastings which will get a similar injection of funds, while Nelson and Taupo were shortlisted but missed out.
Major projects set to be fast-tracked include a "shared pathways" programme, involving upgrades to off-road routes such as the Te Henui and Huatoki tracks and connections to the Waiwhakaiho Valley shopping centre and the Bell Block industrial zone from the coastal walkway.
Upgrades could include: track widening, new bridges and barrier alterations but not necessarily concrete paths.
On-road cycle improvements will also be made to both state highways and local roads.
The council's general manager of community assets, Anthony Wilson, said the goal was to create an integrated on-street and off-street network, featuring the coastal walkway as the spine.
A new transport hub will be built in central New Plymouth, featuring storage facilities, showers, and cycle hire and repair shops.
And, if the model communities programme was extended beyond the initial two years, money could go towards a further extension of the coastal walkway as far as Waitara.
Mr Wilson said NZTA had been interested in plans that extended beyond the two-year time frame.
"We hope it's such a success we will continue to get the agency's support beyond those two years."
Mayor Peter Tennent said while it was a major development for the future of New Plymouth's transport, the effects would be felt nationwide.
"You could consider this as an extensive research project to find out what works and what doesn't when it comes to changing a transport culture to where walking, cycling or public transport are people's first choices," he said.
"I'm over the moon. This is a huge development for our sustainable transport future and a massive endorsement of the great plans we have for the district."
NZTA central regional director Jenny Chetwynd said New Plymouth and Hastings had demon-strated the best leadership and commitment to integrating walking and cycling into their transport systems. "Ultimately, they were able to demonstrate that through this initiative they would be able to deliver the greatest benefits to their respective cities."
Other new projects include:
An "NPDC Dream Street" and shared space in the district: A residents-led street makeover to slow traffic, promote safe road use, and create a streetscape suitable for pedestrians, bikes and cars.
Bringing schools' presence into the street, improving safety and movement through access ways, improving key crossing points for pedestrians.
Giving cycle skills training to all year 6 pupils.
Travel planning, surveys and modal mapping: All schools will be surveyed on current transport use by pupils and teachers, and issues will be identified to help promote walking and cycling as the number one choice for families travelling to and from school.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should the NPDC councillors get iPads?Related story: Tech-wary councillors hedge their bets