Tuesday, 19 November 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Adoption of cycling strategy recommended to TCDC

The Mercury Bay Community Board has recently agreed to recommend to Thames-Coromandel District Council the adoption of a cycling strategy for the Mercury Bay Area. The strategy was developed by a steering group made up of Mercury Bay community members, TCDC staff and independent consultant, Geoff Canham. The strategy suggests the need for improved cycling facilities and infrastructure in Mercury Bay, as well as increased safety measures and the promotion of cycling as a recreational activity.

The Mercury population is increasing overall in age, with the number of 65-year-olds likely to double in the next 15 years. The older population is more active than ever before. Cycling and walking and the demand for connections and loops near to where people live will only increase.

Mercury Bay Area School conducted a survey on the modes of transport used by students of the school and found that 43 per cent of students travel to school either by scooter, skateboard or bike, with the distinct majority cycling to school.

Visitors to the Mercury Bay area, especially those holidaying over the busy summer months, are likely to seek out recreational cycling trails near where they stay, so basic yet high quality cycling infrastructure is essential.

To improve infrastructure and ensure cycling is a viable and safe transport choice within Whitianga and Mercury Bay, the Mercury Bay Community Board would like to see, in accordance with the strategy, the development of a network of safe cycle lanes and shared paths, as well as signage, providing all residents and visitors with an opportunity to use a bicycle as a form of transport.

Other objectives in the strategy include the launch of a road safety campaign that supports cycling as an acceptable mode of transport and the implementation of cycle training programmes for both children and adults who choose to cycle in urban areas, to increase confidence in navigating the local roads.

The strategy also proposes for the Whitianga Bike Park to install additional cycling routes for a range of levels and abilities. Keen Whitianga cyclist, Grant McDonald, says that the Bike Park is continuing to experience high numbers of local school students, families and community groups using their facilities. “There is a real demand among local youth for improved tracks and the basic bike skills they learn in the Bike Park environment really sets them up well for other areas such as road cycling,” he says.

“With an ageing population, let’s not forget the need to support our young ones with quality sport and recreation options. After all, it’s better than screen time.”

To encourage cycling opportunities that will contribute to economic growth, the cycling strategy includes the promotion of specific routes and trails to attract tourists. The expectation is that services such as shuttles, accommodation, bicycle hire and food providers that would likely be utilised by cyclists will develop as a result. Quality information on cycling routes needs to be made available to the public through print, online and media sources.

“Now is the time to put the infrastructure and roading changes into place to better accommodate our increasing numbers of cyclists, as well as avid walkers and those on mobility scooters,” says Grant. “If we act early, then we can avoid the costs and headaches of trying to implement changes retrospectively, which is what we often see happening in bigger cities.”

The cycling strategy has not yet been adopted by TCDC. A full meeting of council will consider the strategy in due course. Recommendation by the Mercury Bay Community Board was the first step in the delivery of the strategy.

Pictured: Mercury Bay residents and visitors enjoy cycling in the local environment and would benefit from the adoption of a cycle strategy for the area.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.