I’ve spent the last few days in Nelson. What bliss.
It’s been just over a year since I was there last, and I’m both astonished and impressed at the massive increase in bike riding there. Everyone is doing it! Mums and dads, shoppers, people on their way to work, kids, housewives… I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many child seats on bikes.
There’s infrastructure everywhere, from quiet suburban streets, to the inner city, to the state highway out of town. Nelson City Council has done a great job, and with the level at which the community has embraced cycling I’d expect them to keep going. The Council narrowly missed out on extra funding last year, which is a real shame. I hope they keep cracking away at the funding applications, because they obviously have exceptional community support.
Interestingly, there’s a debate over what the old Railway Reserve should be used for. Nelson used to have a railway going out to – I think – mines in the west, and the area where the tracks used to be runs through Nelson’s main growth spine out to Richmond. Now that Nelson has a serious peak-hour traffic problem, some people are suggesting that it be widened and used as a bypass road. Given that the reserve goes through the main areas from which people commute to Nelson, I’d say upgrading it for bikes is the most sensible option. I used to ride my bike to school along part of it, and because it’s away from roads but runs behind houses it’s very safe.
Of course, Nelson has a couple of advantages in the hearts and minds battle. It has a reasonable proportion of flat land and of course very little wind. I attach a photo showing what that looks like, in case you’ve forgotten. But the thing that has made the difference is the whole-heartedness with which the Council has thrown itself into this project. I’d like to see Wellington’s councils do the same.