In the context of our recent article on planning for the growth of Kerikeri this article on the cycle and pedestrian friendly town of Houten in the Netherlands caught my attention.
The author of the article had moved to the town with her young family from the UK. She commented that; “on visits to family in London and Australia, all three kids are astounded at how much time they have to spend in the car, how noisy everything is and how dependent children are on their parents”.
I grew up in a town of similar size to Kerikeri at a time before the car was in the ascendency. We biked the 3km to both primary and secondary school, to the former as soon as we could manage a bike. Most of the kids rode to school and at both there were large covered bike stands (sheds) to accommodate the hundreds of bikes. It was pretty safe and we were not dependent upon our parents to get to school or to get to our other activities – just like in Houten.
By the time I left secondary school it was all starting to change and New Zealand now has one of the highest levels of car ownership in the World. If you exclude a couple of small principalities, then we are number two behind the USA.
As the roads became more hostile to cyclists, using a bike as a means of getting to work, school or to do the daily errands, became a thing of the past. However, we are starting to again see bikes around town and a growing number of mobility scooters, especially over the last couple of years.
I got back on a bicycle eight years ago and in conjunction with walking as much as possible, the car tends to only get taken out of the garage for longer trips or where we consider it too dangerous to cycle. When I mention to others in Kerikeri that we love to cycle, the comment is often, “I would love to do that but the roads around here are too dangerous”.
When I look at the 8-9am and 2:30 – 3:30pm congestion on Hone Heke Rd (the road I live in), and through the centre of town, I suspect most parents feel the same way.
After school traffic on Hone Heke Road and through town
Most of the population of ‘greater Kerikeri’ live outside of the CBD. Inlet and Landing Roads which link two of the larger population concentrations to the CBD, including a Primary School, don’t have shoulders. I often pass kids cycling to school along the footpath adjacent to Inlet Road but that is narrow and can be dangerous as pedestrians and cyclists try to avoid each other. On the odd occasion where I have tempted fate and ridden along these roads I usually encounter one or two ‘close shaves’. Many motorists do not treat a cyclist like another slow moving vehicle on the road. Rather than slowing down and waiting to pass when there is no oncoming traffic they will simply reduce the distance between them and the cyclist. A vehicle going past at 80km hour (Inlet Road) and almost touching your arm is a scary (and potentially life threatening) experience.
The recent Far North District Council long term plan talked about cycle-ways. This is great but these are not used for everyday travel. The plan did not mention making key local roads safer for cyclists to use. It talked about the need to alleviate growing traffic congestion but the options are locked in our current motorised mindset. I do wonder; that if we focussed on making just a few sections of our more trafficked roads safer for cyclists, whether that would start to remove the barriers to kids biking to school and others considering cycling as a transport option for their regular short-journey errands, work commutes or, even just for the enjoyment and exercise that it offers.
Kerikeri Road (heading towards SH1) now has a shared cycle path starting about 1km out of town.
Most of Waipapa Rd has the shoulders designated as cycle lanes.
The Heritage Bypass Rd has a shared path.
However, these do not link to the CBD (see graphic to right). The alternative to riding along these very busy sections of road are narrow footpaths. What would it take to create a few contiguous cycling routes that can get people safely around town and especially to school?
A shared path or a cycle lane along Landing Rd would serve those heading to Riverview School and those from Riverview heading to the High School or Town. A shared path along Hone Heke Road would serve both the Kerikeri Primary and High Schools. Cycle lanes or a shared path along Inlet Road (from Reinga Rd) and along Cobham Rd would link with Hone Heke and also deliver cyclists into town. Vehicle traffic is limited to 30km per hour through the main shopping area and designating some of the road space for cycles may not be too disruptive. In most instances, generous grass (or weed) verges exist along most of these routes.
Maybe our growing traffic congestion, especially at certain peak times, could be eased by thinking ‘outside of the car’. Make the roads safe for kids and others who would love to be able to get around town on a bike or their mobility scooter. Maybe some may even feel liberated enough to sell that second car. It would probably even make us all a little healthier.
The video below gives a cyclists view of negotiating these missing links