3 Dec 2018

Growing tension between motorists and cyclists in Dunedin

7:18 pm on 3 December 2018

An overhaul of Dunedin's cycleways and parking layout has caused outrage, with commuters convinced they are getting a raw deal.

The Octagon in central Dunedin.

The Octagon in central Dunedin. Photo: PHOTO NZ

There is growing tension between motorists and cyclists in the city and city councillor Lee Vandervis fears plans to scrap all-day free parking from large swathes of the central city will only add to the sentiment.

"What used to be a 10-minute city to get across has become a 20-minute city.

"It's not the cyclists' fault - it's the people who have designed inappropriate cycleways," Mr Vandervis said.

The rise in bitterness between motorists and cyclists was apparent, he said.

A couple of months back a video circulated social media of a contractor calling on his colleague to run over a cyclist with a truck, while another story about a cyclist hitting a child led to a torrent of online vitriol. At the start of the year a motorist drove into a cyclist and then honked his horn as the panicked man struggled to free his trapped bike.

While the war was being waged between motorists and cyclists, the battlelines had been drawn by the Dunedin City Council and NZ Transport Agency due to the design and location of cycleways in the central city and diminishing car park numbers, Mr Vandervis said.

The latest plan from the council will convert 150 free car parks in the city into paid ones, only adding to the tension.

"There's an awful lot of workers in the city that can't get a park anywhere they work and have to go as far up as the town belt to get a park they don't need to pay for and go to work," he said.

"It's a shame the anti-cyclist sentiment is growing because the anti- sentiment should be against the DCC and the NZTA, who are actually the people driving the lack of car parks, the narrowing of roads and the congestion we are now facing."

However, the council's transport group manager Richard Saunders said he believed the parking issue was a red herring.

"My view is that's a bit of a media beat-up trying to use two quite emotive topics to generate some stories," he said.

"Yes, cycleway work can affect parking but we do any number of projects that can impact parking across the city and we undertake safety projects that put extra parks back in as well, but they don't seem to get reported on."

The council's car park surveys had actually shown the numbers of parks in the city had grown, but they were not apples-for-apples comparisons in area or survey method, making it unclear where parking numbers sat.

But Mr Saunders said he was hearing the concern from commuters.

"There is only limited parking in the city," he said.

"We hear of people wanting to access all-day paid parking need to get there before 7.45[am] to get one of those or they're gone."

AA Otago spokesperson Malcolm Budd said motorists and cyclists needed to show calm even as frustrations grew due to the perfect storm of delays created by cycleway construction, the building of a new bus hub and the loss of parks.

"I would definitely say there's work going on [to address the problems] and hopefully the outcome at the end of it is that it will resolve these issues between motorists and cyclists," he said.

"There's a lot of motorists getting frustrated with the situation at the moment, but I think everyone's just got to be calm."

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